The twenty-first century is providing fertile ground for the “artistic” transmission of anti-Semitism on two levels. For mass consumption, Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ” (2004), modernized the medieval passion play to which the Nazis had continued to pay homage at Oberammergau.

With a powerful flair for violent filmmaking in the tradition of Sam Peckinpah, Gibson could have limited his film to portraying the core New Testament story—whose redemption narrative certainly had sufficient wrenching violence for him to tap. The result would have been theologically anti-Judaic and uncomfortable to Jewish sensibilities, but it need not have been radically anti-Semitic. Instead, Gibson followed the gospels but drew his real inspiration from the passion plays which he updated by portraying Jews opposed to Jesus as literally demonic and by using bizarre costumes and even facial disfigurements to personify the Temple priesthood.

Evangelical Christians flocked to see Gibson’s “The Passion,” but not necessarily to imbibe his Jew hatred. Fortunately, most according to polling watched his film through philo-Semitic glasses, embracing it as a way to satisfy their hunger for the “pro-Christian” themed entertainment denied them for many decades by secular Hollywood.

Anti-Semitism was calibrated for “high culture” in John Adams’ 1991 opera about the Achille Lauro hijacking, ”The Death of Klinghoffer,” which had its New York premier at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center in 2003 when it was also released on DVD. Now, Adams’ opera is being resurrected by New York’s Metropolitan Opera following a 2009 Juilliard performance, defended by Julliard President Joseph W. Polisi on, among other grounds, that he has made ballyhooed visits to Israel to receive awards—or, to translate, that some of his favorite travel agent friends are Jewish.

Following the 9/11 attacks, when the Boston Symphony cancelled a performance of selections from “Klinghoffer” and Richard Taruskin in the pages of the “New York Times” criticized Adams’ opera as a bromance with terrorists, Adams defended himself by accusing Turaskin and other critics of the ultimate sin of being in bed politically with George W. Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft. Compared to such egregious guilt by association with Bushites, the anti-Semitism of Adams’ “Klinghoffer”—at least in Adams’ eyes—needed no denial.


The Horror of Holocaust Denial

Over the last few weeks, the Holocaust has appeared surprisingly often in the news.  In most cases, the reason has been the surprising degree of ignorance or denial that so many people have about this cataclysmic event.  The most disheartening reports have addressed the role of educators in spreading misinformation.  Worse, they have illustrated that Holocaust denial is not just an ordinary form of ignorance but rather a modern cloak for the return of old-fashioned anti-Semitism.

The Anti-Defamation League’s much-heralded ADL Global 100 survey showed that 35% of adults worldwide have never heard of the Holocaust.  Of those who have heard of it, 21% think it was a myth or exaggeration.  One may quibble about the ADL survey’s methodology,  but this study presents the best available evidence that we have about global attitudes.  This revelation has been accompanied by three disturbing recent stories over the last few weeks.

First came news that the Rialto California school district had assigned 2,000 eighth-graders at five middle schools in the Rialto Unified School District east of Los Angeles to compose an essay on whether or not they believe the Holocaust was “an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme.”  The district thought this to be an appropriate assignment to teach “critical thinking” skills.

Although the district has subsequently apologized, its apology reflects little understanding of why the assignment was so obscenely inappropriate.  People who debate the Holocaust are not merely foolish or ignorant, like those who insist that the earth is flat.  Rather, Holocaust denial is a particular form of bigotry.  In order to deny anything as vast and well-documented as the Nazi Holocaust, one must assume that the world’s peoples have been victimized by a hoax of extraordinary proportions.  Such a hoax could only be perpetrated by an enormously powerful and malevolent group of deeply crooked people who are able to control global media for their own sinister purposes.  Unsurprisingly, these outlandish claims perfectly correspond with traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes.  In encouraging students to debate this topic, as if it were merely a difference of opinion, Rialto gave credence not merely to absurd misinformation but also to virulent ant-Semitic defamations of precisely the sort that led to the Holocaust in the first place.

Next came reports that Temple Adjunct Professor Alessio Lerro was arguing that Jews are exaggerating the extent of the Holocaust to obtain policitcal advantages.  In the course of supporting the Modern Langue Association’s new anti-Israel resolution, Lerro wrote this about the Holocaust:  “6 million? Mh … we all know [ or should know] that the counting of Jews is a bit controversial.””  Lerro is a reportedly a gamer, and CBS Local’s Don Giordamo reports that “mh is internet slang for map hack, a term meaning cheating to gain an advantage. In other words, Lerro is arguing that Jews are “gaming” the Holocaust numbers in order to gain a political advantage in public debates.  Lerro also reportedly accused “Jewish scholars” of manipulating academia and charged that it is “time that Zionists are asked to finally account for their support to the illegal occupation of Palestine since 1967.” Here we have a fine example of the ugly stereotypes that underlie Holocaust denial and Holocaust minimization.  It is highly disturbing to finds these stereotypes circulated by a university professor.


Holocaust Survivors, Too, Need to “Check Your Privilege”

In a twitter exchange with MSNBC host Touré Neblett, a child of Holocaust survivors asked: “How much do I owe for what Dems did in the first half of the century, while my family was in Europe running from Nazis, or in Dachau?” In other words, Jewish victims of the Nazis don’t owe “reparations” to African Americans for the injustices of the Jim Crow Era when “Dems” controlled the South.

Neblett responded: “The power of whiteness.” This follows a tweet by Ed Schulz, also associated with MSNBC, that gays “really [were] the ones being persecuted in Hitler’s Germany.”

Tal Fortgang, a Princeton student who refuted the blanket demand that whites “check your privilege,” wrote in the college paper that his family of Holocaust Survivors gave him the upbringing that paved his way to the Ivy League without any “privilege” except one: “It was their privilege to come to a country that grants equal protection under the law to its citizens, that cares not about religion or race, but the content of your character.”

An essay could be written on the growing cottage industry accusing Jews—even Holocaust Survivors—of enjoying “white privilege” compared to African Americans. After all, if even Hitler’s victims were “privileged,” then the argument is confirmed that all Jews must be.

Stung by criticisms, Neblett has since apologized for “oversimplifying.” But the implication remains. The question is where does such a distorted view—and related notions diminishing the Holocaust compared to the alleged “sixty million” (a figure inflated by around 50 million) victimized by the Atlantic slave trade—come from?


Anti-Jewish Hate Crimes Prosecuted in Texas, Utah and New Mexico

The U.S. Department of Justices’s Civil Rights Division focuses on anti-Jewish hate crimes in the lead article to the new May 2014, Volume 60, issue of “Religious Freedom in Focus.  The following excerpt from the new issue presents the Department’s view of anti-Semitic hate crime:

U.S. Department of Justice logoAnti-Jewish hate crimes remain the most reported religious-based hate crimes in the United States, representing 674 out of a total of 1,099 religious hate crimes recorded for 2012 in the FBI Hate Crime Reports. In April, public attention was focused on anti-Jewish hate crimes as a result of the April 13 shooting in Kansas City, during which two people were killed at the Jewish Community of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park and one person was killed at a Jewish retirement community nearby. The accused shooter is being prosecuted by Kansas authorities with the assistance of the FBI.

We have seen such anti-Jewish shootings before, such as the shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles in 1999, which resulted in the wounding of three children and two adults and the murder of a postal worker in the aftermath, and the shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. in 2009, which left a security guard dead. Both cases were prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

In addition to such shooting cases, the Department also regularly prosecutes a variety of cases of anti-Jewish hate crimes and other hate crimes against religious groups and individuals. In April alone, the Department prosecuted three anti-Jewish cases:


Call for Applications for Anti-Semitism Research: Tel Aviv University – Stephen Roth Institute

Our colleagues at the Stephen Roth Institute in Tel Aviv are posting this Call for Applications for research students, post-doctoral fellows and scholars who focus on the study of anti-Semitism and racism.  Given the paucity of institutional support for anti-Semitism research, this opportunity is worth noting.  The Roth Center’s call appears in full below:

CALL FOR APPLICATIONS: Tel Aviv University – Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism 

The Lester and Sally Entin Faculty of Humanities

The Roth Center for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism Invite MA and PhD students and postdoctoral scholars at TAU to submit applications to:

The Roth Institute Research Group on Antisemitism and Racism 2014-2015

The group will serve as a forum for research students (MA, PhD), post-doctoral scholars and faculty at Tel Aviv University whose research addresses various aspects of racism and antisemitism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


SJP DePaul’s Divestment Referendum Passes by Slim Margin

On Friday, pro-Israel students at DePaul University stood up against divestment campaigns by the anti-Israel student group, Students for Justice in Palestine. By a referendum passage by a difference of only 242 votes, pro-Israel students came out in large numbers with the intent of rejecting the referendum.  Said StandWithUs National Campus Program Director Brett Cohen, “The…


Brandeis Center Presses Vassar College to Hold Student Group Accountable


The Brandeis Center has urged Vassar College President Catherine Bond Hill to take penalizing action against the college’s chapter of SJP, Students for Justice in Palestine. In a letter to Vassar President Catherine Bond Hill on May 19th, 2014, “We believe that this incident may raise serious issues concerning federal civil rights law.” SJP recently posted a Nazi propaganda poster on their Tumblr page.

The posters are German from 1944 and they portray a monster in a Star of David loincloth with many hands, wearing a KKK (Ku Klux Klan) mask, holding a little man grasping a moneybag, and attached to an American plane wing while it destroys a European town. It is entitled “Liberators.” The Brandeis Center urges Vassar President Bond Hill to take swift action against this group.

The Center made it clear to President Bond Hill that this incident at her school is a step backwards in the fight for respectful discussion, saying, “More broadly, this incident is deeply offensive and antithetical to basic notions of civil discourse.”  Brandeis Center lawyers added, “we urge you to take additional prompt and effective action to address this problem including taking strong disciplinary action against SJP.”

This incident at Vassar comes just days after its chapter of SJP Vassar posted other material on its Tumblr page concerning the Holocaust and the UN’s response. This cartoon shows major powers during the creation of Israel. It shows the Jews moving Palestinians in 1948; upset, the Palestinians ask why the Jews can do that, and the major powers respond with “Holocaust, Holocaust indeed.” This is propaganda to suggest that any so-called “illegal action” by Israel is justified by the Holocaust.



When I was six years years old, my parents taught me not to say “the baddest word in the world.” Not being exactly Victorian prudes, the word they had in mind was not “sex.” But it was closely related and started with an “f.” Today, that word in politically correct circles starts with an “r.” Of course, you can talk about race all you want—many do ad nauseam—as an indicator of economically unjust conditions or as a “social construct.” But not “race” as a “biological reality” (whatever that may be).

A case in point, as if we needed yet another (a similar firestorm twenty years ago surrounded Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnsteins’ “The Bell Curve” on IQ and race), is the building reaction of Nicholas Wade’s new book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History.” A former science writer for the “New York Times,” Wade is of course a good liberal (as we have recently learned, all Timesmen and Timeswomen are “good liberals,” but not all are equally paid) and not a racist, though some of his new critics are treating him as he was an “r”—as in radioactive racist—for suggesting that the profound changes in human history over the past 10,000 years are a reflex of small changes in the human genome in response to the diverse environments confront by racially distinctive European, Asian, and African populations.

As an historian, I know well the pernicious intellectual and political history of the use and abuse of the concept of race over the last two hundred fifty years not only in Europe but in America. American Jews—viscerally if not always politically “good liberals” respond with understandable passion to this history. A hundred fifty years ago, many if most European intellectuals (as Sander Gilman, among others, have documented), classified Jews as, in some sense other, an African or “Negroid” race, inferior both in their in looks and moral physiognomy. Less than a 100 years ago, most American social scientists were convinced on the basis of culturally-biased World War I IQ tests that European Jewish immigrants were intellectually inferior.

A new breed of scientific intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic like Franz Boas and Ashley Montague—“Dr.” David Duke’s followers calls them “Jewish gatekeepers” of a new egalitarian “false consciousness”—rebelled against this racist orthodoxy and laid the foundations for our new color-blind consensus that race, biologically, doesn’t matter much if not at all.

Of course, findings about the human genome during the last 30 years have demonstrated that race does matter, at least in terms of disease propensities (the Ashkenazi Jews and Tay-Sachs disorder, African Americans and sickle cell trait, Native Americans and diabetes). However, the broader liberal-academic argument that it is cultural evolution—not racial biology—that drives recent human evolution still dominates the climate of opinion.


UC Officials Condemn Actions By SJP

Recently, there have been disturbing developments at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP, has been making moves to block pro-Israel, Jewish groups groups from getting a fair voice in campus policy-making.   What is even more surprising, and maybe even sickening, is that no other groups are being targeted.

That is right, folks. Student activists, for the recent past election, were asking candidates running for student positions in campus government to sign a pledge essentially saying that they have not and will not go to Israel on a trip sponsored by the following three groups: American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and Hasbara Fellowships. Students who don’t sign the pledge are subject to ridicule, humiliation, and harassment by their peers.

We here at the Brandeis Center hold the right to free speech very dear to our hearts. Therefore, we acknowledge that student groups have the right to say what they wish, so long as no harm is dealt to other students or staff members, and so long as no one else’s rights are infringed upon. The problem with this situation is that by imposing this pledge on the political process, those with pro-Israel views, or even someone has simply travelled to the great state of Israel, have their political views silenced and put down. “Freedom of speech is essential on university campuses”, says Brandeis Center President Kenneth L. Marcus, “But what we are seeing at UCLA is antithetical to healthy, civil dialogue.”


Debating the Holocaust*

Recently, an assignment, designed by teachers and approved by an administrator, at Southern California’s Rialto School District sought to improve critical thinking skills of 2000 eighth graders by having them debate whether the Holocaust really happened or instead was “a plot” to falsify history. Now, Charles C. W. Cooke has made a case in the “National Review” that pressure to change the assignment was a symptom of narrow-minded political correctness, and that an opportunity has been missed to allow young teens to develop the argumentative skills of Oxford University debaters.

Summing up Holocaust victims’ worst fears, Terence des Pres quoted an inmate of Dachau: “The SS guards took pleasure in telling us that we had no chance in coming out alive, a point they emphasized with particular relish by insisting that after the war the rest of the world would not believe what happened; there would be rumors, speculations, but no clear evidence, and people would conclude that evil on such a scale was just not possible.”

Those Nazis were proven wrong. Their destruction of Europe’s Jews was and is the most documented crime in human history. Historians every day add to what we know about the Holocaust by working to uncover previously unknown facts. They debate the mechanics of the Holocaust—but not whether it happened any more than historians debate whether Nazi Germany Blitzkrieged Poland on September 1, 1939.

If a “debate” whether the Holocaust happened was needed, it came a decade ago when self-styled historian Clifford Irving sued for libel in a London Court scholar Deborah Lipstadt for calling him a Holocaust Denier. During a protracted, expensive trial Lipstadt chose to rely on the testimony of historical experts—not Holocaust Survivors. Her lead witness, historian Richard Evans, systematically exposed Irving’s claims that there were no gas ovens at Auschwitz as premeditated lies and purposeful falsifications of the documented historical evidence. The Judge censured Irving in the harshest terms, and “the debate” over the Holocaust had been won.

By all means, eighth graders should be taught about the Holocaust in the context of World War II. In our Internet-dominated world, it is indeed necessary to promote critical thinking. Soon enough (if not already) eighth graders will be exposed to the ugly fact that even governments like Iran’s deny the Holocaust ever happened, while other bigots use websites to argue that black people exploited on Southern plantations were “contented slaves.” We must teach young people how to study history and learn the truth without making the classroom in a platform for legitimating pseudo-history and teaching hate. Jews aren’t promoting their “special version” of the Holocaust. It is teachers throughout Western Europe who are being pressured not to teach about the Holocaust, supposedly not to offend Muslim students.


LDB President to Deliver Keynote Address Blasting BDS Movement

This evening in Tel Aviv, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus will deliver an important keynote address at an important conference on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.    The IAM conference, entitled “BDS Campaign Against Israel: On Campusand Beyond,”  will take tonight at 6 p.m. in Tel Aviv University, Max Webb Hall 1.  LDB President Marcus, a former Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, will address “What is Anti-Semitic About the BDS Movement?”  In his keynote address, Mr. Marcus will explain why the BDS movement must be considered anti-Semitic even if some of its advocates deny harboring conscious anti-Semitic intent.  Marcus will also discuss legal tools that can be used to address some of the more extreme abuses of the movement.  Other conference speakers will include historian Richard Landes, political scientist Ofira Seliktar, and journalist Ben-Dror Yemini.  Details on the event are as follows:

The public is invited to the IAM event on “BDS Campaign Against Israel: On Campus and Beyond”  – Wednesday May 14, 2014 at 6pm in Tel Aviv University, Max Webb hall 1.

Entrance from gates 1 and 8, paid parking available.

Speakers bio and lectures

Lecture 1- Keynote speaker: Kenneth L. Marcus

What is Anti-Semitic About the Movement to Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction Israel?

“Supporters of the BDS movement argue that their campaign is a political response to human rights violations. Accusations of anti-Semitism, they often insist, are a bad-faith effort to limit debate on a legitimate topic of moral and political concern.  Kenneth L. Marcus, a human rights expert who formerly directed the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, explains why they are wrong.  In fact, anti-Jewish campaigns have frequently used the rhetoric of their times to justify anti-Jewish bigotry.  The BDS movement, Marcus shows, continues a long-standing effort to marginalize and delegitimize the Jewish people.  Some BDS supporters are consciously anti-Semitic, while others are not.  The essential feature of the movement however is its assault on the State of Israel as the collective Jew.”

Kenneth L. Marcus, President & General Counsel, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.


Pro-Palestinian Anti-Semitism at Vassar

Vassar College, which describes itself as “a highly selective, residential, coeducational liberal arts college,” has recently attracted a lot of attention because of the energetic activism of so-called “pro-Palestinian” groups like Vassar’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) who were apparently supported by dozens of faculty members.  As I noted in a related post a…


Brussels Ban on Anti-Semites’ Summit

Shimon Samuels and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have had a significant victory in their effort to block a summit of anti-Semitic leaders that had been planned for Belgium.  Their report follows:

Wiesenthal Centre commends Belgian Interior Minister, urging her to
now block hatefest organizer’s candidacy in 25 May European Parliament  elections” 4 May, The Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s call for a ban on today’s extreme right hatefest was followed up by Minister of Interior Joelle Millequet and Mayor Eric Thomas of the Brussels suburb of Anderlecht, as a threat to public order.

The ban was supported by the 18 other municipalities of the capital to
ensure that the venue could not be changed at the last minute and
endorsed by the Conseil d’Etat (Constitutional Court) and some 500
invitees were finally dispersed by police water cannon.

The Centre’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon
Samuels, stated,”this victory for Belgian democracy is a defeat for
French anti-Semites, Dieudonnee and Alain Soral, who had presented their
“Anti-Zionist Party” for the last European Parliament (EP) elections
in 2009.”


The Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project Urge NYU to Discipline Students Who Shoved Inflammatory Fliers into Students’ Dorm Rooms

This morning, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law and The Lawfare Project urged New York University President John Sexton and his administration to “firmly and forcefully” discipline the students who shoved inflammatory materials into students’ private rooms at two New York University dormitories on April 24. 

The two independent national civil rights organizations had been approached by New York University undergraduate students who are concerned about an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment in which mock eviction notices were pushed under the dormitory room doors and into the dormitory rooms of Jewish and non-Jewish students.  These flyers contain inflammatory and false accusations and were placed in a manner that created understandable anguish and alarm among the students.

In a letter to President Sexton and Vice Chancellor Linda Mills, the Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project emphasized that the mock eviction notices raised “serious issues under federal civil rights law.”  Specifically, the groups reminded President Sexton and Vice Chancellor Mills that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs that receive federal funds.  “More broadly,” the two organizations wrote, the infractions “raise questions about respect, civility, and mutual understanding and about sensitivity for the reasonable concerns of Jewish students.”

At approximately 3:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 24, 2014, mock eviction notices spreading anti-Israel sentiment had been distributed throughout New York University’s Palladium and Lafayette dormitories by members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).  The eviction notices state, “Palestinian homes are destroyed as part of the state of Israel’s ongoing attempts to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants and maintain an exclusively Jewish character of the state.  By destroying Palestinian homes, the state makes room for illegal Israeli settlements.  The Israeli government itself describes this process as Judaization.”  Not only is this grossly inaccurate, but it reinforces pernicious stereotypes and defamations about the Jewish people.

The Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project explained to Sexton and Mill that “dormitory rooms are virtually the opposite of public forums for speech and debate.  Rather, they are spaces in which students are most vulnerable.  There is no part of a university campus in which is it more crucial to protect student safety, security, and privacy.  This is particularly true during late hours of the night.”  New York University, like many other institutions, has instituted reasonable, content-neutral rules prohibiting the kind of infractions that were committed here.  The civil rights groups insisted that it is “absolutely imperative” that NYU “fully and firmly enforce these rules against the perpetrators immediately, taking fully into consideration the invasiveness of the behavior and the foreseeable harms to dormitory students.”

The Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project also urged NYU to take into proper consideration that the offensiveness of the perpetrators’ actions was heightened by their selection of a dormitory that is well known to house an unusually high concentration of Jewish students.  “As you are no doubt aware,” they wrote, “Palladium is the only dormitory building at New York University that has a Shabbat elevator.  A university spokesman has argued that the elevator was installed at this location for reasons that are unrelated to the building’s high concentration of Jewish residents.  This is entirely beside the point.  Regardless of the reason for which the elevator was initially installed, your students have made clear to us that its existence is one of the reasons that so many prominent Jewish students are known to live there.  If Palladium was targeted in any part because of its concentration of Jewish students, then this factor must be considered in determining the nature and severity of the infraction.  Either way, however, the perpetrators’ choice of this particular building has aggravated the impact of the infractions.”


Ali Abunimah’s Orwellian Definition of Anti-Semitism

Veteran anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah is currently touring US campuses to hawk his recently published book “The Battle for Justice in Palestine.” As anyone even vaguely familiar with Abunimah’s prolific writings at his Electronic Intifada blog will know, his idea of “justice in Palestine” requires doing away with the world’s only Jewish state, and the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns against Israel that he champions so tirelessly are designed to help achieve this goal.

Among those who have enthusiastically endorsed Abunimah’s new book is Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, who also introduced Abunimah at one of his recent book tour events at Columbia University. In case anyone in the audience was concerned that Abunimah’s agenda and activism is ultimately anti-Semitic, Massad was ostensibly eager to allay such concerns: as a student attending the event highlighted on Twitter, Massad described Abunimah as “a fighter against antisemitism.” Given the fact that some of Massad’s own writings on Israel echo ideas and language that can be found on racist and neo-Nazi sites such as David Duke or Stormfront, it is downright preposterous for Massad to claim any expertise on anti-Semitism except as an avid practitioner.

Needless to say, Massad would firmly reject this accusation. However, he would do so primarily on the basis of the bizarre notion that anti-Israel activists are entitled to their very own self-serving definition of anti-Semitism – a notion that Ali Abunimah fully supports.

Already years ago, Abunimah made it abundantly clear that he not only regarded Zionism as “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today,” but that he also equated Zionism with Nazism.

Abunimah Zionism AntiSemitism

Abunimah Zionism Nazism

At the end of 2012, Abunimah eventually decided that it was time to formalize his views on anti-Semitism and have his fellow anti-Israel activists adopt a truly Orwellian declaration that pretends to reject “any form of racism or bigotry […] including, but not limited to, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Zionism” and that denounces at the same time “the cynical and baseless use of the term anti-Semitism as a tool for stifling criticism of Israel or opposition to Zionism.”


Anti-Semitism: From Ukraine to the U.S.

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus has just published this piece with The Algemeiner online:

Few recent news articles captured more attention than reports that Jews in Ukraine were being ordered to register. Then it turned out that the pamphlets ordering Jews to register might be something of a hoax or a political stunt.

Either way, it appears that Ukrainian Jews are being treated as pawns.

Moreover, the story would not have gotten such play if it hadn’t hit a nerve.

Ukraine has lately seen a string of anti-Semitic vandalism. The Holocaust Memorial in Sevastopol, which had previously been vandalized by neo-Nazis, was recently spray-painted with a hammer and sickle. In Dnepropetrovsk, swastikas were sprayed on the tomb of the late Lubavicher Rebbe Menahem Mendel Schneerson’s brother, Dov Ber Schneerson.  There has also been a recent stabbing and the attempted arson of two synagogues, one last week in Nikolayev.

But the problem is not limited to Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Hungary’s neo-Nazi Jobbik Party won a shocking 21 percent of votes in national elections. Disturbingly, Jobbik now claims particular strength among Hungary’s youth and highly educated voters. Some commentators explain Jobbik’s gains as a protest vote against anti-democratic practices by Hungary’s governing right-wing party amid disarray on the left. Nevertheless, something is gravely wrong when one in five Hungarians votes Nazi.

Then word came out last week that Kazakh’s nationalist magazine, “Star House” displays Nazi symbols and praises Adolf Hitler. The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Simon Samuels protested that the magazine “is dedicated totally to Hitler’s so-called ‘positive contribution’ to history, which would perversely include the Holocaust.”

Nor has the United States been immune from anti-Semitism lately. Frazier Glenn Cross, the founder and former head of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, allegedly shot three people dead at two Jewish-affiliated facilities in Kansas just before Passover. The shooter’s Mayor, Dan Clevenger of Marionville, vocally expressed support for him. “Kind of agreed with him on some things, but I don’t like to express that too much,” Mayor Clevenger reportedly told a local television station before announcing his resignation.

Disturbing incidents are also found on some American university campuses. Last month, after a heated debate over an anti-Israel divestment vote, some Jewish students at the University of Michigan at Arbor told Brandeis Center lawyers that they had been called “kike” and “dirty Jew.” One Jewish student reportedly faced death threats. On other campuses, anti-Israel protests have turned similarly ugly.

These incidents are not all of the same cloth. There is a world of difference, for example, between the Kansas City shooter and the Ann Arbor anti-Israel activists. On the other hand, the incidents do point to a common problem. The post-Holocaust taboo against anti-Jewish hostility is eroding in many parts of the world, including even on some American university campuses.

Some people insist that the Jewish community does not need more protection because it is already wealthy and privileged, and often minimize the problem. This line is often heard on university campuses, where anti-racist groups may sympathize with Palestinian activists. In some cases, they believe the anti-Israel rhetoric and are unsympathetic to Jewish students who support the Jewish state.

Even some Jewish communal professionals are leery of being perceived as too powerful or too privileged. They hesitate to speak out against anti-Semitism or to work with Jewish civil rights organizations. In their heart of hearts, they have come to believe that Jews are already too powerful and should not be too noisy in defending their rights.


MLA Vote: Will Bias Beat Scholarship?

Jeff Robbins has just published the following excellent article at the Times of Israel blog:

There is a scene in Guys and Dolls, the Damon Runyan-inspired tale about entertaining mobsters, in which a thug nicknamed Big Julie From Chicago lays down the law: he will not be shooting craps unless the outcome is safely rigged in advance. He announces to Nathan Detroit, who has beaten him until then using actual dice, that they will now be using his own “specially made” dice.

“I do not wish to seem petty,” Detroit offers, “but your dice ain’t got no spots on them. They’re blank.”

“I had the spots removed for luck,” replies Big Julie From Chicago, “but I remember where the spots formerly were.”

The meeting of the Modern Language Association in Chicago earlier this year featured a resolution censuring Israel for applying visa restrictions to four individuals whom it regarded as a security threat, promoted by academics who pronounced themselves motivated by their passionate support for the free exchange of ideas. But the promoters deployed tactics aimed at preventing those with a dissenting view from being heard with a lack of sheepishness that would have made Big Julie From Chicago proud, and the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley positively beam.


Brandeis Center President Publishes Article on Stanley Fish and Academic Freedom

The Brandeis Center’s Founder and President, Kenneth L. Marcus, has just published a short but important article on academic freedom in the current issue of the Florida International University Law Review.  Marcus’ article, entitled “The Doctrine of Balance,” argues that academic freedom should not extend to the dissemination of unbalanced propaganda in the classroom.  The short piece appears in a micro symposium on Stanley Fish’s upcoming book on “Versions of Academic Freedom: From Professionalism to Revolution.”  It has important ramifications for those instructors who engage in frequent, highly politicized, classroom anti-Israel tirades even in courses where the Middle East is of marginal relevance.

In previous scholarship, Marcus has argued that courts and administrators should pay more careful attention to the doctrine of academic freedom’s well-recognized exception for political indoctrination.  Political indoctrination, Marcus has argued, may have its place, but it is not in the classroom.  University professors enjoy the same freedom of speech as anyone else to engage in political propaganda or indoctrination, but the doctrine of academic freedom does not protect their efforts to do so in the classroom, where they should be providing academic instruction.  In his previous law review article on “Academic Freedom and Political Indoctrination,” for example, Marcus had demonstrated that five characteristics separate political indoctrination from the sphere of academic freedom: non-educativeness, controversy, extraneousness, imbalance, and bias.  These five traits reflect the notion that academic freedom protects a uniquely academic function which defines its scope, justifies its privileges, strengthens its defense, and limits its applicability.  Stanley Fish, in his important forthcoming book on “Versions of Academic Freedom,” provides useful tools for understanding why some people support such standards and others do not.  Despite Fish’s lucidity, however, Marcus demonstrates in his new article that Fish’s book succumbs to the facile argumentation that has characterized the politically trickiest of the five, i.e., imbalance.


Welcome Stephen A. Cohen and Aviva J. Vogelstein

The Louis D. Brandeis Center is pleased to welcome two new civil rights legal fellows, Stephen A. Cohen and Aviva J. Vogelstein. Cohen and Vogelstein’s appointments marks the Brandeis Center’s continued expansion, as the Washington, D.C.-based civil rights group grows to face the resurgent problem of anti-Semitism on American University campuses.

Stephen Cohen (Steve), who joins the Brandeis Center as a Senior Civil Rights Legal Fellow, is a Seattle lawyer admitted to practice law in the states of Washington and Oregon, the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands and their respective Federal courts. Steve’s fields of practice previously encompassed taxation, business and commercial law, banking and financial services, real estate, estate planning, insurance, administrative law, bankruptcy and civil litigation. Steve received a B.A. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley; a J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco; a LL.M. in corporation law from New York University School of Law, New York City; and a MBA in taxation from the Graduate School of Taxation of Golden Gate University, Seattle.

Aviva J. Vogelstein, who joins the Brandeis Center as a Civil Rights Legal Fellow, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010, magna cum laude, with a BA in American History, and from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2013. She served as Hillel President at Penn, and was active in the Jewish Law Students Association at Cardozo. She gained extensive legal experience through Cardozo’s Bet Tzedek Legal Clinic, Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, and working for a solo practitioner. Aviva feels passionately about fighting anti-Semitism and advocating for Israel, and is very excited to be joining the LDB team.


Call for Papers on Anti-Semitism in the Shadow of the Holcoaust

ViennaThe European Sociological Association’s section on Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism is now one of the most important sources of research on contemporary anti-Semitism.  In advance of their mid-term conference this September in Vienna, the section has issued an interesting new call for papers on “Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism in the Shadow of the Holocaust”:


European Sociological Association

Contemporary antisemitism and racism in the shadow of the

RN31 Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism

Midterm conference 

Deadline for submitting abstracts: 22 May 2014

4–5 September 2014

University of Vienna

The ESA Research Network 31: Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism invites submissions of papers for its biannual mid-term conference. The conference will be held from 4 to 5 September 2014 at the University of Vienna.

We will hold sessions that focus on theoretical, methodological and empirical aspects of research on antisemitism and racism, also in a comparative framework. The network’s perspective is to bridge an exclusive divide between the understanding of antisemitism and of racism, exploring the correspondences and affinities, but also the differences and contrasts. Our over-arching question is to understand what are the material conditions and the social, political and historical contexts shaping variations in antisemitism and racism, across time and across different European and global contexts.