We recently discussed the University of California Jewish Student Campus Climate Fact-Finding Team report describing harassment of Jewish students and providing recommendations to protect them from hostile campus environments.

Zev Hurwitz of the Israel Campus Beat describes an example of an annual event that triggers such concerns, and the the dueling petitions related to plans for implementing the report’s recommendations:

Each year at many California universities, pro-Israel students dread the inevitable arrival of “The Wall,”—the centerpiece of Israel Apartheid Week. These programs, sometimes known as Justice in Palestine Week or Palestinian Awareness Week, usually take place sometime between late-winter and spring and focus on charges that Israel is an Apartheid state that illegally occupies Palestinian territories.

But what if the wall wasn’t allowed to go up?

And it may not go up. The UC President’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate specifically recommended that hate speech such as anti-Israel demonstrations be banned because of their negative impact on campus environments for Jewish students. Subsequently, a petition to stop implementation of the report’s recommendations has gathered over 2,300 signatures.

Hurwitz reports that this has lead to a counter-petition:

In response, StandWithUs started a counter-petition urging the UC Office of the President (UCOP) to accept and implement the recommendations outlined in the report. While the first petition targets the hate speech ban proposal, the StandWithUs petition focuses on implementation of the entire report’s recommendations which include ensuring that kosher food options be available on UC campuses and that anti-Semitism be clearly defined and banned.

There are diverse opinions if hate speech bans will actually help or hurt the environment for the Jewish student communities:

There has been mixed reaction to the report in the pro-Israel community. Sharona Asraf, a StandWithUs Emerson Fellow and board member of Tritons for Israel at UC San Diego, created a Facebook event promoting the petition and said she supports the Council’s recommendation to ban hate speech.

“This will verbalize protocol and will elaborate what the consequences are for hate speech,” Asraf said.

However, Daniel Narvy, President of Movement for Peace in the Middle East at UC Irvine, said that while he thinks hate speech should not exist, banning it on UC campuses could actually make life more difficult for pro-Israel students.

“I can promise that SJP [Students for Justice in Palistine] will claim the university is Islamaphobic and complain until they get their way,” Narvy said.