Brandeis Center Urges CUNY to Condemn Anti-Semitism

On Friday, November 13, the Brandeis Center issued a letter to CUNY Vice Chancellor Frank Sanchez, and CUNY Hunter College President Jennifer Raab, urging them to strongly condemn recent anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the CUNY system, specifically, the “Million Student March” at Hunter College that took place on Thursday, November 12. The NYC Students for Justice in Palestine Facebook event for the rally used anti-Semitic terminology to link the financial concerns of the CUNY student body to CUNY’s so-called “Zionist administration.” At the rally itself, student protestors chanted things like, “Zionists out of CUNY! Zionists out of CUNY,” and “Intifada! Intifada! Long live the Intifada.” The Brandeis Center calls on CUNY to condemn such behavior. The text of the letter is below:

imgres

November 13, 2015

 

Dr. Frank D. Sanchez
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, CUNY
205 E. 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
frank.sanchez@cuny.edu

President Jennifer J. Raab
Hunter College, CUNY
695 Park Ave
NY, NY 10065
president@hunter.cuny.edu

 

VIA E-MAIL

 

Dear Vice Chancellor Sanchez and President Raab:

We write on behalf of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB), a national public interest advocacy organization established to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all; and the LDB Law Student Chapter at CUNY Law School. As a national organization, we fight campus anti-Semitism through legal advocacy, and often work with university administrators nationwide to offer best practices on how to combat and prevent anti-Semitism on their campuses. We have been concerned about several recent incidents of troubling anti-Semitism, as well as anti-Semitism thinly-veiled as anti-Israelism, in the CUNY system. Just last week, we issued a letter to President Karen Gould about the need to speak out against troubling anti-Semitic activity and free speech issues at Brooklyn College. Today, we write out of concern over the “Million Student March” that took place on Thursday, November 12, at Hunter College.

As you are likely aware, the “Million Student March” is a nationwide campaign demanding tuition-free education and a host of other alleged inalienable rights. The “Million Student March” rally aimed at the CUNY system that took place at Hunter College on Thursday was endorsed on Facebook by NYC Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and five SJP chapters in CUNY schools – Hunter College, Brooklyn College, College of Staten Island, John Jay College, and CUNY School of Law – and differed from the national movement in that, in addition to calling for a tuition-free education and other things, the groups used anti-Semitic slurs to link the financial concerns of CUNY students to its “Zionist administration.” The Facebook event stated,

The Zionist administration invests in Israeli companies, companies that support the Israeli occupation, hosts birthright programs and study abroad programs in occupied Palestine, and reproduces settler-colonial ideology throughout CUNY through Zionist content of education. While CUNY aims to produce the next generation of professional Zionists, SJP aims to change the university to fight for all peoples liberation.

At the rally itself, students chanted things including, “Zionists out of CUNY! Zionists out of CUNY,” and “Intifada! Intifada! Long live the Intifada.”

While we respect the right of all members of the university community to express their opinions in accordance with the First Amendment, hateful and bigoted speech should be strongly condemned by university administrations. When speakers engage in hateful speech, administrators can use such situations as teachable moments and issue a strong public statement, reiterating the values of the campus community and showing the administration’s support of targeted or affected students. The best such responses tend to share certain characteristics, such as responding with specificity, prominence, balance, and courage; putting the event into context; following up and firmly applying sanctions; and providing outreach to the targeted group. This is discussed in LDB’s “Best Practice Guide for Combating Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism” (see attached).

House Unanimously Passes Bipartisan Resolution Urging Europe to Combat Anti-Semitism

On Tuesday, November 3rd, the House unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution urging European countries to protect the security of their Jewish populations in the face of rising anti-Semitism. The resolution was introduced with the help of Rep. Peter Roskam, and his colleagues on the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism. Passed 418-0, the measure notes that…

LDB Urges University of Missouri to Condemn Anti-Semitic Incident

University_of_Missouri_sealThe Brandeis Center, together the AMCHA Initiative and several other organizations, has urged the University of Missouri to respond to anti-Semitic graffiti found in one of University’s residence halls. The joint letter urges MU administration to take a stronger stance to publicly condemn this incident: 


Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin

Office of the Chancellor
105 Jesse Hall
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO  65211 
 
Dear Chancellor Loftin,
 
We are 36 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people who are very concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at the University of Missouri. Many of our organizations wrote to you last spring expressing our concern over two separate incidents of antisemitic graffiti discovered at MU, as well as over an Honors Tutorial entitled “Perspectives on Zionism” which was scheduled to be taught in the Fall of 2015 by MU Biology professor George Smith, a well-known anti-Zionist. 
 
We are writing to you today because we are troubled by reports of a swastika drawn out of feces, which was found on the wall of a bathroom in Gateway Hall on October 24.
 
While we applaud Residence Halls Association President William Donley, an MU student, for releasing a statement strongly condemning the vandalism and labeling it antisemitic and “an act of hate,”  we are dismayed that neither you nor any other MU administrator has yet to publicly address this act of blatant antisemitism, which clearly targets Jewish students and causes them to feel threatened and unsafe. 
 
We know that just last month, the morning after MU students were harassed by someone using racist and hateful speech, you issued a vigorous condemnation of the incident, even sharing with the campus community a recorded message expressing your outrage over what had happened and your commitment to “end hatred and racism at Mizzou”. You also described substantive steps, including educational initiatives, that your administration would be taking to address the problem of racism on your campus.  We commend you for your prompt, vigorous and comprehensive response to this act of racism.  At the same time, we urge you to treat blatant acts of anti-Jewish bigotry, such as a swastika smeared in feces on a dormitory wall, no less promptly, vigorously and comprehensively.
 
In addition, just as the MU Equity Office has acknowledged that certain kinds of expression constitute microaggressions that can cause members of targeted racial, ethnic and gender groups to feel discriminated against and harassed, it is no less important to acknowledge that certain kinds of anti-Israel expression that demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and call for its elimination not only create a hostile environment for many Jewish students, but may foster acts of blatant antisemitism such as swastikas.  
 
Of particular concern in this regard is the departmental sponsorship and implicit ideological endorsement of virulently anti-Israel events. For example, in November 2014 a talk by Saree Makdisi calling for the elimination of the Jewish state was sponsored by 6 MU departments along with the University Lectures Committee and the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative; in April 2015 a panel discussion entitled “Palestine in Context,” during which MU Professor George Smith called for an end to Zionism, was sponsored by one MU department; and “Racism in Israel“, an upcoming talk by noted anti-Zionist David Sheen, who compares Israeli Jews to Nazis, is being sponsored by two MU departments. Pope Francis, President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron and French Prime Minister Valls have all stated that denying Israel’s right to exist, as some departmentally-sponsored MU speakers have, is antisemitism. 
 
We encourage you to demonstrate unequivocally your commitment to protecting Jewish students no less than other students on your campus, by doing the following:
  • Swiftly, forcefully and publicly acknowledge that swastika graffiti is an act of antisemitism and will not be tolerated on campus. 
  • Publicly commit to educating University staff, including campus police, in identifying antisemitism and antisemitic hate crimes.
  • Formally adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism to fully and accurately identify all future acts of hate toward Jews and draw the distinction between acceptable criticism of Israel’s policies and calls for the destruction of Israel which are unquestionably antisemitic and breed additional antisemitism.
  • Allocate resources and publicly commit to educating students about antisemitism and anti-Jewish discrimination.
Thank you for considering our recommendations.  We look forward to working with you to protect Jewish students at the University of Missouri. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi)
Alums for Campus Fairness
AMCHA Initiative
American Institute for Jewish Research
Americans for Peace and Tolerance
BEAR: Bias Education, Advocacy & Resources
Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law
Club Z
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
CUFI on Campus
David Horowitz Freedom Center
Davis Faculty for Israel
Eagles Wings
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
Fuel For Truth
Hasbara Fellowships
Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Israel Peace Initiative (IPI)
Jewish Law Students Association at UCLA
Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA)
National Conference on Jewish Affairs
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations   
Project Genesis
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi 
Simon Wiesenthal Center  
StandWithUs
Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism
Students Supporting Israel at UCLA
Students Supporting Israel at University of Missouri
The Israel Christian Nexus
The Israel Group
The Israel Institute
Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)
Zionist Organization of America

European Sociological Association Passes New Anti-Boycott Guidelines

In August, the European Social Association (ESA), an academic association of sociologists and a non-profit Europe-wide association made up of over 2000 member scholars, approved ethical guidelines holding that “its members, conference participants and partners are not to be discriminated against in any way, direct or indirect, including boycott of themselves or their institutions, based on…

The Continuity of the New Anti-Semitism and Anti-Semitic Hate Acts and Terrorism

antiisrael1-vi

According to the latest annual US State Department Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, the level of anti Semitic incidents continues to rise in Europe. That report found that the rise in European anti Semitism was tied to criticism of Israeli policy.

Secretary of State John Kerry presented the report together with Ambassador At Large for Religious Freedom David Saperstein at the State Department. According to the Times of Israel, Saperstein stated at that time that “in Europe, many governments are struggling to cope with the aftermath of terror attacks such as those in France, Belgium and Denmark, along with increased anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim actions and sentiments.”

Saperstein continued stating that such criticism of Israel, “has often crossed the line when groups try to argue that Israel is an inherently illegal state and doesn’t have a right to exist as a Jewish state here and takes actions to delegitimize those fundamental rights,” and that such statements are “right on the cusp of that line when it holds one country to different standards than it would hold any other country.”

Apparently linking hateful anti Semitic terrorism and discourse together, the Report states that “countries such as France and Germany witnessed a wave of anti-Israel sentiments that crossed the line into anti-Semitism,” which “left many pondering the viability of Jewish communities in some countries,” and that while “most anti-Semitic incidents consisted mainly of hate speech and the desecration of institutions, monuments and cemeteries, others turned violent.”

The Report likewise noted an upswing of anti Semitic incidents in Austria, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, often in connection with Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge campaign against rocket attacks from Gaza. Likewise, in the midst of that conflict, the Netherlands’ government-sponsored Independent Registration Center for Discrimination on the Internet (MDI) recorded the highest spike in anti-Semitic incidents in its history.

France reported a 101 percent increase in anti-Semitic acts during the year in comparison with 2013, likewise also as a result of the 2014 conflict, including “numerous cases of physical violence against the Jewish community where individuals were targeted and beaten and synagogues were firebombed.” The State Department wrote that anti-Semitic speech and actions likewise increased in Germany.

Information gathered from this report echoes earlier reports on anti-Semitism from prior years. Already in January 2005, the State Department’s 2005 Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism Report mentioned that “demonization of Israel, or vilification of Israeli leaders, sometimes through comparisons with Nazi leaders, and through the use of Nazi symbols to caricature them, indicates an anti-Semitic bias rather than a valid criticism of policy concerning a controversial issue,” and that “strong anti-Israel sentiment [often] crosses the line between objective criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism.”

Rabbi Finman Interview with LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus: The Definition of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Semitism on Campus

Earlier this month, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus had an online interview with Rabbi Herschel Finman for his radio show, The Jewish Hour, to discuss his latest book, The Definition of Anti-Semitism, and anti-Semitism on American college campuses. As Marcus describes in his interview, one of the biggest obstacles LDB has had to face when dealing with…

UC Berkeley Student explains why UC Regents should adopt Department of State’s definition of anti-Semitism

The adoption of the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism is a cause that LDB has been activity advocating for, particularly in university campuses across the nation. As LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus stated, “University administrators need a uniform definition of anti-Semitism in order to make clear what the boundaries are between hateful actions and legitimate behavior.” This need can be seen on the campuses of the University of California, where a rise in anti-Israel sentiments has also come along with a rise in anti-Semitic incidents on campus. LDB President Marcus and many of the world’s leading scholars on anti-Semitism also wrote letter to the UC Regents urging them to adopt the State Departments definition, explaining how it “offers an essential tool for identifying and educating about all forms of contemporary antisemitism.” In light of the UC Regents rejection of the Proposed Statement of Principles of Against Intolerance, as its broad language failed to deal with the issue of campus anti-Semitism, UC Berkley Student, Shauna Satnick, also recently wrote an articulate op-ed for The Daily Californian. Her article highlighted the importance of the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism as well as why the regents should consider adopting it:

Regents should adopt State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism

Shauna Satnick

I cannot speak on behalf of the entire Jewish population at UC Berkeley because it is not monolithic, so I speak from my own perspective. That being said, the UC Board of Regents’ proposed statement of principles concerning intolerance and anti-Semitism is too broad and does not effectively protect Jews from hate speech and other forms of anti-Semitism. The definition should be rewritten in order to more accurately reflect how Israel has been inequitably and systematically singled out among nations and thus warranting special consideration.

The U.S. Department of State’s definition of anti-Semitism, which characterizes the demonization and delegitimization of Israel as anti-Semitism, comes into play only when Israel is treated differently from any other country. If other countries or groups of individuals are not subject to comparable criticism and rhetoric, then under this definition of intolerance, Israel and its supporters should be protected from hostile speech and actions. Historically, Jews and Israel’s supporters have been habitually targeted — so much so that they feel the need for the University of California to include a clause specifically protecting the Jewish community. That the pervasive sense of hostility still exists in 2015 speaks volumes. It is time that our grievances be heard and addressed.