David Lee / CC BY 2.0

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald reports that the California senator and her military-contractor husband Richard Blum are essentially blackmailing the University of California into punishing students who speak out against Israel.

From The Intercept:

One of the most dangerous threats to campus free speech has been emerging at the highest levels of the University of California system, the sprawling collection of 10 campuses that includes UCLA and UC Berkeley. The university’s governing Board of Regents, with the support of University President Janet Napolitano and egged on by the state’s legislature, has been attempting to adopt new speech codes that — in the name of combating “anti-Semitism” — would formally ban various forms of Israel criticism and anti-Israel activism.

Under the most stringent such regulations, students found to be in violation of these codes would face suspension or expulsion. In July, it appeared that the Regents were poised to enact the most extreme version, but decided instead to push the decision off until September, when they instead would adopt non-binding guidelines to define “hate speech” and “intolerance.”

One of the Regents most vocally advocating for the most stringent version of the speech code is Richard Blum, the multi-millionaire defense contractor who is married to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. At a Regents meeting last week, reported the Los Angeles Times, Blum expressly threatened that Feinstein would publicly denounce the university if it failed to adopt far more stringent standards than the ones it appeared to be considering, and specifically demanded they be binding and contain punishments for students found to be in violation. … Blum’s verbatim comments at the Regents meeting are even creepier than [The San Francisco Chronicle’s] reporting suggests:

“I should add that over the weekend my wife, your senior Senator, and I talked about this issue at length. She wants to stay out of the conversation publicly but if we do not do the right thing she will engage publicly and is prepared to be critical of this university if we don’t have the kind of not only statement but penalties for those who commit what you can call them crimes, call them whatever you want. Students that do the things that have been cited here today probably ought to have a dismissal or a suspension from school. I don’t know how many of you feel strongly that way but my wife does and so do I.”

… The specific UC controversy is two-fold: whether, in combating “anti-semitism,” the university should adopt the State Department’s controversial 2010 definition of that term, and separately, whether students who express ideas that fall within that definition should be formally punished up to and including permanent expulsion. What makes the State Department definition so controversial — particularly for an academic setting — is that alongside uncontroversial and obvious examples of classic bigotry (e.g., expressing hateful or derogatory sentiments toward Jews generally), that definition includes a discussion of what it calls “Anti-Semitism Relative to Israel.”

Read more here.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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