Five Takeaways from the ASA Debacle


What should we learn from the American Studies Association’s lopsided December 15 vote to endorse the anti-Israel boycott?  Here are five takeaways:

  1. 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.


LDB President Publishes New Essay on Global Anti-Semitism

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.


Judd Serotta Elected to Brandeis Center Board

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.”


Brandeis Center Responds to the Journal of Academic Freedom

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. 

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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. 


“Knockout Attacks” Don’t Bode Well for African Americans, Jews, or Anybody Else

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.)


National Law Student Conference Gains Star Power

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.”


Call For Papers: Summer Institute for Law and Policy

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 in 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.


Academic Boycotts Are Anathema to Academic Freedom

UntitledAll 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.


US Legal Tools to Fight Anti-Jewish Discrimination

“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.


LDB Announces Inaugural National Law Student Conference


The Brandeis Center announced today that it will conduct an inaugural national law student leadership training conference in Los Angeles, California on January 2-3, 2014. This inaugural national law student conference coincides with the launch of the Center’s new Law Student Chapter Initiative.  The conference will draw law student leaders together to exchange lessons on advancing civil and human rights.  Key topics will include campus anti-Semitism, international law, human rights, and freedom of speech.  Attorney mentors will also discuss career paths for law students interested in advancing the civil and human rights and combating campus anti-Semitism.

This announcement follows shortly upon the establishment of the first Brandeis Center law school chapters.  This Fall, law student leaders have formed Brandeis Center chapters at UCLA School of Law  and the American University’s Washington College of Law.  Law students are also working to form Brandeis Center chapters at other law schools nationwide.


Addressing BDS at Fordham School of Law


On November 20, 2013, the Louis Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, presented a mini-conference on the subjects of BDS, Israel, and Academic Freedom. The Fordham Law School Jewish Students Association hosted the event. The event was also co-hosted by the Louis Brandeis Center, the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, and the Lawfare Project.

Fordham Law School hosted a BDS event in October which happened to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This conference provided a response to those proponents as to why the BDS movement is a sham.

The turnout to this event was fantastic. The event drew young, intelligent law school students intermingling with many professional members of the community. The panelists, Richard Cravatts, President, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, and Brooke Goldstein, President, Lawfare project, consisted of two profound experts in the fields of Academic Freedom, Human Rights, and Israel. The moderator, Stephen Greenwald, IMG_5548Immediate Past President, American Association of Jewish Lawyers & Jurists, and introductory speaker, Kenneth L. Marcus, Founder, Louis Brandeis Center, are also very respected and prestigious scholars in regard to these topics. Talk about an All-Star lineup. The audience had no idea what they were in store for.

The conference began with Mr. Marcus, who in addition to founding the Louis Brandeis Center, was the former head of the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights, giving introductory remarks. Mr. Marcus shed light on the issues this conference intended to focus on by providing an excellent analogy. Comparing disparate impact with anti-Israelism because hatred isn’t always advertised, but rather it is coded. A new phenomena Jews face today is accurately depicting what anti-Semitism is because it is a grey area. Of course every individual is entitled to criticize a country, but when it comes to dealing with Israel, the only Jewish state in the universe, criticism is a grey area. When an individual carries so much hostility towards a supporter of Israel, but in defending himself, denies being anti-Semitic, one must wonder if this hatred is coded.


Brandeis Center will present a conference at Fordham University Law School


The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law is excited to present a Fordham Law School mini-conference on “Israel, BDS, Academic Freedom and the Law,” next week.

 The event will take place next Wednesday, November 20, 2013 from 4:30 to 6:00 pm. It will be held in room 207 at Fordham University School of Law located at 140 W 62nd St, New York, NY 10023. The event will be hosted by the Fordham Law School Jewish Students Association. The conference is co-sponsored by LDB, the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, and The Lawfare Project.


UCLA Law School Chapter to Host LDB President for Anti-Semitism Talk


Very recently, the Brandeis Center introduced a new and exciting law school initiative in which law schools across the nations can create law school student chapters to fight campus anti-Semitism. We recently welcomed the University of California, Los Angeles law school chapter. Soon, the President and general counsel of LDB, Kenneth L. Marcus will address the chapter about the topics of “Law, Civil Rights and Campus Anti-Semitism. The event will take place on Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 at 12:15 pm. 


More on Counting Anti-Semites

A few months ago in this Blog (in “Europe’s Toxic Anti-Semitism Problem,” July 10), I used a somewhat misleading headline debate between Manfred Gerstenfeld, author of “Demonizing Israel and the Jews,” and Robert Wistrich, in my view the world’s leading authority on the history of anti-Semitism. According to the headlines, Gerstenfeld used polling data to estimate that “there are well over 150 million European anti-Semites,” while Wistrich countered that the existence of 150 million idiots does not necessarily equate with the existence of 150 million anti-Semites.

In fact, Gerstenfeld and Wistrich agree on the grim fundamentals with Daniel Goldhagen’s “The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism” (2013): that the fusion of old-style anti-Semitism(s) with more recent Israel hatred has created “a new anti-Semitism” lethally potent in Europe as well as the Arab and Muslim world. They would probably also agree that the U.S. is an outlier, a point dramatized by a new ADL poll showing a decline of “hard core” American anti-Semites to 12 percent today, compared to 15 percent in 2011. Actually, the ADL results should be read with care. Today’s decline is really just a return to the 2009 poll results that only partly reflected the upward blip in anti-Jewish conspiracy theories stimulated by the global financial crisis.


Anti-Semitism Surges in Europe

FRA Report on Discrimination and Hate Online Against JewsEarlier today, as we begin the weekend marking the seventieth anniversary of Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938), the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency issued a stunning report detailing the extent of anti-Semitism in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.  This is the best data that we have seen on contemporary anti-Semitism in Europe.  And the worst news.

The European Union’s headline news are sobering.  Two thirds of European Jews believe anti-Semitism to be a major problem in their respective countries, and 76% say the situation has deteriorated in the last five years.  One in five European Jews has been subjected to an anti-Semitic physical attack, harassment, or verbal insult over the prior year.

While we have long known that European Jews faced a bleak situation, the conditions turn out to be worse than we had thought.  It turns out that European agencies have not previously had reliable figures on anti-Jewish incidents for a simple reason.  A whopping three quarters of European Jewish victims of anti-Semitic harassment did not report the most serious incident to the police or any other organization.  This is also true of two thirds of those who faced anti-Semitic violence or threats of violence.

Many European Jews are now understandably uneasy.  One sexagenarian Hungarian told the agency that, “Unfortunately, the fight against anti-Semitism is more and more hopeless.”  An English woman in her later fifties told the agency, “I feel worried about anti-Semitism now in a way that I did not 30 years ago. Something that should have disappeared from social acceptability is instead becoming stronger.”


Brandeis Center Launches Second Law School Chapter at American University


          Yesterday afternoon the Brandeis Center has launched their first Law School Chapter in the East Coast, at American University’s Washington College of Law, located in Washington D.C. The law school chapter initiative is the most recent developed program, to involve future leaders who are passionate about justice in the Brandeis Center’s campaign against campus anti- Semitism.

          LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “This is absolutely thrilling news for the Brandeis Center, to know we have passionate and diligent law students who share our goals and want to take an extra step by learning and educating themselves about legal actions that they can take when they see injustice. These students are the future leaders of America, so their immense interest in our organization’s work truly means a lot.”

           The launch of the Washington Law College chapter follows quickly upon the launch of LDB’s first chapter at the UCLA law school. The launch started off with LDB’s newly featured video which explains the main goals for the creation of the law chapters and why law students across the U.S. should be part of it. Then, LDB’s staff attorney Danit Sibovits, answered multiple questions which sparked from the attentive student body. The students were interested in knowing how they can be more aware of campus anti-Semitism.  They learned that through the chapters, the Brandeis Center will help students host speaker events, lead various discussions, and conduct advocacy-orientated sessions that focus on Jewish civil rights and anti-Semitism on campus. So the law chapter members will actively use the skills they are learning to promote awareness and justice when they see any forms of campus anti-Semitism.


Brandeis Center Announces Formation of Law Student Chapters

            At the Brandeis Center we are thrilled to be launching an important, brand new initiative: law student chapters at select law schools throughout the United States. The new chapters will advance the organization’s mandate to combat campus anti-Semitism through legal means. This news is absolutely exhilarating because there are law students throughout the United States who wants to help with us with our mission to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all.

             LDB President, Kenneth L. Marcus, points out in our newly produced short film, The Louis D. Brandeis Center: For Human Rights Under Law, that the crucial aspects of the law chapter initiative is that it is a “vehicle for law students to get together to see what’s going on their campus and other campuses throughout their region, to get the training they need to address it, to educate undergraduates, and to take a leading role on their campus and their part of the country, to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all.” Everybody that is concerned about justice should be a part of these chapters, which are not just for Jewish students. The new film, by the way, is discussed by Eesha Bhave elsewhere at this blog.


Brandeis Center’s Newest Short Video


The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law is excited to announce the creation of a new short film called The Louis D. Brandeis Center: For Human Rights Under Law. Produced and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Gloria Greenfield, and edited by two-time Emmy Award winner Raoul Rosenberg, the film highlights the mission of the Louis D. Brandeis Center. The Louis D. Brandeis Center: For Human Rights Under Law starts out with an introduction by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, author of Academics against Israel and the Jews, who discusses how the anti-Semitic discourse is still alive in America. He explains that this is a serious problem disguised as ‘hotbeds’ of anti-Israeli sentiments. This is echoed by Dr. Walter Reich, a professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior at the George Washington University.


In this film, Kenneth L. Marcus , president and general counsel of the Brandeis Center, discusses the start of the Brandeis Center. In the early 2000’s, he saw a spike in anti-Semitism—the LDB Center was a response to this, so that the anti-Semitism sentiment of the early 21st century would be seen as an anomaly rather than as a trend. Events and anti- Israeli protests are highlighted at various universities, including UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and UC Santa Barbara. For two out of these three schools, alumni talk about the ways in which they experienced anti-Semitism on campus—ranging from verbal to physical harassment.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center: For Human Rights Under Law also highlights some of the perspectives of Alyza D. Lewin, president of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, who explain the importance of allowing students to fight against the anti- Semitic statements. She explains that there is a void in the education for teaching students about their rights, which is being addressed by the Brandeis Center. She further explains that it is important for students to identify discrimination and go to the courts as necessary, because court rulings are often the only things that oppressors willing to listen to. Eugene Kontorovich, professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law echoes this by showing that the law is crucial in the fight for civil rights for many groups, whether that includes Jewish rights or the rights of any other minority group. The efforts are endorsed by Brooke Goldstein, director of the Lawfare project and L. Rachel Lerman, a partner at Akin Group.