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.”


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…


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.


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…


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…


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…


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…


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


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.


Groups Express Concern about George Washington University Swastikas

Dr. Steven Knapp
2122 I Street, N.W.
Washington, DC  20052
Dear President Knapp,
We are 19 Jewish and civil rights organizations representing hundred of thousands of supporters who are concerned for the safety and well-being of Jewish students on your campus.
As you know, during the last week in February three swastikas were drawn inside International House, a dorm housing sororities and fraternities, three of which are historically Jewish.  We are troubled by the University’s response, and join Jewish student leaders on your campus who are calling for the University to better address incidents of campus antisemitism.
According to reports about the swastikas that appeared in The GW Hatchet and Washington Post, the University:
  • Did not formally acknowledge the swastikas until a meeting with students four days after the initial report was filed.
  • Did not take the issue seriously as students felt compelled to ask their parents to call the university on their behalf in order for the university to take action.
  • Referred to the swastikas as “offensive drawings” but did not publicly acknowledge that a swastika is an antisemitic symbol associated with genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people, and that it particularly targets members of the Jewish community for hatred and discrimination.
  • Is not investigating the incident as a hate crime.
  • May not have adequately trained security personnel to recognize antisemitism and hate crimes, and to appropriately respond to Jewish student concerns.
Jewish student leaders have called on the University to issue a formal apology for not addressing Jewish student concerns about the swastikas in a forthright manner, and asked that campus police officers be better trained in diversity and hate crimes.

The Boycott Israel Movement Stunts the Palestinian Economy

While the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement seeks to cripple Israel’s economy and cultural, academic, and manufacturing industries, a recent story in Forbes Magazine highlights the true effects of the Movement: hardships for the Palestinian people and inflammation of any peace dialogue. The BDS Movement supports impairing economic ties between Israel and Palestine, seeking to…


ASUC Senate Passes Bill Condemning Anti-Semitism

Fantastic news for UC Berkley’s Jewish students came this week. On Wednesday, February 25th, the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) unanimously passed a bill in their senate that condemns campus anti-Semitism. Pushed forward by ASUC Senator Ori Herschmann and endorsed by prominent campus leaders like the ASUC President, the Jewish Student Union,…


National Survey Shows High Rate of Anti-Semitism on Campuses

trinity HARTFORD, Conn., February 23, 2015 – More than half of 1,157 self-identified Jewish students at 55 campuses nationwide who took part in an online survey reported having been subjected to or having witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses, according to a new report issued jointly by Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut) and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (Washington, D.C.).

The National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students, which covered a variety of topics, was conducted in spring 2014 by a research team from Trinity College. Of the 1,157 students in the sample, 54 percent reported instances of anti-Semitism on campus during the first six months of the 2013-2014 academic year. The data provide a snapshot of the types, context, and location of anti-Semitism as experienced by a large national sample of Jewish students at university and four-year college campuses. The rates of victimization for students with different social characteristics – such as type of campus, year of study, academic major, demographics, religiosity, or politics – ranged from a low of 44 percent to a high of 73 percent. There was only a slight variation in the rates across the regions of the United States, strongly suggesting that anti-Semitism on campus is a nationwide problem.

The Trinity College researchers who led the team conducting the survey were Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keyes, public policy and law professors and the authors of other well-known national social surveys, including the American Religion Identification Survey (ARIS) series. Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) President Kenneth L. Marcus, former head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and author of a forthcoming volume on The Definition of Anti-Semitism (Oxford University Press, 2015), provided recommendations on the report. Kosmin and Keysar pointed out that, historically, the most likely targets of anti-Semitism in the general population have been Orthodox Jewish males, who tend to be easily identified by perpetrators. However, this tendency does not seem to be the case on college campuses. Conservative and Reform Jewish students are more likely than Orthodox students to report being victims.

Membership in a Jewish campus organization also raises the likelihood of a student reporting anti-Semitism. According to Kosmin, “The patterns and high rates of anti-Semitism that were reported were surprising. Rather than being localized to a few campuses or restricted to politically active or religious students, this problem is widespread. Jewish students are subjected to both traditional prejudice and the new political anti-Semitism.”

Another finding was that female students were more likely than males to report anti-Semitism. “Jewish women seem to feel more vulnerable on campus, with 59 percent of female students versus 51 percent of males telling us that they have personally witnessed or experienced anti-Semitism,” said Keysar. “This gender gap is alarming and needs to be further explored,” she added. Kosmin and Keysar observed that while anti-Semitism is often linked to anti-Zionism, this survey was undertaken in the spring of 2014, before the summer 2014 conflict in Gaza that led to a worldwide flare-up in anti-Semitism. Numbers of participating students voiced concern that their experiences of anti-Semitism made for an uncomfortable campus climate.

In his foreword for the report, Marcus wrote, “We hear frequently from college students who find that their experiences of anti-Semitism are not taken seriously. A decade ago, Jewish college students spoke of the vindication that they felt when the U.S. Civil Rights Commission gave voice to their concerns,” added Marcus, who, as then-staff director, drafted the Commission’s announcement that campus anti-Semitism had become a “serious problem” at many universities around the country. “This report should provide a similar vindication, since it indicates that the scope of this problem is greater than most observers had realized.”


Israeli Apartheid Week: Anti-Semitism 101

With the annual “Israeli Apartheid Week” (IAW) upon us, self-described “pro-Palestinian” activists everywhere are getting ready to participate in events that will inevitably be tainted by anti-Semitic rhetoric. This is a foregone conclusion for more reasons than can be listed here, but in order to highlight some of the major reasons, it is instructive to…


Call for Papers on “The Ethics of Boycotting”

“Public Reason,” which bills itself as a blog for political philosophers, has posted this new call for papers that may be of interest to ethicists and other scholars who are concerned about the BDS movement:

CFP: The Ethics of Boycotting (special issue)

The increased visibility of the BDS movement in the wake of the Israeli-Gaza conflict of summer 2014, and the more recent Salaita affair at the UIUC, have generated a renewed interest among academics in general, and philosophers in particular, in the theory and praxis of boycotting (e.g. economic, academic, political, cultural). However, despite considerable informal discussion in various professional fora and on social media, the topic of boycotting has thus far attracted surprisingly little systematic scholarly attention from moral, political or legal philosophers. This is an unfortunate state of affairs, as boycotting as a form of moral and political action raises a range of important ethical issues, including:

– In what circumstances is boycotting appropriate?

– What light do the principal ethical theories (deontology, consequentialism, virtue theory) cast on the practice of boycotting? How do they view its justification and its limits?

– How are the appropriate targets of boycotting and the notion of complicity defined?

– What is the relevance of empirical evidence as to the efficacy of boycotting to its justification?

– How is the problem of collateral damage (i.e. harm done to parties not directly complicit in the actions warranting boycotts) to be weighed in the overall moral assessment of boycotts?

– Do academic boycotts raise issues distinct from other forms, such as economic and political ones?

…. The special issue has drawn preliminary interest from the Journal of Applied Philosophy, to which a full proposal including selected abstracts will be submitted.


Academic Progressivism Descends into Moral Madness

untitled2In the campus war against Israel, the all too familiar refrain from anti-Israel activists, many of whom form the loose coalition of groups and individuals spearheading the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, is that their quarrel is only with Israelis and their government’s policies, not with Jews themselves.  But that specious defense has fallen away of late, revealing some caustic and base anti-Semitism, representing a seismic shift in the way that Jews now are being indicted not just for supporting Israel, but merely for being Jewish.

It was not without some historical irony, then, when student council leaders at Durban University of Technology (DUT) in South Africa in early February floated a proposal that suggested, apparently without shame, that Jewish students should be expelled from the institution, that, as the student body’s secretary, Mqondisi Duma, put it, “We took the decision that Jewish students, especially those who do not support the Palestinian struggle, should deregister.” This is, one would think, a rather shocking sentiment from students who themselves benefited from a world-wide campaign in the 1970s and 1980s to end South Africa’s racist apartheid system.

Also in February at UCLA, several councilmembers on the USAC Judicial Board, UCLA student government’s highest judicial body, grilled Rachel Beyda, a second-year economics student, when she sought a seat on the board. The focus on her candidacy was not her qualifications for the position (which no one seemed to doubt), but on the fact that she was Jewish and how her “affiliation with Jewish organizations at UCLA . . . might affect her ability to rule fairly on cases in which the Jewish community has a vested interest in the outcome, such as cases related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” as the student newspaper described it. “Ruling fairly” in this case, of course, meant that she was likely not to support the increasingly virulent anti-Israel campaign on the UCLA campus, so she failed to pass the political litmus test that so-called progressive students see as their default position: namely, being pro-Palestinian. It was the same thinking that inspired a similarly discriminatory proposal last May by two members of UCLA’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine which attempted to bar Jewish candidates from filling council positions if they had taken trips to Israel subsidized by the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, or other organizations, which, according to the brazen SJP students, “have openly campaigned against divestment from corporations that profit from Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.”