After receiving condemnation from a faculty group over its response to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, a spokesperson for the University of California regents Thursday said the system stands by its original Oct. 9 statement condemning the attack on Israel by Hamas that killed over 1,400 Israelis and took over 240 hostages.
"This was an act of terrorism, launched on a major Jewish holiday. What should have been a quiet weekend of rest turned into days of unspeakable terror and shock. The violence is sickening and incomprehensible, and as of this moment we still do not know the fate of the hostages. This act deserves and requires our collective condemnation," said the statement from UC President Michael V. Drake and Richard Leib, chair of the UC Board of Regents.
The UC Ethnic Studies Faculty Council, which described itself in its Oct. 16 letter to UC leadership as representing over 300 faculty members across UC, condemned the UC statement for calling Hamas "terrorists" following the militant group's Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The group said it "rejects recent UC administrative communications that distort and misrepresent the unfolding genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and thereby contribute to the racist and dehumanizing erasure of Palestinian daily reality."
The council called on UC administrative leadership "to retract its charges of terrorism, to uplift the Palestinian freedom struggle, and to stand against Israel's war crimes against and ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people."
The UC system has also faced criticism from protesters for not speaking out against the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza as Israel has moved into the territory while vowing to wipe out Hamas. Thousands of Palestinians, including many civilians, have reportedly been killed, and basic life necessities like water and food remain in critically short supply weeks after the Hamas attack.
The UC spokesperson said there was no further comment. "Events will determine whether or not any further statements are necessary. At this time, the University has no further comment to provide."
In response to the ethnic studies council's letter, UC trustee Jay Sures sent a letter to UC's president and trustees calling the faculty group's letter "appalling and repugnant," asserting that it's "rife with falsehoods about Israel and seeks to legitimize and defend the horrific savagery of the Hamas massacre of October 7."
Sures, the vice chairman of United Talent Agency, has served on the board of regents since 2019.
The labeling of Hamas as a terrorist organization is controversial. Several nations, including the United States and the European Union, have designated the organization a terrorist group. However, the United Nations failed to pass a resolution in 2018 that would have also classified Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Hamas was founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Its name is an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya or Islamic resistance movement. The group opposes Israel's right to exist and supports the creation of a Palestinian country in the region.