University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Student Judiciary Rules Against Discrimination

Earlier this month, the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s (“UW”) Student Judiciary stood up for the rights of Jewish students on campus. The Student Judiciary ruled in favor of five students (the “Petitioners”) who filed a complaint against the Chair and Vice Chair of the Associated Students of Madison (“ASM”) Student Council, for violating the Constitutional rights of Jewish students and the ASM’s bylaws.

imgresJewish students at Madison were on edge this semester in the wake of proposed BDS resolutions on campus. On March 29, four ASM members introduced a highly contentious 14-page resolution, “Social Responsibility and University Divestment from Corporate Human Rights.” More than half of this resolution sought to condemn Israel. As reported by the Badger Herald, after six hours of debate, the ASM voted to table this resolution indefinitely.

The next ASM meeting was scheduled for the evening of April 12, the second night of Passover. A Jewish student, and chair of the ASM’s Budget Committee, Ariela Rivkin, emailed the ASM Chair on April 7, requesting that the ASM not take up any legislation concerning “human rights mechanisms or transparency on investment policy” at the April 12 meeting. Because it fell on Passover, it precluded observant Jewish students from attending and providing input on an issue of importance to the Jewish community.

Despite Chair Rivkin’s email, the ASM introduced a different piece of legislation on April 12– a “Bylaw Change for the Creation of Financial Transparency and Ethics Subcommittee” – that addressed similar issues to the March 29 BDS legislation. The ASM Vice Chair motioned to suspend the rules to allow for an initial vote on this bylaw change to occur at the introductory meeting (even though legislation requires two votes).  An ASM member raised the concern that voting would exclude Jewish students. The Vice Chair said it would be a “hassle” to schedule another meeting for the vote. The legislation passed.

Following the April 12 meeting, Petitioners filed a Student Judiciary complaint against the ASM Chair and Vice Chair, alleging that the vote violated Jewish student’s constitutional rights and ASM Bylaws.

On May 10th, the Student Judiciary ruled in favor of the Petitioners, stating,

Holding the April 12th meeting on Passover did not automatically violate the ASM Constitution. Introducing legislation that members of the Jewish community had expressed interest in, when it was known that these members would not be able to attend due to religious observance, does violate the Constitution.

. . . .

There can be no doubt that this vote was the product of a blatant disregard for the Constitution and Bylaws that Student Council representatives are sworn to uphold. The panel notes that the actions taken by the 23rd session may not have been malicious in intent. Nevertheless, multiple constitutional violations occurred at the April 12th meeting and Jewish students were the subject of discrimination by their elected representatives. This is unacceptable, and future sessions are warned that the Judiciary will not tolerate the hypocrisy of a student government that claims to be a voice for students, while simultaneously discriminating against and silencing their constituents.

The Student Judiciary’s ruling voided the bylaw change; suggested that the former ASM Chair attend a training on religious tolerance and understanding apologize to the Jewish community for her discriminatory acts as Chair; mandated the Vice Chair (who will be next year’s Chair) to send a letter to the Student Council, explaining why her motion to waive the rules was wrong, why the nondiscrimination clause of the ASM constitution is essential, why Passover is important to the Jewish community, and apologizing to all Jewish council members for excluding them from the initial vote on the Bylaw Change, among other things. The full ruling can be found here.

While this is a huge victory, the ASM passed another BDS resolution at their April 26th meeting that also seems to have violated ASM bylaws. At the April 26 meeting, Jewish students reported feeling harassed and intimidated. The ASM initially listed the resolution as, “Divestment from Private Prisons, Fossil Fuel Corporations, Border Walls, and Arms Manufacturers.” The text as introduced did not mention Israel. At the meeting itself, ASM members introduced, in an orchestrated fashion, BDS amendments. By doing so, they failed to give the Jewish community proper notice. Another Student Judiciary complaint was filed against the ASM for their actions; however, because the academic year has ended, we will have to wait until the Fall to see if this resolution, too, will be voided.

The University of Wisconsin – Madison administration should be keeping a watchful eye on the discriminatory actions of its Student Council, disciplining in line with its policies, and offering education and training on bias and discrimination.

Kudos to the brave students for filing these necessary complaints against hatred and bigotry, and to Madison’s Student Judiciary for ruling fairly and against discrimination.

JCA Call to Papers

The Journal of Contemporary Anti-Semitism (JCA) has issued a Call for Papers for their upcoming Special Issue “Postcolonialism and Anti-Semtism” of the JCA, Vol. 1, No.2 (Spring 2018). Papers are to be submitted by July 31, 2017. The Journal of Contemporary Anti-Semitism is exclusively dedicated to the analysis of anti-Semitism and aims to cover all forms of anti-Semitism found in our contemporary world. Any inquiries may be submitted to jca@academicstudiespress.com Continue reading

Opportunities in Education

The logo of OSCE

The logo of OSCE

The Brandeis Center is happy to report on upcoming opportunities to aid in widening the breadth of scholarship and educational material related to anti-Semitism.

A unique opportunity in this regard was recently issued by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). This opportunity is within the framework of ODIHR’s Words into Action project. ODIHR is seeking applications for a research project to identify key classroom challenges when addressing anti-Semitism across the OSCE region, and to formulate practical reccomendations for educators to address these challenges. The reponses given to ODIHR will help with a review of their existing literature, the implementation of recommendations and changes, and the drafting of “aide–mémoires” for secondary school teachers. This offers secondary school teachers with strong backgrounds in pedagogy a chance to help change educational practices in the face of rising anti-Semitism.

The deadline for applications is the 24th of May. More information can be found here: http://www.osce.org/project/wia

The Combating European Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 Advances

Senate FloorEarlier this month, H.R. 672 was received in the U. S. Senate after passing the House of Representatives unanimously. H.R. 672, the “Combating European Anti-Semitism Act of 2017,” is a bill which “expresses the sense of Congress that it is in the U.S. national interest to combat anti-Semitism at home and abroad.” Originally introduced by Representative Nita Lowey of New York, H.R. 672 has enjoyed widespread bipartisan support.

H.R. 672 points to the need to ensure security for European Jewish communities, and states that the United States must continue to emphasize the importance of combating anti-Semitism in multilateral bodies. The biggest legislative change that H.R. 672 would stipulate would be amending the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to require the Department of State to include in its annual report on religious freedom a description of the state of each European country where threats against Jews are present. This would include assessments of how these countries are approaching the fight against anti-Semitism, how the U.S. has partnered with them to help in this fight, and whether education and public awareness of the issue is being sought within these countries.

H.R. 672 is predicated upon congressional findings that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, the security and quality of daily Jewish life is threatened, and that anti-Zionism has contributed to this rise. The bill uses the Department of State’s definition of anti-Semitism, which the Louis D. Brandeis Center has supported. This bill’s language has many parallels to the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (AAA), even advocating the use of the same definition of anti-Semitism. The AAA bill, which passed the Senate unanimously in December of last year, did not have a chance to be voted on in the House before the legislative session ended. Several states are currently in the process of drafting their own versions of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.

H.R. 672, if adopted into law, will help contribute to the fight for a unified definition of anti-Semitism, and continue to display the federal government’s commitment to helping end the growth of this bigotry.

Texas Governor Abbott Signs Anti-BDS Bill

On Israel’s Independence Day (“Yom Ha’atzmut”), Texas governor Greg Abbott signed an anti-boycott Israel bill into law. The bill stands against the discriminatory BDS movement and bans state entities from engaging in business with organizations and companies that participate in BDS. In regards to the passage of this measure, Charles Kaufman, chair of B’nai B’right’s International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy told the Jersualem post

“The measure Governor Abbott signed today became law with bilateral support because Texas stands with its business partners and for free trade. In her 69 years, Israel has become a thriving, burgeoning state by enjoying and sharing the fruits of individual freedom and a pioneering spirit for innovation and entrepreneurism.”

Abbott signing the anti-BDS bill as marks the first piece of passed legislation during the 85th legislative session and sends a powerful message regarding Texas’ unwavering support for Israel. After the Legislature passed H.B. 89, many Jewish and Christian leaders praised the Texas Legislature. Josh Block, CEO and President of the Israel Project, told The Jerusalem Post: “I want to thank the government of Texas for seeing the true, hateful intentions of BDS and banning such state-sponsored bias.”( ) Texas is the 20th state to pass an anti-BDS law, joining states such as Arkansas, Michigan, and Ohio.

Victory at UCSB

The UCSB campus

The UCSB campus

On May 11th,  the BDS movement suffered a major defeat at the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB) when a resolution to divest from Israel met with zero votes in favor. The tally on May 11th ended with 0 in favor, 15 against, and seven abstentions from the vote.

This was the fourth attempt at passing a divestment motion on UCSB’s campus, with each resolution having less support than the previous. The UCSB Student Senate rejected the BDS motion in 2015 by a vote of 13 to 12. The difference in the votes cast in favor of the BDS resolution in 2015 and its more recent counterpart illustrate the turning of the tide against BDS on college campuses.

The vote came after the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter on UCSB launched the campaign for this BDS resolution on “Yom HaShoah,” Holocaust Remembrance Day. This move was met with widespread condemnation from academic and Jewish communities across the United States. The SJP chapter claimed that the scheduling decision was made for “purely…pragmatic reasons.” This statement comes across as bizarre given the fact that the very same SJP chapter had attempted a BDS motion the year prior, also purposefully near Yom HaShoah.

More than one hundred students signed up to speak on May 11th, with many pointing to the accusations of anti-Semitism that surrounded the BDS resolution. The campus group Students Supporting Israel (SSI) made a large investment in helping to bring to light the reasons for the anti-BDS effort. SSI president Nate Erez said that the motion was “no more than a clever disguise to achieve a much more sinister agenda. This is a direct attack on the one Jewish state in the world.” This resolution also comes directly after two incidents on UCSB’s campus last week that helped shape the outcome of the vote. The first was the two cases of vandalism levied against a pro-Israel peace mural on campus. The second event was the erecting of an “apartheid wall” on campus which featured falsified quotes from Israeli leaders.

Kantor Center Reports Spike in U.S. Campus Anti-Semitism

Dina Porat, head of the Kantor Center and member of the LDB Academic Advisory Board

Dina Porat, head of the Kantor Center and member of the LDB Academic Advisory Board

Earlier this month, the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry released its Antisemitism Worldwide 2016 analysis, which this year demonstrates a startling 45% increase in anti-Semitic incidents on U.S. college campuses. The Kantor Center, based at Tel Aviv University, strives to “provide an academic framework for the interdisciplinary research of European Jewry from the end of World War II until the present day.” The Kantor Center is currently led by Dina Porat, a member of the Louis D. Brandeis Center’s Academic Advisory Board. The annual study chronicles the various trends and movements that anti-Semitism manifests itself through. The most recent report starts by chronicling a 12% drop in cases of violent anti-Semitism from 2015 to 2016. Regardless of the lessening of violent anti-Semitism, there is a noticeable uptick in campus based anti-Semitism, especially in the United States.

The Kantor Center’s report details the almost 50% rise in incidents of anti-Semitism on U.S. campuses, incidents which are especially prevalent in the form of harassment and insults levied at both Jews and Israel. The report also details cases of vandalism, and the recent surge of anti-Semitic fliers posted on various U.S. campuses. The report is broken down into several sections by country or region, and also chronicles problems on campuses outside of the United States. Recently, Ryerson University in Toronto adopted a definition of anti-Semitism that resembles the internationally co-written “Ottawa Protocol.” This came after incidents in November, chronicled in the Kantor Center’s report, where students staged a walkout in response to a motion of support for Holocaust Education Week on their campus. Their walk-out caused the meeting to lose quorum, and the motion to fail. At that same meeting, Jewish students were intimidated, shouted down and were the targets of insults. There are reports that some Jewish students were locked in the bathrooms to keep them from attending the vote.

In the United Kingdom, the report draws attention to the fact that the Working Definition of Antisemitism adopted by the 31 Member States of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2015, and based on the former EUMC Definition, needs to be modified and formally adopted by the Government as a “non-legally binding guideline for law enforcement agencies.” The Kantor Report also notes that the Definition is “already published in the national police strategy for dealing with hate crime.” The Kantor Center’s report also relayed concerns that have been voiced over continued antisemitism on university campuses, “which the National Union of Students fail to tackle.” The report goes on to describe the victory of a Jewish student at Sheffield Hallam University who was compensated for his complaint about anti-Semitic social media postings by the University’s Palestine Society. The report argues that the ruling is important because “it recognized that anti-Zionist behavior on campus can harass Jewish students and…it endorsed the use of the [EUMC] definition as a guide to determining when anti-Zionist behavior crosses the line into antisemitism.” The university ended up paying the student £3,000.

The tone of the entire report may be optimistic, but it depicts a still dire situation of college campuses worldwide. Whether detailing the “sharp spike in reports of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalism” or the white supremacist who claimed that after President Trump’s election “every single one of these Jews will think twice before coming after us and our families,” it is apparent that, regardless of the downturn in violent incidents of anti-Semitism, we must remain vigilant in our fight against the world’s oldest form of hatred.

 

The full report can be read and downloaded here.

 

San Diego State Passes Anti-Semitism Resolution

San_Diego_State_University_SealOn April 19, 2017, the Associated Students at San Diego State University passed “A Resolution to Condemn Anti-Semitism.” The resolution takes a strong line against anti-Semitism, both in its addressing of a series of broad issues and its strict reliance on established definitions and law. The resolution cites both the U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism and the Marcus Policy which applies to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Marcus Policy, penned by Louis D. Brandeis Center President Kenneth Marcus, allows Jewish students to be protected under Title VI, based on their status as an ethno-religious minority.

This resolution follows in the footsteps of similar resolutions adopted by universities across the United States, such as UCLA, UCSB, UC Berkeley, Capital U, and Indiana U. Ryerson, a Canadian university based in Toronto, has also adopted a similar resolution. These resolutions mimic the similar legislative attempts to pass bills that define anti-Semitism on both a statewide and federal level. Recently, there have been attempts in South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee all aimed at adopting the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism as it relates to public universities. On the congressional level, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which passed the Senate in December, is awaiting reintroduction in congress this term.

Such resolutions have an impact that cannot be understated when it comes to the fight against anti-Semitism. These resolutions display to the state government that their schools want a stronger definition of anti-Semitism, and one that includes examples of anti-Semitism relative to Israel, in order to combat its resurgence.

President Trump Remembers Victims of the Holocaust

President Trump

President Trump giving his recorded statement.

On April 24th, President Donald J. Trump released a statement asking the American people to join him in observing the Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust, starting April 23rd and lasting through April 30th. Sunset of April 23rd marked the beginning of Yom HaShoah in Israel. Yom HaShoah is Israel’s official day of commemoration for the six million Jewish people who were killed throughout the duration of the Holocaust. The statement was also released as a short video clip on the official White House website.

The short message by President Trump reminds the American people to stand with their Israeli allies in remaining vigilant against the “hateful ideologies and indifference” which led to deaths of the six million Jews who were “brutally slaughtered.” The statement goes on to point to the Holocaust survivors who live in the United States, lauding their help in “continu[ing] to fuel our resolve to advance human rights and to combat antisemitism and other forms of hatred.”

The full statement can be read below. Continue reading

Citizens Advocacy Day

On Wednesday, April 26th the South Carolina public will get an up close and personal look at the fight against anti-Semitism during Citizens Advocacy Day. Citizens Advocacy Day is an event intended to bring more public awareness to anti-Semitism legislation, as well as give an opportunity to meet the organizations and legislators working to fight against anti-Semitism in South Carolina. The Louis D. Brandeis Center will proudly be joining organizations such as Stand With Us, The Israel Project, Christians United for Israel, Israel Allies Foundation, and the Jewish Federations of both Columbia and Charleston for the event. Citizens Advocacy Day will include the opportunity to hear key legislators speak, such as Alan Clemmons (R-SC), on the H-3643 legislation that is currently attempting to apply a widely respected definition of anti-Semitism to South Carolina’s public universities. This is a state version of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act that was introduced to the U.S. Senate last year. Similar bills have already been introduced in South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.

The events start at 9:30 in Room 110 of the Solomon Blatt Building at 1105 Pendleton Street, SC State Capitol, Columbia. A complimentary lunch will be served and there will be a group photo taken on the capitol steps. This event offers a unique opportunity to both show direct support in the fight against anti-Semitism and to take part in the civic process that drives our nation.

For more information, see the flyer below.

Citizen's Day Flyer