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.
On 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.
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. more »
On Sunday morning, May 7, LDB’s Director of Legal Initiatives, Aviva Vogelstein, will speak at Congregation Har Tzeon – Agudath Achim on, “Anti-Semitism on Campuses and the BDS Movement.” Vogelstein will discuss the growing problem of anti-Semitism on campuses in the U.S. Since joining the Brandeis Center in 2014, Vogelstein’s work has focused on combating the resurgence of anti-Semitism on American university campuses through legal and public policy approaches, and growing LDB’s law student chapter initiative.
The event is $5 per person, and pre-registration is required. Brunch will be served during the event, which will last from 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM. Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim is located on 1840 University Boulevard West in Silver Spring, Maryland.
For more information about the event, visit: https://www.htaa.org/event/guest-speaker-aviva-j.-vogelstein-esq..html
The Town of North Hempstead, New York recently passed anti-boycott legislation, unanimously. The town will no longer contract with entities which boycott Israel or the territories it administers.
The legislation adds an amendment to Chapter 24 – “Governmental Operations” – of the Code of the Town of North Hempstead by establishing Article IX – “Contract Restrictions” – in order to prohibit the Town from contracting with companies that participate in the movement to boycott, divest from investing in and sanction Israel. This amendment made the protection of civil rights in the town a priority. It states that “The town is a leader in protecting civil rights and preventing discrimination on the basis of religion, race, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and disability.” It further lists that “Both freedom of speech and religion are cornerstones of law and public policy in the United States, and the Town strongly supports and affirms these important freedoms.” It also included important language regarding discrimination, saying that, “The Town must take action to avoid supporting or financing unlawful discrimination.”.
The Town of North Hempstead joins the growing list of municipalities and states combatting the boycott of Israel through legislation. At least 20 states have passed anti-BDS, most recently Texas and Arkansas.
Last week, the Texas House of Representatives unanimously voted in favor of H.B. 89, an anti-BDS and boycott bill that seeks to deny “state contracts and investments in companies that boycott Israel.” This comes on the heels of the passage of a similar bill in the Texas senate on March 23rd. This legislation will now head to the desk of the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, and is expected to be signed into law. Governor Abbott is decidedly against anti-Israel boycotts, writing in 2016 that “”…In the face of the virulent movement to promote anti-Israel boycotts both in this country and around the globe, we strongly condemn the BDS movement as incompatible with the values of our states and our country.”
Numerous other states have passed anti-BDS bills and laws, including Georgia, Alabama, New York, and Michigan. Most recently, the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill that will penalize companies waging what one lawmaker calls “economic attack” on Israel. The bill, H.B. 2409, passed the Kansas house 116 to 9, and is expected to pass the Kansas Senate with similar results. The North Carolina House of Representatives also recently voted to adopt H.B. 161, a bill aimed at blocking business dealings between the state of North Carolina and those who support boycotts of Israel. Maryland legislators are currently in the process of drafting their own anti-BDS bill, as well.
In addition to anti-BDS legislation, the federal government and several state governments have been attempting to address anti-Semitism through Anti-Semitism Awareness legislation. The large support for both state level anti-BDS legislation and potential Anti-Semitism Awareness legislation at the federal level, shows the tremendous effort on the part of legislators across the country to combat both the growing trend of anti-Semitism and those championing it.
This March 19-20, the Louis D. Brandeis Center hosted its fourth annual National Law Student Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together law student leaders from 13 of LDB’s law student chapters across the country, and educated these students on topics including civil rights law; international law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict; legal responses to terror and how to pursue them; religious liberty; and how to use legal tools to combat anti-Semitism and the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Additionally, the students were presented with networking opportunities amongst their peers, attorneys, and legal scholars.
“The conference was informative, as well as encouraging.” said Daniel Berlinger (University of St. Thomas JD Candidate, 2017). “It helped provide the means to inspire law students to continue the fight against anti-Semitism on campus and beyond.”
Students were given the opportunity to engage with each other in a dialogue about the issues facing them as aspiring lawyers and proponents of civil rights for the Jewish people and all people through a series of lectures, panels, and roundtable discussions. With several prominent figures in academia, government, and professional law as guest speakers and fellow attendees, law students were also given an opportunity to enhance their knowledge and participate in discussions with multiple legal experts.
Participants included law students from LDB chapters at UC Berkeley, Penn, Emory, University of Virginia, and the University of Chicago in addition to students from various other campuses. The LDB law student chapter initiative, launched in 2014, includes 18 chapters nationwide. LDB chapters fill an important gap in American legal education, offering educational programming that connects students’ legal education to pressing Jewish civil rights issues.
Many of the students in attendance were members of their chapters’ respective leadership boards. The conference’s speakers covered a variety of legal and political topics relating to the Brandeis Center’s mission: empowering student leadership, federal protection of the civil rights of Jewish students, and fighting anti-Semitism so that the culture on American college campuses can change into one where anti-Semitism is taken as seriously as other forms of discrimination.
The conference kicked off with LDB Director of Legal Initiatives Aviva Vogelstein welcoming the students to the Fourth Annual National Law Student Leadership Conference. Vogelstein went on to discuss the importance of the role the students were playing at their respective universities, and commended them for the initiative they’ve shown in helping combat anti-Semitism.
LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus then gave opening remarks, focusing on the legal progress that had been made against anti-Semitism, and the many steps yet to be taken. Marcus chronicled the successful adoption of ethno-religious standards within the framework of Title VI and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Marcus then discussed OCR’s history of dealing with campus anti-Semitism cases, attributing the weakness in approach to the absence of a formal OCR definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism. The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016, a bipartisan bill which unanimously passed the U.S. Senate in December, was highlighted as an example of the positive progress being made in the United States in regards to legal means of combating anti-Semitism. Marcus ended his remarks with a spirit of optimism, pointing out the various state legislatures that are currently drafting bills to combat anti-Semitism within their respective states.
After LDB President Kenneth Marcus finished speaking, the floor was turned over to Professor Abraham Bell, of San Diego State University and Bar Ilan University. Bell’s talk, entitled “International Law & The Arab-Israeli Conflict,” focused on Israel and international human rights law. Bell’s talk was a witty, informative, discussion that provided legal and rhetorical strategies, while simultaneously disavowing libels frequently levied against the one Jewish state. Bell’s talk ranged from discussions of the legal status of settlements, to the question of what exactly international law is.
After Professor Bell’s discussion, a keynote address was given over dinner by Richard D. Heideman, of Heideman, Nudelman & Kalik. Heideman’s address, entitled “Holding Sponsors of
Terrorism Legally Accountable,” was a powerful declaration of the power of an individual lawyer to change the world. Heideman discussed overcoming insurmountable odds to bring cases against world leaders, foreign powers, and figures considered generally untouchable in the legal community. Heideman represented clients against Muammar Gaddafi, as well as the nations of Libya and Syria. Heideman sought justice for the victims of the Abu Nidal terrorist organization attacks on the Vienna and Rome airports, along with the American victims of the EgyptAir flight 648 hijacking. Heideman chronicled the difficult road his law firm faced in obtaining justice and compensation for victims of crimes that were perpetrated decades earlier, crimes for which no one believed justice could be obtained. Heideman spoke about the importance of anti-terrorism law, of having a White House committed to the fight against terror, and his theory of confluence: when the victims, lawyers, congressmen, hearings, an amenable White House, and the State Department all come together, anything can be accomplished. Richard Heideman ended his discussion with a piece of advice for all of the aspiring lawyers in the room “Stand up, speak out, and seek justice.”
The second day of the conference began with LDB Director of Legal Initiatives Aviva Vogelstein turning the floor over to various students who had worked on combating anti-Semitism on their own campuses.
After the students concluded their stories, Vogelstein took the floor to discuss “Law and Campus Anti-Semitism.” Vogelstein’s talk discussed the state of anti-Semitism on campus, and delivered eye-opening statistics, such as a highlighting of the fact that over 50% of all Jewish students self-reported facing a situation they would consider anti-Semitic in 2015. Vogelstein discussed cases the Brandeis Center has dealt with, ranging from verbal abuse to physical battery. This discussion also included a breakout session that trained the law students how to represent undergraduates who face anti-Semitic incidents.
Jennifer Gross then spoke about “BDS & The Law.” The talk focused on challenges to BDS resolutions: under state law, corporate charters, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Export Administration Act, and the Ribicoff Amendment, and other legislation. Gross discussed how certain BDS resolutions, such as the American Studies Association’s unlawful boycott of Israel, and student BDS resolutions on several campuses, are ultra vires (meaning “outside the scope/purpose of”). Gross’s talk highlighted means by which all the students in the room could directly combat anti-Semitic resolution on their campuses firsthand.
Following Gross’s talk on campus anti-Semitism, Alyza Lewin covered several issues relating to constitutional law in her talk,
“Is Religious Liberty in Danger in America?” Lewin, of Lewin & Lewin, has argued before the Supreme Court, and is a staunch supporter of an individual’s rights to free expression of their religious beliefs. Lewin spoke at length about the changing face of the public and legislative approach to religion and its place in American law. Lewin examined the changes beliefs of the U.S. Supreme Court, of the rise and fall of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and various examples of how religious freedom is being inhibited legally throughout the American legal landscape.
After Lewin’s discussion on religious liberty came to a close, a panel was held featuring Eric Fusfield, Director of Legislative Affairs for B’nai B’rith International, as well as Richard Heideman, and Alyza Lewin. The panel was moderated by Kenneth Marcus. The panel, entitled “Legal Career Directions and the Pursuit of Justice,” offered life and career advice to the aspiring lawyers in attendance. The various members of the panel discussed how they got started in the fields they work in, as well as how to successfully balance legal pursuits with personal time. The panel participants also touched upon the importance of believing in your work, and how to rationalize pursuing moral goals instead of mercenary ones. The panel members were very receptive to student questions, and informed all of the students as to how to best proceed in their future endeavors.
The conference wrapped up with Kenneth Marcus giving closing remarks. The remarks highlighted the importance of the work the law students in attendance were doing. Marcus discussed further means of advancing in their goals, as well informing the law students about future opportunities to continue working with the Brandeis Center.
After the closing of the conference, law student David Rosenberg of Emory, said that “The conference was educational due to the fact it enumerated both the steps and actions we should take in pursuing the fight against anti-Semitism. This conference felt very practical in nature, all of the speeches and activities were great because they gave us tangible means to continue pursuing our goals as lawyers entering our respective fields.”
Jared Beim, of the University of Chicago Law School, stated that the “LDB conference was a valuable way to learn about anti-Semitism and how we can all make a difference at this crucial time.”
Jennifer Kleinman, of Cardozo Law School, said “I felt not only inspired and confident in my experiences with those fellow law students I met at the conference, but feel truly secure in our future due to the great allies we have working on our behalf.”
Sharon Rogart, of the University of Virginia Law School, enthusiastically spoke of the conference, saying that “The LDB conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet with like-minded individuals and learn more about how to speak up and take leadership in situations of anti-Semitism.”
In March, the Student Government Association (SGA) of East Carolina University (ECU), located in Greenville, North Carolina, voted to “take a stand with the Jewish community at [ECU].” The SGA passed a bill which seeks, in the words of it sponsors, to “[define] what anti-Semitism is” and to bring awareness to “what’s going on around the world” in regards to anti-Semitism. The bill defines anti-Semitism as the “bigoted targeting of a historically oppressed minority” and notes that this issue “should be taken as seriously as bigotry against all other historically oppressed minorities.” The bill also utilizes the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, the same definition used in the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act bill, which unanimously passed the U.S. Senate in December.
The SGA also stated their intentions to show its support and act as allies to student groups including East Carolina Hillel and Pirates for Israel, “to help foster a better understanding of Judaism and American-Jewish identity.” In order to meet this goal, the SGA plans to “actively work with Jewish student organizations and maintain an open dialogue with leaders of the Jewish community at ECU about issues important to the ECU community at large.” ECU has largely been spared anti-Semitic incidents on their campus, but there has been at least one instance of anti-Semitic graffiti found on campus.
Votes of this nature are not limited to universities within the United States. Ryerson University, located in Toronto, also recently saw the Ryerson Student Union adopt a definition of anti-Semitism, as found in the “Ottawa Protocol.” According to the Centre for Israel and Jewish affairs, a Canadian Jewish advocacy organization, Ryerson is the first Canadian university to adopt the Ottawa Protocol, a definition of anti-Semitism similar to the definition used by the U.S. State Department. This new definition comes after reports that the head of a university program “resigned over anti-Semitic tweets.” This effort at Ryerson, along with the similar effort at ECU, show the commitments of these universities to challenging the toxic atmosphere spread by BDS and other sources of anti-Semitism.
While ECU may not have had many notable instances of BDS or anti-Semitic activity, several of its collegiate neighbors, such Duke and UNC, certainly have. Duke and UNC have both seen “Apartheid Week” events hosted on their campuses, and both also have active chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine. The student government of East Carolina University, meanwhile, is walking in stride with the legislature of North Carolina, it is addressing potential campus anti-Semitism before it occurs. The North Carolina legislature recently saw the N.C. House pass H.B. 161, an anti-BDS and pro-Israel bill. The swift passage of H.B. 161 coincides with the recent passage of a similar bill in the South Carolina House, as well as the upcoming hearings for another similar piece of legislation in the Tennessee Senate. The actions taken by ECU show its commitment to fighting for minority rights, rights that many of the states are also taking a proactive approach in defending.
Last Wednesday, Arkansas State Governor William Hutchinson signed a law, Act 710, to prohibit Arkansas agencies from investing in or contracting with companies that boycott Israel. Act 710, previously SB 513, was passed by the Arkansas state legislature on March 22nd.
SB 513 was introduced by Sen. Bart Hester to the state Senate, where it passed with a vote of 29-0 and one abstention, and was sent to the House in February. There, the bipartisan measure passed on its third reading by a vote of 69 to 3.
The new act ensures that Arkansas taxpayer funds will not finance the anti-Semitic tactics of the BDS movement. Boycotts have “become a tool of economic warfare” in Arizona that “threatens the sovereignty and security of key allies and trade partners,” namely, the State of Israel. Act 710 maintains that the strategic refusal to engage in commercial relations with Israeli trade partners is discriminatory and unsound.
Arkansas will now “implement Congress’s announced policy of ‘examining a company’s promotion or compliance with unsanctioned boycotts, divestment from, or sanctions against Israel as part of its consideration in awarding grants and contracts.’” The legislation guarantees state divestment of companies that “support or promote actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel,” reaffirming the strong relationship between Arkansas and Israel.
Act 710 makes Arkansas the 19th state to enact a binding anti-BDS law. At the end of last year, Michigan and Ohio passed similar legislation, following measures in Pennsylvania in November, California in September, New Jersey in August, and Rhode Island in June. Maryland and Texas are currently debating anti-BDS laws in their respective legislatures.
The complete text of Act 710 can be found here.
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. more »