Anti-Semitism on Campuses and the BDS Movement

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:

North Hempstead Adopts Anti-Boycott Ordinance

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North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth and the Town Board

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.

Zionism and Anti-Semitism: An International Conference


Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 10.47.33 AMThe Brandeis Center received this notice from colleagues at The Pears Institute and London. The Pears Institute will be holding an international conference on Zionism and Anti-Semitism from May24 – 26.

Key note speakers: Derek Penslar, Harvard University and Bashir Bashir, Open University, Israel and The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

Date: 24 – 26 May 2017

Venue: Birkbeck, University of London, Clore Lecture Theatre, Clore Management Centre, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX

Academic delegate fee – £100.00

Birkbeck staff – £50.00

Postgraduate student/Early career fellow – £35.00 Click here to register.

This three day international conference brings together more than 35 scholars from institutions in eight countries, from different disciplines and with diverse perspectives, to examine the interaction between Zionism and antisemitism as it has developed from the nineteenth century through to the present day. Continue reading

Anti-BDS Bill Introduced to U.S. Congress

capitol_hill_washington_DC_lobbyingEarlier this month, U.S. Representatives Peter J. Roskam (R-IL), Co-Chair of the GOP Israel Caucus, Juan Vargas (D-CA), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), and Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, legislation to further combat the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. A companion bill was submitted in the United States Senate by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD). This bill was originally submitted as the Protecting Israel Agasint Economic Discrimination Act in November of 2016.

The bill aims to amend the Export Administration Act of 1979. The Export Administration Act (EAA) prohibits U.S. companies from participating in boycotts against Israel called for by foreign states. Under the proposed legislation, this prohibition would also apply to boycotts called for by international governmental organizations (IGOs). As with the original version of this bill proposed in 2016, the new bill highlights the actions taken by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in regards to Israel. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act points out that “Item 7,” which is a permanenet item on the UNHRC agenda, exists simply to ensure that Israel will be criticized at every gathering of the UNHRC.

The bill details the events of the 31st session of the UNHRC, where the organization called for a “blacklist” of companies that operate or have business relations within certain areas of Israel. The bill also describes the events of he 32nd session of the UNHRC, where a resolution considered “withhold[ing] assistance from and prevent[ing] trade with ‘territories occupied since 1967’, including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights” stating that “businesses that engage in economic activity in those areas could face could face civil or criminal legal action.”  It is examples such as these that would be used to demonstrate an organization is boycotting Israel, and would therefore be used to discourage and potentially prohibit U.S. entities from supporting these organizations.

The means by which the EAA is relevant to these boycotts is specifically, with the addition of the proposed amended language, the declaration of policy wherein the EAA states that the United States government may restrict the export of goods and technology “where necessary to further significantly the foreign policy of the United States or to fulfill its declared international obligations.” The amended version of the EAA would allow the U.S. government to levy these restrictions against IGOs, such as the UNHRC, that work against U.S. foreign policy as it pertains to Israel.

The text of the bill states clearly that the act does not make any U.S. policy statement regarding Israeli Settlements, in an attempt to distance itself from being bogged down in questions of partisanship, nor does it “establish new United States policy” concerning the Arab-Israel conflict.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, by sticking to the sole issue of boycotts, has already garnered bipartisan support, and will hopefully mimic the recent bipartisan successes found by the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2016. As on April 2017, almost half of all U.S. states have enacted their own anti-BDS bills, with several having done so in just the past few weeks. With more and more states now drafting anti-BDS legislation, and the introduction of new bills intended to combat BDS in the House and Senate, the BDS movement is rapidly losing what little legitimacy it has managed to cling onto.

Texas Anti-BDS Bill Passes House and Senate

The Texas State Capitol

The Texas State Capitol

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.



LDB’s Fourth Annual National Law Student Leadership Conference A Huge Success

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.”


East Carolina SGA Supports Anti-Semitism Resolution


The Campus of East Carolina University

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.

Arkansas Passes Anti-BDS Law

arkansas-state-capitol-front-flags-golden-doors-domeLast 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.

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.