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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Should Jewish Law Students Be Complacent?

Recently, anti-Israel activists have become active on several American law school campuses, conducting controversial events at Columbia, Fordham, Davis, and elsewhere.  Meanwhile, activists have created hostile environments for Jewish students at several universities.  If you are a Jewish law student, or a non-Jewish law student who cares about justice, should you be concerned?  Here are…

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Anti-Boycott Legislation, Free Speech and Academic Freedom: A Response to Ed Beck and the International Grass Roots Faculty Committee For Academic Freedom and Integrity

Yesterday, The Algemeiner published my article on “Legislating Against BDS.” In this article, I argue that Representatives Roskam and Lipinski have done creditable service in introducing legislation that would bar federal funding of universities that boycott Israel.  Although their initial bill may not be perfect, it has provoked a healthy conversation about how legislatures can be address the misuse of taxpayer funds to support discriminatory boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) policies that arguably encroach upon academic freedom.   To be fully effective, I argued, an anti-boycott bill would address not only boycotts but also divestment, and it should provide a tripartite enforcement scheme consistent with other areas of anti-discrimination law.  Although the article has been generally well received, it has received one critical comment from Dr. Edward Beck that is sufficiently thoughtful and serious to require a full reply.

Dr. Beck posted his reply in the comments to my article on the Algemeiner site.  As Brandeis Center Blog readers may be aware, Beck is the Co-founder and Chairman emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, although he has subsequently left SPME for new ventures.   Although he does not directly criticize my article, Beck posts a position paper that takes a contrary view of the legislation.  “You and your readers might be interested in learning the position of some pretty thoughtful folks with whom I am now working,” he writes, “on the International Grass Roots Faculty Committee For Academic Freedom and Integrity.”  Beck then posts what he calls the “IGRFCAFI Statement on Punitive Legislation For Academic Boycott Actions.” The statement is signed by twelve distinguished academics, several of whom I personally know and deeply respect.

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Legislating Against BDS

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus has just published this article in The Algemeiner:

The backlash continues against the anti-Israel boycott resolution that the American Studies Association adopted last month. Over 200 university presidents have distanced themselves from it. Numerous other organizations, including the American Association of University Professors, have condemned it too. Some critics argue that it violates academic freedom. Others go further, observing that the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction (BDS) Israel amounts to discrimination against the Jewish state. Now legislators are joining the burgeoning anti-BDS movement, introducing bills to curb anti-Israel abuse. The first few efforts out of the box may be imperfect vehicles, but they have begun a necessary conversation about how public policy can best address the misuse of taxpayer funds to support BDS.

On February 6, Congressmen Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced the “Protect Academic Freedom Act” (H.R. 4009), which would ban federally funded universities from boycotting Israeli academic institutions or scholars. As they introduced the bill, the congressmen denounced the bigotry surrounding the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as the threat which anti-Israel activists pose to academic freedom.

Representative Roskam had been justly lauded for his co-authorship of a January letter, signed by 134 members of Congress, to “strongly condemn” the American Studies Association (ASA) for its recent endorsement of the academic boycott against Israel.  “While ASA has every right to express its views on policies pursued by any nation or government,” the congressmen wrote, “we believe that the decision to blacklist Israeli academic institutions for Israeli government policies with which ASA disagrees demonstrates a blatant disregard for academic freedom.” In addition, the congressmen complained that the ASA’s boycott resolution “exhibits flagrant prejudice against the Jewish State of Israel.”

While Rep. Roskam’s letter was well received, reaction to the new Roskam-Lipinski bill has been more mixed. AIPAC officials have been quoted as saying that they are “reviewing the text.” The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman has praised the purposes of the legislation but conceded that he’s “not sure that this bill would be the most effective means of recourse.” On the other hand, several other groups support the legislation, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Christians United For Israel, and The Israel Project. Ambassador Michael Oren has been an effusive supporter, arguing that Roskam-Lipinski “can be the turning point in the struggle against the delegitimization of the Jewish State.”

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Max Blumenthal’s ‘Goliath’ and the Mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism

Blumenthal GoliathActivists devoted to promoting boycott campaigns against Israel and maligning the Jewish state as illegitimate and uniquely evil knew already what to expect when Max Blumenthal’s book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel was published last October. As Blumenthal himself emphasized in the acknowledgements at the end of his book, sites like the Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss had “provided essential outlets for much of the reporting” presented in Goliath, while “less courageous publications” had “shied away” from publishing this material. What kind of “courage” it took to publish Blumenthal’s “reporting” on Israel was illustrated when the Simon Wiesenthal Center released its 2013 list of the “Top 10 Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Slurs” at the end of December and included Blumenthal in the category “The Power of the Poison Pen.”

The Louis D. Brandeis Center (LDB) is publishing today a Research Article that provides a detailed documentation of Blumenthal’s efforts to depict Israel as an utterly evil state that can only be compared to Nazi Germany and should be treated accordingly. Entitled “Another Milestone for the Mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism: The New America Foundation and Max Blumenthal’s Goliath,” the paper highlights how inappropriate it is to promote a book on Israel by an author whose related work had been shunned by mainstream outlets for good reason. After all, Blumenthal’s writings and video clips not only appealed to activists campaigning for the delegitimization and elimination of Israel as a Jewish state, but were also promoted on all the major sites popular among conspiracy theorists, Jew-haters, racists and neo-Nazis: from Stormfront to David Duke’s site, Rense, and Veterans Today. Moreover, Blumenthal himself endorsed reviews that praised his book for presenting Israel as the Nazi Germany of our time, thereby arguably undermining the mainstream legitimacy bestowed on Goliath by the New America Foundation’s (NAF) unfortunate decision to provide him a platform for promoting the book.

Blumenthal at UPennWhile Blumenthal was perfectly capable to adjust his presentations according to the audience he was addressing, he provided a chilling demonstration of what he hoped to accomplish with Goliath during an event at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was hosted on October 17 by political scientist Ian Lustick to promote his book. Lustick noted at one point in the discussion that Blumenthal showed in Goliath that “Israel is not just a little bit fascist, Israel is a lot fascist,” and according to Lustick, this was the “ultimate delegitimizer,” because after World War II, “nothing fascist can even be allowed to survive.” Referring to the biblical story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha, Lustick invited Blumenthal to fancy himself in the position of God in order to decide whether there are enough “good people” in today’s Sodom-like Israel to save it from destruction. Blumenthal, who clearly didn’t need convincing that Israel as a Jewish state shouldn’t be allowed to survive, responded by explaining that his first concern was relieving “the suffering of the indigenous people of Palestine.” According to him, the only way to achieve this was by placing “external pressure” – such as the BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement is advocating – on Jewish Israelis in order to force them to choose between emigrating and agreeing to “become indigenized” by accepting Arab dominance in political, cultural and social terms.

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French Courts Treat BDS as a Hate Crime

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) has an interesting article on successful French efforts to prosecute BDS activists for hate crimes.  The article, appearing this weekend in Ha’aretz and elsewhere, is entitled, “BDS a hate crime? In France, legal vigilance punishes anti-Israel activists.” JTA reports that “some 20 pro-BDS activists have been convicted under the so-called Lellouche…

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BDS Fail at Riverside

Jewish students and activists are claiming victory this morning after beating back yet another anti-Israel boycott resolution at the University of California at Riverside in the early hours of this morning.  Professionals at StandWithUs, a leader in the battle against Israel boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS), report that the final vote on this divisive measure was…

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Anti-Semitism Around the World Last Week

Students for Israel logoAn organization called “Students for Israel” disseminates a useful weekly digest of anti-Semitic incidents, as well as articles about anti-Semitism, from around the world. Here is a selection of the incidents that SFI is reporting this week:

Why does Facebook do such a terrible job dealing with Antisemitism on their website? Dexter Van Zile on Antisemitism in the social network

http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/02/04/why-is-facebook-enabling-anti-semites/

On the same topic: the ADL is calling Facebook to take down an Antisemitic page titled “Jewish Ritual Murder”

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57618430-93/facebook-ordered-to-take-down-anti-semitic-page/

United States:

Ruth R. Wisse, professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard writes on the Wall Street Journal about Antisemitism and American class conflict and tries to check if there is a connection between them

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303942404579360632011640384

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First Amendment Experts Debate Anti-BDS Bill

Can Congress withhold funds from universities that adopt anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) policies?  Two widely respected First Amendment experts disagree.  Floyd Abrams, a leading First Amendment practitioner, argues that the new Roskam-Lapinski Bill is unconstitutional.  Eugene Volokh, a leading First Amendment scholar at UCLA, disagrees.

Readers of the Brandeis Center Blog will remember that Representatives Roskam and Lapinksi’s newly introduced bill, HR4009, and provides, part that:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an institution of higher education shall not be eligible to receive funds or any other form of financial assistance under this Act [not including student aid funds] if the Secretary determines that such institution is participating in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars….

For purposes of this section, the Secretary shall consider an institution of higher education to be participating in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars if the institution, any significant part of the institution, or any organization significantly funded by the institution adopts a policy or resolution, issues a statement, or otherwise formally establishes the restriction of discourse, cooperation, exchange, or any other involvement with academic institutions or scholars on the basis of the connection of such institutions or such scholars to the State of Israel.

Mr. Abrams has reportedly argued that Roskam-Lapkinski would be unconstitutional:

The notion that the power to fund colleges and their faculties may be transformed into a tool to punish them for engaging in constitutionally protected expression is contrary to any notion of academic freedom and to core First Amendment principles…. I believe that academic boycotts are themselves contrary to principles of academic freedom but that does not make the legislation being considered any more tolerable or constitutional.

Volokh disagrees, arguing that the bill is likely constitutional.  His arguments, posted at the Volokho conspiracy at WashingtonPost.com, include the following:

1. Most important, the bill doesn’t restrict university speech based on content or viewpoint — a university doesn’t lose money just for condemning Israel or even praising a boycott, but only for actually boycotting Israel: refusing to deal with Israeli institutions or scholars….

2. Now the bill may affect a university’s speech decisions. A university department’s choice of speakers for a conference, for instance, is a decision about what speech to present, and is thus potentially protected by the First Amendment: It constitutes exercise of the university’s freedom of speech, and the related right of freedom of expressive association, which is triggered by association restrictions or association mandates that “affect[ a] group’s ability to express its message.” … If the government made it a crime for universities to refuse to invite Israeli speakers, that might well be unconstitutional.

But the question is whether the government can say, “if you take our money, you can’t discriminate against people or institutions because they are connected to Israel.” (Note that the bill would be narrower than an anti-discrimination provision, because it bans only outright boycotts, and not all discrimination, but it’s comparable enough to an anti-discrimination rule that I’ll treat it similarly.) And as to such questions, the Court has generally said yes….

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