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. …Details
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…Details
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.”Details
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.Details
LDB 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.Details
The 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.
The 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 incidents.as a tool for students to get involved on their campuses. Distinguished 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.Details
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?Details
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…Details
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…Details
- The Jewish Community Got Beat
There is no question about it. The American Studies Association’s anti-Israel boycott resolution is a defeat for everyone who is concerned about anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in higher education. The ASA is the largest, most important academic association to support the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS). By a membership vote of nearly 2-to-1, the ASA voted to support a limited academic boycott of Israel, the first country that the association has ever seen fit to treat in this manner.
For years, Israel’s supporters have observed that BDS tarnishes Israel’s reputation even when it fails. Until recently, BDS resolutions failed over and over again in the United States. Yet each battle imposed a cost, as Israel was falsely cast in the public mind as a rogue nation. The harm is obviously greater when these resolutions actually pass, as they have recently on some university campuses, such as the University of California at Berkeley and Irvine. The ASA resolution gives a scholarly imprimatur to a cause that is at best political and at worst bigoted.
2. The ASA Was the Biggest Loser
In the end, the ASA is the biggest loser, and this outcome will not be lost on other associations. For its efforts, the ASA is now publicly mocked, ridiculed and condemned, even by some of its own members and past presidents, as well as by major scholars and numerous university presidents. Even those who do not discern anti-Semitism in the ASA resolution nevertheless perceive a violation of academic freedom. The American Association of University Professors announced that the boycott would violate the academic freedom “not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it.” More importantly, perhaps, the ASA has now lost any scholarly reputation that it might previously have had and is now seen as a largely political institution.Details
LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus is publishing an important new paper on “The Definition of Antisemitism” in a new volume on contemporary global anti-Semitism, Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity. The paper provides a timely intervention into a lively public debate over the meaning of “anti-Semitism” at a time when hostility towards Jews is often hidden under the guise of hostility to Israel.
LDB academic advisor Charles A. Small, who heads the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, included Marcus’ paper in his edited volume, which is published by one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious academic presses, Brill Academic Press of Leiden, the Netherlands.
The essays are written by scholars from a wide array of disciplines, intellectual backgrounds, and perspectives, and address the conference’s two inter-related areas of focus: global antisemitism and the crisis of modernity currently affecting the core elements of Western society and civilization. Marcus’ paper is an outgrowth of the Yale conference’s panel on law and anti-Semitism, which Marcus chaired.
Marcus’ paper provides his first major intervention into a question that has divided anti-Semitism scholars and public figures. Specifically, Marcus demonstrates that both new and old anti-Semitism share deep ideological connections and cannot be addressed through ordinary educational methods. Marcus is expanding this paper into a book-length project for publication next year.Details
The Brandeis Center has just announced the election of Philadelphia litigator Judd Serotta to its board of directors. Mr. Serotta is a distinguished litigator, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ New Jersey Advisory Committee, and an active member of the Jewish community. The press release announce his election appears below:
Philadelphia Litigator Judd Serotta Joins Louis D. Brandeis Center Board
WAHINGTON, DC (PRBuzz) December 13, 2013 The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a public interest advocacy organization established to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all, announces the election of Philadelphia litigator Judd Serotta, Esq., to the Center’s Board of Directors. Mr. Serotta previously served as a member of the Brandeis Center’s legal advisory board.
The LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “Judd Serotta’s addition further strengthens the Center’s strength in civil rights legal advocacy. I have known Mr. Serotta for several years and consider him to be an outstanding lawyer.” Serotta joins Richard Cravatts, Adam Feuerstein, Rachel Lerman, Marcus, and Tevi Troy on the Brandeis Center’s governance board. “The timing is auspicious,” Marcus observed. “The Brandeis Center has just formed its first three law school student chapters this Fall and is actively pursuing legal matters on several university campuses.”Details
In its 2013 publication, the Journal of Academic Freedom discussed the topic of academic boycotts, primarily focusing on the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). In her introduction, the Journal’s editor, Ashley Dawson, wrote that the “reviewers of the submitted articles. . . felt [the articles] could have the salutary effect of pushing the AAUP to discuss criteria for responding to violations of academic freedom. . .” on an international level, since the AAUP’s current policy opposes boycotts. However, what followed was a compilation of articles presenting one-sided narrow viewpoints on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and academic freedom.
In response to this biased presentation, several scholars came together to present a series of response papers. In “The Very Foundations of the University”, the Brandeis Center’s Kenneth L. Marcus and Sitara Kedilaya outline the alarming yet growing position of several academics: that the Jews are the most dangerous threat to the university. Too many academics embrace the narrative that Zionists threaten the university by suppressing speech contrary to their nefarious interests, especially their conspiracy to hide crimes inflicted by Israelis on innocent Palestinians. Such warnings resonate with age-old stereotypes of the Jews as fantastically powerful, diabolically conspiratorial, and cosmically dangerous. According to these anti-Israel scholars, the Zionist threat consists of orchestrated complaints by pro-Israel students who insist that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. To assert this position, these scholars too narrowly construe the true definition of anti-Semitism, and therefore must deny that anti-Semitism is the serious problem on many university campuses that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says it is. In other words, they must create a safe haven for those anti-Jewish bigots who cast their anti-Jewish rhetoric in terms of Israel.Details
The lid has finally blown off the simmering cauldron. For about a month, there have been reports of “knockout attacks,” mostly in Northeastern cities. These reports have not looked too closely at the ethnicity of the attackers while generally characterizing the attacks as “random” and lacking the specificity of “hate crime” targeting.
But now Brooklyn’s Crown Heights section—a combustible mosaic of African Americans, mostly Hasidic Jews, and Latinos mostly “people of color” of Caribbean descent—has produced stories about ten attacks that recall the paradigm of black-on-Jewish violence indelibly imprinted on the neighborhood’s history back in 1991 when rabbinic student Yankel Rosenbaum was fatally stabbed during what amounted to an anti-Semitic pogrom in the wake of the accidental death of an African American child run over by a Jewish limousine driver. Back then, Reverend Al Sharpton was stirring up the cauldron. Fortunately, today he is calling for an end to “knockout attacks.”
In terms of violent street crime involving Jewish victims and African American perpetrators—almost never the reverse—the history goes back a hundred years to when Eastern European Jewish immigrants first interacted with mostly southern black migrants to New York City. (Some would consider as a counter-example “subway vigilante” Bernhard Goetz who in 1984 shot four black teenagers he targeted as muggers.)Details
The Brandeis Center just announced two superstar additions to the faculty of our inaugural national law student leadership conference: international lawyers Richard Heideman and Abraham (Avi) Bell.
The LDB national law student conference, to be held in Los Angeles, California on January 2-3, 2014, marks the launch of the Brandeis Center’s law student chapter program. Just a few slots remain for law student leaders interested in attending the leadership conference and learning from Heideman, Bell, and other leading authorities.
Mr. Heideman, a world-famous legal practitioner and civic leader, has served as President of B’nai B’rith, Head of Delegation to the United Nations Durban Conference, and Chief Trial Counsel for Israeli victims of terrorism at hearings convened on behalf of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies by the Dutch Center for Information and Documentation on Israel coincident with the International Court of Justice Hearings at The Hague. He authored the brief filed with the International Court of Justice regarding legal issues arising from Israel’s construction of its terrorism prevention security fence.
Professor Bell, an internationally prominent international law scholar, is Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law. Professor Bell clerked for Justice Mishael Cheshin of the Supreme Court of Israel and for the High Court of Justice Department within the Israeli State Attorney’s office.
LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “We couldn’t be more delighted by the addition of Heideman and Bell to the fabulous agenda for our Los Angeles conference. Law student attendees will be very lucky to learn from these legal superstars.”Details
Our friends at the Summer Institute for Law and Policy at Hebrew University have issued this call or applications:
Hebrew University in Jerusalem Faculty of Law invites applications for its three week Summer Institute for Law and Policy, June 1-20, 2014.
ABOUT HU: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) is the first and leading university in Israel (ranked 59 in the world inhttp://www.shanghairanking.com). The Faculty of Law, which has long been considered the most prestigious law school in the country and a world-reputed academic institution, is inviting applications for the first of its Summer Institutes for Law and Policy. The Program, offered in English, is dedicated to International Law and Human Rights, and the Middle East Conflict, fields for which the HU Law Faculty has been known as an international hub of academic excellence.Details
LDB President, Kenneth L. Marcus will address campus anti-Semitism next Tuesday, December 3, 2013, during an invited lecture at Harvard Law School. Marcus’ Harvard Law School appearance is hosted by the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP). Entitled “Anti-Semitism, Higher Education, and the Law,” the event will be held in the…Details
All too often, professors proclaim their allegiance to the principles of academic freedom and then take action that violates those very principles. Sadly, this is often the case when it comes to academia’s attitude toward the State of Israel and its institutions of higher learning.
The American Studies Association (ASA), which claims to be “the nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history,” is currently debating a proposed resolution to endorse a boycott of Israeli universities. Should the organization’s National Council, which consists of about 20 elected representatives, approve the resolution, the ASA will become the second major American scholarly organization to come out in favor of such an academic boycott.Details
Earlier today, Arutz Sheva published the English-language version of Manfred Gerstenfeld’s interview with Kenneth L. Marcus, President of the Louis Brandeis Center. The German-language version of this interview appeared several months ago. Dr. Gerstenfeld has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America. He is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the LIfetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism. The Arutz Sheva version of the interview begins as follows:
“There is an essential paradox at the heart of the current resurgence of campus anti-Semitism. Universities should be centers of reason and tolerance, yet in the United States, they are the main source of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism.
“There are many ways to address this problem, but one of the most important approaches is based on civil rights law. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the primary legal tool available to protect Jewish and Israeli university students against discrimination. It is critically important because young people are more vulnerable and more impressionable than others. Title VI prohibits discrimination in federally funded programs on the basis of race, color or national origin.