Brandeis Center Presses Vassar College to Hold Student Group Accountable

 

The Brandeis Center has urged Vassar College President Catherine Bond Hill to take penalizing action against the college’s chapter of SJP, Students for Justice in Palestine. In a letter to Vassar President Catherine Bond Hill on May 19th, 2014, “We believe that this incident may raise serious issues concerning federal civil rights law.” SJP recently posted a Nazi propaganda poster on their Tumblr page.

The posters are German from 1944 and they portray a monster in a Star of David loincloth with many hands, wearing a KKK (Ku Klux Klan) mask, holding a little man grasping a moneybag, and attached to an American plane wing while it destroys a European town. It is entitled “Liberators.” The Brandeis Center urges Vassar President Bond Hill to take swift action against this group.

The Center made it clear to President Bond Hill that this incident at her school is a step backwards in the fight for respectful discussion, saying, “More broadly, this incident is deeply offensive and antithetical to basic notions of civil discourse.”  Brandeis Center lawyers added, “we urge you to take additional prompt and effective action to address this problem including taking strong disciplinary action against SJP.”

This incident at Vassar comes just days after its chapter of SJP Vassar posted other material on its Tumblr page concerning the Holocaust and the UN’s response. This cartoon shows major powers during the creation of Israel. It shows the Jews moving Palestinians in 1948; upset, the Palestinians ask why the Jews can do that, and the major powers respond with “Holocaust, Holocaust indeed.” This is propaganda to suggest that any so-called “illegal action” by Israel is justified by the Holocaust.

UC Officials Condemn Actions By SJP

Recently, there have been disturbing developments at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP, has been making moves to block pro-Israel, Jewish groups groups from getting a fair voice in campus policy-making.   What is even more surprising, and maybe even sickening, is that no other groups are being targeted.

That is right, folks. Student activists, for the recent past election, were asking candidates running for student positions in campus government to sign a pledge essentially saying that they have not and will not go to Israel on a trip sponsored by the following three groups: American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and Hasbara Fellowships. Students who don’t sign the pledge are subject to ridicule, humiliation, and harassment by their peers.

We here at the Brandeis Center hold the right to free speech very dear to our hearts. Therefore, we acknowledge that student groups have the right to say what they wish, so long as no harm is dealt to other students or staff members, and so long as no one else’s rights are infringed upon. The problem with this situation is that by imposing this pledge on the political process, those with pro-Israel views, or even someone has simply travelled to the great state of Israel, have their political views silenced and put down. “Freedom of speech is essential on university campuses”, says Brandeis Center President Kenneth L. Marcus, “But what we are seeing at UCLA is antithetical to healthy, civil dialogue.”

LDB President to Deliver Keynote Address Blasting BDS Movement

This evening in Tel Aviv, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus will deliver an important keynote address at an important conference on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.    The IAM conference, entitled “BDS Campaign Against Israel: On Campusand Beyond,”  will take tonight at 6 p.m. in Tel Aviv University, Max Webb Hall 1.  LDB President Marcus, a former Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, will address “What is Anti-Semitic About the BDS Movement?”  In his keynote address, Mr. Marcus will explain why the BDS movement must be considered anti-Semitic even if some of its advocates deny harboring conscious anti-Semitic intent.  Marcus will also discuss legal tools that can be used to address some of the more extreme abuses of the movement.  Other conference speakers will include historian Richard Landes, political scientist Ofira Seliktar, and journalist Ben-Dror Yemini.  Details on the event are as follows:

The public is invited to the IAM event on “BDS Campaign Against Israel: On Campus and Beyond”  – Wednesday May 14, 2014 at 6pm in Tel Aviv University, Max Webb hall 1.

Entrance from gates 1 and 8, paid parking available.

Speakers bio and lectures

Lecture 1- Keynote speaker: Kenneth L. Marcus

What is Anti-Semitic About the Movement to Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction Israel?

“Supporters of the BDS movement argue that their campaign is a political response to human rights violations. Accusations of anti-Semitism, they often insist, are a bad-faith effort to limit debate on a legitimate topic of moral and political concern.  Kenneth L. Marcus, a human rights expert who formerly directed the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, explains why they are wrong.  In fact, anti-Jewish campaigns have frequently used the rhetoric of their times to justify anti-Jewish bigotry.  The BDS movement, Marcus shows, continues a long-standing effort to marginalize and delegitimize the Jewish people.  Some BDS supporters are consciously anti-Semitic, while others are not.  The essential feature of the movement however is its assault on the State of Israel as the collective Jew.”

Kenneth L. Marcus, President & General Counsel, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.

The Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project Urge NYU to Discipline Students Who Shoved Inflammatory Fliers into Students’ Dorm Rooms

This morning, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law and The Lawfare Project urged New York University President John Sexton and his administration to “firmly and forcefully” discipline the students who shoved inflammatory materials into students’ private rooms at two New York University dormitories on April 24. 

The two independent national civil rights organizations had been approached by New York University undergraduate students who are concerned about an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment in which mock eviction notices were pushed under the dormitory room doors and into the dormitory rooms of Jewish and non-Jewish students.  These flyers contain inflammatory and false accusations and were placed in a manner that created understandable anguish and alarm among the students.

In a letter to President Sexton and Vice Chancellor Linda Mills, the Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project emphasized that the mock eviction notices raised “serious issues under federal civil rights law.”  Specifically, the groups reminded President Sexton and Vice Chancellor Mills that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs that receive federal funds.  “More broadly,” the two organizations wrote, the infractions “raise questions about respect, civility, and mutual understanding and about sensitivity for the reasonable concerns of Jewish students.”

At approximately 3:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 24, 2014, mock eviction notices spreading anti-Israel sentiment had been distributed throughout New York University’s Palladium and Lafayette dormitories by members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).  The eviction notices state, “Palestinian homes are destroyed as part of the state of Israel’s ongoing attempts to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants and maintain an exclusively Jewish character of the state.  By destroying Palestinian homes, the state makes room for illegal Israeli settlements.  The Israeli government itself describes this process as Judaization.”  Not only is this grossly inaccurate, but it reinforces pernicious stereotypes and defamations about the Jewish people.

The Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project explained to Sexton and Mill that “dormitory rooms are virtually the opposite of public forums for speech and debate.  Rather, they are spaces in which students are most vulnerable.  There is no part of a university campus in which is it more crucial to protect student safety, security, and privacy.  This is particularly true during late hours of the night.”  New York University, like many other institutions, has instituted reasonable, content-neutral rules prohibiting the kind of infractions that were committed here.  The civil rights groups insisted that it is “absolutely imperative” that NYU “fully and firmly enforce these rules against the perpetrators immediately, taking fully into consideration the invasiveness of the behavior and the foreseeable harms to dormitory students.”

The Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project also urged NYU to take into proper consideration that the offensiveness of the perpetrators’ actions was heightened by their selection of a dormitory that is well known to house an unusually high concentration of Jewish students.  “As you are no doubt aware,” they wrote, “Palladium is the only dormitory building at New York University that has a Shabbat elevator.  A university spokesman has argued that the elevator was installed at this location for reasons that are unrelated to the building’s high concentration of Jewish residents.  This is entirely beside the point.  Regardless of the reason for which the elevator was initially installed, your students have made clear to us that its existence is one of the reasons that so many prominent Jewish students are known to live there.  If Palladium was targeted in any part because of its concentration of Jewish students, then this factor must be considered in determining the nature and severity of the infraction.  Either way, however, the perpetrators’ choice of this particular building has aggravated the impact of the infractions.”

Ali Abunimah’s Orwellian Definition of Anti-Semitism

Veteran anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah is currently touring US campuses to hawk his recently published book “The Battle for Justice in Palestine.” As anyone even vaguely familiar with Abunimah’s prolific writings at his Electronic Intifada blog will know, his idea of “justice in Palestine” requires doing away with the world’s only Jewish state, and the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns against Israel that he champions so tirelessly are designed to help achieve this goal.

Among those who have enthusiastically endorsed Abunimah’s new book is Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, who also introduced Abunimah at one of his recent book tour events at Columbia University. In case anyone in the audience was concerned that Abunimah’s agenda and activism is ultimately anti-Semitic, Massad was ostensibly eager to allay such concerns: as a student attending the event highlighted on Twitter, Massad described Abunimah as “a fighter against antisemitism.” Given the fact that some of Massad’s own writings on Israel echo ideas and language that can be found on racist and neo-Nazi sites such as David Duke or Stormfront, it is downright preposterous for Massad to claim any expertise on anti-Semitism except as an avid practitioner.

Needless to say, Massad would firmly reject this accusation. However, he would do so primarily on the basis of the bizarre notion that anti-Israel activists are entitled to their very own self-serving definition of anti-Semitism – a notion that Ali Abunimah fully supports.

Already years ago, Abunimah made it abundantly clear that he not only regarded Zionism as “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today,” but that he also equated Zionism with Nazism.

Abunimah Zionism AntiSemitism

Abunimah Zionism Nazism

At the end of 2012, Abunimah eventually decided that it was time to formalize his views on anti-Semitism and have his fellow anti-Israel activists adopt a truly Orwellian declaration that pretends to reject “any form of racism or bigotry […] including, but not limited to, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Zionism” and that denounces at the same time “the cynical and baseless use of the term anti-Semitism as a tool for stifling criticism of Israel or opposition to Zionism.”

MLA Vote: Will Bias Beat Scholarship?

Jeff Robbins has just published the following excellent article at the Times of Israel blog:

There is a scene in Guys and Dolls, the Damon Runyan-inspired tale about entertaining mobsters, in which a thug nicknamed Big Julie From Chicago lays down the law: he will not be shooting craps unless the outcome is safely rigged in advance. He announces to Nathan Detroit, who has beaten him until then using actual dice, that they will now be using his own “specially made” dice.

“I do not wish to seem petty,” Detroit offers, “but your dice ain’t got no spots on them. They’re blank.”

“I had the spots removed for luck,” replies Big Julie From Chicago, “but I remember where the spots formerly were.”

The meeting of the Modern Language Association in Chicago earlier this year featured a resolution censuring Israel for applying visa restrictions to four individuals whom it regarded as a security threat, promoted by academics who pronounced themselves motivated by their passionate support for the free exchange of ideas. But the promoters deployed tactics aimed at preventing those with a dissenting view from being heard with a lack of sheepishness that would have made Big Julie From Chicago proud, and the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley positively beam.

Brandeis Center President Publishes Article on Stanley Fish and Academic Freedom

The Brandeis Center’s Founder and President, Kenneth L. Marcus, has just published a short but important article on academic freedom in the current issue of the Florida International University Law Review.  Marcus’ article, entitled “The Doctrine of Balance,” argues that academic freedom should not extend to the dissemination of unbalanced propaganda in the classroom.  The short piece appears in a micro symposium on Stanley Fish’s upcoming book on “Versions of Academic Freedom: From Professionalism to Revolution.”  It has important ramifications for those instructors who engage in frequent, highly politicized, classroom anti-Israel tirades even in courses where the Middle East is of marginal relevance.

In previous scholarship, Marcus has argued that courts and administrators should pay more careful attention to the doctrine of academic freedom’s well-recognized exception for political indoctrination.  Political indoctrination, Marcus has argued, may have its place, but it is not in the classroom.  University professors enjoy the same freedom of speech as anyone else to engage in political propaganda or indoctrination, but the doctrine of academic freedom does not protect their efforts to do so in the classroom, where they should be providing academic instruction.  In his previous law review article on “Academic Freedom and Political Indoctrination,” for example, Marcus had demonstrated that five characteristics separate political indoctrination from the sphere of academic freedom: non-educativeness, controversy, extraneousness, imbalance, and bias.  These five traits reflect the notion that academic freedom protects a uniquely academic function which defines its scope, justifies its privileges, strengthens its defense, and limits its applicability.  Stanley Fish, in his important forthcoming book on “Versions of Academic Freedom,” provides useful tools for understanding why some people support such standards and others do not.  Despite Fish’s lucidity, however, Marcus demonstrates in his new article that Fish’s book succumbs to the facile argumentation that has characterized the politically trickiest of the five, i.e., imbalance.

Vassar And The BDS War On Campus

The anti-Zionist – and sometimes also anti-Semitic – website Mondoweiss recently published a lengthy report by the site’s founder Philip Weiss about a meeting that took place at Vassar in early March. According to Weiss, the meeting had been scheduled by the school’s Committee on Inclusion and Excellence in order to discuss guidelines for activism after persistent protests by Vassar’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) against a trip to Israel planned by Vassar’s International Studies program.

Vassar BDS warWeiss began his report by quoting Jill Schneiderman, the professor who had apparently initiated the trip and who had mentioned the meeting in a post on her blog, where she wrote that she “was knocked off-center by a belligerent academic community dedicated to vilifying anyone who dares set foot in Israel.”  Weiss confirmed that the meeting “was truly unsettling,” that “torrents of anger ripped through the gathering” and that “rage against Israel was the theme.” He contrasted this atmosphere favorably with the broad popular support for Israel in the US, asserting that it was very different at Vassar, where “the spirit of that young progressive space was that Israel is a blot on civilization, and boycott is right and necessary. If a student had gotten up and said, I love Israel, he or she would have been mocked and scorned into silence.”

But according to Weiss, Israel’s supporters should expect not just more of the same, but worse to come, because in his view, the “battles we’ve seen so far on campus are just preliminaries.” He predicted that “things are going to get much more belligerent” and asserted that “belligerence may be necessary to the resolution.”

At the end of his detailed report, Weiss offered something like a declaration of war:

“If the SJP students can be obnoxious, their manner is just what feminist Margaret Fuller saw in abolitionists during slavery: tedious, rabid, narrow, prone to exaggeration. And dedicated to a principle worth living and dying for.

Expect many more rage-filled meetings in years to come as the left is broken over this question. How long before students occupy administration buildings of liberal arts colleges that work with Israel? How long before students chain themselves to bulldozers at the Cornell-Technion project in New York city?”

According to Weiss, this militant conduct is also endorsed by BDS leader Omar Barghouti:

WHY THE JEWS DID NOT ALWAYS LOVE ST. PATRICK’S DAY

The “You Don’t Have to be Jewish to Love Levy’s Real Jewish Rye” ad debuted 50 years ago this year. Of course, you also don’t have to be Irish to march at the front of the official St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Unlike David Dinkins in 1993 and Bill de Blasio this year, New York’s Jewish mayors have never boycotted the Parade despite the running controversy over its exclusion of organized gay participants.

Irish-Jewish relations in New York City, this time of year—and not only this time—are usually bathed in a hue of shamrock-colored bagels and nostalgia. Relations between Irish and Jews in the old country also have their stock repertoire of feel-good images, including two father-and-son Jewish lords mayor of Dublin, nineteenth-century “Liberator” Daniel O’Connell’s declaration that “Ireland is the only Christian country I know of unsullied by any act of persecution against the Jews,” Home Rule Crusader Michael Davitt’s journey to Czarist Russia in 1903 to expose the Kishinev Program, Ze’ev Jabotinsky journey to Ireland to model his movement to drive the British out of Palestine on the IRA, and Yitzhak Shamir the taking the guerrilla code name “Michael” after the Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins.

Even so, the Irish—including Irish Jews—have long memories. Even if it were not for the anti-Israel bias of the IRA and former Irish President Mary Robinson, Irish Jews would remember the Limerick Pogrom of 1904, supported by Sein Fenn founder Arthur Griffith, and Irish President Éamon de Valera’s signing of the official book of condolence on Hitler’s death on May 2, 1945, despite de Valera’s prewar friendship with Chief Rabbi of Ireland (and later Chief Rabbi of Israel) Isaac Herzog.