UC Santa Barbara Agrees to Strengthen Civil Rights Protections for Jewish Students

Here’s an important new success story:  The University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) has pledged to implement recommendations from the Brandeis Center, and in return the Center has agreed to withdraw its U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Title VI complaint asserting that the university had created a hostile environment for Jewish students.

The Brandeis Center has been impressed with UCSB’s responsiveness to its concerns over the course of the last several months.  “We are pleased with the university’s response, and look forward to see it implemented so that all students – regardless of religious or ethnic identity – are protected from civil rights violations on campus,” LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus has said.

The university, represented by University of California Chancellor Henry Yang, committed to several specific steps, based on LDB recommendations: Hosting on-campus educational programming conducted by the Anti-Defamation League on anti-Semitic hate and bias; and adopting a neutral observer program for on-campus events, especially those that could stoke intense debate and conflict. UCSB also issued formal statements that explicitly condemned anti-Semitism on campus and restated the school’s commitment to mutual respect, civility, tolerance, and decency.

In a formal statement issued this morning, Marcus said the resolution of the complaint was welcome, as LDB prefers to work with universities to avoid future incidents. “We were quite concerned with prior incidents at UCSB and the initial reactions of university staff with regard to the safety and welfare of Jewish students. However, after working with UCSB to address these infractions, we feel that the school is taking the necessary steps to provide a campus life that is safe and welcoming for not just Jewish students, but all students,” said Marcus.

 

Marcus emphasized his favorable impression of Chancellor Yang and his senior staff.  “I would like to thank and commend Chancellor Yang and UCSB’s Counsel Nancy Hamill for their diligent attention to this issue,” he added. “We hope that this serves as a model for other universities facing similar challenges.”

The MLA’s Top Five BDS Blunders This Week

Modern Language Association logoLDB President Kenneth L. Marcus describes the Modern Language Association’s top five BDS blunders at The Algemeiner today.  An excerpt appears below:

The Modern Language Association (MLA) has blundered repeatedly over its treatment of Israel in the run-up to its annual conference this week.  Technically the 30,000 member association is not contemplating a resolution to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel (BDS) per se at this week’s upcoming confab. Instead it is debating a halfway measure that insiders observe is intended to be a stepping-stone to worse actions. But it is doing so in a way that should embarrass every one of its members. This is not just a mistake. This is five blunders rolled into one.

1.     Introducing a Polarizing Anti-Israel Resolution

Despite the backlash against last month’s BDS resolution at the American Studies Association, the MLA is considering a resolution that would urge the U.S. State Department to oppose the allegedly “arbitrary denials of entry” to American academics seeking to teach or conduct research at West Bank and Gaza universities. This half-way measure is, as former American Association of University Professors Presidents Cary Nelson explains, a step along the way towards a formal BDS resolution:  “They proposed the travel resolution as a fallback,” said Nelson. “They’re trying something else as a step toward a boycott resolution the next time. If they can win this, they will move onto the next one.” So BDS advocates stepped back from advancing a full-fledge BDS resolution that they clearly knew would fail, but they are using the MLA as a political tool to achieve the next best thing.

2.     Substituting Politics for Scholarship

Worse than the resolution itself is the MLA’s process for considering it.  This week, the convention features only a one-sided roundtable discussion on “Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine,” which includes only BDS supporters but no opponents. There is nothing remotely academic about the panel, which does not purport to advance or disseminate modern language scholarship but only to politicize it in polarizing fashion. The panel’s supporters of the BDS movement are: BDS leader Omar Barghouti, the University of Texas at Austin’s Barbara Jane Harlow, the University of California at Riverside’s David C. Lloyd, and Wesleyan University’s Richard M. Ohmann. This is a politically biased, unscholarly approach, and it has nothing to do with the association’s mission. The MLA’s resolution may land them inhot water with the Internal Revenue Service, but the entire process is also a disservice to those of their members who expect the association to pursue the mission for which it was established and for which it has received tax-exempt status.

3.     Suppressing Dissenting Voices

Worse, the MLA is barring those on the other side of the debate from making their own presentations at the conference. Specifically, the MLA rejected a counter-panel featuring former MLA President Russell Berman, Brandeis University Israel Studies Chair Ilan Troen, and cultural theorist Gabriel Noah Brahm, Jr. This silencing of one side of the debate brings no credit to the BDS movement, which is constantly trying to defend itself against arguments that it violates the academic freedom of Israeli professors, and certainly none to the MLA. In this case, of course, it is also American professors, including Israel’s supporters within the MLA, whom the MLA would silence.

The Brandeis Center Hosts Its First National Law Student Conference

photo ken panelThe Brandeis Center held its first National Conference for Law Students in Los Angeles on January 2nd and January 3rd.  This is part of the new initiative for law school chapters of the Brandeis Center. The conference focused on educating and engaging law student members of the LDB law school chapters by offering a series of lectures and panel discussions presented by several distinguished attorneys and scholars.  Students from the LDB law school chapters of UCLA, American University Washington College of Law, and the University of Pennsylvania were in attendance for the event.  The conference concentrated on a variety of legal advocacy and policy issues pertinent to the Brandeis Center’s mission, such as freedom of speech, advocacy for civil rights, and combating anti-Semitism.

The conference began with notable Jewish advocate and co-founder of StandWithUs, Roz Rothstein.  In her lecture, “The Boycott Movement Against Israel: Their Goals and Strategies,” Rothstein stressed the importance of opposing anti-Semitism by disproving allegations using hard evidence.  She advocated that the best way to refute anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda is to document the lies being perpetuated by Jews and Israel, and to be aware of what is happening on university campuses in the United States.

photo ken closeupThe Brandeis Center’s own Kenneth L. Marcus echoed the same sentiment in his lecture, “Combating Campus Anti-Semitism.”  Marcus highlighted the fact that the resurgence of anti-Semitism on university campuses often masquerades under the guise of criticism of Israel.  While mere criticism of a country alone is not only protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of speech but also important in creating policy changes, what is happening on university campuses is far more than just benign criticism.  In fact, as Marcus noted, many proponents of the BDS movement are utilizing it as a vehicle to perpetuate hate and lies against the Jewish people and Israel.  By using the EUMC and the U.S. Department of State’s own definitions of anti-Semitism, Marcus highlighted the three-prong test of differentiating criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism: (1) the demonization of Israel and Jews; (2) holding Israel to a standard that other countries are not held to; and (3) delegitimizing Israel as a nation.  He then gave examples in ways the Brandeis Center is engaging in legal advocacy in the fight against anti-Semitism, and provided best practice responses to anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incidents.as a tool for students to get involved on their campuses.  photo danit closeupDistinguished Brandeis Center staff attorney, Danit Sibovits, then engaged the students in a roundtable to discuss how they could lead their individual university chapters in battling campus anti-Semitism.  She highlighted that advocating for the Jewish voice on university campuses is a joint effort, and encouraged the students to get involved. Connect to legal advocacy initiative and combatting anti-Semitism and link to one blog entry about legal advocacy/best practices guide

The first day’s events ended with a wonderful dinner at Marina del Rey, and a screening of the award-winning film, Unmasked: Judeophobia.  The film chronicles the rise of anti-Jewish ideology across the world, and examines the phenomenon from a historical perspective.  Conference attendees were treated to a private question and answer session with filmmaker Gloria Greenfield after the screening.

Fifth College Cuts Ties to Controversial American Studies Association

According to Inside Higher Ed,  a fifth institution has cut ties with the embattled American Studies Association.  Over sixty universities have lambasted the ASA’s controversial anti-boycott resolution, in addition numerous scholars, commentators, Jewish groups, and the American Association of University Professors.  To their credit, four institutions went beyond statement-making and actually dropped their membership in…

Five Takeaways from the ASA Debacle

 

What should we learn from the American Studies Association’s lopsided December 15 vote to endorse the anti-Israel boycott?  Here are five takeaways:

  1. The Jewish Community Got Beat

There is no question about it.  The American Studies Association’s anti-Israel boycott resolution  is a defeat for everyone who is concerned about anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in higher education.  The ASA is the largest, most important academic association to support the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS).  By a membership vote of nearly 2-to-1, the ASA voted to support a limited academic boycott of Israel, the first country that the association has ever seen fit to treat in this manner.

For years, Israel’s supporters have observed that BDS tarnishes Israel’s reputation even when it fails.  Until recently, BDS resolutions failed over and over again in the United States.  Yet each battle imposed a cost, as Israel was falsely cast in the public mind as a rogue nation.  The harm is obviously greater when these resolutions actually pass, as they have recently on some university campuses, such as the University of California at Berkeley and Irvine.  The ASA resolution gives a scholarly imprimatur to a cause that is at best political and at worst bigoted.

2.  The ASA Was the Biggest Loser

In the end, the ASA is the biggest loser, and this outcome will not be lost on other associations.  For its efforts, the ASA is now publicly mocked, ridiculed and condemned, even by some of its own members and past presidents, as well as by major scholars and numerous university presidents.  Even those who do not discern anti-Semitism in the ASA resolution nevertheless perceive a violation of academic freedom.  The American Association of University Professors announced that the boycott would violate the academic freedom “not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it.”  More importantly, perhaps, the ASA has now lost any scholarly reputation that it might previously have had and is now seen as a largely political institution.

Brandeis Center Responds to the Journal of Academic Freedom

In its 2013 publication, the Journal of Academic Freedom discussed the topic of academic boycotts, primarily focusing on the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).  In her introduction, the Journal’s editor, Ashley Dawson, wrote that the “reviewers of the submitted articles. . . felt [the articles] could have the salutary effect of pushing the AAUP to discuss criteria for responding to violations of academic freedom. . .” on an international level, since the AAUP’s current policy opposes boycotts.  However, what followed was a compilation of articles presenting one-sided narrow viewpoints on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and academic freedom. 

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In response to this biased presentation, several scholars came together to present a series of response papers.  In “The Very Foundations of the University”, the Brandeis Center’s Kenneth L. Marcus and Sitara Kedilaya outline the alarming yet growing position of several academics: that the Jews are the most dangerous threat to the university.  Too many academics embrace the narrative that Zionists threaten the university by suppressing speech contrary to their nefarious interests, especially their conspiracy to hide crimes inflicted by Israelis on innocent Palestinians.  Such warnings resonate with age-old stereotypes of the Jews as fantastically powerful, diabolically conspiratorial, and cosmically dangerous.  According to these anti-Israel scholars, the Zionist threat consists of orchestrated complaints by pro-Israel students who insist that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.  To assert this position, these scholars too narrowly construe the true definition of anti-Semitism, and therefore must deny that anti-Semitism is the serious problem on many university campuses that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says it is. In other words, they must create a safe haven for those anti-Jewish bigots who cast their anti-Jewish rhetoric in terms of Israel. 

National Law Student Conference Gains Star Power

The Brandeis Center just announced two superstar additions to the faculty of our inaugural national law student leadership conference: international lawyers Richard Heideman and Abraham (Avi) Bell.

The LDB national law student conference, to be held in Los Angeles, California on January 2-3, 2014, marks the launch of the Brandeis Center’s law student chapter program. Just a few slots remain for law student leaders interested in attending the leadership conference and learning from Heideman, Bell, and other leading authorities.


Mr. Heideman, a world-famous legal practitioner and civic leader, has served as President of B’nai B’rith, Head of Delegation to the United Nations Durban Conference, and Chief Trial Counsel for Israeli victims of terrorism at hearings convened on behalf of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies by the Dutch Center for Information and Documentation on Israel coincident with the International Court of Justice Hearings at The Hague. He authored the brief filed with the International Court of Justice regarding legal issues arising from Israel’s construction of its terrorism prevention security fence.

Professor Bell, an internationally prominent international law scholar, is Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law. Professor Bell clerked for Justice Mishael Cheshin of the Supreme Court of Israel and for the High Court of Justice Department within the Israeli State Attorney’s office.

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “We couldn’t be more delighted by the addition of Heideman and Bell to the fabulous agenda for our Los Angeles conference. Law student attendees will be very lucky to learn from these legal superstars.”

Call For Papers: Summer Institute for Law and Policy

Our friends at the Summer Institute for Law and Policy at Hebrew University have issued this call or applications:

Hebrew University in Jerusalem Faculty of Law invites applications for its three week Summer Institute for Law and Policy, June 1-20, 2014.

ABOUT HU: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) is the first and leading university in Israel (ranked 59 in the world inhttp://www.shanghairanking.com). The Faculty of Law, which has long been considered the most prestigious law school in the country and a world-reputed academic institution, is inviting applications for the first of its Summer Institutes for Law and Policy. The Program, offered in English, is dedicated to International Law and Human Rights, and the Middle East Conflict, fields for which the HU Law Faculty has been known as an international hub of academic excellence.

Academic Boycotts Are Anathema to Academic Freedom

UntitledAll too often, professors proclaim their allegiance to the principles of academic freedom and then take action that violates those very principles. Sadly, this is often the case when it comes to academia’s attitude toward the State of Israel and its institutions of higher learning.

The American Studies Association (ASA), which claims to be “the nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history,” is currently debating a proposed resolution to endorse a boycott of Israeli universities. Should the organization’s National Council, which consists of about 20 elected representatives, approve the resolution, the ASA will become the second major American scholarly organization to come out in favor of such an academic boycott.