Antelope Valley Press

College asked to back statement favoring Israel

- By JULIE DRAKE Valley Press Staff Writer

LANCASTER — Antelope Valley Community College District’s Board of Trustees will consider a request from the public to instruct Superinten­dent/ President Jennifer Zellet to sign a statement of support for Israel against Hamas, as encouraged by Universiti­es United Against Terrorism, on behalf of the district and college.

The board is scheduled to meet in open session at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the AV College Performing Arts Theatre main auditorium, 3041 West Ave. K.

Santa Clarita resident Steve Petzold and Pastor Jerry Cook of Acton requested the item be placed on the agenda as per Board Policy 2340. The proposal is Action Item 14.1.

“Agenda items initiated by members of the public shall be placed on the board’s agenda following the items of business initiated by the Board of Trustees and by staff,” the policy states.

Section 35145.5 of the California Education Code permits members of the public to place matters directly related to school district business on the agenda of school district governing board meetings.

“Every agenda for regular meetings shall provide an opportunit­y for members of the public to directly address the governing board on any item of interest to the public, before or during the governing board’s considerat­ion of the item, that is within the subject matter jurisdicti­on of the governing board,” the section said.

Universiti­es United Against Terrorism is a broad coalition of higher education college officials including public and private, faithbased and historical­ly Black colleges and universiti­es that have joined to stand against terrorism, according to its website.

The coalition formed following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which left about 1,200 people dead including 364 young people at a music festival.

“The coalition members have signed onto a

clear statement based on core unifying principles — Hamas is a terrorist organizati­on and the Palestinia­n people are not represente­d by Hamas. In fact, they are being harmed by Hamas,” the website said.

Petzold pulled the proposed resolution from the coalition’s website. The statement Petzold and Cook are asking the board to consider is:

“We Stand Together With Israel Against Hamas

“We are horrified and sickened by the brutality and inhumanity of Hamas. Murdering innocent civilians including babies and children, raping women and taking the elderly as hostages are not the actions of political disagreeme­nt but the actions of hate and terrorism. The basis of all universiti­es is a pursuit of truth, and it is times like these that require moral clarity. Like the fight against ISIS, the fight against Hamas is a fight against evil. We, the presidents and chancellor­s of universiti­es, colleges and higher education associatio­ns across the United States of America and the world, stand with Israel, with the Palestinia­ns who suffer under Hamas’ cruel rule in Gaza and with all people of moral conscience.”

Petzold had a late October tour group trip to Israel canceled due to the ongoing conflict.

“I felt like that affected me personally,” he said. “Small inconvenie­nce for me, but it did touch me personally.”

Petzold learned about Universiti­es United Against Terrorism via an advertisem­ent in the Wall

Street Journal where he read the group’s statement.

“I thought it was simple; I thought it was straightfo­rward,” he said. “It didn’t condemn Palestinia­ns; it didn’t justify Israeli actions in Gaza, it just simply acknowledg­es that Israel suffered an act of war; 1,200 isn’t a terrorist (act); that’s an act of war in my opinion.”

Petzold noted a lack of California public universiti­es that signed the statement. He submitted a similar request to the Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees to instruct Chancellor Dianne Van Hook, CEO of the Santa Clarita district, to sign a statement of support for Israel against Hamas.

The board considered the request at the Dec. 13 meeting and voted against asking Van Hook to sign a statement.

“The Santa Clarita Community College District, I would say, had a spirited discussion about this,” Petzold said.

Cook joined Petzold’s request because he is a supporter of Israel. He cited testimony last month by former Harvard President Claudine Gay, former University of Pennsylvan­ia President M. Elizabeth “Liz” Magill and Massachuse­tts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth at a Congressio­nal hearing where they defended their responses to campus protests and reports of antisemiti­sm against Jewish students on their campuses.

“Had a lot of egg on their face there,” Cook said. “I’m just hoping some of our local higher education institutio­ns might thwart that effort by just taking the right position on this.”

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