Welcome Guest Blogger Ruth Wisse

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law is pleased to announce that Dr. Ruth R. Wisse, Professor of Yiddish and Comparative Literature at Harvard University, will be joining the Brandeis Center Blog team as a guest blogger. Dr. Wisse, an experienced editor, essayist, and columnist brings to the Brandeis Blog a long…


Israel Lives in a Dangerous Neighborhood, Struggles Against Terrorism and is Engaged in a Battle for Justice at the United Nations

Over the past sixty five years, Israel has faced and continues to face momentous challenges including wars, skirmishes, rocket attacks, terrorist murderous suicide bombings and assaults on her citizens, challenges to her legal status, boycotts, threats, accusations and demonization.

In the summer of 2000, Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization met at Camp David with President Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The Prime Minister offered to the Palestinians an agreement that included the establishment of the Palestinian state based on territorial borders that essentially constituted approximately 96% of the land located west of the Jordan River, known as the West Bank and included the Gaza strip on the Mediterranean.

Much to the chagrin of President Clinton and disappointment of PM Barak, Chairman Arafat did not accept the proposal and left the President and the Prime Minister essentially standing alone at Camp David.

Shortly thereafter, in late September 2000, the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada commenced, bringing with it murderous suicide bombings and other attacks inside Israel, targeting busses, shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, University cafeterias and attacking people in their homes and in the streets.

In response, in order to protect her people, the Israeli government commenced construction of a terrorism prevention security fence, parts of which include concrete barriers akin to what we know as Jersey walls on our expressways, although portions are quite high and obtrusive in order to provide safety to vehicles and persons below.

This terrorism prevention security fence is called by some a “wall”; and was the centerpiece of a request of the UN General Assembly referring to the International Court of Justice a legal question worded as follows:

What are the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, as described in the report of the Secretary-General, considering the rules and principles of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions?


Israeli student wins case against university

Kudos to United Kingdom Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) for their recent victory against anti-Israel bias at Warwick University.  In an interesting new case, UKLFI has achieved a measure of justice for an Israeli student who allegedly faced biased instruction at the English university.  UKLFI’s Jonathan Turner reports on the win:

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), which rules on complaints against British universities, has recommended that Warwick University make a full apology to Israeli student Smadar Bakovic, and pay her £1,000 in compensation.

Ms Bakovic studied for an MA at Warwick, writing her dissertation on the subject of the feelings of identity of Israeli Arabs. The University allocated as supervisor Dr Nicola Pratt, a proponent of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Ms Bakovic asked for a different supervisor at the outset but the University refused. Dr Pratt and another member of the department gave a mediocre mark, bringing Ms Bakovic’s average down below the level required for a distinction. They criticised a footnote, in which she referred to the fact that minorities in Arab countries do not have equal citizenship rights, as evidence of her “tendency … to adopt Israeli/Zionist narratives as though they were uncontested facts.”

Mr. Turner reports that Ms. Bakovic first appealed to the University’s complaints committee, which ruled in part in favor of Ms. Bakovic, permitting her to revise her dissertation, ordering the department to remark it, and leading to a 9% improvement in her mark.


Islamic Republic of Iran: The World’s Worst Sponsor of Terror Must Be Stopped

The Islamic Republic of Iran, a designated State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1984, remains the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism” according to the U.S. Department of State’s most recent Country Reports on Terrorism. Yet the world continues to turn a blind eye to Iran’s sponsorship of terror, ignoring the suffering of terror victims and the instability sown by terrorist groups acting at the behest of the Islamic Republic of Iran and continuing both threats and attacks throughout the world .

While the United States, Europe and the United Nations have imposed sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world has not stopped Iran’s continued development of its nuclear enrichment program. Sanctions, strong and clear, approved by the United States Congress and the White House, have not done the job. During his tenure as Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flaunted the international community’s repeated deadlines and there is no indication that Iran’s new President or its Ayatollah leadership will stop their drive to achieve nuclear capability. How can the world accept the prospect of a nuclear Iran, with its inherent real-time dangers, including its threats against Israel and the United States, particularly when viewed through the lens of Iran’s continued sponsorship of terrorist attacks? Indeed, separate from and in addition to the justified and crucially important ongoing focus on Iran’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threat, the time is ripe for the US and the world to take concerted steps to stop Iranian-sponsored terrorism.



The Syrian Arab Republic has been listed on the US Department of State List of State Sponsors of Terror since 1979 and continues today as one of the world’s worst sponsors of terror, funding and providing safe haven for Hezbollah, HAMAS and other terrorist organizations.

Support takes the form of money, passage through and across roads and airports, safe houses and providing safe haven for the training of terrorist organizations and their operatives.

Syria’s relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran has had Syria serving as a conduit for Iranian terrorist sponsorship, as well as the feeding of materials, men, munitions, training and activities in both Syria and Lebanon. Particular focus has been in Lebanon’s Bakaa valley where Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations have trained and operated for decades. Syria hosted the infamous Abu Nidal and his terrorist organization in Damascus and its military-style training camps which operated under Syria’s intelligence and from which the Abu Nidal Organization launched attacks on sites in Europe. Included in these terror assaults were the Rome and Vienna Airport Attacks in 1985 and the EgyptAir Flight 648 Hijacking, also in 1985.


Brandeis Center Urges OCR to Protect Students from Religious Harassment & Bullying

Last night, the Louis D. Brandeis Center urged the Obama administration to use the Department of Education’s mandatory data-gathering program to protect religious minorities, including Jewish, Muslim and Sikh children, from harassment and bullying – just as it does for racial and ethnic minorities.  The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) had previously floated a proposal to do just that, following the Brandeis Center’s prior recommendations. But the Center also argues that more must be done to combat harassment and bullying than what OCR now proposes.

“It is imperative that OCR expand this program to include religious harassment,” the Brandeis Center told the Department in its formal comments last night.  “Indeed, it is unjustifiable that the federal government fails to collect this data when it collects data regarding other, similar forms of discrimination targeted at similar groups.”  The Center insisted however that OCR must do more than just collect data; it must also combat this harassment through its enforcement program, just as it does with other forms of discrimination.

The Education Department’s Mandatory Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) has been collecting school and district level data for over forty years and is now the biggest collection of its kind.  This data informs OCR enforcement activity as well as policy guidance for public schools.  Since 2009, OCR has collected data at the school level through the CRDC regarding harassment on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and disability.   The Brandeis Center argued that OCR must expand this program to include religious harassment and bullying.  Indeed, the Center argued that it is unjustifiable that OCR “fails to collect this data when it collects data regarding other, similar forms of discrimination targeted at similar groups.”

Religious harassment and bullying are a serious problem in the public schools, as the Center has repeatedly informed the federal government, and it is hard to address it without the kinds of data that are routinely gathered to address other forms of discrimination.  The Center told that Obama administration that it “is about time that the U.S. Department of Education takes notice of this problem.”  In its 2011 annual enforcement report, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights announced that, “Bullying based on students‘ religion is … a problem in America‘s schools.” The Commission documented numerous recent examples in which Muslim, Sikh and Jewish students were harassed and bullied because of their religion.  The Commission’s report was based in part on expert testimony  that Brandeis Center President Kenneth L. Marcus provided at the Commission’s public hearing.


Standing up for Victims of Terror

The use of litigation in the United States Federal Court system is an essential tool in standing up for victims of terror.  While governments negotiate, victims can use the federal court system to not only seek monetary damages but also to give victims and their families voice against state sponsors of terrorism.

Victims have been afforded this opportunity as a result of legislation approved by the United States Congress which provides an avenue for the pursuit of justice through the United States court system.

Through an exception in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), immunity from prosecution is lifted against those states which have been declared State Sponsors of Terrorism by the United States Department of State. By lifting this immunity, victims and their family members (mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouse and children) may now bring these terrorist-sponsoring nations into Federal Court and require them to answer for their actions in supporting terrorism and terrorist attacks.


Richard D. Heideman to Appear on the Brandeis Center Blog

We’re pleased to announce that Washington, D.C., lawyer Richard D. Heideman, a world-famous international lawyer, will appear as a guest on the Brandeis Center Blog in the coming week.

Heideman, the Honorary President of B’nai B’rith International,  is known as a tireless advocate for victims of terrorism around the world whose human and individual rights have been violated, as well as a strong supporter of the State of Israel.

Founder of the law firm of Heideman Nudelman & Kalik PC, Heideman serves as lead trial counsel on behalf of American victims of terrorism in claims brought against Libya, Syria, Iran and other organizations and financial institutions accused of providing material support for terrorism. In the past few years, his firm’s clients have been awarded Judgments against the Islamic Republic of Iran in the amounts of $1.27 billion and $813 million; and against Syria in the amounts of $601 million, $51 million and most recently a landmark Judgment of $3.58 billion.


Alice Walker Got What She Deserves

Bravo to the University of Michigan for disinviting Alice Walker – and shame on Walker for reportedly spreading false rumors about Michigan’s reasons for doing so.  The University of Michigan recently withdrew a speaking invitation to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple, who is now known not only for her literary work but also for her virulent anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism.  Walker says that the university was pressured to do so, but the university denies it.

Walker and her agent are spreading an apparently false rumor, which some news outlets continue to disseminate, to the effect that Michigan had disinvited her because of pressure from rich donors.  Calling this a “censorship by purse strings,” Walker and her agent insinuate that her disinvitation was brought on by supposedly inappropriate influence by wealthy Jews.  This charge seems to have traction with some media and internet sources, because it resonates with long-held beliefs about Jewish wealth, influence, and control of major instituitons.  


Don’t Look at the Sphinx—or the Muslim Brotherhood—Through Rose-Colored Glasses

While we all recoil from the death toll in innocent lives in Egypt—including unreported numbers of Coptic Christians killed while defending their spiritual patrimony from arsonists who burned down 52 churches in one day—there are some hard facts that need to be addressed and questions that need to be answered by those who seem to think that Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood regime should never have been overthrown or should now be reinstalled:

• The Muslim Brotherhood has a long history, dating back to 1928 when it was partly modeled on Mussolini’s Squadristi. It was among Hitler’s Muslim’s sympathizers and agents during World War II. It sent true believers to fight against Palestinian Jews even before the outbreak of the 1948 War for Independence. The destruction of Israel by martyrdom operations—which the Morsi regime, it now appears, abetted in the Sinai—has been and remains its unchanging goal. It was planning a violent coup to seize power in Egypt in 1952 that might have succeeded had it not been preempted by Colonel Nasser’s putsch. It had nothing but contempt for democracy until shortly before Morsi was elected, when it discovered that talk of democracy could cover its pursuit of Islamic dictatorship. And it showed nothing but contempt for democracy again during Morsi’s ruthless, incompetent reign (a combination most Egyptians could not tolerate).


Brandeis Center Congratulates Catherine Lhamon on Confirmation as OCR Chief

Today, the Brandeis Center congratulated Catherine Lhamon on being confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Senate confirmed Ms. Lhamon after President Obama nominated her earlier this year.

Ms. Lhamon has a very extensive background in civil rights. Most recently, she served as the Director of Impact Litigation at Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono law firm. Prior to that, Ms. Lhamon was at the ACLU of Southern California, where she practiced for a decade, eventually leaving as Assistant Legal Director. In an announcement, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Seth Galanter wrote “in those positions she has represented a broad cross section of Americans to protect fundamental rights on issues as varied as education reform, fair housing, and economic justice.” Lhamon has also taught at the Georgetown Law Center, specializing in Appellate Litigation, after having clerked for The Honorable William A. Norris of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.


Brandeis Center Appoints Todd Braunstein to Legal Advisory Board


Today, the Brandeis Center announced the appointment of Todd F. Braunstein to the Brandeis Center’s Legal Advisory Board. As a member of the board, Braunstein will advise the Center regarding legal aspects of the Center’s fight against campus anti-Semitism.

A former federal prosecutor, Braunstein has years of experience in all phases of the investigative process, on both the government and the defense side. Additionally, after graduating with honors from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Braunstein went on to serve as a White House and Senate advisor, giving him invaluable experience in and knowledge of the legal policy arena. Currently, Braunstein serves as a counsel in the Investigations & Criminal Litigation practice group at the law firm WilmerHale, LLP.


Germany Should Act Against Those Who Invoke “Free Speech” to Destroy Its Still-Fragile Democracy

The recent “New York Times’” headline—“Wiesenthal Center Calls for Closing of German Magazine It Says Glorifies Nazism”—reflects what may an ominous divergence in German and American attitudes toward Nazism.

As recently as the 1960’s when “Hogan’s Heroes” was a hit television sitcom, “comic Nazis”—inept and even innocuous—were in vogue. The reason may have been that American (and English) audiences were still not ready for portrayals of unvarnished World War II horrors. It’s probably no coincidence that “comic Nazis” disappeared from popular culture in tandem with the rise of realistic discourse about and dramatization of the Holocaust, really beginning with 1977’s television series of that name that aired the same year the Simon Wiesenthal Center was founded.

The situation is very different is modern, reunified Germany where portrayals of “normal”—indeed, “normative” Nazis—even bathed in a patriotic, heroic glow have grown rather than declined over the past two decades.

At the same time German schools were integrating realistic treatments of Nazi enormities in their curricula, German culture at the elite level was hosting a school of historical Revisionists with a very different agenda. This was so the so-called “Historikerstreit” (historians’ quarrel”) in which historians like Ernst Nolte changed positions to argue that Nazism should be viewed, not so much as an aberration but as an integral part of the history of German nationalism, and the Hitler’s labor and death camps were essentially a wartime adaptation of the harshness of Stalin’s gulags.


Joel Siegal Explains Anti-Bullying Litigation

LDB Legal Advisor and San Francisco civil rights litigator Joel Siegal has posted an informative article on his blog which discusses the use of courts to eliminate bullying in the school.  Siegal is counsel to Jessica Felber in her campus anti-Semitism case against the University of California at Berkeley.  With attorney Neal Sher, he filed a…


“Zionist Entity” Enters the Blogosphere

A smart new blog on Israel, anti-Semitism and the Middle East, provocatively entitled the “Zionist Entity,” has just quietly been launched.  Although it has not yet announced itself in any formal way, its first entries are already garnering considerable buzz internationally for its fresh, clever, irreverent style and wit.  We are pleased to see that…


Brandeis Center Call for Volunteer Work

The Brandeis Center is actively seeking a volunteer to create, and on occasion update, an informative Wikipedia article about the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. The article, of course, must be written in accordance with Wikipedia’s rules, which require complete independence and neutrality. As such, the Brandeis Center feels it best…


Who’s Right About the European Extreme Right?

Historian James Mayfield offers a provocative, contrarian view of Europe’s extreme Right in “Explaining the Rapid Rise of the Xenophobic Right in Contemporary Europe” in the journal, “GeoCurrents” (July 22).

It’s not that he likes the Right. It’s that he questions the popular view that right-wing European extremism is a uniform, continent-wide phenomenon that can be explained by a simple set of electoral, ideological, historical, or “ethnic” generalizations. Where others see right-wing extremism growing out of a European history of fascism, authoritarianism, racism, anti-Semitism, and hyper-nationalism, Mayfied sees the rightist voters as a diverse lot including “traditionalists, pro-Europeanists, Euroskeptics, democrats, nationalists, racialists, neo-Nazis, and even Greens.”


SPME Fellowships Available

Our friends at Scholars for Peace in the Middle East are announcing fellowships to enable junior scholars to deliver papers at academic conferences.  In addition to providing useful information on Israel and the Middle East, SPME has also historically been interested in campus anti-Semitism and academic freedom.  These issues are, of course, central to our concerns at the Louis D. Brandeis Center as well.  Details follow the jump.


IAJLJ Seeks Lawyer Signatures for European Union Petition

The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists is circulating this lawyers’ letter, written by Ambassador Alan Baker, which calls upon the European Union to revoke its recent directive against Israeli settlements. The lawyers’ letter will be sent to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton. If you are an attorney and would like to sign, the organizers request that you reply to office@haforum.org.il as soon as possible.


[Letter begins below]

H.E. Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs


Re: EU directive regarding Israeli settlements

We, the undersigned, attorneys from across the world who are involved in international law issues as well as being closely concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, respectfully call upon you and the EU to revoke the abovementioned directive which we feel is based on legally flawed and incorrect assumptions regarding both the legality of Israel’s settlements and the status of the pre-1967 Armistice lines as Israel’s border.