Check Out Kenneth Marcus at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival

Kenneth L. Marcus, the President of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law,

Courtesy of left-bank.com

Courtesy of left-bank.com

will be discussing his book, The Definition of Anti-Semitism, at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival this November 16th.

The Definition of Anti-Semitism explores the various ways in which anti-Semitism has been defined and develops a new definition of anti-Semitism in the context of the ‘new anti-Semitism’ in American higher education.

The St. Louis Jewish Book Festival runs from November 6th to the 20th, and features discussions with a variety of Jewish authors. The festival will start off with a keynote conversation with best-selling author and lawyer, Scott Turow, who will take on a number of topics (everything from comedy to politics) and talk about many of his 11 books. RSVPS are required to attend the sponsor reception that follows.

The full festival schedule is as follows: Continue reading

LDB Responds to UC Irvine’s SJP Decision and Calls for Stronger Action

uci.eduOn Friday, the UC Irvine Office of Student Conduct announced that it had concluded a three-month investigation into an aggressive and disruptive incident on the UCI campus last May.  The  incident involved an anti-Israel mob that disrupted a small event held by a Jewish student group on campus.  The angry mob of about 50 students blocked the entrances and exits while loudly chanting angry, anti-Israel, anti-police, and pro-Palestinian sentiments that promoted violence, anti-Semitism, and hate.  One Jewish student, Eliana Kopley, attempted to get away, but was chased and hounded by members of the angry mob, forcing her to hide in a kitchen while a UCI staff member protected her.
According to yesterday’s announcement, the student group Students for Justice in Palestine (“SJP”) is responsible for violation of the UCI Code of Conduct’s provision prohibiting “Obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures, or other University activities.”  As for sanctions, SJP was issued a written warning, effective immediately and continuing until March 29, 2017.   SJP must also host an educational program by November 18, 2016.
LDB President and General Counsel Kenneth L. Marcus expressed his concerns about the university’s announcement, stating, “I am disappointed in the outcome, which fails to hold SJP accountable for the harassment and physical intimidation of Eliana Kopley – or to even acknowledge that anything happened to her that night.”  Indeed, the statement yesterday makes no reference to any student being chased, followed, or needing to hide from attendees of SJP’s “protest” gone wrong.
Marcus further stated, “I do believe that it is a step forward for UC Irvine to finally acknowledge that SJP’s disruptive behavior violates university polices.  We are pleased that the university has implicitly rejected the spurious claims by the National Lawyers’ Guild and Palestine Legal that such disruptive behavior is protected by the First Amendment, when it clearly is a violation of the freedom of speech.  We are also glad that the Office of Student Affairs has – at a minimum – issued SJP a warning, and we hope that administrators will closely monitor SJP’s activities over the coming year and respond quickly to any further crimes, infractions or violations that they commit.”
However, Marcus described the weak sanctions as “a slap on the wrist for SJP, and a slap in the face to the Jewish community.”  Ms. Kopley agreed, stating, “I feel like their punishment is not enough to keep the pro-Israel and Jewish students on campus safe.  It isn’t guaranteeing our safety.  What happened that night does not warrant just a ‘warning’.  There should be a real, visible action by the school to ensure safety to all students on our campus.”

Continue reading

Canadian Jewish Student Group Files Discrimination Complaint

On August 3, Hasbara Fellowships Canada, a pro-Israel campus activism organization and the country’s largest grassroots campus advocacy organization, announced that a complaint had been filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against both the Student Association and the Faculty Association of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College. Hasbara filed the complaint after being denied an opportunity to participate in a campus Social Justice Week event, alleging this wan as a discriminatory decision. It is the first time a Jewish student group has filed such a complaint.

Hasbara

Photo Source: http://www.hasbarafellowships.org/hasbara-fellowships-canada

In early March, the Students Association of UOIT & Durham College hosted a “Social Justice Week.” Hasbara’s work includes countering “Israel Apartheid Week” and the anti-Israel BDS movement, and had asked to table its Israel Peace Week materials during the campus’s Social Justice Week.

According to a press release from Hasbara, when Robert Walker, National Director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, responded to an open invitation for community groups to participate, he was denied because Hasbara seems “closely tied to the state of Israel.” In an email sent to Walker on March 3, 2016, Denise Martins, executive assistant of UOIT’s Faculty Association, wrote that since the student association had passed an anti-Israel BDS motion at its previous annual meeting, it would be “against the motion to provide any type of resources” to the organization.

While Hasbara was banned from participating, several anti-Israel events headlined the Week, including a 5-hour “Oshawa Against Israeli Apartheid” event and an art show organized by the anti-Israel group Students for Justice for Palestine, which “illustrated what is being done to combat the illegal occupation of Palestine.”

Walker called the decision to ban the group from participating “outright, explicit, unapologetic discrimination” based on ethnic identity. In a statement to CIJnews, Walker elaborated on his decision to file the complaint, saying: “This is a Jewish issue, not an Israel issue or a political issue. This is about banning a Canadian Jewish organization because of its ties to Israel.” In its press release, Hasbara demanded that the Student and Faculty Association publicly apologize, disseminate their apology to campus, local & national media and their respective websites, invite the group to campus for a public presentation, and repeal any discriminatory policies in place.

This incident is just the most recent example of Jewish organizations being penalized due to discriminatory BDS measures. However, it is promising that Hasbara has decided to file a complaint against the Student Association and Faculty Association and call attention to their discriminatory policies. Like the two recent lawsuits against the ASA, including the Brandeis Center’s suit against the ASA for its unlawful boycott of Israel, this demonstrates the significant legal options aside from legislation that can be utilized to combat the discriminatory policies of BDS motions.

Karega Not Teaching at Oberlin this Fall

Today, Oberlin College announced that professor Joy Karega will not be teaching this Fall, a much-delayed decision following the revelation of a series of her highly anti-Semitic Facebook posts this past March.

One of Professor Joy Karega’s Facebook postings (Source: www.thetower.org)

Karega’s posts (*which have since been deleted) included a series of conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic content, including blaming “Israel and Zionist Jews” for the 9/11 attacks; posting an unflattering photograph of Jewish banker Jacob Rothschild with an exaggerated hook nose, with the words, “We own nearly every central bank in the world. We financed both sides of every war since Napoleon. We own your news, the media, your oil and your government”; following the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris in 2015, posting an image of an ISIS terrorist putting on his mask to reveal a man resembling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among many other things.

Oberlin, like many campuses nationwide, has been battling a resurgence of anti-Semitism. When the posts were first revealed, it sent the Oberlin community into turmoil, and President Marvin Krislov came under fire for not explicitly condemning her posts. Though he said in a public statement that the posts “affected [him] on a very personal level,” he has a “strong belief in academic freedom.”

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus criticized Karega’s posts at the time to the Tower, and addressed the issue of academic freedom, saying, “[t]his is really outrageous conduct by the professor, and the university should address it promptly, effectively, and consistent with all of the university’s own internal policies . . . . The question is not whether the professor is free to say outrageous things or to post hateful materials but whether the university will meet its obligation to address the resulting harm to the students.”

Today, President Krislov announced that Karega is on leave while the administration and faculty review her professional fitness. We are pleased that the Oberlin administration finally seems to be addressing this issue as it should have months ago.

President Krislov’s full statement can be found below:

Dear Oberlin Community Members:

In response to recent renewed national media interest in the matter of Professor Joy Karega, I am writing to provide an update to you in advance of any public statement.

In March, in consultation with me as President, Oberlin’s Board asked the administration and faculty to use its governance processes to review Professor Karega’s professional fitness in light of her social media postings. Accordingly, the faculty governance process began and is ongoing.

I am committed to continuing and completing an equitable review process. While the process is pending, Professor Karega is on paid leave and will not be teaching at Oberlin. Arrangements are being made to cover her teaching and advising responsibilities.

In recognition of the sensitivity of this continuing review process and the privacy of the individuals involved, we will have no other comment until the conclusion of the process.

Sincerely,

Marvin Krislov
President

New Anti-Semitism Journal Seeks Papers

The Journal of Contemporary European Antisemitism (JCEA) recently announced that it is seeking original research articles for its first issue. JCEA is the first journal of its kind, covering all forms of anti-Semitism found in today’s Europe. It will be published bi-annually, beginning spring 2017.

academic studies press logo

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus serves on the editorial board of the journal among a group of international and highly distinguished scholars. LDB greatly looks forward to the first issue of JCEA.

JCEA is inviting scholars from all relevant disciplines across the social sciences and humanities to send their original research articles. Overseen by an international team of editors and editor-in-chief Clemens Heni (Director of the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism), the journal hopes to become a forum where scholars from diverse political and intellectual backgrounds can analyze, debate, and formulate effective responses to the ever-evolving and insidious threat of Jew-hatred in Europe.

JCEA defines the anti-Semitism of today in three different forms: 1) traditional anti-Semitism, including anti-Judaism, blood libels, and conspiracy myths, among other tropes; 2) Holocaust denial or distortion, which has a particular meaning in Eastern Europe; and 3) hatred of Israel or anti-Zionist anti-Semitism. The journal also emphasizes the European context and the contemporary nature of possible submissions, meaning that topics should be at least related to the time after 1945, but it is much better to be to the 21st century.

JCEA generally aims to publish articles of 5000-7000 words of text, including notes, and reviews not exceeding 1200 words. Articles will be peer-reviewed anonymously, so submissions should not include any identifying information.

Earlier this summer, another new journal issued a similar call for papers. The Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism (CISA) and Indiana University Press announced that they are releasing a new scholarly periodical Antisemitism Studies in April 2017. JCEA and Antisemitism Studies will join the existing Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism (JSA), of which LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus is also an editorial board member. Continue reading

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Campus anti-Semitism Surges in 2016

AMCHA Initiate co-founder Tammi-Rossman-Benjamin addrssing UC Board of Regents

AMCHA Initiate co-founder Tammi-Rossman-Benjamin addrssing UC Board of Regents

2016 is unfolding as another unsettling year for Jewish students across U.S. college campuses. According to a report released this week by the AMCHA Initiative, anti-Semitic activities have surged over the past six months. The AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to the investigation, documentation and contestation of anti-Semitism, investigated 113 schools with the largest Jewish populations across the United States. Defining anti-Semitic instances by three criteria: (1) anti-Semitic expression – which following State Department sanctioned guidelines includes anti-Zionist expression, (2) Targeting of Jewish students, and (3) BDS activity. The findings were definitive:

There were a recorded 287 anti-Semitic incidents at 64 of these institutions – an alarming 57% of the total colleges surveyed.

This number is up by 45% from the 198 occurrences documented by the AMCHA in 2015. The AMCHA research also found that suppression of the speech of Jewish students approximately doubled from 2015 to 2016, whilst calls denying Israel’s right to exist nearly tripled.

Moreover, the study provided “ample empirical evidence showing that the presence of anti-Zionist student groups, faculty boycotters and anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) activity are each strong predictors of anti-Jewish hostility.”[1]

According to these findings anti-Semitic instances was twice as likely to transpire on campuses where BDS was present, six times more likely to occur on campuses with one or more faculty boycotters, and eight times more likely to happen on campuses with at least one active anti-Zionist student group such as SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine). Continue reading

LDB Welcomes Intern Daniella Hovsha

LDB welcomes Daniella Hovsha, who will be joining the organization as a Civil Rights Communications & Development Intern for Fall 2016.

dani photo

Photo courtesy of Daniella Hovsha.

Daniella graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of the Witwatersrand, a public research university in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is currently completing her post-graduate studies—called an “honors” in South Africa—in International Relations and English Literature. She serves as the National Chairperson of the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS), the only official representative body for Jewish and Zionist students in South Africa. SAUJS is active on every South African university campus, and engages in political, social, educational, and religious work. Daniella is also an executive member of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS). She looks forward to becoming further involved in the fight against campus anti-Semitism through this internship.

The new addition to the LDB team brings a wide range of unique experiences and skills to the organization and will assist LDB as it continues its mission to combat campus anti- Semitism. LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus welcomed Daniella, saying, “We are very excited to have an international perspective that can provide new insight to the issue of campus anti-Semitism. Daniella brings great talent, strong educational credentials, and considerable enthusiasm to the tasks at hand. We feel confident that she will help contribute to our campaign against campus anti-Semitism and in our work to promote justice for all.”

Daniella’s early arrival is much welcomed in light of LDB’s busy docket, including its landmark lawsuit against the American Studies Association (ASA) for the ASA’s unlawful boycott of Israeli academic institutions, legal advocacy work—including representing Eliana Kopley, a UC Irvine student aggressively confronted and threatened by anti-Israel protesters, and efforts to expand its law student chapter initiative network. Daniella will be joining fellow interns Emma Dillon and Juan Pablo Rivera Garza, who have been with LDB since early June, and Michelle Yabes, who has been with LDB since Fall 2015.

 

UN Watch Fellowship Opportunity for College Grads

Our friends at UN Watch are searching for motivated recent college graduates for a terrific year-long, paid fellowship opportunity in Geneva. Interested candidates must posses superb English writing skills. Fellow responsibilities will include drafting reports, speeches, op-eds, and press releases, monitor and report on meetings at the UN, perform research, and manage social media. To learn more and apply, please click this link. Applications are due July 31, 2016.

National Lawyers Guild Sued for Discrimination

On July 13, New York attorney David Abrams filed a complaint against the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), on behalf of an Israeli organization, Bibliotechnical Athenaeum. In the complaint, Abrams alleges that NLG practiced unlawful discrimination, violating the New York City and State Human Rights Laws. Essentially, this is an anti-BDS lawsuit challenging NLG for excluding Israeli companies from its program solely on the basis of their national origin. The activity described in the complaint is consistent with NLG’s involvement in a recent aggressive protest on the UC Irvine campus, and suggests that NLG, which promotes itself as a human rights organization that provides neutral and independent “legal observers” is perhaps not so neutral when it comes to discrimination against Israelis and pro-Israel Americans.

Rejected Ad. Source:

An image of the rejected ad from the filed complaint, Bibliotechnical v. NLG, 07/13/16

According to the complaint, NLG refused to permit Bibliotechnical to participate in its Annual Banquet by refusing to sell Bibliotechnical advertising space in its associated dinner journal.

NLG, which describes itself as a “network of public interest and human rights activists working within the legal system,” regularly holds events open to the public. In August 2016, it is scheduled to hold a “Law for the People” conference in Manhattan. In connection with this conference, NLG offered to the public the opportunity to purchase advertising in a dinner journal that is distributed at the Annual Banquet of the Law for the People Convention. In a post on its website, NLG wrote that placing an ad in the journal is a “great way to congratulate our outstanding honorees, publicize your firm or organization, or just share a message of your own!”

The complaint alleges that on June 26, Bibliotechnical sent in a very basic ad congratulating the honorees of the conference—typical of those that are accepted and included in the dinner journal by the Guild. Along with its brief “Congratulations to the Honorees” message, the ad contained only the organization’s name and its Gush Etzion, Israel address. The complaint further alleges that on June 27, Bibliotechnical sent in the $200 publication fee for publication of the ad, and later that same day, NLG rejected the ad, advising Bibliotechnical that it would not accept monies from an Israeli organization. NLG refunded the $200 fee the next day. According to the complaint, this refusal was based solely on Bibliotechnical’s Israeli citizenship and origin, thus constituting a violation of the New York City and State Human Rights Laws.

The complaint emphasizes that it does not challenge NLG’s right to criticize Israel; to hold anti-Israel or anti-Semitic views; or to advocate for policies based on such views. Rather, it challenges NLG’s unlawful public accommodation discrimination on the grounds of citizenship and national origin, regardless of the political position underlying such discrimination.

NLG also took an anti-Israel stance regarding an aggressive protest on the University of California – Irvine (“UCI”) campus on May 18. A student group, Students Supporting Israel, was hosting a screening of the film, “Beneath the Helmet,” about life in the Israeli Defense Forces. About 10 students attended the film screening. Soon after it began, over 50 protestors associated with Students for Justice in Palestine (“SJP”) came and began to loudly chant anti-Semitic and anti-Israel messages. The protesters disrupted the film screening, and officers from the UCI Police Department came to protect and escort Jewish students away from the scene. During the protest, one of the Jewish students, Eliana Kopley, whom LDB represents with respect to this matter, was physically intimidated— she briefly stepped outside to make a phone call before the protestors arrived. When she tried to return to the room, the protesters physically blocked the entrance, and as she walked away from the scene, she was followed by a group of female students and felt so threatened that she hid in a classroom and called the police.

Two members of the NLG chapter at UCI law school – both first year law students – attended as “legal observers.” The primary role of legal observers is supposed to be to watch and record the activities of law enforcement when interacting with demonstrators and to ensure that the demonstrator’s rights to express political opinions and occupy public spaces are not being infringed upon, as well as to provide objective documentation to lawyers representing arrestees to be used in civil and criminal procedures. According to a letter sent on June 7 to UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman by members of the Los Angeles, Orange County, and UCI Law student chapters of NLG, the NLG legal observers claimed they witnessed no anti-Semitic language used by protesters, no chants of “death to all white people” or anything similarly malicious, and no students approaching event participants as they left. The legal observers maintained that all protesters remained peaceful, describing the event as a “vigorous but normal campus event.” NLG’s legal observers’ account starkly contrasts those of the UCI students attending the film screening and of eyewitnesses, calling into question how truly “objective” they were in their role during the protest. 

Earlier this week, Abrams also filed a lawsuit against the New York Metro chapter of the American Studies Association (“ASA”), alleging “unlawful discrimination under the New York City and State Human Rights Laws,” in relation to the ASA’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions. This follows the Brandeis Center’s landmark lawsuit filed in April against the ASA for its unlawful boycott of Israel, which has already been credited in part with defeat of a resolution calling for the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to boycott Israeli academic institutions and is expected to have a profound impact in future BDS decisions.

The recent NLG and ASA lawsuits perfectly demonstrate how anti-Israel activities can have legal ramifications.

New Jersey’s Anti-BDS Legislation

Photo: State.NJ.US

Photo: State.NJ.US

Last month, the New Jersey General Assembly in an overwhelming 69-3 vote passed legislation prohibiting the investment of state pension and annuity funds in to companies that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses. A similar bill had passed through the state Senate in a unanimous 39-0 vote in May.

According to the legislation, the state’s $71 billion pension fund provides coverage for about 800,000 current and retired public employees. Under the bill, the state would have 120 days after its passage to identify companies that violate the new prohibition. It would then have an additional 24 months to withdraw investment or divest. However, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the state Treasury Department is not aware of any companies that the pension fund is invested in that would violate the legislation.

The bill also stated that Israel and New Jersey annually trade more than $1.3 billion in goods.

The legislation noted that, “It is important to the economic well-being of New Jersey that persons or entities conducting commercial trade and doing business in the State do not engage in boycotts of a legitimate and viable partner with whom New Jersey can enjoy open trade contracting,” and went on to say, “Therefore, it is in the best interest of this State that a statutory prohibition be enacted to prohibit the investment of public employee retirement funds in companies boycotting Israel.”

One of the bipartisan bill’s primary sponsors, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D., Bergen), also noted that the legislation aimed to maintain and strengthen New Jersey’s existing relationship with Israel.

Another one of the bill’s primary sponsors, Assemblyman Chris Brown, (R-Atlantic) commented, “We have no greater ally in the Middle East than Israel, and it’s in America’s economic and security interest to make sure Israel remains strong and stable.”

Brown, who participated in a Federation Mission to Israel for legislators earlier this year, went on to state, “From what I‘ve learned, the BDS movement is rooted in hate, and not truly motivated to help the peace effort,” noting that, “An economically strong Israel is the only way to ensure stability and peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Senator James Beach (D-Camden), who also visited Israel earlier this year with 14 fellow lawmakers on a study mission that was sponsored by the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, sponsored the bill in the Senate. He commented, “New Jersey has a long history of friendship with Israel, and any efforts to boycott Israeli goods, products and businesses are not only contrary to our values but are discriminatory and ill-intentioned.” He went on to say “We remain committed to standing against these practices, and banning investments in companies that engage in these activities is the right course of action.”

Governor Chris Christie is expected to sign the bill into law.

With the additions of New Jersey and Rhode Island this summer, at least other 12 states have passed anti-BDS legislation. It was reported that, in total, about 21 other states have taken up anti-BDS legislation.