Groups Express Concern about George Washington University Swastikas

Dr. Steven Knapp
President
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.
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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…

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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,…

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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.”

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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…

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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.

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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.”

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U.K. Anti-Semitic Attacks Reach New Levels

Record levels of anti-Semitism were reported in the UK in 2014 by the The Community Security Trust, a Jewish security charity, according to The Guardian. The charity runs an incident hotline that reported 1,168 anti-Semitic incidents against British Jews, which has doubled since 2013. Last month, the UK released a report that indicated anti-Semitic activity was on…

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AAJLJ Speaker Series: Is Jerusalem in Israel?

Join the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists’s (AAJLJ) DC Chapter for an exciting luncheon event on Monday, February 23, 2015. This installment of the AAJLJ’s speaker series, called “Is Jerusalem in Israel? The Zivotofsky (Jerusalem Passport) Case,” features a member of our legal advisory board, Alyza D. Lewin. Ms. Lewin is AAJLJ’s president, a partner…

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More’s at Stake Than Manners

Just listen randomly to the lyrics of rap songs, and you’ll graphically understand that the age of Miss Manners—which started in this country when nineteenth-century Americans read etiquette books in imitation of their English Victorian betters—is long past. Yet there seems to be an attempt to revive the Court of Good Manners in at least…

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Fighting the Satanic Jew for Palestine

The title of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s book on the resurgence of anti-Semitism in our time, “The Devil That Never Dies,” can also be read as a not-so-veiled allusion to the centuries-old demonization of Jews as devilish or satanic. What began in the Middle Ages was revived by the Nazis, and remains popular among today’s neo-Nazi Jew-haters.

Crush Zion Der Sturmer

Screenshot from the blog “Crush Zion!” with a reproduction of a page from the Nazi publication Der Stürmer
describing Jews as “enemy of the world” and “Satan;” posted on June 5, 2014.

Unfortunately, however, one doesn’t have to venture into the darkest recesses of the Internet to encounter the contemporary expression of this age-old demonization of Jews: prominent Palestinians are not ashamed to denounce Jews or Israelis as “Satan,” and neither are supposedly progressive “pro-Palestinian” activists.

One of the most recent examples emerged when campaigners for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement at the University of California, Davis, celebrated a student government resolution to divest from Israel by harassing their opponents. Several reports on the incident highlighted the role of Azka Fayyaz, a member of the UC Davis student senate, noting that she had previously “helped display a poster likening Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Hitler.”

Netanyahu=Hitler Satan

A closer look at the poster reveals that Netanyahu’s picture was not only defaced with a Hitler moustache, but also with red horns. The poster thus combines the among self-described “pro-Palestinian” activists popular association of Israel/Zionism with Nazis and the on social media widespread demonization of Netanyahu as #Satanyahu. Other examples of this double demonization include tweets by Mary Hughes-Thompson, the co-founder of the “Free Gaza Movement.”

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Who’s Behind the Rise of ISIS?

According to Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei: “It is a few years now that it has been revived and strengthened with the plots of arrogance, with the money of some regional governments and with the schemes of the intelligence services of colonialist countries such as America, England and the Zionist regime… There is an undeniable point which…

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Former Harvard President Larry Summers on Academic Freedom and Anti-Semitism

Remarks of Lawrence H. Summers Columbia Center for Law and Liberty January 29, 2015:
I am delighted to help inaugurate this forum on academic freedom. Academic freedom is essential if universities are to succeed in their missions of creating and disseminating knowledge. Universities excel when they are governed by the authority of ideas rather than the idea of authority. And more perhaps than at any other moment in history, the work of universities–transmitting knowledge and values from one generation to the next, and creating new knowledge — determines the future of nations.
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It speaks to the importance of universities in the life of nations that George Washington very much wanted to devote his farewell address to a proposed American national university until he was dissuaded from the idea by Alexander Hamilton, not because Hamilton did not like the idea but because he thought the farewell address was the wrong occasion for its presentation. So Washington instead bequeathed a substantial part of his not inconsiderable fortune to the proposed university.For this reason, I have always had an ambivalent reaction to the famous observation about academic politics that “the fights are so vicious because the stakes are so small” which is variously attributed to Henry Kissinger, Woodrow Wilson, and Columbia’s own Wallace Sayre. On the one hand no one who has lived in a university and certainly no one who has presided over one can deny that much energy is dissipated over matters of little ultimate moment. On the other hand because the ideas universities produce and pass on are so important the stakes in what they do and therefore in what they fight about are actually immense.This is how I feel about the issue of academic freedom in general and about issues involving Israel and possibly anti-Semitism in particular. I have chosen to speak about academic freedom and anti-Semitism for three reasons. First, discussions of academic freedom without a particular context are doomed to be platitudinous and unhelpful. It may be that hard cases make bad law, but easy cases provide little insight for those who must make difficult decisions. In any event as a meat-eating, number crunching economist I have little capacity for abstract philosophical doctrine. Second, my labeling of initiatives and statements advocating for Harvard to divest from any company that invested in Israel as “anti- Semitic in effect if not intent” was the source of more academic freedom controversy than any other academic freedom issue (though certainly not any other issue) that took place while I was President of Harvard. Third, I believe that the general failure of American academic leaders to aggressively take on the challenge posed by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) movement represents a consequential abdication of moral responsibility.No one, including me, come to academic freedom matters in a purely abstract way so just a few words about my background here. I am Jewish and identified but not seriously observant. During my lifetime I have never felt that there was prejudice against me, members of my family, or close friends. I support and feel affinity with the State of Israel. While such expertise as I may possess is in economics not international security, it has been my instinct that Israel has made consequential policy errors particularly in regards to settlements. I have often wondered whether Israeli intransigence regarding settlements has made the achievement of peace with the Palestinians more difficult and has hurt Israel’s security position. During my time in government I worked, I wish with more success, to promote prosperity in the West Bank and Gaza for its own sake and because I believed it would contribute to the peace process.

I’d like to do two things this afternoon. First, I will explain why looking back I spoke out in the way I did against proposals advocating for universities to divest from Israeli companies or companies transacting with Israel, and comment on the debate my remarks engendered. Second, I will offer some observations on the BDS movement and a range of current controversies.

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The First of its Kind: UNGA Informal Plenary on Anti-Semitism

By: Kayla Green, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Class of 2015

“It is up to you who are the faces of the world to be the architect of the house in which the Mother of all hates will see its face reduced”  —Bernard-Henri Lévy, Keynote Speech at the General Assembly Meeting on the Rise of Anti-Semitism

On 22 January 2015, the United Nations General Assembly met to address the concerns of a rise in anti-Semitic violence worldwide. This informal meeting was the first of its kind and began with a keynote speech by Mr. Bernard-Henri Lévy, French intellectual, philosopher and writer, Keynote speaker, who implored those in attendance that “when a Jew is struck, humanity falls to the ground.”

On the subject of the new European wave of anti-Semitism, the Representative of the European Union to the United Nations noted, in a statement reaffirmed by all EU representatives, that the several incidents in Europe culminating in the “attacks in Brussels and Paris” assault the heart of the European Union’s “common values.” On that note, H.E. Harlem Desir, State Secretary for European Affairs, France stated that combatting anti-Semitism is combatting hatred, ignorance and impunity. H.E. Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and member of President Obama’s Cabinet, reiterated that “any Jew in France, in Europe, or anywhere in the world who fears wearing a kippah, shopping in a [kosher] market, putting up a mezuzah, or fears living in a Jewish community is a victim of anti-Semitism,” and reminded the GA that “when the human rights of Jews are repressed, the rights of other groups are often not far behind.”

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