Israeli Diplomat on BDS

In an article in the Stanford Political Journal, Israel’s former deputy ambassador to Norway explains that the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) campaigns are not about criticizing Israel but demonizing and dehumanizing it. While there are important political issues to discuss, BDS instead abuses the human rights discourse by using a simplistic “good v. evil” narrative that is not…

Call for Papers: “Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, and the Dynamics of Delegitimization”

We are pleased to share this Call for Papers received from Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld of Indiana University, an esteemed member of the Louis D. Brandeis Center’s Academic Advisory Committee:

Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism

 Indiana University

Announces

Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, and the Dynamics of Delegitimization:

An International Scholars’ Conference

April 2-5, 2016

Call for Papers

This conference will aim to explore the thinking that informs contemporary anti-Zionism and to clarify the ties such thinking may have with antisemitism and broader ideological, political, and cultural currents of thought.

The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, recently declared that “anti-Zionism is an invitation to antisemitism.” The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, concurs, stating that anti-Zionism is “the face of the new antisemitism. It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel and attempts to make the old bigotry acceptable for a new generation.”

Are they right? What are the possible links between anti-Zionism and antisemitism? When does criticism of Israel cease to be a part of legitimate or acceptable discourse and become a form of antisemitism?  These have been much discussed questions, but recent events have given them a new urgency, and examining them today seems both timely and necessary.

The Boycott Israel Movement Stunts the Palestinian Economy

While the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement seeks to cripple Israel’s economy and cultural, academic, and manufacturing industries, a recent story in Forbes Magazine highlights the true effects of the Movement: hardships for the Palestinian people and inflammation of any peace dialogue. The BDS Movement supports impairing economic ties between Israel and Palestine, seeking to…

National Survey Shows High Rate of Anti-Semitism on Campuses

trinity HARTFORD, Conn., February 23, 2015 – More than half of 1,157 self-identified Jewish students at 55 campuses nationwide who took part in an online survey reported having been subjected to or having witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses, according to a new report issued jointly by Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut) and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (Washington, D.C.).

The National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students, which covered a variety of topics, was conducted in spring 2014 by a research team from Trinity College. Of the 1,157 students in the sample, 54 percent reported instances of anti-Semitism on campus during the first six months of the 2013-2014 academic year. The data provide a snapshot of the types, context, and location of anti-Semitism as experienced by a large national sample of Jewish students at university and four-year college campuses. The rates of victimization for students with different social characteristics – such as type of campus, year of study, academic major, demographics, religiosity, or politics – ranged from a low of 44 percent to a high of 73 percent. There was only a slight variation in the rates across the regions of the United States, strongly suggesting that anti-Semitism on campus is a nationwide problem.

The Trinity College researchers who led the team conducting the survey were Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keyes, public policy and law professors and the authors of other well-known national social surveys, including the American Religion Identification Survey (ARIS) series. Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) President Kenneth L. Marcus, former head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and author of a forthcoming volume on The Definition of Anti-Semitism (Oxford University Press, 2015), provided recommendations on the report. Kosmin and Keysar pointed out that, historically, the most likely targets of anti-Semitism in the general population have been Orthodox Jewish males, who tend to be easily identified by perpetrators. However, this tendency does not seem to be the case on college campuses. Conservative and Reform Jewish students are more likely than Orthodox students to report being victims.

Membership in a Jewish campus organization also raises the likelihood of a student reporting anti-Semitism. According to Kosmin, “The patterns and high rates of anti-Semitism that were reported were surprising. Rather than being localized to a few campuses or restricted to politically active or religious students, this problem is widespread. Jewish students are subjected to both traditional prejudice and the new political anti-Semitism.”

Another finding was that female students were more likely than males to report anti-Semitism. “Jewish women seem to feel more vulnerable on campus, with 59 percent of female students versus 51 percent of males telling us that they have personally witnessed or experienced anti-Semitism,” said Keysar. “This gender gap is alarming and needs to be further explored,” she added. Kosmin and Keysar observed that while anti-Semitism is often linked to anti-Zionism, this survey was undertaken in the spring of 2014, before the summer 2014 conflict in Gaza that led to a worldwide flare-up in anti-Semitism. Numbers of participating students voiced concern that their experiences of anti-Semitism made for an uncomfortable campus climate.

In his foreword for the report, Marcus wrote, “We hear frequently from college students who find that their experiences of anti-Semitism are not taken seriously. A decade ago, Jewish college students spoke of the vindication that they felt when the U.S. Civil Rights Commission gave voice to their concerns,” added Marcus, who, as then-staff director, drafted the Commission’s announcement that campus anti-Semitism had become a “serious problem” at many universities around the country. “This report should provide a similar vindication, since it indicates that the scope of this problem is greater than most observers had realized.”

Call for Papers on “The Ethics of Boycotting”

“Public Reason,” which bills itself as a blog for political philosophers, has posted this new call for papers that may be of interest to ethicists and other scholars who are concerned about the BDS movement:

CFP: The Ethics of Boycotting (special issue)

The increased visibility of the BDS movement in the wake of the Israeli-Gaza conflict of summer 2014, and the more recent Salaita affair at the UIUC, have generated a renewed interest among academics in general, and philosophers in particular, in the theory and praxis of boycotting (e.g. economic, academic, political, cultural). However, despite considerable informal discussion in various professional fora and on social media, the topic of boycotting has thus far attracted surprisingly little systematic scholarly attention from moral, political or legal philosophers. This is an unfortunate state of affairs, as boycotting as a form of moral and political action raises a range of important ethical issues, including:

– In what circumstances is boycotting appropriate?

– What light do the principal ethical theories (deontology, consequentialism, virtue theory) cast on the practice of boycotting? How do they view its justification and its limits?

– How are the appropriate targets of boycotting and the notion of complicity defined?

– What is the relevance of empirical evidence as to the efficacy of boycotting to its justification?

– How is the problem of collateral damage (i.e. harm done to parties not directly complicit in the actions warranting boycotts) to be weighed in the overall moral assessment of boycotts?

– Do academic boycotts raise issues distinct from other forms, such as economic and political ones?

…. The special issue has drawn preliminary interest from the Journal of Applied Philosophy, to which a full proposal including selected abstracts will be submitted.

LDB Builds Law Student Chapter Initiative to Fight Anti-Semitism

The Brandeis Center works to combat anti-Semitism on college and university campuses across the nation, through, research, public outreach, legal advocacy, and most recently, our law student chapters. In a major new initiative launched last year, LDB is working to create an ever-growing nationwide network of inaugural chapters for students at select law schools throughout…