Berlin Anti-Anti-Semitism Center Publishes New Research

The Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA), headed by German political scientist Clemens Heni, has just issued its first newsletter.  It is available on the internet, and it consists of several articles that may be of interest to Brandeis Center readers.  An article by Ron Jontof-Hutter addresses the abuse of the South African “apartheid” term to vilify Israel.  Dr. Elena Zaharieva’s article describes current trends in antisemitism in Bulgaria and features an analysis of the Bulgarian Center for Global and Middle East Studies (MESBG).  Prof. Gerald Steinberg discusses NGOs and antisemitism, a topic on which he is an internationally recognized authority.  Finally, Heni himself addresses a new book by a member of European Parliament “Deconstructing Zionism,” co-edited by Gianni Vattimo, an Italian philosopher. 


LDB Congratulates ADL’s Abraham Foxman Upon His Retirement

JTA is announcing Abraham Foxman’s retirement from the Anti-Defamation League.  His departure comes at a delicate time as anti-Semitism continues to surge around the world and on many American college and university campuses.  LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus congratulates Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s longtime national director, upon his upcoming retirement.  “Mr. Foxman has had a distinguished career at the ADL, and we salute him upon his departure. He has built considerably on his predecessors’ accomplishments, expanding the ADL’s work to combat anti-Semitism around the world. We wish Mr. Foxman well and we wish the ADL well as they seek to fill his shoes.”The JTA’s report of Foxman’s retirement is as follows:

Abraham Foxman retiring from ADL

NEW YORK (JTA) — Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, and one of the longest-serving and highest-profile American Jewish organizational leaders, is retiring from his post.


Jewish Prisoners’ Kosher Food Case Successfully Resolved in Florida

It is good to see the successful resolution today of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s lawsuit establishing the right of Florida prison inmates to kosher food.

Earlier today, Bruch Rich, an Orthodox Jewish Florida prisoner, withdrew his four-year-old complaint seeking a kosher diet, as a result of a a recent court order that requires the State of Florida to provide Jewish state prison inmates with a kosher diet. Despite Florida’s substantial Jewish population, that state had ironically been the only remaining major state penal system refusing to providing kosher meals to Jewish prisoners who observe the orthodox Jewish dietary laws or kashrut.

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “Although we deplore the crimes of which Mr. Rich was convicted, we believe that the principle of equal protection of the laws requires that state penal institutions provide reasonable accommodations to religiously observant prisoners, including both Jews and non-Jews.  In this case, we are delighted that the Becket Fund has succeeded in protected this basic constitutional right. This is a case of basic fairness and justice. It is deeply unfortunate that Florida refused to provide this necessary accomodation until they were forced to do so, and the Becket Center is owed a debt of gratitude for bringing a just resolution about.”

Although the Brandeis Center is principally focused on campus anti-Semitism, we have also spoken out against anti-Semitism and religious discrimination in penal institutions and elsewhere.  For example, in November 2012, Marcus testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the topic of discrimination against Muslim American prisoners.  Marcus has published academic research on this subject as well.  “We deplore discrimination of all religious groups,” Marcus commented, “whether Muslim, Jewish, or what have you.”

The Becket Fund provides the following additional background in a press release issued today:

Bruce Rich was born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish household. Since his incarceration, the Florida Department of Corrections has denied him a kosher diet, citing alleged cost and security concerns. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represented Mr. Rich, arguing that the denial of a kosher diet violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act because it forces him to choose between his religious practice and adequate nutrition.


Symposium at U.K. Parliament Examines European Anti-Semitism

Several important English institutions, including especially the Pears Institute at Birkbeck College London, are bringing public attention to the troubling recent findings of the major survey into antisemitism in Europe carried out by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

These groups will conduct a symposium at the House of Commons on the afternoon of Tuesday March 18 to consider the survey and its new insights into how Jews experience and perceive antisemitism in nine European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Brandeis Center Blog readers will recall that two thirds of European Jews consider anti-Semitism to be a serious problem in their countries, and three quarters believe that the problem has worsened over the last five years. Indeed, we have learned through the FRA survey that a third of European Jews have considering emigrating because of rising anti-Semitism.

This symposium promises to review the FRA report’s findings and its policy implications. It is also expected to introduce new England-specific findings based on the Institute for Jewish Policy Research’s analysis of the data.

The symposium is organized by our friends at the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London (led by Dr. David Feldman) and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in partnership with the U.K. All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.  (LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus appeared last year at a London conference on boycotts co-convened by the Pears Institute).

The Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will open the symposium.  The symposium will then proceed in two panels. 


Introducing BICOM and Fathom: working to provide a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British organisation dedicated to providing a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain.  BICOM pursues its objectives through a range of activities, one of which is the publication of the quarterly Fathom journal under the editorship of Professor Alan Johnson. With its aim stated…


Roskam & Lipinski Introduce Federal Anti-Boycott Legislation

Yesterday Congressmen Peter Roskam and Dan Lipinski introduced anti-boycott legislation to prevent academic boycotts against the State of Israel. This bill would supplement existing federal and state anti-boycott statutes that were passed decades ago in response to the Arab boycott of Israel. Specifically, this bill would block federal funding for universities that engage in anti-Israel boycotts.  Rep. Roskam’s press release appears in full below:

Feb 6, 2014

Oren: “I strongly support this courageous initiative.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced the bipartisan Protect Academic Freedom Act (H.R. 4009) to address the growing threat of unjustified boycotts against the Jewish State of Israel. In December 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA) became the second major educational organization to adopt an academic boycott of Israel. This measure would block federal funding for American universities engaging in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund bigoted attacks against Israel that undermine the fundamental principles of academic freedom.

“This bipartisan legislation seeks to preserve academic freedom and combat bigotry by shielding Israel from unjust boycotts. It is ludicrous for critics to go after our democratic friend and ally Israel when they should be focusing on the evils perpetrated by repressive, authoritarian regimes like Iran and North Korea,” said Congressman Roskam, the Chief Deputy Whip and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus. “These boycotts not only threaten educational cooperation between the United States and Israel, but ultimately undermine the academic goals of all nations. Congress has a responsibility to fight back against these hateful campaigns, which contradict academic freedom and are designed to delegitimize the Jewish State of Israel. I’m so thankful for the wisdom and leadership of Ambassador Michael Oren, who has helped raise awareness for this important effort.”


Civil Rights Hero Irwin Cotler to Step Down from Canadian Parliament

The Brandeis Center congratulates former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler  for his distinguished service to Canada and the world upon the announcement that Cotler would not seek reelection to the Canadian parliament.  Cotler is Honorary Chair of the Brandeis Center’s Academic Advisory Board.  

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus   commented, “Irwin Cotler is truly a living legend in human rights law, and his departure from governmental service is something of a blow, but I know that his passion for justice is unabated and that he will long continue to set the standard for the pursuit of justice internationally.  We at the Louis D. Brandeis Center are deeply proud of his accomplishments and wish him every success in the next chapter of his extraordinary career.”

Cotler, a longtime Labor Member of Parliament, stated yesterday that he would not be a candidate in the next election, announcing “I have enjoyed the honor and privilege of serving my riding, Parliament, and the Canadian people as a whole for close to fifteen years. I look forward to completing my mandate and continuing the pursuit of justice in other arenas.”


ASMEA Research Grants

ASMEA logoOur friends at the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) have announced these research grants for academic research papers.  Members of LDB law student chapters should be aware that law students are eligible for grants for research on topics such as various aspects of the law of the Middle East conflict.  The details are as follows:

Research Grants

ASMEA is pleased to offer research grants of up to $2500 to qualified professors and students engaged in the study of the Middle East and Africa.

To stimulate new and diverse lines of discourse about the Middle East and Africa, ASMEA’s Research Grants program seeks to support research on topics that deserve greater attention. The topic areas and sub-topics listed here, are intended as a guide for participants in the program and constitute the types of subjects that ASMEA intends to support in this program. Applicants may submit paper proposals on any topic as long as it is relevant to the six broad areas outlined, and constitutes new and original research.


News from London

Our friends at UK Lawyers for Israel  have just issued another impressive newsletter chock-full of interesting information (UKLFI Bulletin No. 62) under the leadership of Jonathan D. C. Turner. Several highlights from the current Bulletin appear below:


Hope University Liverpool allows the truth to be told

Mike Fryer of Christians for Zion has written to Jonathan Turner:

I want to report some good news.

 Hope University have agreed this morning to our request to display an exhibition in the University which will give the true facts regarding the security fence.

I believe this is a unique situation and is a testimony to the many people who wrote in support for our request to have this display exhibited but not least a testimony to the encouragement we received from you and David Lewis which helped us to press in and persist in our desire to see the truth taught in our communities.

So a Big Big thank you to you for the time and advice you gave and to David and UKLFI who are such a blessing to all of us who work in the field of advocacy. 

In congratulating Mike, Jonathan noted: “It is good of you to thank us, but I think this success is essentially down to your efforts.” Which neatly encapsulates our aim of helping our activist supporters to be more effective in their work.


Barry Rubin, R.I.P.

I was saddened this morning to learn that Barry Rubin, a brilliant and prolific scholar of Israel and Middle East Studies, had passed over the weekend.  Barry had been struggling with cancer for quite some time, and his continued surge in productivity over the last year, while battling serious illness, was nothing short of heroic. …


ISGAP Announces New Lineup of Lectures on Anti-Semitism

Our friends at the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy have just announced this impressive lineup of upcoming events.  ISGAP, as our readers may recall, is headed by LDB Academic Advisor Charles A. Small, who founded and headed the former Yale Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). ISGAP | The Institute for…


UC Santa Barbara Agrees to Strengthen Civil Rights Protections for Jewish Students

Here’s an important new success story:  The University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) has pledged to implement recommendations from the Brandeis Center, and in return the Center has agreed to withdraw its U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Title VI complaint asserting that the university had created a hostile environment for Jewish students.

The Brandeis Center has been impressed with UCSB’s responsiveness to its concerns over the course of the last several months.  “We are pleased with the university’s response, and look forward to see it implemented so that all students – regardless of religious or ethnic identity – are protected from civil rights violations on campus,” LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus has said.

The university, represented by University of California Chancellor Henry Yang, committed to several specific steps, based on LDB recommendations: Hosting on-campus educational programming conducted by the Anti-Defamation League on anti-Semitic hate and bias; and adopting a neutral observer program for on-campus events, especially those that could stoke intense debate and conflict. UCSB also issued formal statements that explicitly condemned anti-Semitism on campus and restated the school’s commitment to mutual respect, civility, tolerance, and decency.

In a formal statement issued this morning, Marcus said the resolution of the complaint was welcome, as LDB prefers to work with universities to avoid future incidents. “We were quite concerned with prior incidents at UCSB and the initial reactions of university staff with regard to the safety and welfare of Jewish students. However, after working with UCSB to address these infractions, we feel that the school is taking the necessary steps to provide a campus life that is safe and welcoming for not just Jewish students, but all students,” said Marcus.


Marcus emphasized his favorable impression of Chancellor Yang and his senior staff.  “I would like to thank and commend Chancellor Yang and UCSB’s Counsel Nancy Hamill for their diligent attention to this issue,” he added. “We hope that this serves as a model for other universities facing similar challenges.”


The Misplaced Crusade to Circumcise Moby Dick—and Make “White Racism” Quintessentially Jewish

Last Purim, Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind “blacked up” in an incredible display of bad taste. Jews in particular were appalled, but there’s a subgroup of Jewish professors who may have felt vindicated. Practitioners of “the whiteness school”—prominent names include the late Michael Paul Rogin, Edward L. Goldstein, Jeffrey Melnick, and Karen Brodkin—argue that for performers like Al Jolson applying burnt cork was a strategy of ethnic assimilation. Not only Jewish performers but their first- and second-generation Jewish audiences are supposed to have derived a sense of belonging to the superior white American majority by application of burnt cork that heightened the contrasting white skin color beneath the black mask.

Of course, the Jewish practitioners of “whiteness studies” are highly critical of the prejudice and conformism of other, lessened enlightened Jews, then and now. Yet while they may reject the Jewish version of what H. L. Mencken in the 1920’s called “boobus Americanus,” the whiteness profs are very much conforming to an American tradition that goes back at least as far as Herman Melville who made Captain Ahab’s pursuit of the White Whale a metaphor for the sickness of the American soul.

Unfortunately, Melville may be a bit of an embarrassing model for the “whiteness profs.” For while critiquing the national obsession with whiteness, Melville personally combined a stereotypical infatuation with lithesome Polynesian girls he visited as a sailor with a classic loathing of old world, crooked-nosed Jews he described in his European travel memoir.


The MLA’s Top Five BDS Blunders This Week

Modern Language Association logoLDB President Kenneth L. Marcus describes the Modern Language Association’s top five BDS blunders at The Algemeiner today.  An excerpt appears below:

The Modern Language Association (MLA) has blundered repeatedly over its treatment of Israel in the run-up to its annual conference this week.  Technically the 30,000 member association is not contemplating a resolution to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel (BDS) per se at this week’s upcoming confab. Instead it is debating a halfway measure that insiders observe is intended to be a stepping-stone to worse actions. But it is doing so in a way that should embarrass every one of its members. This is not just a mistake. This is five blunders rolled into one.

1.     Introducing a Polarizing Anti-Israel Resolution

Despite the backlash against last month’s BDS resolution at the American Studies Association, the MLA is considering a resolution that would urge the U.S. State Department to oppose the allegedly “arbitrary denials of entry” to American academics seeking to teach or conduct research at West Bank and Gaza universities. This half-way measure is, as former American Association of University Professors Presidents Cary Nelson explains, a step along the way towards a formal BDS resolution:  “They proposed the travel resolution as a fallback,” said Nelson. “They’re trying something else as a step toward a boycott resolution the next time. If they can win this, they will move onto the next one.” So BDS advocates stepped back from advancing a full-fledge BDS resolution that they clearly knew would fail, but they are using the MLA as a political tool to achieve the next best thing.

2.     Substituting Politics for Scholarship

Worse than the resolution itself is the MLA’s process for considering it.  This week, the convention features only a one-sided roundtable discussion on “Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine,” which includes only BDS supporters but no opponents. There is nothing remotely academic about the panel, which does not purport to advance or disseminate modern language scholarship but only to politicize it in polarizing fashion. The panel’s supporters of the BDS movement are: BDS leader Omar Barghouti, the University of Texas at Austin’s Barbara Jane Harlow, the University of California at Riverside’s David C. Lloyd, and Wesleyan University’s Richard M. Ohmann. This is a politically biased, unscholarly approach, and it has nothing to do with the association’s mission. The MLA’s resolution may land them inhot water with the Internal Revenue Service, but the entire process is also a disservice to those of their members who expect the association to pursue the mission for which it was established and for which it has received tax-exempt status.

3.     Suppressing Dissenting Voices

Worse, the MLA is barring those on the other side of the debate from making their own presentations at the conference. Specifically, the MLA rejected a counter-panel featuring former MLA President Russell Berman, Brandeis University Israel Studies Chair Ilan Troen, and cultural theorist Gabriel Noah Brahm, Jr. This silencing of one side of the debate brings no credit to the BDS movement, which is constantly trying to defend itself against arguments that it violates the academic freedom of Israeli professors, and certainly none to the MLA. In this case, of course, it is also American professors, including Israel’s supporters within the MLA, whom the MLA would silence.


The Brandeis Center Hosts Its First National Law Student Conference

photo ken panelThe Brandeis Center held its first National Conference for Law Students in Los Angeles on January 2nd and January 3rd.  This is part of the new initiative for law school chapters of the Brandeis Center. The conference focused on educating and engaging law student members of the LDB law school chapters by offering a series of lectures and panel discussions presented by several distinguished attorneys and scholars.  Students from the LDB law school chapters of UCLA, American University Washington College of Law, and the University of Pennsylvania were in attendance for the event.  The conference concentrated on a variety of legal advocacy and policy issues pertinent to the Brandeis Center’s mission, such as freedom of speech, advocacy for civil rights, and combating anti-Semitism.

The conference began with notable Jewish advocate and co-founder of StandWithUs, Roz Rothstein.  In her lecture, “The Boycott Movement Against Israel: Their Goals and Strategies,” Rothstein stressed the importance of opposing anti-Semitism by disproving allegations using hard evidence.  She advocated that the best way to refute anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda is to document the lies being perpetuated by Jews and Israel, and to be aware of what is happening on university campuses in the United States.

photo ken closeupThe Brandeis Center’s own Kenneth L. Marcus echoed the same sentiment in his lecture, “Combating Campus Anti-Semitism.”  Marcus highlighted the fact that the resurgence of anti-Semitism on university campuses often masquerades under the guise of criticism of Israel.  While mere criticism of a country alone is not only protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of speech but also important in creating policy changes, what is happening on university campuses is far more than just benign criticism.  In fact, as Marcus noted, many proponents of the BDS movement are utilizing it as a vehicle to perpetuate hate and lies against the Jewish people and Israel.  By using the EUMC and the U.S. Department of State’s own definitions of anti-Semitism, Marcus highlighted the three-prong test of differentiating criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism: (1) the demonization of Israel and Jews; (2) holding Israel to a standard that other countries are not held to; and (3) delegitimizing Israel as a nation.  He then gave examples in ways the Brandeis Center is engaging in legal advocacy in the fight against anti-Semitism, and provided best practice responses to anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli a tool for students to get involved on their campuses.  photo danit closeupDistinguished Brandeis Center staff attorney, Danit Sibovits, then engaged the students in a roundtable to discuss how they could lead their individual university chapters in battling campus anti-Semitism.  She highlighted that advocating for the Jewish voice on university campuses is a joint effort, and encouraged the students to get involved. Connect to legal advocacy initiative and combatting anti-Semitism and link to one blog entry about legal advocacy/best practices guide

The first day’s events ended with a wonderful dinner at Marina del Rey, and a screening of the award-winning film, Unmasked: Judeophobia.  The film chronicles the rise of anti-Jewish ideology across the world, and examines the phenomenon from a historical perspective.  Conference attendees were treated to a private question and answer session with filmmaker Gloria Greenfield after the screening.


The Purim Miracle in a Courtroom


Having analyzed the decisions and judgments of Polish prosecutors and judges in cases concerning anti-Semitic and racist hate speech one may wonder what makes them so lenient and sympathetic towards the views voiced by bald and well-muscled men who are eager to extend the right arm in the air with a straightened hand and make the Nazi salute? If one could suspect that this attitude of the Polish judiciary towards hateful words just shows fascination with the doctrine of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, one could sigh with relief. However, I have no doubts, unfortunately, that the reasons for this are different – most often it is just opportunism, sometimes perhaps even a positive response to anti-Semitic and racist slogans.

Thus it is especially important to single out and praise those prosecutors and judges who are not afraid of breaking this disgraceful pattern of discontinued proceedings and court acquittals, so typical in cases brought against soccer fans who reveal their anti-Semitic and racist attitudes at football arenas. It is ironic that the majority of those who curse out a “Jew referee”, in this way expressing their dissatisfaction with the red card shown to a player of their team, have never seen a single Jew in their entire life.

We waited for a very long time in Poland for the court judgment which was recently handed down by the district court in Warsaw. The court sentenced 17 soccer yobs to do community service, make money contributions to the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland and… watch Izabella Cywińska’s movie “The Purim Miracle”. After a nearly one year long investigation the prosecutors accused 17 identified hooligans who publicly incited others to racial and religious hatred. Initially the court discontinued the case and said that chanting yobbo slogans cannot be qualified as hate speech. The prosecutors did not agree with the discontinuation and the case was re-examined by the court. A wise, sensitive judge adjudicated that the words “Juden auf den Gas” are synonymous with inciting to hatred against the Jews. One may only wonder: is it more terrifying or farcical that Polish football fans, who call themselves true patriots, chant such words in German, the language of those who during the Second World War wanted to annihilate their motherland and the nation?


The ASA Repeatedly Chastised Over BDS Resolution

The public chastisement of the American Studies Association continues.  By some counts, over 100 higher education institutions have now rebuked the ASA for its controversial decision to endorse an academic boycott of Israel.  But even this enumeration may substantially undercount the number of institutions that have treated the ASA like an unruly child for its…


Fifth College Cuts Ties to Controversial American Studies Association

According to Inside Higher Ed,  a fifth institution has cut ties with the embattled American Studies Association.  Over sixty universities have lambasted the ASA’s controversial anti-boycott resolution, in addition numerous scholars, commentators, Jewish groups, and the American Association of University Professors.  To their credit, four institutions went beyond statement-making and actually dropped their membership in…