Good News From Ohio

Earlier this afternoon, the Ohio House passed an anti-BDS bill with a vote of 83-11. This important victory marks yet another blow to the anti-Semitic Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

The Bill, HB 476, “to enact section 9.75 of the Revised Code to prohibit a state agency from contracting with a company that is boycotting Israel or disinvesting from Israel,” was first introduced by Rep. Kirk Schuring in February. In May, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus testified in its support.

In his testimony, Marcus discussed how state anti-BDS bills are critical to addressing resurgent anti-Semitism in the U.S. and throughout the world, and how BDS, at its core, has always been an anti-Semitic movement. Marcus elaborated that the fact that BDS is dressed up in the language of human rights does not differentiate it from its Nazi and Arab League predecessors, which also used the rhetoric of their times to draw support for anti-Jewish boycotts.

15 other states have signed anti-BDS bills into law, most recently PennsylvaniaCalifornia, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. The bill must pass the Ohio Senate before being signed into law.

Two New Blows to BDS

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 ushered in two significant failures of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.

The first blow came from an overwhelming defeat of a divestment resolution at the University of Michigan, which we blogged about earlier this week. This was the fifth failed divestment resolution in the past eleven years at Michigan.

The second defeat emerged from the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) at the University of Toronto. The GSU’s General Counsel voted against converting the “BDS Ad Hoc Committee” into a permanent organization committee, with another wide margin of 34 against, 17 in favor, and 11 abstentions. uoft

The “BDS Ad Hoc Committee” was initially created in 2013, specifically to carry out the goals of a divestment resolution, which called on the U of Toronto to “divest from companies benefiting from violations of international law and human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” This 2012 resolution passed; however, the process by which it passed was deemed to be “unfair and procedurally irregular” by several Jewish students. The procedural irregularities included the fact that graduate students were given no advance notice of the motion and were therefore unable to be adequately represented at the annual meeting.

This week’s successful effort to deny permanent status to this “BDS Ad Hoc Committee” was spearheaded by several students who worked to educate their peers on the problematic existence of the ad hoc committee and what the committee actually stood for.

By defeating this motion, graduate students at the University of Toronto are making strides in changing the attitude of their peers, who are no longer willing to support motions and committees which advocate for discrimination against Jewish and Israeli individuals.

Federal Legislation Strengthens Anti-BDS Movement

Throughout 2016 we have seen several state legislatures successfully introduce and pass anti- Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) legislation. Reaching beyond state law, several United States congressmen, in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, have introduced federal anti-BDS legislation. Specifically, on November 14, 2016 U.S. Representatives Peter J. Roskam and Juan Vargas introduced the Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act.

U.S. Representative Peter J. Roskam (R-IL)

U.S. Representative Peter J. Roskam (R-IL)

 The Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act seeks to amend the Export Administration Act of 1979 to include the prohibition of boycotts, “fostered by international governmental organizations against Israel[.]” The Export Administration Act prohibits U.S. companies from participating in boycotts against Israel called for by foreign states. Under the proposed legislation, this prohibition would also apply to boycotts called for by international governmental organizations (IGOs). The proposed legislation explains that Congress has found that IGOs, including the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), have “long targeted Israel with systematic, politically motivated, assaults on its legitimacy designed to stigmatize and isolate Israel internationally.”

On March 24, 2016, through an adopted resolution, the UNHRC demanded a commercial boycott and divestment of companies that conduct business with Israeli entities. The resolution also calls for the creation of a database (or blacklist) of such businesses.

U.S. Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA)

U.S. Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA)

Representatives Roskam and Vargus recognized that Congress has been combating anti-Israel boycotts with legislation since 1979. The Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act would formally acknowledge that, “Congress opposes the United Nations Human Right Council resolution of March 24, 2016, which urges countries to pressure their own companies to divest from, or break contracts with, Israel.”

In addition to opposing the UNHRC’s 2016 resolution, the Act requires, “the Export-Import Bank to consider BDS activity when evaluating potential applicants. U.S. taxpayer-backed financing should not be available to those who choose to conduct economic warfare against Israel.”

The Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act strengthens the anti-BDS movement by prohibiting IGO’s from creating and implementing boycotts against Israel.

Anti-Semitic BDS Campaign Rejected by U of Michigan Students

On Tuesday night, the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel took yet another blow: the University Michigan Student Government voted down a BDS resolution by a wide margin of 34 against, 13 in favor, and 3 abstentions.

This marks the fifth BDS campaign at the University in the past 11 years that has sought to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. All five campaigns have been defeated. In the wake of these BDS campaigns, Michigan’s campus has seen some very ugly incidents towards Jewish and pro-Israel students.

In the Spring of 2014, LDB assisted Jewish students and university officials during the weeks following a failed divestment campaign. During this time, pro-Palestinian activists reportedly issued death threats to Jewish students and students who opposed divestment and called Jewish students epithets including “kike” and “dirty Jew.” LDB investigated, spoke with numerous students, and had several communications with administrators.  Following the incident, University of Michigan officials sent campus-wide letters affirming civility and tolerance.

This did not stop BDS from reappearing. In the Spring of 2015, another BDS resolution brought by the anti-Israel, student group, “Students Allied for Freedom and Equality” (SAFE) was defeated yet again. During and after the divestment vote, hateful and anti-Semitic tweets were posted, including: “Palestine is 4 Palestinians not 4 a sick cult fm anywhere but Palestine with a sense of entitlement 2 it. Need that in Yiddish?”; “Over 500 children were slaughtered in the name of Jews worldwide. Zionism is a crime against Judaism, humanity and nature;” “Has anyone else noticed the zionazi trash talking on the #UMDivest thread this morning?”

Last Fall, SAFE initiated an “ethics probe” into a Jewish Student Senator in an attempt to remove him from his student government position. This “ethics probe” was a result of his public and civil condemnation of SAFE’s anti-Israel “apartheid wall,” which sought to delegitimize and demonize Israel. This display was positioned in the very center of campus on Nov. 19, 2015, the same day that two terrorist attacks occurred in Israel, killing five people including a Jewish-American student studying at a yeshiva for a year. Aside from the incredibly insensitive timing, the Jewish student was completely within his First Amendment rights. In early December, the Brandeis Center joined the ZOA, StandWithUs, and the Lawfare Project in urging the University of Michigan’s President to cease the persecution of this Jewish student. The University vindicated the Jewish student from any wrongdoing; however, the Jewish student described this period as “long, stressful process that included numerous threats and harassments by classmates and online trolls that went on for weeks after the investigation ended.”

Though troubles persist for Jewish and pro-Israel students at the University of Michigan and nationwide, and the Brandeis Center continues to monitor, the overwhelming defeat of this BDS campaign marks an important step in stomping out hate and anti-Semitism at Michigan and across our nation.

Victory Against U.K. Campus Anti-Semitism

Defining anti-Semitism has again proven its importance – this time, in the UK. Last week, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), the UK’s leading universities regulator, ruled in favor of a disabled Jewish student’s complaint of campus anti-Semitism. The decision cited the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia’s Working Definition of Anti-Semitism (“Working Definition”) in determining that the anti-Israel incidents had crossed the line into anti-Semitism.

This is an important case for Americans to follow, because the OIA adopted a definition that is substantially similar to the definition that LDB advocates in the United States and throughout the world. LDB’s Kenneth L. Marcus urged this approach at a meeting of the UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) just last month in London. The UKLFI, an outstanding legal organization, is continuing to score important victories.

UKLFI Member and LDB Advisory Board Member Lesley Klaff

UKLFI Member and LDB Advisory Board Member Lesley Klaff

The student, assisted by UKLFI members Lesley Klaff and David Lewis, initially brought a complaint against England’s Sheffield Hallam University for tolerating anti-Israel activity on campus that crossed the line from legitimate criticism of Israel into anti-Semitism and harassment. (Klaff is also a member of LDB’s Legal Advisory Board.) This appalling activity, as explained by Klaff, included Facebook posts and tweets, which “inter alia, accused Israel and Israelis of genocide, deliberately killing Palestinian children, deliberately killing other Palestinian civilians, war crimes, atrocities, using chemical weapons, ethnic cleansing, inhumanity, cruelty, behaving like Nazis, sexual and other abuse of Palestinian children (including abduction and human trafficking), stealing Palestinian organs, being racists and fascists, and rejoicing in Palestinian deaths.” Furthermore, according to Ben Cohen’s article in The Tower, the student added that he “felt ‘vulnerable’ on campus. Whenever he wore a Star of David or a kippah, he said, he felt that “people were giving me dirty looks or trying to block my wheelchair.”

The University took nine months to consider his complaint before rejecting it, stating that the student was wrongly conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish prejudice and strongly suggested that this was merely an effort to get the University to adopt the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, which had been a requested outcome of his complaint.

Following the University’s rejection, the student took his case to the OIA to review the University’s decision. The OIA ruled differently, finding that the materials circulated by the Palestine Society indeed crossed the line from acceptable criticism of Israel into anti-Semitism. Importantly, the OIA cited the Working Definition in making this determination, identifying it as of particular relevance to the question of whether material which criticized Israel “crossed the line.”

The Working Definition defines anti-Semitism as “A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.” It is an exemplar definition in that it also provides examples of the new anti-Semitism we see on campuses today, or “antisemitism [that] manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context.” These examples include:

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

The Working Definition is one of several definitions – including the definition adopted by the U.S. Department of State, and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition – that includes examples of “coded anti-Semitism” (or crypto-racism) in the form of anti-Semitism relative to Israel.

In their decision, the OIA criticized the University for failing to address this complaint with seriousness, and ordered the University to compensate the student £3,000 for the stress and inconvenience caused to him by failing to adequately consider his complaint.

Interestingly, Sheffield Hallem is the same English university that hosted an outstanding international conference on anti-Semitism just last month. LDB’s Kenneth L. Marcus participated in the conference.

This is a victory in the battle against campus anti-Semitism, and demonstrates the importance for universities – in the U.K. and U.S. and worldwide – to define anti-Semitism.

Update: Pennsylvania anti-BDS Bill Signed Into Law

Mere days after Bill HB 2107 passed the Pennsylvania State Senate, Governor Tom Wolfe has signed it into law.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf

The legislation, which ensures that companies contracted by the state are barred from becoming involved in any form of boycott specifically in relation to Israeli companies or individuals.  This officially makes Pennsylvania the 16th state to join the fight against the Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions movement

 

Pennsylvania Senate Passes Anti-BDS Bill

2016 has state legislatures taking a firm stand against the Boycotts, Disinvestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This summer alone, the Brandeis Center reported that California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York all enacted various laws establishing themselves against this invidious form of discrimination.

pen-state-senate

Now, less than a month after California Governor Jerry Brown signed his state’s anti-BDS legislation, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf will have the opportunity to do the same. Pennsylvania Bill HB 2107 which states that “Israel is America’s dependable, democratic ally in the Middle East, an area of paramount strategic importance to the United States” commercial activities and to discourage policies that disregard that interest” passed the Pennsylvania State Senate this past week 47-1 after passing unanimously in  the House

The bill, when signed into law will ensure that companies contracted by Pennsylvania would be barred from becoming involved in any form of boycott — defined as efforts “to blacklist, divest from or otherwise refuse to deal with a person or firm when the action is based on race, color, religion, gender or national affiliation or origin of the targeted person or entity” – specifically in relation to Israeli companies or individuals.

ISGAP’s Fall International Antisemitism Seminar Series

LDB is pleased to share ISGAP’s (Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy) 2016 International Seminar Series, entitled “Antisemitism in Comparative Perspective.” Please find the Fall schedule below. ISGAP’s seminars are open to students, faculty and the general public. For more information, contact Ira Guberman at 212-230-1840 or info@isgap.org

Columbia University
Location: William and June Warren Hall WJ 103, Law School
1125 Amsterdam Ave., New York
Wednesday, October 26 at 6:00 PM
Professor Katya Gibel Mevorach, Chair of Department of Anthropology and American Studies, Grinnell College;
“Bloodless Racism: Anti-Semitism/Antisemitism and Campus Politics”
Wednesday, November 30 at 6:00 PM

Professor Stephen E. Sussman, Associate Professor of Public Administration, Barry University/PACE;
“Antisemitism on University Campuses, through the Lense of the BDS Movement”
McGill University
Location: Leacock Building, Room 738
855 Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal
Thursday, October 27 at 6:00 PM

Professor David Patterson, Hillel Feinberg Chair in Holocaust Studies, University of Texas at Dallas;
“Understanding Antisemitism: A Comparative Analysis of National Socialist and Islamic Jihadist Jew Hatred”
Thursday, December 1 at 6:00 PM

Professor Sharon Portnoff, Elie Wiesel Associate Professor in Judaic Studies and Religious Studies at Connecticut College;
“Emil Fackenheim’s Quasi-Historicism: The Problem of Hitler’s Posthumous Victories”
ISGAP Center
Location: 165 East 56th Street, New York
Wednesday, November 2 at 6:00 PM

Professor David Menashri, Tel Aviv University;
“Iran, Israel and the Jews: Why the Obsession?”
Wednesday, November 9 at 6:00 PM
Convener: Barbara Wind, Director of the Holocaust Council and the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey;
Film screening in commemoration of Kristallnach
Unconquered Souls, directed by Joe Schreiber
American College of Greece, Athens
Thursday, November 10 at 7:00 PM, Pierce Ampitheater

Dr. Charles Asher Small, Executive Director, ISGAP;
“Business as Usual: The West’s Acquiescence to Radical Islamism, the Iranian Regime, and the Threat it poses to Democratic Principles and Human Rights”
Thursday, December 1 at 7:00 PM, Upper Level Library

Dr. Matthias Küentzel,
Hamburg Technical College Research Associate;
“Hitler’s Legacy: Antisemitism in the Middle East”
Please see below for details

Vandalism at University of Minnesota Law School Prior to LDB Presentation

Last week, I visited the University of Minnesota Law School to deliver a lunch lecture on anti-Semitism in higher education. It was one of a few campus visits I made this fall, and until now, the law students have been gracious hosts.

This was different. The flyers announcing my lecture were torn down, apparently by one or more people opposed to any discussion of campus anti-Semitism. Twenty flyers were posted in the student locker room and on the law school’s information boards, all in compliance with school rules. All twenty flyers were torn down, while flyers announcing other events remained in place, undamaged.

The flyers announcing my talk could not have been more innocuous. They simply announced, “JLSA Presents: Jennie Gross and the Rise of Anti-Semitism on College Campuses,” the date, place and time of the talk, and the logos for The Brandeis Center and Minnesota Hillel (and a local sandwich shop). There was no mention of international issues, and no condemnation of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement in the flyers. Whoever tore them down responded only to the topic of anti-Semitism on college campuses in the United States.

The irony was not lost on me. Invitations to talk about anti-Semitism on campus, sponsored by campus Jewish groups, were torn down. A fitting example of the topic of the lecture.

It is also an example of a rising trend on campus: the attempt by opponents to silence speech they disagree with. We saw this happen at San Francisco State University last spring, when visiting speaker Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem, was shouted down by anti-Israel protesters for over half an hour, until he finally gave up and left the venue while protesters cheered. We again saw it happen at the University of California, Irvine, when approximately fifty protesters surrounded a room of approximately ten Jewish students who had gathered to watch a documentary. The loud, aggressive protest disrupted the small event, and did not end until the police directed the protesters away from the building, watching them while other officers escorted the students inside away and to their cars.

It is likely that this vandalism was the act of just one or maybe a small handful of people. I know it is not a reflection of the broad and diverse student body at the University of Minnesota Law School. The lecture went forward as planned and was very well-attended by bright law students that asked thoughtful, intelligent questions. They did not attack me or each other. That is not to say that they are all in agreement on the issues of the day. But those students who actually attended the lecture were not afraid of hearing (and responding) to divergent points of view, and they treated everyone with respect. That is more than I can say about whoever who tore down the flyers.

Today, Dean Garry W. Jenkins issued a statement to the law school community, condemning the act of vandalism. His statement says, in part:

People may disagree and they can even disagree strongly, but ours is an environment where lawyers, lawyers-in-training, and those interested in law and legal institutions engage in dialogue. Diverse opinions are not only welcomed, but encouraged. Any efforts to shut down communication, including removing notices, undermine the values of our school and our profession.

. . . .

Our uniquely collaborative and supportive culture is one of our great strengths. I hope all of you will join me in deploring this act of vandalism and rejecting attempts to silence or marginalize. This purposeful community must remain welcoming and inclusive, and only together can we build, support, and sustain it.

I thank Dean Jenkins for his statement, and I thank the students that welcomed me to the University of Minnesota Law School.

 

Aside

Wrong-Headed Initiative

Dr. Diane B. Kunz, Esq.

Wrong-Headed Initiative

Equal treatment before United States law and government. That is a foundational American principle. Its aspirational neutrality, usually achieved, is one reason why people from so many nations with different ethnicities and differing religious beliefs have thrived in this country. Now J Street would challenge this basic principle in the purported service of helping to bring about a two state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.   This discriminatory and wrong-headed idea must be opposed by anyone who supports an objective government of laws not ideology.

J Street calls  “on its supporters and all who support a just Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement to urge the US Treasury to review the tax-deductibility status of contributions to groups working to entrench or expand Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.”[1] The rationale is that because the U.S. government has expressed opposition to Jewish settlments in the contested territories, charitable contributions that concretely aid such settlements should not be tax deductible under the U.S. tax code.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-05-43-amDoes J Street and its allies, really want the IRS to determine which organizations supports goals and ideas that in some way oppose some aspect of federal government policy and which do not pass inspection?

Tax deductibility can be obtained by:   A community chest, corporation, trust, fund, or foundation, organized or created in the United States or its possessions, or under the laws of the United States, any state, the District of Columbia or any possession of the United States, and organized and operated exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or literary purposes, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals. See here.

If so, here is a partial list of organizations that may lose tax exempt status:

  • Save the Children, since it aids Morocco whose annexation of parts of the Western Sahara is not recognized by international law.
  • SOS Children’s Villages, because it aids Turkish controlled North Cyprus, whose existence as an independent nation is recognized only by Turkey;
  • Unicef, because it aids Indian Kashmir and Jammu, whose borders have been contested since 1948.

Most on point, any organization which in anyway supports the BDS movement because one of BDS’ founding principles is Israel is not and cannot ever be “a state like any other.” The” Israel as international pariah” position violates U.S and well as International law.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-11-19-32-amHow about domestic policy? Should donations to Catholic churches and Evangelical Christian churches be denied because their priests and ministers preach against abortion? Should donations to Islamic mosques be denied because Imams preach against gay marriage?

To ask these questions is to show how disastrous the policy J Street advocates would be were it ever to be applied. But the “peace” advocates do not see past their one-sided obsession with Israel.They are willing to jeopardize a basic American core belief that federal agencies like the IRS must treat all taxpayers, including 501 (c) 3 non-profit organizations equally, regardless of whether or not they are for or against abortion, for or against giving aid to Turkish Cyprus or for or against settlements in the West Bank When Richard Nixon misused the IRS we rightly called foul. We call foul now.