Organizations Slam UCLA Jewish Studies Inviting Anti-Israel Activist


In a letter to Todd Presner, director of UCLA’s Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, who invited noted anti-Israel activist Cornel West to join a panel honoring the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. 21 organizations expressed their outrage that West had been invited.

As just one of the numerous attacks West has launched at Israel over the years, last August, after Hamas had been discover building tunnels to launch attacks on schools with Israel children and put its own children in the way of Israeli attacks, West delivered a speech in Washington D.C. at an anti-Israel rally in which he screamed, “Benjamin Netanyahu is a war criminal not because he is Jewish, but because he has chosen to promote occupation and annihilation! Barack Obama is a war criminal not because he’s black, or half-American and white, but because his drones have killed 233 innocent children and because he facilitates the killing of innocent Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank!”

The letter follows:

Dear Professor Presner,

We represent 21 organizations with hundreds of thousands of supporters and members who are deeply concerned about the alarming rise of antisemitism on campuses across the country, including at UCLA.  We wish to add our collective voices to the growing number of organizations and individuals who have expressed outrage that Cornel West has been invited by the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies to be the keynote speaker at a conference honoring the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Our distress at the invitation to Cornel West is based on his past statements which have had the effect of demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state, and his affiliations with groups that seek Israel’s elimination.  For example:

  • West is a major proponent of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, whose founders have advocated an elimination of the Jewish state.  Campus-based BDS campaigns have been closely correlated with acts of anti-Jewish bigotry at dozens of universities across the country, including at UCLA.
  • In his writings and speeches, West has used false and inflammatory rhetoric about Israel and its leaders. West wrote on Facebook that “the Israeli massacre of innocent Palestinians, especially the precious children, is a crime against humanity!”; he called Israel’s Prime Minister a “war criminal” who promotes “annihilation”; and he accused the Israeli government of “ugly forms of murder of Arabs and Palestinians.” In a recent press release condemning Cornel West’s participation in the upcoming conference,  UCLA Hillel Rabbis Chaim Seidler-Feller and Aaron Lerner referred to statements about Israel that West had recently made at Princeton and Stanford as "libelous incitement."
  • West is on the advisory board of the Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ), an initiative undertaken by more than two dozen Palestinian NGOs committed to the elimination of the Jewish state, whose organizers include individuals with ties to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the regime in Iran. The GMJ organizes yearly marches to Jerusalem, with the expressed aim of “liberat[ing] the holy city of Jerusalem from the illegal Zionist occupation” and “end[ing] the Zionist policies of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and Judaisation.” 

In light of West's history, inviting him to be a keynote speaker at an event honoring Rabbi Heschel is an affront to Jewish students and faculty at UCLA, as well as to the community members and organizations that support them. It is also a horrible perversion of the memory of Rabbi Heschel. 


Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi)

AMCHA Initiative

American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists

Americans for Peace and Tolerance

BEAR: Bias Education, Advocacy & Resources

CUFI on Campus

David Horowitz Freedom Center

Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)

Hasbarah Fellowships

Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel

Iranian American Jewish Federation

Israeli-American Council (IAC)

National Conference on Jewish Affairs

Middle East Political and Information Network (MEPIN)

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East 


Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism

The Israel Group

The Lawfare Project

Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)

Zionist Organization of America

Cc:   David N. Myers, Professor and Robert N. Burr Chair of History

            Alan D. Leve

            Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, Executive Director Hillel at UCLA

            Rabbi Aaron Lerner, Incoming Executive Director Hillel at UCLA

            Jay Sanderson, CEO Jewish Federation of Los Angeles