Seminar: The UCU, Antisemitism and the Boycott Campaigns Against Israel

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The Louis D. Brandeis Center was recently made aware of an upcoming conference which readers may find interesting. One of the main topics of discussion will be the recent Fraser v. UCU court case, a very important case which several contributors to the Brandeis Center’s blog have analyzed throughout the past few weeks.

Thu 11 Jul 2013

The University and College Union (UCU) has passed anti-Zionist resolutions since 2005 and Jewish members have complained about antisemitic tendencies within the union. In 2012 Ronnie Fraser brought a case against the UCU complaining of institutional antisemitism in violation of the Equality Act. However, the employment tribunal handling the case ruled that his complaints of harassment were unfounded. Despite the evidence that was brought forward the judges did not recognise antisemitism in the union and instead accused Fraser of disregarding pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression by trying to silence his political opponents. This workshop seeks to analyse this case as well as antisemitism in unions and on campus, including anti-Israeli boycott campaigns. It explores why there is a reluctance to recognise anti-Zionist forms of antisemitism in the frame of anti-racism and anti-discrimination.


Kenneth L. Marcus on Campus Anti-Semitism

LDB President Kenneth Marcus recently went on The Edwin Black Show to discuss the anti-Israeli de-legitimization, or BDS (boycott, divest, and sanction) movement. Mr. Marcus, in particular, was able to address what is happening on college campuses in regards to this BDS movement. According to Mr. Marcus, this problem is something repeatedly presenting itself on America’s college campuses all around the country.

What at first may begin as a political sentiment oftentimes, stated Mr. Marcus, turns virulent so to be not just aimed at Israel and Israelis, but also in a sense to Jewish Americans as well. The political movement against Israel transforms into something more foreboding, and is often verbalized in an anti-Semitic fashion, making use of traditional anti-Semitic motifs.

The problem is exacerbated because of the disproportionate influence on college campuses of individuals with extreme positions, especially if they are on the far left. It is not the case, Mr. Marcus states, that most professors and students are anti-Semitic. Rather, it’s a relatively small number of anti-Semitic people in a given situation that get much more attention on a college campus than they would in any other faction of American life. Compounding that, anti-Israeli professors are the ones more likely to be teaching Middle East studies and the Humanities. Additionally, they are the ones who are more likely to say it’s okay to introduce your values into the classroom as well as to be politically active themselves. It follows, then, that anti-Israeli professors are engaged in shifting the politics in a way that supports their movement. All of these factors, says Mr. Marcus, lead to greater anti-Israel, and sometimes anti-Semitic, influence on college campuses.


Speech from Tammi Rossman-Benjamin will Highlight Campus Anti-Semitism

On June 30th, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin will deliver a talk at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, California. Entitled “Campus and the New Anti-Semitism”, the talk will focus on “the hostile, anti-Israel climate which university students across the country are facing and the challenges of addressing campus anti-Semitism.” Rossman-Benjamin, a Brandeis Center…


“Boycotts- Past and Present” London Conference

Wednesday, June 19, marks the beginning of a global conference at the International Consortium for Research on Anti-Semitism and Racism, hosted by the Pears Institute for the study of Anti-Semitism at Birkbeck College, University of London. The Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism was initiated in November of 2010 under the guiding principle that…


Israel Bashing: Gore Vidal’s Legacy Lives On

The BDS (Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions) Movement’s current, partly successful efforts in the UK, the U.S., and Canada to coopt LGBT activists to undermine tolerant Israel’s right to exist while casting a blind eye to the oppression of gays in the Arab and Muslim world does not come out of thin air. Gore Vidal, who died almost a year ago, laid the groundwork for it.

First, to give Vidal his due as a controversialist. Though denying that “there is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person,” Vidal is likely to remembered as a trenchant critic of anti-gay prejudice despite his rejecting the term “gay.”

Unfortunately, Vidal coupled his advocacy of gay rights with a hatred of Judaism and the Jewish state.

Although unwilling fully to admit the anti-Semitic implications of his views, Vidal was more honest about what he believed—and whom he hated—than his eulogists who protested too much that Vidal was not an anti-Semite.

There can be few things more painful than being autopsied while still alive. This was the fate of Vidal, whose relationship with Jews and Judaism was dissected over two decades before his death by Edward Alexander whom I update.


Campus Anti-Semitism Fact Sheet Invaluable to Jewish Students

The Brandeis Center has just released an important new resource for Jewish American college students, The Louis D. Brandeis Center’s Short Guide to the Law Against Campus Anti-Semitism. The Short Guide is a Fact Sheet on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Over 40% of Jewish American college students have admitted to experiencing or being aware of anti-Semitism on their campus, but not many know that they do not just have to stand idly by as they are discriminated against. Crafted by Brandeis Center staff attorney Danit Sibovits, the Fact Sheet shines a light on underused processes available to victims of anti-Semitic biases and sentiments, while helping identify what actually constitutes such an incident.


The Sad Reality of Anti-Sikh Discrimination in a Post-9/11 World


The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law has recently commended an FBI Advisory Policy Board recommendation that the agency track hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus, and Arab Americans – just as the Brandeis Center had previously urged in testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.  The Brandeis Center, which is primarily focused on combating campus anti-Semitism has urged these steps to ensure proper protection for these communities, which have been increasingly vulnerable following the events of 9/11. According to LBD President Kenneth Marcus,

“federal post-9/11 outreach, policy and enforcement should always include Sikhs to the same extent as other groups. Moreover, and equally importantly, federal statistics programs should include Sikhs (and also Arabs) as a separate category, in order to track and better understand the volume of these incidents.”


Top Ten Surprises About Campus Anti-Semitism

Some people might react with skepticism when told that when examining college campuses in the United States, there has been a noticeable resurgence of anti-Semitic incidents, but the trend exists regardless. The Brandeis Center has compiled this list of facts that may surprise some about campus anti-Semitism.

1. High Volume of Incidents in the Last Decade-

Anti-Semitism might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about bias incidents on college campuses, but in fact, according to Aryeh Weinberg’s findings, over 40% of Jewish students report experiencing or being aware of anti-Semitism on their college campus. During a study on anti-Semitism on college campuses, the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise discovered an even higher amount, that “78% of Jewish students report witnessing or personally experiencing anti-Semitism.” The truly frightening outcome of this rise of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism is the impact in the classroom, stemming from professors. As Weinberg puts it, “the academic experience of students is being impacted by anti-Israel activism on campus.”


The Truth About FDR and the Jews

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Seventy years ago last week, President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill sat down for lunch at the White House. As they ate, they reviewed the war effort and exchanged thoughts on their plans for the postwar era. At one point the conversation touched upon the nettlesome question of the Jews. 

The mass murder of Europe’s Jews was underway–the Allies had already publicly confirmed that–and refugee advocates were pressing for the Allies to do something about it. Meanwhile, the British had shut off Jewish immigration to Palestine, and Zionist groups were becoming increasingly vocal in their protests. What should be done with the homeless Jewish survivors after the war? What would be the future status of Palestine? FDR, it turned out, had a specific plan for what he called “the best way to settle the Jewish question.” 

Vice President Henry Wallace, who recorded the conversation in his diary, said Roosevelt spoke approvingly of a plan (recommended by geographer and Johns Hopkins University president Isaiah Bowman) “to spread the Jews thin all over the world.” The Wallace diary entry adds: “The president said he had tried this out in [Meriwether] County, Georgia [where Roosevelt lived in the 1920s] and at Hyde Park on the basis of adding four or five Jewish families at each place. He claimed that the local population would have no objection if there were no more than that.”

President Roosevelt’s “best way” remark was condescending and distasteful at best.  And if anyone else had used such language, it probably would be widely regarded as crossing the line into antisemitism. But more than that, FDR’s support for “spreading the Jews thin”  may hold the key to understanding, a subject that has been at the center of controversy for decades: the American government’s tepid response to the Holocaust.

Here’s the paradox. The U.S. immigration system severely limited the number of German Jews admitted during the Nazi years to about 26,000 annually–but even that quota was less than 25% filled during most of the Hitler era, because the Roosevelt administration piled on so many extra requirements for would-be immigrants. For example, as of 1941, merely having a close relative in Europe was enough disqualify an applicant–because of the Roosevelt administration’s absurd belief that the immigrant would become a spy for Hitler so that his relative in Europe would not be harmed by the Nazis. 


Franklin Roosevelt, Founder of Israel ?

FDR and Ibn Saud

Move over, Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion, and Menachem Begin: it turns out that the man most responsible for the founding of Israel was, in fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt. This astonishing claim is being circulated by FDR partisans in a new effort to rescue their hero’s reputation in the Jewish world.

The depiction of Roosevelt as a Zionist hero, first presented in the 2006 book Saving the Jews, by divorce lawyer Robert Rosen, has recently been resurrected by Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman in their new book, FDR and the Jews. Both works emphasize the president’s rhetoric rather than his policies. Boilerplate pro-Zionist messages sent by Roosevelt to Jewish organizational events serve their narratives better then his actual policies regarding Palestine and Zionism.

The case made by Breitman and Lichtman also relies heavily on bit of curious reasoning: since a German conquest of Palestine would have resulted in the destruction of the Jewish community there, and since U.S. military equipment played a significant role in the Allied defeat of the Nazis in North Africa, thus stopping the Germans from reaching Palestine, therefore FDR’s approval of the transfer of that equipment means that if not for Roosevelt, there would have been “no Jewish state, no Israel,” as they put it.

At about the same time the Breitman-Lichtman book came out earlier this year, I happened to be doing some research at the Central Zionist Archives, in Jerusalem. There I came across new documents that illustrate the contrast between FDR’s public expressions of sympathy for Zionism and his behind-the-scenes coldness on the subject.


Welcome Rafael Medoff

The Brandeis Center Blog is pleased to welcome Dr. Rafael Medoff as our next guest blogger.  Dr. Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which focuses on America’s response to the Holocaust.  A prolific author, Medoff has written numerous books  and articles. His most recent book is FDR and…


Sweden’s Reckoning

The UK and U.S. Embassy have cautioned their nationals about visiting Stockholm and environs because of a of week of riots in ostensibly enlightened Sweden by predominantly Muslim immigrants and their children, attributed alternatively to “police brutality” or bad social conditions. In 2010, the Simon Wiesenthal Center issued its own “travel advisory” cautioning Jewish travelers…


Should a Pro-Israel Student Organization Be Required to Admit People Who Oppose the Existence of the State of Israel? According to a Troubling Campus Trend, They Should

For the final post of my oddly 21-day “week” of guest posting for the Brandeis Center blog, I want to focus on a troubling trend on college campuses which prevents belief-based organizations from excluding people hostile to their core beliefs. I talk about this trend in detail and at length in my book, and for now, the threat mostly concerns evangelical Christian groups on college campuses. For my nearly 12 year career, I have watched universities come up with different rationales for kicking evangelical Christian students off campus, primarily because of evangelicals views on sexual morality and topics like gay rights and marriage equality. I admit to have been surprised by how common this was on campus before I started at FIRE in 2001, but fighting these attempts on campus has become a regular part of my job. You can see a long list of creative approaches to punish religious groups on the religious liberty section of FIRE’s website.


Brandeis Center Resolves Concerns With UC Davis

The Brandeis Center is delighted to announce that it has successfully resolved campus anti-Semitism concerns that it had raised with the University of California at Davis.  In a press release to be issued later this morning, the Center will laud UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi for her leadership in responding to a November 2012 incident on…


Brandeis Center Welcomes First Intern Class

Today, the Brandeis Center announced its first intern class as it continues the ongoing expansion of its campaign against campus anti-Semitism. LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus welcomed the Brandeis Center’s first Civil Rights Law Clerk Nicole Galletta and its first Development Intern, Christina Gathman. A second Development Intern, Andrew Loeb, will join the Center next week. Galletta and…


Brandeis Center and SPME Defend Tammi Rossman-Benjamin Against Attacks

The Brandeis Center and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) have just issued the following statement:

WASHINGTON, DC — The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East today issued a Joint Statement in defense of University of California at Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin. Rossman-Benjamin, an activist known for her opposition to campus anti-Semitism, has recently been the target of a public campaign of character assassination because of her advocacy for the civil rights of Jewish college students. LDB and SPME joined together today to defend Rossman-Benjamin against these smears and to denounce efforts to suppress advocacy for the civil rights of university students.

Rossman-Benjamin is a co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that combats anti-Semitism on American college and university campuses. She is also a member of the Brandeis Center’s Academic Advisory Board and a former member of SPME’s Board of Directors. Rossman-Benjamin has famously accused her university, UC Santa Cruz, of harboring a hostile environment for Jewish students. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has opened an investigation into Rossman-Benjamin’s complaint, which is now pending.

On June 20, 2012, Ms. Rossman-Benjamin delivered a speech at the Ahavath Torah Congregation in Stoughton, Massachusetts. During the course of that speech, Ms. Rossman-Benjamin described anti-Semitic incidents at the University of California. Ms. Rossman-Benjamin attributed some responsibility for contemporary campus anti-Semitism to two organizations, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association. Rossman-Benjamin also stated that some members of these organizations have had connections with terrorist organizations. In response to that synagogue presentation, student activists at the University of California have launched a campaign to condemn Rossman-Benjamin. As a result of this campaign, in March 2013, Associated Students at the University of California (ASUC) at Berkeley adopted a resolution that called on outgoing UC President Mark Yudof to condemn Rossman-Benjamin’s remarks.

LDB and SPME jointly announced: “We find the accusations against Rossman-Benjamin to be false, scurrilous, and unjustifiable. Over the years, Rossman-Benjamin has tirelessly campaigned against anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli harassment. Perversely, Rossman-Benjamin is now being branded a purveyor of hate speech and Islamophobia precisely because she attempted to expose hate speech which her accusers would prefer to shield from scrutiny.”

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “I have worked with Tammi Rossman-Benjamin over the years, and I consider her to be a bold and courageous fighter for the civil rights of Jewish college students. It is reprehensible that some people are targeting her for abuse because of her fight against campus anti-Semitism.”


Turkey’s “Darwinian” Islamization: Implications for Israelis and Jews

As Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan returns home from his visit to his biggest western fan, President Barack Obama, only to prepare for a controversial pilgrimage to Hamas-controlled Gaza, Turkey’s educational system is being mocked internationally. A spoof in “The Scientific American” focuses on revelations that Istanbul textbooks have pictured Charles Darwin as “a hook-nosed Jew” who consorted with monkeys. Writer Steve Mirsky offers the counter-revelation that Darwin’s “On the Origins of Species” (1859) was really first titled: “L’Chaim: The Whole Megillah!”

Perhaps Turkey’s increasingly “religious” public schools should have taught instead that Darwin was “the first Islamist.” Certainly Prime Minister’s Erdoğan’s stealth evolutionary blueprint for transforming Turkey from a secular republic into a Muslim state suggests that—in Turkey at least—Islamism may be the “survival of the fittest.” For a detailed analysis see my report, “From Ally to Nemesis: How Erdoğan’s Islamists Hijacked Atatürk’s Nation and Put It on A Collision Course with Israel and the U.S.” (Simon Wiesenthal Center, October, 2011).

In North America and Western Europe, the public knows little about what’s happening in Turkey except it’s avoided the worst of post-2008 global economic turmoil, and is a good place to vacation—unless you are an Israeli, given rocky Turkish-Israeli diplomatic relations since the Turkish “Mavi Marmara,” the flag ship of the so-called “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” was understandably interdicted in 2010 by Israeli commandos. Attempts by Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to repair relations by belatedly apologizing to Ankara have proved unproductive so far.

Today, Turkey’s economy does not look quite as good, and Turkey’s Syrian border looks horrible, compared to a few years ago when Erdoğan visiting Egypt was greeted like a Neo-Ottoman Sultan. Even so, it is important to understand what Erdoğan has accomplished in just over a decade and its implications for the global situation of Jews as well as Israelis.