03/13/2012 05:24 pm ET Updated May 13, 2012

University of California Gets It Wrong (Again)

Why is it that every time an administrator from the University of California opens their mouth about social protest they immediately insert their feet?

First it was UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau claiming that student protestors who linked arms were "not non-violent." Next it was UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi claiming that by pitching tents on the campus quad, student protestors had left her "no option but to ask the police to assist in their removal," resulting in the infamous pepper spray assault.

Now it is Mark Yudof, president of the entire University of California, claiming that protests against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza constitute "hateful incidents" on par with defacing LGBT centers or painting swastikas on campus buildings.

President Yudof thus confuses protest against the policies of the state of Israel with racism against Jews.

By this logic, student protests against the segregationist policies of southern states during the civil rights movement would be considered "hateful events" against whites, while protests against Serbian policies in Bosnia would be considered "hateful events" against Serbs.

The Israeli state is not synonymous with the Jewish people, and criticism of its policies and actions do not constitute hatred against Jews. The state of Israel is just as valid a target of criticism as any other state in the world, including the U.S.

It is not surprising that some defenders of Israeli state policies try to portray criticism of these policies as hate speech against Jews. This tactic has been used very effectively in this matter for many years. What is surprising and shocking is that the president of the University of California would echo this view uncritically. It seems like President Yudof could benefit from some basic undergraduate classes on the campuses over which he presides.

For more information on the incidents in question and President Yudof's letter, see the excellent statement by California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of 150 scholars at twenty California institutions of higher learning.