Racism, Antisemitism, Theory

The campus of Birkbeck University of London

The campus of Birkbeck University of London

On Monday, April 24, our colleagues at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, in partnership with the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, will be holding a conference at Birkbeck, University of London. The conference, entitled “Racism, Antisemitism, Theory,” will “[explore] the relationship between racism and antisemitism.”  The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities organizes events with the express goals of “engaging with important public issues of our time through a series of open debates, lectures, seminars, and conferences.” The Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, which is based at Birkbeck, University of London, is one of the few centers dedicated to the study of antisemitism in in Europe. Their stated mission is to “promote understanding of antisemitism.”

The upcoming conference will include guest speakers from various U.S. and British universities, as well as lectures and discussions. Continue reading

ACTA Reports that the BDS Movement Threatens Academic Freedom

ACTALast Thursday, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) issued a report on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. As our readers may recall, ACTA is a nonprofit organization committed to academic freedom and achievement at America’s colleges. Two ACTA staffers, William Gonch and Avi Snyder, appeared as guests on the Brandeis Blog in 2013. Gonch and Snyder wrote about violations of academic freedom, academic boycotts, and the duty of faculty at universities.

The recent ACTA report maintains that the BDS movement threatens academic freedom on college campuses. The campaign has employed “aggressive, antidemocratic tactics galvanizing deep inter-group suspicions,” according to the report. ACTA urges university administrations and faculty to take greater efforts to address BDS and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The report cites multiple disruptions of university events by BDS supporters nationwide. ACTA brings attention to the 2015 shouting-down of Moshe Habertal, an Israeli professor at the University of Minnesota; the disturbance of Professor Ami Pedahzur’s event at the University of Texas that same year; and the disruption of a presentation by Israeli diplomat George Deek last year at the University of California, Davis; among other incidents. These interferences with Jewish events are probably unprotected by the First Amendment and in violation of the Civil Rights Act, the report states.

The BDS campaign also pushes for university divestment of Israeli businesses and academic institutions. During the 2014-2015 school year, there were 19 resolutions pressuring college administrations to divest from Israeli companies. The BDS movement also attempts to politicize professional academic associations, such as the Association of Asian American Studies and the American Studies Association. BDS supporters urge such associations to boycott Israeli academic institutions, even though “these associations have had little or nothing to say about egregious and well-documented violations of human rights and academic freedom in Egypt, Venezuela, Turkey, China, and elsewhere.” Boycotts of Israeli scholars would undoubtedly thwart academic interactions and deprive many fields of cutting-edge research. Such measures would “wrongly [limit] the ability of American and Israeli academic institutions and their faculty members to exchange ideas and collaborate on critical projects that advance humanity, develop new technologies, and improve health and well-being across the globe.”

ACTA identifies Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) as a leading advocate of the BDS movement and criticizes the organization’s willingness to “violate the liberties of faculty and their fellow students to advance their own political agenda.” Through campus disruptions, SJP chapters desecrate the academic freedom upon which American higher education was founded. SJP is also affiliated with American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), a group whose leadership was formerly associated with the Holy Land Foundation, which allegedly provided funds to Hamas. As organizations like SJP and AMP promote anti-Israel BDS activity at colleges nationwide, on-campus anti-Semitism continues to rise and endanger the rights of Jewish students to free and equal education.

The President of ACTA, Michael B. Poliakoff, states that “the tactics employed by the BDS movement clearly conflict with the principles of academic freedom that enable students and educators alike to engage in open discourse, inquiry, and learning.” Poliakoff calls upon higher education leaders and trustees to “reinforce their commitment to free expression and institutional neutrality.”

The full report is available here.

 

University of Texas Students Speak Out

The campus of The University of Texas at Austin

The campus of The University of Texas at Austin

Last week, the student government of The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) unanimously approved A.R. 26, a motion intended to condemn recent anti-Semitic incidents in and around their campus. The assembly resolution, officially titled “In Support of Jewish Students at The University of Texas at Austin,” cites the recent incidents of “a center for Jewish student life at the…Texas [H]illel [being] vandalized…and a heavily anti-Semitic Facebook post [being] published to the University…Class of 2020 Facebook page” as the impetus for the resolution. Jonathon Dror, one of the authors of the resolution, told the student newspaper that “[s]everal Jewish students that I know don’t even feel comfortable wearing their (Star of David) necklace out or small things like that just to express their religion.” The resolution also comments upon the recent bomb threats to Jewish community centers nationwide and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries in the United States.

UT Austin is home to over 3000 Jewish students. Previous incidents regarding BDS activity on campus have led to professors being publicly attacked, as well as speakers being disinvited from campus. These incidents, as well as harassment of Jewish students on campus, have harmed what A.R. 26 refers to as the “core values” of the University: learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity, and responsibility. Jason Taper, a Texas Hillel member, said in a recent interview with the Daily Texan that “[i]t is still – luckily – unacceptable to hate Jews at the University of Texas. That said, the people that are anti-Semites, the people that are vandals, the people that are phoning in these threats, [they] don’t care [that it is unacceptable]…so knowing that we have the community behind us really helps.”

The students at UT Austin are the latest of those from many universities worldwide, who are working within their school’s systems and student governments to fight against anti-Semitism and the influence of the BDS movement. In August of 2016, Leipzig University in Germany saw a condemnation of the “anti-Semitic BDS campaign” by its student government. Various student governments in the US , have adopted resolutions condemning anti-Semitism on their own campuses and within America at large, and some have gone further – such as those at such as those at Indiana University, UCLA, Capital University, UC Berkeley, UCSC, and others – and have adopted the U.S. State Department’s Definition of Anti-Semitism.  The Indiana University resolution, for example, cited the Marcus Policy, initiated by LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus in 2004 during his tenure at the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. This policy extended Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects students from discrimination based on their race, color, or national origin at federally funded post-secondary educational institutions, to protect Jewish students based on their ethnic or ancestral background. In order for universities to remain a bastion of academic integrity, free thought, and equal opportunity, these condemnations and individual actions must continue.

Linda Sarsour’s Problematic Views on Zionism and Anti-Semitism

As a co-chair of the Women’s March protesting Donald Trump’s inauguration, Linda Sarsour – who is usually identified as a Palestinian-American progressive political activist – has recently attracted much sympathetic media attention, but also some criticism. Among the issues that critics of Sarsour brought up early on was her open support for BDS, i.e. the movement that singles out Israel as a target for boycott, divestment and sanction, and her stated preference for “a one-state solution that, experts agree, will not be a Jewish state because the larger population will be Palestinian.” While her Wikipedia page currently claims that Sarsour “supports Israel’s right to exist,” she quite obviously does not support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Indeed, Sarsour once asserted [http://archive.is/D42dt]: “Nothing is creepier than Zionism;” she also suggested that Zionism is racism.

Sarsour Zionism creepy

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist” is of course listed as an example for contemporary anti-Semitism in the US State Department definition of anti-Semitism.

However, Sarsour has insisted that she is only “a critic of the State of Israel” and that she firmly opposes anti-Semitism. But given Sarsour’s declared revulsion against Zionism and her openly acknowledged preference for a so-called “one-state solution” that would transform the world’s only Jewish state into yet another Arab-Muslim majority state, it would clearly be more accurate to describe her not as a “critic,” but rather as an outright opponent of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Moreover, there is reason to suspect that Sarsour does not accept common definitions of anti-Semitism: she is listed (#73) among the people who signed on to the truly Orwellian definition of anti-Semitism that veteran anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah published in fall 2012 on the basis of his preposterous view that Zionism is “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today” and that support for Zionism “is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.” Continue reading

Senate Calls for Federal Action Against Anti-Semitic Threats

Senate

In a powerful moment of unanimity on Tuesday, the Senate called upon the Trump administration to support the Jewish community, in light of recent security threats to Jewish community centers (JCCs) across the nation. All 100 Senators signed a letter urging the administration to actively address the upsurge in bomb threats against Jewish institutions. The letter asks the administration to reach out to JCCs, schools, and temples and help to “enhance security measures and improve preparedness.” The Senators specifically suggest “victim assistance, grant opportunities or other federal assistance” for Jewish centers.

The Senate’s plea expresses deep concern about the increasing number of anti-Semitic incidents nationwide. Over 100 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers and institutions this year, according to the FBI. The Secure Community Network of the Jewish Federations of North America reported nearly two dozen threats this week alone. In Missouri, Juan Thompson of St. Louis was arrested by the FBI and charged with issuing eight threats to Jewish schools, museums and activist groups, including the Manhattan office of the Anti-Defamation League. Thomson allegedly contacted Jewish institutions in New York City, Michigan, San Diego, and Dallas, claiming to know of bombs on their grounds.

These “cowardly acts aim to create an atmosphere of fear and disrupt the important programs and services offered by JCCs to everyone in the communities they serve,” the Senate letter reads. It is of utmost importance to the Senators that the administration takes swift and pointed action to combat this issue. They warn that “failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs.”

The Senators commend federal action taken thus far and hope to remain informed about further plans to address the threats. The letter was penned by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and sent to US Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and FBI Director James Comey. Continue reading

Maryland and Texas BDS Legislation

The Maryland State House

The Maryland State House

Earlier this month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called in his budget for laws which will stop state support for businesses that endorse or adhere to boycotts of Israel. Seventeen states have currently enacted anti-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanction) legislation, with states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio having done so in just the last few months. The Texas law address state pension plans. In a news brief released by the Jewish Telegraph Agency, Abbott is quoted as stating that “[w]hile Texas pension plans have the goal of maximizing returns…this mission should not come at the expense of our principles.” Abbott elaborated further, saying that “Texas funds…should be prohibited from making investments that directly fund our nation’s enemies or those…with stated anti-Israel policies.” Texas, like many other states, currently bans state pensions and retirement funds from investing in Iran. Abbott met with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, last year. During his time with the ambassador, as reported by The Algemeiner, Abbott stated that both Iran and the BDS movement against Israel “actively engage” in attempts to delegitimize the Jewish state. Texas is no stranger to BDS and BDS-aligned groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

Governor Abbott’s calls for Texas anti-BDS legislation mirror the attempts by Maryland legislators. Maryland lawmakers and Jewish advocacy groups are currently putting the final touches on a bill that would ban companies that support the BDS movement from doing business with the state. This new bill comes after a failed attempt to introduce similar legislation last April. The previous attempt never saw the proposed bill introduced, which opponents of the bill credit to “intense opposition from public and state legislators.”  The text for the proposed bill uses language similar to that of U.S. Senator Ben Cardin’s (D-MD) anti-BDS bill, which defined BDS as “actions…intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations” with Israel. Cardin’s anti-BDS bill, H.R. 6298, was not enacted.

Both the Texas and Maryland attempts at anti-BDS legislation will face stiff resistance from the active members of BDS groups within both states. Critics of the Texas legislation claim it “infringes upon the First Amendment right to free speech,” specifically in regards to state issued funds. Defenders of anti-BDS legislation, such as Eugene Volokh, have responded that such anti-BDS bills do not restrict speech. Volokh explains that “a [business] doesn’t lose [federal/state] money just for condemning Israel or even praising a boycott, but only for actually boycotting Israel: refusing to deal with Israeli institutions or scholars.” Maryland’s legislation may face more intense opposition, since Mayland BDS groups believe that they helped to stop similar legislation from being passed last year, a belief that will no doubt embolden their resistance. Regardless of the challenges, legislators in both states are pressing on in their pursuit of legislation against the undue pressures targeting Israel and Israel’s supporters.

BDS is rapidly losing ground to the onslaught of legislation it faces at both the state and federal level. The BDS campaign’s attempts to stifle academic freedom and to demonize Israel are facing stiff opposition from an informed public, a public that became informed due to the now publicly litigated nature of the anti-Israel movement. Every attempt at a boycott motion, and the subsequent reaction from the states, leads to discrediting of the BDS movement. With more and more states now drafting anti-BDS legislation and several bills introduced through congress as well, it is only a matter of time before the BDS movement loses what little credibility it has left.

Antisemitism Studies Journal Announces Contents of Inaugural Issue

unnamed (3) copyThe Canadian Institute for the Study of anti-Semitism has announced the issue contents of its new journal, AntisemitismStudies, published by Indiana University Press. Antisemitism Studies, as discussed in a prior entry, provides the leading forum for scholarship on the millennial phenomenon of anti-Semitism, both its past and present manifestations. Catherine Chatterly, founding director of CISA and editor-in-chief of this upcoming periodical, is a member of LDB’s Academic Advisory Board.  Each issue of the periodical is composed of a brief introduction by the editor, a selection of scholarly articles, and several reviews of significant new books published on the subject. The periodical features an article by Alvin Rosenfeld, a member of LDB’s Academic Advisory Board, titled “The Longest Hatred Renewed: A Tribute to Robert Wistrich.” Continue reading

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus at StandWithUs Anti-BDS Conference

StandWithUs, an international non-profitUntitled organization dedicated to informing the public about Israel and combatting anti-Semitism, will be holding their third annual Anti-BDS conference in Los Angeles from March 4-6. For the past three years, StandWithUs has invited international experts to discuss strategies to combat the global boycott movement against Israel. LDB President & General Counsel Kenneth L. Marcus will be participating as an expert speaker for the third year in a row, discussing “BDS in Lawfare.”

 

The conference will focus on combatting the BDS movement as well as understanding the BDS movement’s new strategies and tactics. In addition to LDB’S President Marcus, internationally renowned experts will discuss the global boycott movement against Israel and how it targets college campuses, businesses, legislation, and more. The conference’s keynote speaker will be Alan Dershowitz, a former Harvard Law Professor, Author, and Political Commentator. Other speakers include StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein, New York Times Best-Selling author Edwin Black, Comedy Central and Showtime actor Avi Liberman, and many more.

The exact location of the event is sent to participants upon completion of reservation. To learn more about the event and speakers, click here.

 

ISGAP Publishes New Volume Including LDB Campus Anti-Semitism Research

The Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy (ISGAP) has announced the publication of “ISGAP Papers: Anti-Semitism in Comparative Perspective-Volume Two,” featuring an original article by LDB’s Kenneth L. Marcus. The publication of these papers is part of ISGAP’s ongoing work establishing anti-Semitism studies as a recognized academic discipline. ISGAP will continue to expand their educational efforts this summer at the ISGAP-Oxford Summer Institute for Curriculum Development in Critical Anti-Semitism Studies. University professors and doctoral/post-doctoral students are invited to apply.

The recently published “Anti-Semitism in Comparative Perspective” aims to inform readers on the changing realities of contemporary anti-Semitism and to explore manifestations of anti-Semitism through high-quality presentations and papers. Between 2012 and 2014, ISGAP hosted seminars at Harvard University, McGill University, Columbia University Law School, Fordham University, and other academic institutions. The ISGAP papers volume two contains a selection of papers presented during this period. These papers cover topics that better contribute to an in depth understanding of contemporary anti-Semitism and efforts to better battle it in our modern world. For example, this volume includes a paper that Kenneth L. Marcus delivered at a Harvard Law School ISGAP program. In taking a global perspective on anti-Semitism, ISGAP and all those connected hope that the publication of this latest volume will help combat anti-Semitism and inspire readers to take an educated approach to dealing with and understanding the affects of anti-Semitism.

Untitled
Charles A. Small
(pictured left), author of the book and Executive Director of ISGAP, is a member of LDB’s Academic Advisory board.l Included in Small’s “ISGAP Papers: Anti-Semitism in Comparative Perspective-Volume Two” is LDB President and General Counsel, Kenneth L. Marcus’s, publication, “Higher Education, Anti-Semitism, and the Law“. In this article, Ken analyzes key campus anti-Semitism legal cases that have been brought before OCR under Title VI.

Furthering their efforts in the critical development of anti-Semitism studies, The ISGAP-Oxford Summer Institute is currently seeking scholars-in-residence for an intensive two-week workshop-based curriculum development program in interdisciplinary critical contemporary anti-Semitism studies. The program will be held at St. John’s College, in Oxford, United Kingdom from July 16,2017 to July 29, 2017. The program is intended primarily for professors with full-time college or university positions. Under the guidance of leading international academics, scholars-in-residence will be required to develop a course syllabus and curriculum in the interdisciplinary study of critical contemporary anti-Semitism. The application deadline is February 22, 2017. Application information and requirements can be viewed here.

 

 

Academic Boycotters Target the United States

The header of the petition being circulated among American academics.

The header of the petition being circulated among American academics.

In an effort to condemn the actions taken by President Trump, some academics are now advocating a boycott against the U.S. similar as those attempted against Israel. Recent proposals to adopt sanctions and boycott measures against Israel have been mired in controversy and failure. The Modern Language Association (MLA) recently defeated a proposal for a boycott against Israel, as did the American Anthropological Association (AAA.) The failure of the proposed AAA boycott resolution has been credited, in part, to actions taken by the Brandeis Center and a team of litigators in pursuing legal action against the American Studies Association (ASA). Anti-American academics, incensed by President Trumps immigration policies, are now attempting to redirect such efforts against the United States.

The proposed boycott will take the form of a refusal to “attend international academic conferences held in the United States.” A petition entitled “In Solidarity with People Affected by the Muslim Ban” has been circulated among academics which asserts that academics must “question the intellectual integrity of these spaces and the dialogues they are designed to encourage while Muslim colleagues are explicitly excluded from them.”  Helen McCarthy, writing for The Guardian, states that the boycott is a move taken purely in solidarity with Muslim academics now barred from U.S. conferences. McCarthy relates the feelings of one of the pledged academics: “How can free and open academic enquiry [sic] take place when one section of humanity is barred from participation?” The petition has garnered over 3,000 signatures, each of which constitutes a pledge to abstain from forthcoming conferences.

Some scholars have put forward concerns that this boycott may stifle academic discussion within the United States. Speaking with Legal Insurrection, scientist Max Berger stated that “any place that restricts the travel of [academics] to present their work is a problem.” These criticisms of the boycott have largely centered upon the shutting down of academic conferences which have nothing to do with the Trump administration or “Muslim Ban.” McCarthy’s article for The Guardian pointed out itself that “Trump will lose little sleep over a group of liberal academics from Europe boycotting a roundtable on 19th-century literature,” while “If US scholars find it harder to hold such meetings, or, as a result, to sustain networks with overseas colleagues, the action might be positively damaging.” Suggestions to have video conference and hold two-site conferences while the executive order is challenged in court have been put forward.

Several organizations have moved ahead with planned conferences, putting them in the crosshairs of those in favor of the boycott. The International Studies Association (ISA) has gone ahead with its conference this month in Baltimore, and has largely avoided boycott calls by pledging to refund registration fees to those academics denied visas or entry into the U.S. for the convention. The intentions of those calling for the boycott, regardless, remain clear. These members of the academic community want to show their disdain for the new administration by refusing to attend conferences organized by members of the academic community in the first place.