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LDB's Brandeis Brief Intervenes in Anti-Semitism Controversy

March 7, 2013


WASHINGTON, DC, -- The March issue of the Louis D. Brandeis Center's Brandeis Brief features a prominent review essay on a controversial question that has divided the field of contemporary anti-Semitism studies. The essay, by Louis D. Brandeis Center President Kenneth L. Marcus, addresses whether anti-Semitism is a unique phenomenon or merely a particular example of a broader social phenomenon such as xenophobia or racism. President Marcus observes that this divisive issue led to two highly emotional protests at a recent academic anti-Semitism confab. The Brandeis Brief is the electronic newsletter of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.

In the newly released Brandeis Brief, Marcus reviews a new book by German political scientist Clemens Heni, which argues that anti-Semitism must be viewed as a discrete and separate problem, Antisemitism: A Specific Phenomenon (Berlin: Critical Edition, 2013). Marcus argues that Heni’s judgments may be viewed as “unfair, mean-spirited, or even brutal,” but that this does not mean that Heni is wrong, at least in his major thesis on anti-Semitism’s singular character.

The same issue also describes recent developments at Brooklyn College. CUNY’s Brooklyn campus has drawn heated denunciations for a recent conference that was dedicated to promoting a boycott of the State of Israel. In particular, many political figures and commentators criticized Brooklyn College’s political science department for co-sponsoring the anti-Israel event. The department’s co-sponsorship was viewed by some as tantamount to endorsement of a one-sided and arguably extreme political presentation. Worse, at least four Jewish students were allegedly removed from the event because they carried flyers that indicated support for the Jewish state. Some commentators have described this as a flagrant violation of the students’ freedom of speech and right to academic freedom.


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Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.” Campus anti-Semitism can include subjecting Jewish students to different treatment, harassment, violence or a hostile environment. In some cases, campus anti-Semitism is related to anti-Israel sentiment. In other cases, it is not. For most purposes, we define anti-Semitism according to the U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism. .
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Advisory Board Spotlight

David E. Bernstein
David E. Bernstein is Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia, where he has been teaching since 1995, interspersed with visiting appointments at the Georgetown, Michigan, and Brooklyn law schools.
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