Launch of Northeastern Law School Chapter – March 19, 2014

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law is happy to announce the launch of its Northeastern law student chapter, located in Boston.   Danit Sibovits, LDB Staff Attorney heading the legal advocacy initiative, will be speaking at the launch.  The law school chapter initiative is the newest phase in the Brandeis Center’s campaign…

Brandeis Center Welcomes Brooklyn College Administration’s Apology for its Handling of 2013 Anti-Israel Event: Jewish Pro-Israel Students Vindicated by Apology, Further Action to Protect Civil Rights Will Be Pursued

The Brandeis Center welcomes some good news for three of our clients.  On Friday, Brooklyn College President Karen Gould publicly apologized for the school’s forcible ejection of four Jewish pro-Israel students from a 2013 anti-Israel event sponsored in part by the school. The Brandeis Center, which represents three of the students removed from the lecture, had called for a public apology from Brooklyn College, and was pleased when the apology was issued late Friday afternoon.

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus lauded the apology in a press release issued this morning:

“This apology reflects the fact that the university violated the constitutional and civil rights of our clients at a public event. This was a shameful incident, and we are pleased that the university has accepted responsibility,” said LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus. “We appreciate the apology and look forward to working with the school to ensure that other Brooklyn College students will not have to endure what happened to our clients.”

Here’s a summary of the case, which many readers will recall from last year:

On February 7, 2013, the Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine chapter – with official sponsorship from the school – hosted an event promoting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which is aimed at Israel. The event featured Judith Butler … and Omar Barghouti….

Shortly after the four Jewish students – including LDB clients Melanie Goldberg, Michael Ziegler, and Ari Ziegler — arrived at the event, they were forcibly removed by two public safety officers of Brooklyn College at the urging of an event organizer unaffiliated with the school.

Brooklyn College President Karen Gould directed the school’s apology, reprinted in full below, to the four students. In the wake of the BDS event, the students had been falsely accused of wrongdoing and subjected to intense scrutiny from school officials and the media, but were vindicated by a two-month investigation into the incident conducted in March and April, 2013 by the City University of New York, of which Brooklyn College is a part.

The CUNY investigation, which included interviews with more than 40 witnesses, found that the non-campus-affiliated event organizer was motivated by a “political viewpoint” in removing the students as he had heard Melanie Goldberg’s pro-Israel views at a prior campus event; that the administrators and public safety officers at the event wrongly deferred to the event organizer; and concluded that “there was no justification for the removal of the four students.”

In the Brooklyn College apology, Gould stated that a College spokesperson had released “an erroneous” statement to the press after the event saying that the students were being disruptive. Gould acknowledged that the university’s statement was false.

The Brandeis Center has emphasized that more work remains to be done:

BDS Supporters Worry About Freedom of Speech

Judith Butler and Rashid Khalidi, both well-known academics and high-profile supporters of the BDS movement campaigning for “boycotts, divestment and sanctions” against Israel, have issued a statement that was originally circulated under the dramatic title “Support Freedom of Expression! Oppose Intimidation!” They claim that there are “accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS.”

Since both Butler and Khalidi are prominent academics, they obviously have many opportunities to voice their views in prestigious venues and media outlets. However, both recently faced protests against scheduled appearances at Jewish institutions, and the events were eventually cancelled. Their call to “oppose intimidation” should therefore also be seen as part of the currently ongoing debate about the question if Jewish institutions should welcome speakers who advocate the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state, which is the openly acknowledged goal of BDS. As Omar Barghouti, who is widely regarded as the founder and most prominent leader of the BDS movement, declared already ten years ago: “Zionism is intent on killing itself.  I, for one, support euthanasia.”

Rethink 2014: Tweeting Against International Hate Week

Rethink2014 is a clever movement to oppose Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) on Twitter.  Specifically, the group’s Twitter feed last week consisted of photos of young people holding up signs that explain why they are against the annual anti-Israel hate week which is put on in different parts of the world throughout the months of February in March. The group’s Twitter site explains, “Students challenging the apartheid smear and bringing the real Israel to you.  Don’t believe the hype….  Re-educate.  Re-assess.  Rethink.”  Some of the best are presented in this YouTube video.

Rethink2014 Anti-SemitismThese photos, collected on the Rethink2014 Facebook page, reflect the variety of reasons for resisting IAW.  Some student statements are personal and emotional, although they express very different perspectives:

  • I love Israel.
  • Although I am not Israels [sic] biggest supporter, this week singles out the Jewish state and once again chooses to ignore the human rights violations of surrounding Arab states.
  • Someone needs to stand up for Israel’s right to exist.

Many statements focus on the dishonesty of the IAW campaign or the need for genuine education as opposed to propaganda:

  • It is an ignorant, unhelpful campaign.
  • A week is too long to devote to a lie.
  • It ignores Israel’s security needs to promote a one-sided story.
  • Calling Israel an Apartheid state is inaccurate and insulting.
  • Racial supremacy does not exist in Israel.
  • It can wrongly influence those people that are undecided
  • People shouldn’t be bullied into a biased, untrue belief.
  • Let’s educate others not just on the definition but on the reasons why Israel isn’t an apartheid. Let’s strive to educate and learn!

Rethink2014 EqualityOthers offer specific reasons why the comparison between Israel and South Africa makes little sense, including the rights that Palestinians enjoy in Israel but may be denied elsewhere throughout the Middle East:

  • Israel is the only country in the Middle-East where a Palestinian can criticise the government.
  • Arabs in Israel have democratic rights and are represented in the Knesset.
  • Israel has universal suffrage, unlike its neighbours.
  • Muslims have freedom of religion in Israel.
  • I see more of a rainbow nation in Jerusalem’s streets than in London.
  • I, a former South African living in Israel, have proudly voted alongside Arab citizens in the last Israeli election.
  • I interact with Arabs on daily basis. This would not be possible under Apartheid.
  • I see more of a rainbow nation in Jerusalem’s streets than in London.
  • Otherwise a Muslim would not be able to work in the Israel Embassy in London.

Anti-Israel Hate Week

This week, on American and English university campuses, anti-Israel activists celebrate the series of hateful events variously known as “Anti-Israel Hate Week” or “Israel Apartheid Week.” These events, which often feature the use of classical anti-Semitic defamations and stereotypes, occur throughout March in other parts of the world. If the haters harass Jewish students on…

Should Jewish Law Students Be Complacent?

Recently, anti-Israel activists have become active on several American law school campuses, conducting controversial events at Columbia, Fordham, Davis, and elsewhere.  Meanwhile, activists have created hostile environments for Jewish students at several universities.  If you are a Jewish law student, or a non-Jewish law student who cares about justice, should you be concerned?  Here are…

Anti-Boycott Legislation, Free Speech and Academic Freedom: A Response to Ed Beck and the International Grass Roots Faculty Committee For Academic Freedom and Integrity

Yesterday, The Algemeiner published my article on “Legislating Against BDS.” In this article, I argue that Representatives Roskam and Lipinski have done creditable service in introducing legislation that would bar federal funding of universities that boycott Israel.  Although their initial bill may not be perfect, it has provoked a healthy conversation about how legislatures can be address the misuse of taxpayer funds to support discriminatory boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) policies that arguably encroach upon academic freedom.   To be fully effective, I argued, an anti-boycott bill would address not only boycotts but also divestment, and it should provide a tripartite enforcement scheme consistent with other areas of anti-discrimination law.  Although the article has been generally well received, it has received one critical comment from Dr. Edward Beck that is sufficiently thoughtful and serious to require a full reply.

Dr. Beck posted his reply in the comments to my article on the Algemeiner site.  As Brandeis Center Blog readers may be aware, Beck is the Co-founder and Chairman emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, although he has subsequently left SPME for new ventures.   Although he does not directly criticize my article, Beck posts a position paper that takes a contrary view of the legislation.  “You and your readers might be interested in learning the position of some pretty thoughtful folks with whom I am now working,” he writes, “on the International Grass Roots Faculty Committee For Academic Freedom and Integrity.”  Beck then posts what he calls the “IGRFCAFI Statement on Punitive Legislation For Academic Boycott Actions.” The statement is signed by twelve distinguished academics, several of whom I personally know and deeply respect.

Legislating Against BDS

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus has just published this article in The Algemeiner:

The backlash continues against the anti-Israel boycott resolution that the American Studies Association adopted last month. Over 200 university presidents have distanced themselves from it. Numerous other organizations, including the American Association of University Professors, have condemned it too. Some critics argue that it violates academic freedom. Others go further, observing that the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction (BDS) Israel amounts to discrimination against the Jewish state. Now legislators are joining the burgeoning anti-BDS movement, introducing bills to curb anti-Israel abuse. The first few efforts out of the box may be imperfect vehicles, but they have begun a necessary conversation about how public policy can best address the misuse of taxpayer funds to support BDS.

On February 6, Congressmen Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced the “Protect Academic Freedom Act” (H.R. 4009), which would ban federally funded universities from boycotting Israeli academic institutions or scholars. As they introduced the bill, the congressmen denounced the bigotry surrounding the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as the threat which anti-Israel activists pose to academic freedom.

Representative Roskam had been justly lauded for his co-authorship of a January letter, signed by 134 members of Congress, to “strongly condemn” the American Studies Association (ASA) for its recent endorsement of the academic boycott against Israel.  “While ASA has every right to express its views on policies pursued by any nation or government,” the congressmen wrote, “we believe that the decision to blacklist Israeli academic institutions for Israeli government policies with which ASA disagrees demonstrates a blatant disregard for academic freedom.” In addition, the congressmen complained that the ASA’s boycott resolution “exhibits flagrant prejudice against the Jewish State of Israel.”

While Rep. Roskam’s letter was well received, reaction to the new Roskam-Lipinski bill has been more mixed. AIPAC officials have been quoted as saying that they are “reviewing the text.” The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman has praised the purposes of the legislation but conceded that he’s “not sure that this bill would be the most effective means of recourse.” On the other hand, several other groups support the legislation, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Christians United For Israel, and The Israel Project. Ambassador Michael Oren has been an effusive supporter, arguing that Roskam-Lipinski “can be the turning point in the struggle against the delegitimization of the Jewish State.”