Anti-Zionism Week at UC Irvine

The Louis D. Brandeis Center joins the AMCHA Initiative and twenty other groups in writing a letter to UCI Chancellor and Vice Chancellor about the “Anti-Zionist Week 2015” at UC Irvine.

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May 1, 2015

UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman
UCI Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Thomas Parham

Dear Chancellor Gillman and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Parham:

The 22 organizations below are extremely concerned that two UCI registered student organizations—the Muslim Student Union and Students for Justice in Palestine—have announced that on May 4-7, 2015, they will be hosting “Anti-Zionism Week 2015.”

This means a week of events, speakers, discussions, displays and possibly street theater that are meant to create animosity towards Israel and anyone who supports it.

Please be aware that many UCI students, faculty, and community members self-identify as Zionists.  An “Anti-Zionism Week” will be offensive, divisive, and hurtful to them, and could create a hostile campus environment.

If past years of anti-Zionism weeks offer any guidance, these events, individually and/or collectively, will in great likelihood include statements and create an atmosphere that is not only anti-Zionist but also anti-Semitic under the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. In particular, the State Department’s definition notes the ways that anti-Semitism manifests itself in regard to speech about the State of Israel:

  • Demonizing Israel: using symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis; comparing Israeli policies to that of the Nazis; blaming Israel for all political tensions.
  • Double Standards toward Israel: requiring of Israel behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation; focusing only on Israel for peace or human rights investigations.
  • Delegitimizing Israel: denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland; denying Israel the right to exist.

Recently, the student senates of UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC Santa Barbara responded to the escalation of anti-Semitic activity on UC campuses by unanimously passing resolutions condemning anti-Semitism, citing this above definition. These resolutions resolved to use the State Department’s definition to help identify anti-Semitic activity.  In 2014, the student government at UC Irvine passed a resolution affirming its “strong opposition” to anti-Semitism and all forms of racism and discrimination. Link to that resolution: HERE.

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Concern about University of California’s definition of anti-Semitism

The Louis D. Brandeis Center joins the AMCHA Initiative and twenty other groups in writing a letter to Senator Stone on urgent concerns about SCR-35.

Dear Senator Stone,

We are 22 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of supporters and members who are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at the University of California. 
 
We are grateful for your role in authoring SCR-35. However, we are extremely troubled by the efforts of some groups to remove from the resolution any reference to the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, or worse, to replace it with the Merriam Webster dictionary definition.  We think that doing so would be disastrous, and would completely undermine and pervert the original intent of this very important resolution.jeff-stone-headshot-214x300
As you know, there has been an alarming rise in antisemitic incidents on UC campuses, which have included swastikas drawn on a Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis and the inappropriate questioning of a candidate for student judiciary board about her Jewishness and Jewish affiliations at UCLA.  What these antisemitic incidents have in common is that they are an inevitable consequence of pervasive anti-Israel activity, particularly Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaigns, being promoted on UC campuses.  For example, the swastikas drawn on the Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis appeared less than two days after a contentious vote in the student senate on an anti –Israel divestment resolution sponsored by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).  Just after the vote, an SJP-affiliated student council member who had sponsored the divestment bill wrote on her Facebook page: “Israel will fall insha’Allah  #UCDDivest”.  And the four student senators who challenged the candidate for the judicial board based on her Jewishness and Jewish affiliations were authors, sponsors and supporters of the most recent anti-Israel divestment bill at UCLA.
 
Student leaders on UC campuses have themselves recognized the clear connection between virulent anti-Israel expression and these recent antisemitic incidents.  In response to the alarming increase in anti-Jewish bigotry, resolutions condemning anti-Semitism were unanimously approved at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UCSB.  Importantly, in identifying anti-Semitic activity, each resolution invokes the U.S. State Department’s definition, which recognizes certain kinds of anti-Israel expression that demonizes or delegitimizes Israel by denying it the right to exist, or that applies a double standard requiring of Israel behavior not expected of any other democratic nation, as anti-Semitism.  In addition, all three unanimously-approved resolutions resolve that their student governments will adopt the State Department’s definition of antisemitism.
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Twenty-Six Groups Write to Stanford University

The Louis D. Brandeis Center joined the AMHCA Initiative and twenty-four other groups in writing a letter on anti-Semitism at Stanford University to its President, John Leroy Hennessy.

President John LeRoy Hennessy
Office of the President
Stanford University
Stanford, CA  94305-2061

Dear President Hennessy,

We are 26 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people who are very concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at Stanford University.

hennessy_biographyWe understand from several on-line reports that the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house was spray-painted with swastikas on Saturday night. We commend you for issuing a statement the next day in which you affirmed that the university “will not tolerate hate crimes” and that the incident will be fully investigated, both by campus police and by the university under Stanford’s Acts of Intolerance Protocol. However, we strongly encourage you to publicly acknowledge that a swastika is an antisemitic symbol associated with genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people, and that although it affects the entire campus community, it particularly targets Stanford’s Jewish members for hatred and discrimination.

Campus antisemitism is a serious and growing problem.
A recent study published by Trinity College and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law reveals that 54% of Jewish American college and university students report experiencing or witnessing antisemitism on campus in the recent school year. The research reveals that this is a much more widespread problem than most realized.

In the last year, more than 20 college and university campuses around the country have been defaced with swastikas, in each case causing particular distress to Jewish students.  There have also been multiple reports of antisemitic name-calling, threats, assaults and other acts of hate and discrimination.  These acts are often linked to anti-Israel activity on campus, particularly boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaigns, such as the extremely divisive anti-Israel divestment vote in the Stanford student senate last quarter.

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Kantor Center Reports on Surging Global Anti-Semitism

kantor-center-logoThe 2014 Kantor Center annual report highlights a 38% worldwide increase in violent anti-Semitic incidents compared to 2013. The Kantor Center, based at Tel Aviv University, specializes in contemporary European Jewry and publishes an annual detailed report on anti-Semitism worldwide.

According to this data, 2014 is the second worst year for anti-Semitism in the last decade, with an increase of 554 reported violent anti-Semitic acts in 2013, to 766 in 2014.

Contrary to many anti-Semitism reports taking into account all forms of anti-Semitism, this report focuses solely on the violent acts, making the numbers even more frightening. Violent anti-Semitic incidents are characterized as, “with or without weapons and by arson, vandalism or direct threats against Jewish persons or institutions such as synagogues, community centers, schools, cemeteries and monuments as well as private property.” 

The below graph shows the worldwide evolution of violent anti-Semitic incidents since 1989. It shows a clear continuous upsurge of violence against Jews throughout the years, an increase of 882% in 25 years.

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Between 2013 and 2014 alone, there was an increase of 38%. Arson against Jews tripled, there was a 66% increase in Jews targeted in attacks (306 people in 2014), a 70% increase in synagogue attacks (114 attacks); and a 100% increase against Jewish property and institutions with weapons.

Worldwide, France has the highest number of violent anti-Semitic attacks for the third consecutive year, with 164 violent anti-Semitic attacks in 2014 as compared to 141 in 2013. The United Kingdom comes in second, with 141 violent anti-Semitic attacks in 2014 as compared to 95 in 2013, and the United States in third, with 80 violent anti-Semitics attacks in 2014 as compared to 55 in 2013.

Violent anti-Semitic attacks increased, and often more than doubled, in many countries throughout the world: Australia (30 vs. 11), Germany (76 vs. 36), Austria (9 vs. 4), Italy (23 vs. 12), Sweden (17 vs. 3), Belgium (30 vs. 11) and South Africa (14 vs. 1).

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Anti-Semitism at Northwestern University

President Morton Schapiro
Northwestern University
633 Clark Street
Evanston, IL  60208-1100
 
Dear President Schapiro,
 
We are 23 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people who are very concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at Northwestern University. 
 
We are troubled by reports of two separate incidents of antisemitic graffiti discovered last week on your campus.  On Saturday April 11, a swastika was drawn on a wall of the men’s bathroom in the NU library, and on Wednesday April 15, a large swastika was found on the wall of a study lounge in the library.
 
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We are aware that on Tuesday April 14 you sent an email to the campus community stating that the April 11 incident was “offensive to the entire Northwestern community and will not be tolerated.”  While we are pleased that you issued a statement, we are concerned that your message neglected to publicly acknowledge that a swastika is an antisemitic symbol associated with genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people, and that although it affects the entire campus community, it  particularly targets NU’s Jewish members for hatred and discrimination.
 
Campus antisemitism is a serious and growing problem.  A recent study published by Trinity College and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law reveals that 54% of Jewish American college and university students report experiencing or witnessing antisemitism on campus in the recent school year.  The research reveals that this is a much more widespread problem than most realized.  
 
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3 New LDB Chapters Open in the Windy City

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law’s (LDB) Law Student Chapter Initiative, started last year, continues to expand! Last week, LDB opened three new law student chapters in Chicago – at the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and Chicago-Kent College of Law.

“The recent rise in anti-Semitism on university campuses is undeniable and deeply disturbing,” says Josh Hammer, a second-year student at the University of Chicago and one of the new chapter’s founding members. “Vigorously combatting this pernicious trend is one of our generation’s great new challenges. It is my hope that our Louis D. Brandeis Center chapter at the University of Chicago Law School will help train our future lawyers in how to do precisely that.”

Fostering a new generation of leaders who share LDB’s mission, LDB chapters fill an important gap in American legal education, offer legal and educational opportunities that members seek, and provide a resource to other members of the university community. In turn, the chapters support LDB’s work to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on college and university campuses. Brandeis Center law students assist Brandeis Center attorneys in monitoring colleges and universities around the United States to ensure compliance with federal and state civil rights laws that protect Jewish students from discrimination, harassment, and hostile environments. Since LDB is an equal opportunity organization, we welcome students of any race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age, gender or disability.

Corey Celt, a first-year law student who will be clerking with the Brandeis Center in Washington, D.C. this summer, started the new chapter at DePaul after attending the LDB National Law Student Conference this past December. Celt expressed his excitement about starting the new chapter: “I truly believe that many people are not aware of the Anti-Semitism that takes place on college campuses; if they are, they may also not be aware that there are legal remedies and legal organizations here to help. Given that DePaul University is very active in public interest law and pro bono community service, I know we have a student body that embraces the missions of the Brandeis Center and believes that ‘Human Rights for the Jewish People and justice for all’ are causes worth working for.”

Chicago-Kent LDB Chapter President Paul Geske, also an LDB National Conference participant and founding member, says, “[t]he new chapter will help us empower our fellow law students by providing them with information and the tools to engage in Jewish, civil rights advocacy. The chapter will also be a springboard for connecting students with attorneys locally, and nationwide.” At Chicago-Kent, where students are particularly interested in legal practice, students were treated to a special presentation by Supreme Court litigator Alyza Lewin, who spoke about her experience litigating the “Jerusalem Passport” case. Alyza was introduced by Constitutional Law Professor Mark D. Rosen, who put the case into the context of Con Law, making it increasingly relevant for students.

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “We are thrilled to recognize three new Chicago law school chapters this week. These are smart, passionate, dedicated students who share our mission to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all. I admire their commitment and look forward to supporting their efforts.”

The three new LDB Chicago chapters will join the chapter started in February at Loyola University-Chicago. We thank Chicago’s Decalogue Society of Lawyers for connecting us to such wonderful and passionate Chicago-area students, and hope that our two groups can continue to work together.

If you are interested in helping to organize an LDB law student chapter at your school, please contact me at avogelst@brandeiscenter.com.
The Brandeis Center is an independent, non-profit civil rights organization that combats campus anti-Semitism. For more information on Brandeis Center activity, visit our website, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, read our Blog, and sign-up for our monthly publication, the Brandeis Brief!

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BDS in Paris

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The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement is not only growing on American college campuses, but also at European universities. This is unsurprising, as anti-Semitism has been skyrocketing in Europe in recent years, and where there is anti-Semitism, BDS supporters often emerge. I am a Jewish French student, currently studying abroad in the U.S. for the year. At my university in Paris, Sciences Po Paris, a top political science school, BDS France supporters almost succeeded in calling off a conference at the beginning of the month, titled, “To be a Woman in Israel.”
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The conference, scheduled for April 1, was organized by, “Paris Tel-Aviv,” a multi-denominational French-Israeli student association, with a mission of discovering Israeli culture and History. The conference was supposed to feature four women covering four inter-related aspects of women’s lives in Israel: the everyday life, the mandatory military service, the labor market, and Judaism; show an Israeli-French film: Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem (2014); and hold a discussion on women’s place in the Israeli society. The conference was apolitical and had nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

BDS France denounced the conference, claiming that the representatives of the “Israel Apartheid State” were invited to the conference “under the guise of . . .  women’s rights,” but that all events organized by Paris Tel-Aviv are aimed “to normalize the criminal policy of the State of Israel.” If the conference was not to be cancelled, BDS called for demonstrations in front of the school. The conference, scheduled at the same time as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was speaking at the school, was first adjourned and then cancelled by university administrators nervous about security issues.

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This is part of the BDS strategy, to demonize Israel and everything that is relative to it. On their French website, BDS implies that the speakers are responsible for the “killings of Palestinian civilians” and actively participate in the “colonization.”

Fortunately, following this whole debacle, Noemie Ifrah, Sciences Po Paris student and President of Paris Tel-Aviv succeeded in reinstating the conference, and obtained high security for the event. “The definitive cancelation of the conference would have been a decisive victory for BDS and a great defeat for the freedom of expression,” explained Noemie; a freedom of expression that is threatened in Paris since the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks.

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Anti-Semitism at Northeastern University

President Joseph E. Aoun
Office of the President
Northeastern University
716 Columbus Place, Suite 620
Boston, MA  02120

Dear President Aoun,

We are 22 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people who are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at Northeastern University.

We are troubled by the reports of a swastika drawn on a dry-erase board in the common space of the International Village dorm, as well as a mezuzah vandalized at an off-campus apartment building. These incidents follow the disturbing incident that occurred in November of 2014, when swastikas were drawn on two fliers posted on campus to publicize a lecture by an Israeli military official.

aoun_largeIn both incidents, your leadership has been exemplary in identifying such acts as antisemitic, promptly and strongly condemning these actions as hate crimes, stating the University will be investigating, and standing firmly against bigotry. We join Northeastern Hillel in commending you for your, “courage and integrity in swiftly condemning anti-Semitism.”

We share Northeastern Hillel Executive Director Arinne Bravermen’s concern that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and other anti-Israel activities contribute to the creation of a hostile environment for Jewish students. As Ms. Bravermen stated, “I don’t think it’s coincidental that the swastika appeared in the same residence hall where [Students for Justice in Palestine] conducted ‘dorm storming’ with mock eviction notices last spring, and went door-to-door soliciting signatures for their divestment petition, in violation of quiet hours, during midterms just a few weeks ago.”

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Boycott Our Enemies, Not Israel

Recently, two House members have introduced legislation to prevent companies associated with the BDS movement from gaining U.S. government contracts. The “Boycott Our Enemies, Not Israel Act” is headed by Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado) and Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) to “thwart efforts by Palestinian organizations to pressure different corporations, companies, and educational institutions to boycott, divest, and…

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Congress launches task force to combat anti-Semitism

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Last Tuesday, eight members of Congress launched the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating anti-Semitism to respond to the international resurgence of anti-Semitism. This task force is intended to alert other members of Congress of the recent upheaval of hatred toward the Jewish people all over the world, and to share solutions with the executive branch and foreign leaders.

The Co-Chairs Chris Smith (Republican), Nita Lowey (Democrat), Eliot Engel (Democrat), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican), Kay Granger (Republican), Steve Israel (Democrat), Peter Roskam (Republican), and Ted Deutch (Democrat) explained: “Jewish populations are facing increased levels of hatred, frequently under the guise of political differences or other alibis, but in reality it is solely because of their faith. It is the responsibility of everyone who believes in basic universal liberties and freedoms to condemn this trend and work together to root out the hatred which underlies anti-Semitism.” 

The task force is designed after a wave of anti-Semitic violence in Europe. The most violent ones included the January attacks on a kosher supermarket in Paris, the shootings at a Copenhagen synagogue last month, and the bloodshed at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014. But the task force also expresses concerns about the everyday acts of anti-Semitism rising in Europe and in the US.

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Anti-Semitism on UC Campuses

March 19, 2015 Dear President Napolitano and the Board of Regents, We are 23 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of supporters who are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at the University of California.First, we acknowledge and appreciate your statement strongly condemning the recent antisemitic incidents at the University of California that have…

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Anti-Semitism Here and Around the World

There is still time to pre-register for an important and engaging event in Chicago: “Anti-Semitism Here and Around the World.” Join DePaul University School of Law’s Center for Jewish Law and Jewish Studies (JLJS) on April 15th, free of charge, as they impart discourse concerning global anti-Semitism. JLJS is co-sponsoring this event with B’nai B’rith International, the Louis…

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UCLA Passes Resolution Against Campus Anti-Semitism

In a 12 to 0 vote, the student government at University of California at Los Angeles passed an initiative that will improve the lives of Jewish students on campus. This five-page resolution denounces all forms of anti-Semitism and protects Jewish students from future discrimination. UCLA recently came under fire for their student government’s anti-Semitic review…

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Israeli Diplomat on BDS

In an article in the Stanford Political Journal, Israel’s former deputy ambassador to Norway explains that the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) campaigns are not about criticizing Israel but demonizing and dehumanizing it. While there are important political issues to discuss, BDS instead abuses the human rights discourse by using a simplistic “good v. evil” narrative that is not…

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Call for Papers: “Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, and the Dynamics of Delegitimization”

We are pleased to share this Call for Papers received from Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld of Indiana University, an esteemed member of the Louis D. Brandeis Center’s Academic Advisory Committee:

Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism

 Indiana University

Announces

Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, and the Dynamics of Delegitimization:

An International Scholars’ Conference

April 2-5, 2016

Call for Papers

This conference will aim to explore the thinking that informs contemporary anti-Zionism and to clarify the ties such thinking may have with antisemitism and broader ideological, political, and cultural currents of thought.

The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, recently declared that “anti-Zionism is an invitation to antisemitism.” The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, concurs, stating that anti-Zionism is “the face of the new antisemitism. It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel and attempts to make the old bigotry acceptable for a new generation.”

Are they right? What are the possible links between anti-Zionism and antisemitism? When does criticism of Israel cease to be a part of legitimate or acceptable discourse and become a form of antisemitism?  These have been much discussed questions, but recent events have given them a new urgency, and examining them today seems both timely and necessary.

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