Jewish UC Santa Barbara students fear for safety after antisemitic signs appear on campus

Jory Rand Image
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Jewish UCSB students alarmed after antisemitic signs pop up on campus
Students said it began Sunday night when the UCSB's multicultural center's official Instagram account began to post anti-Zionist sentiments.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (KABC) -- Several disturbing messages directed at the Jewish student body of UC Santa Barbara were discovered this week, the latest in an alarming uptick of antisemitic incidents reported on college campuses across the country.

Students said it began Sunday night when the UCSB's multicultural center's official Instagram account began to post anti-Zionist sentiments.

"Reprehensible antisemitic commentary, saying that Zionists, a very thinly veiled reference to Jews, are not welcome in this space," said Ephraim Shalunov, UCSB's Senate First President pro-tempore.

Zionism is the belief that Jewish people have an ancestral right to the land of Israel and Palestine. The issue escalated continued Monday when the multicultural center was plastered with more anti-Zionist messages.

A Jewish student had their dorm room vandalized, and a Jewish group was harassed.

"It felt very aggressive, and it felt very intentional, that they were trying to isolate, you know, the Jewish students and make us feel unwelcome," said UCSB student Nadiv Meltzer.

The Instagram posts have since been removed and the multicultural center building is now closed.

UC Santa Barbara's Office of the Chancellor released a statement to the campus community Monday, saying the messaging was in "violation of our principles of community and inclusion."

"The signage has been removed and the campus is conducting a bias incident review based on potential discrimination related to protected categories that include religion, citizenship, and national or ethnic origin," the statement said.

Members of the Jewish community at UCSB said the school's response wasn't nearly enough.

"It's very, very clear that there's been anti-Jewish discrimination going on, and that needs to be targeted and mentioned and pointed out as something by itself, because as soon as you 'All Lives Matter' it, and you sort of just generally go out against all hate, it sort of lessens the message," said Gershon Klein, the co-director of Chabad at UCSB. "The message right now needs to be that Jewish students need to be protected because they're the ones being targeted three times in one day."

"It's about Jews, it's not about Israel," said Shalunov. "Israel, like other pretenses, serves as a good canard through which antisemites can channel their views about Jews."

Reports of antisemitism and Islamophobia have flooded universities across the U.S. amid rising tensions over the Israel-Hamas war, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

UC Berkeley Hillel, an on-campus Jewish Organization, addressed a protest that broke out Monday when an Israeli speaker, Ron Bar-Yoshafat, came to Zellerbach Playhouse.

The organization condemned the protest that allegedly resulted in broken windows and heightened tensions.

"Breaking windows, intimidating students and inciting a mob are never acceptable and have no place in civil discourse," the organization said in a statement posted to Instagram.

Both UC schools are now investigating the incidents and plan to announce their actions in the days ahead.

ABC News contributed to this report.