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.

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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…

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”:

CALL FOR PAPERS

European Sociological Association

Contemporary antisemitism and racism in the shadow of the
Holocaust

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.

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Institute for Law & Policy Announces New Summer Program

We are pleased to cooperate with our friends at the Institute for Law & Policy on an exciting new summer program for international students and attorneys at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  Alumni of LDB’s 2013 inaugural national law student leadership conference will remember Institute Chairman Richard Heideman for his memorable presentations.  For more information on…

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Vassar And The BDS War On Campus

The anti-Zionist – and sometimes also anti-Semitic – website Mondoweiss recently published a lengthy report by the site’s founder Philip Weiss about a meeting that took place at Vassar in early March. According to Weiss, the meeting had been scheduled by the school’s Committee on Inclusion and Excellence in order to discuss guidelines for activism after persistent protests by Vassar’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) against a trip to Israel planned by Vassar’s International Studies program.

Vassar BDS warWeiss began his report by quoting Jill Schneiderman, the professor who had apparently initiated the trip and who had mentioned the meeting in a post on her blog, where she wrote that she “was knocked off-center by a belligerent academic community dedicated to vilifying anyone who dares set foot in Israel.”  Weiss confirmed that the meeting “was truly unsettling,” that “torrents of anger ripped through the gathering” and that “rage against Israel was the theme.” He contrasted this atmosphere favorably with the broad popular support for Israel in the US, asserting that it was very different at Vassar, where “the spirit of that young progressive space was that Israel is a blot on civilization, and boycott is right and necessary. If a student had gotten up and said, I love Israel, he or she would have been mocked and scorned into silence.”

But according to Weiss, Israel’s supporters should expect not just more of the same, but worse to come, because in his view, the “battles we’ve seen so far on campus are just preliminaries.” He predicted that “things are going to get much more belligerent” and asserted that “belligerence may be necessary to the resolution.”

At the end of his detailed report, Weiss offered something like a declaration of war:

“If the SJP students can be obnoxious, their manner is just what feminist Margaret Fuller saw in abolitionists during slavery: tedious, rabid, narrow, prone to exaggeration. And dedicated to a principle worth living and dying for.

Expect many more rage-filled meetings in years to come as the left is broken over this question. How long before students occupy administration buildings of liberal arts colleges that work with Israel? How long before students chain themselves to bulldozers at the Cornell-Technion project in New York city?”

According to Weiss, this militant conduct is also endorsed by BDS leader Omar Barghouti:

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LDB in Boston, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

This week will provide opportunities to see Brandeis Center lawyers in action in Boston, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.  At noon today, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus will address “The New Anti-Semitism” at St. Louis University School of Law.  This event, in which Marcus will discuss legal approaches to contemporary Jew-hatred, kicks off a particularly busy…

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WHY THE JEWS DID NOT ALWAYS LOVE ST. PATRICK’S DAY

The “You Don’t Have to be Jewish to Love Levy’s Real Jewish Rye” ad debuted 50 years ago this year. Of course, you also don’t have to be Irish to march at the front of the official St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Unlike David Dinkins in 1993 and Bill de Blasio this year, New York’s Jewish mayors have never boycotted the Parade despite the running controversy over its exclusion of organized gay participants.

Irish-Jewish relations in New York City, this time of year—and not only this time—are usually bathed in a hue of shamrock-colored bagels and nostalgia. Relations between Irish and Jews in the old country also have their stock repertoire of feel-good images, including two father-and-son Jewish lords mayor of Dublin, nineteenth-century “Liberator” Daniel O’Connell’s declaration that “Ireland is the only Christian country I know of unsullied by any act of persecution against the Jews,” Home Rule Crusader Michael Davitt’s journey to Czarist Russia in 1903 to expose the Kishinev Program, Ze’ev Jabotinsky journey to Ireland to model his movement to drive the British out of Palestine on the IRA, and Yitzhak Shamir the taking the guerrilla code name “Michael” after the Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins.

Even so, the Irish—including Irish Jews—have long memories. Even if it were not for the anti-Israel bias of the IRA and former Irish President Mary Robinson, Irish Jews would remember the Limerick Pogrom of 1904, supported by Sein Fenn founder Arthur Griffith, and Irish President Éamon de Valera’s signing of the official book of condolence on Hitler’s death on May 2, 1945, despite de Valera’s prewar friendship with Chief Rabbi of Ireland (and later Chief Rabbi of Israel) Isaac Herzog.

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Brandeis Center Welcomes Brooklyn College Administration’s Apology for its Handling of 2013 Anti-Israel Event: Jewish Pro-Israel Students Vindicated by Apology, Further Action to Protect Civil Rights Will Be Pursued

The Brandeis Center welcomes some good news for three of our clients.  On Friday, Brooklyn College President Karen Gould publicly apologized for the school’s forcible ejection of four Jewish pro-Israel students from a 2013 anti-Israel event sponsored in part by the school. The Brandeis Center, which represents three of the students removed from the lecture, had called for a public apology from Brooklyn College, and was pleased when the apology was issued late Friday afternoon.

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus lauded the apology in a press release issued this morning:

“This apology reflects the fact that the university violated the constitutional and civil rights of our clients at a public event. This was a shameful incident, and we are pleased that the university has accepted responsibility,” said LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus. “We appreciate the apology and look forward to working with the school to ensure that other Brooklyn College students will not have to endure what happened to our clients.”

Here’s a summary of the case, which many readers will recall from last year:

On February 7, 2013, the Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine chapter – with official sponsorship from the school – hosted an event promoting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which is aimed at Israel. The event featured Judith Butler … and Omar Barghouti….

Shortly after the four Jewish students – including LDB clients Melanie Goldberg, Michael Ziegler, and Ari Ziegler — arrived at the event, they were forcibly removed by two public safety officers of Brooklyn College at the urging of an event organizer unaffiliated with the school.

Brooklyn College President Karen Gould directed the school’s apology, reprinted in full below, to the four students. In the wake of the BDS event, the students had been falsely accused of wrongdoing and subjected to intense scrutiny from school officials and the media, but were vindicated by a two-month investigation into the incident conducted in March and April, 2013 by the City University of New York, of which Brooklyn College is a part.

The CUNY investigation, which included interviews with more than 40 witnesses, found that the non-campus-affiliated event organizer was motivated by a “political viewpoint” in removing the students as he had heard Melanie Goldberg’s pro-Israel views at a prior campus event; that the administrators and public safety officers at the event wrongly deferred to the event organizer; and concluded that “there was no justification for the removal of the four students.”

In the Brooklyn College apology, Gould stated that a College spokesperson had released “an erroneous” statement to the press after the event saying that the students were being disruptive. Gould acknowledged that the university’s statement was false.

The Brandeis Center has emphasized that more work remains to be done:

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BDS Supporters Worry About Freedom of Speech

Judith Butler and Rashid Khalidi, both well-known academics and high-profile supporters of the BDS movement campaigning for “boycotts, divestment and sanctions” against Israel, have issued a statement that was originally circulated under the dramatic title “Support Freedom of Expression! Oppose Intimidation!” They claim that there are “accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS.”

Since both Butler and Khalidi are prominent academics, they obviously have many opportunities to voice their views in prestigious venues and media outlets. However, both recently faced protests against scheduled appearances at Jewish institutions, and the events were eventually cancelled. Their call to “oppose intimidation” should therefore also be seen as part of the currently ongoing debate about the question if Jewish institutions should welcome speakers who advocate the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state, which is the openly acknowledged goal of BDS. As Omar Barghouti, who is widely regarded as the founder and most prominent leader of the BDS movement, declared already ten years ago: “Zionism is intent on killing itself.  I, for one, support euthanasia.”

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Rethink 2014: Tweeting Against International Hate Week

Rethink2014 is a clever movement to oppose Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) on Twitter.  Specifically, the group’s Twitter feed last week consisted of photos of young people holding up signs that explain why they are against the annual anti-Israel hate week which is put on in different parts of the world throughout the months of February in March. The group’s Twitter site explains, “Students challenging the apartheid smear and bringing the real Israel to you.  Don’t believe the hype….  Re-educate.  Re-assess.  Rethink.”  Some of the best are presented in this YouTube video.

Rethink2014 Anti-SemitismThese photos, collected on the Rethink2014 Facebook page, reflect the variety of reasons for resisting IAW.  Some student statements are personal and emotional, although they express very different perspectives:

  • I love Israel.
  • Although I am not Israels [sic] biggest supporter, this week singles out the Jewish state and once again chooses to ignore the human rights violations of surrounding Arab states.
  • Someone needs to stand up for Israel’s right to exist.

Many statements focus on the dishonesty of the IAW campaign or the need for genuine education as opposed to propaganda:

  • It is an ignorant, unhelpful campaign.
  • A week is too long to devote to a lie.
  • It ignores Israel’s security needs to promote a one-sided story.
  • Calling Israel an Apartheid state is inaccurate and insulting.
  • Racial supremacy does not exist in Israel.
  • It can wrongly influence those people that are undecided
  • People shouldn’t be bullied into a biased, untrue belief.
  • Let’s educate others not just on the definition but on the reasons why Israel isn’t an apartheid. Let’s strive to educate and learn!

Rethink2014 EqualityOthers offer specific reasons why the comparison between Israel and South Africa makes little sense, including the rights that Palestinians enjoy in Israel but may be denied elsewhere throughout the Middle East:

  • Israel is the only country in the Middle-East where a Palestinian can criticise the government.
  • Arabs in Israel have democratic rights and are represented in the Knesset.
  • Israel has universal suffrage, unlike its neighbours.
  • Muslims have freedom of religion in Israel.
  • I see more of a rainbow nation in Jerusalem’s streets than in London.
  • I, a former South African living in Israel, have proudly voted alongside Arab citizens in the last Israeli election.
  • I interact with Arabs on daily basis. This would not be possible under Apartheid.
  • I see more of a rainbow nation in Jerusalem’s streets than in London.
  • Otherwise a Muslim would not be able to work in the Israel Embassy in London.
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Anti-Israel Hate Week

This week, on American and English university campuses, anti-Israel activists celebrate the series of hateful events variously known as “Anti-Israel Hate Week” or “Israel Apartheid Week.” These events, which often feature the use of classical anti-Semitic defamations and stereotypes, occur throughout March in other parts of the world. If the haters harass Jewish students on…

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