New Books in Jewish Studies: Interview with Kenneth L. Marcus

Recently, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus gave an enlightening interview to Jason Shulman for the New Books in Jewish Studies podcast series. The interview focused not only on Marcus’ new book, The Definition of Anti-Semitism, but also on the troubling resurgence of anti-Semitism in American higher education. In his interview, Marcus explains his motivation for…

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:

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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 BDS Solidarity Wave

Activists campaigning for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel recently called for an “international wave of action in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle” and promoted the planned events on social media under the hashtag #SolidarityWaveBDS. One can only speculate if the image of the wave was an entirely coincidental choice or if it was…

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

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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…

American Jewish World Interview With LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus

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While in the Twin Cities for the launch of University of Minnesota LDB law student chapter on September 30th, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus sat down with American Jewish World’s Community News Editor, Erin Elliot Bryan, to discuss the trend of rising anti-Semitic incidents across college campuses. LDB’s joint ‘Anti-Semitism Report’ with Trinity College, released earlier this year, revealed that over 50% of 1,157 self-identified Jewish students at 55 campuses nationwide reported experiencing or witnessing anti-Semitism on their campuses in the Spring semester of the 2013-2014 academic year alone. In light of this issue, Marcus explained the importance of LDB law student chapters as well as the importance of supporting students as they take a stand against anti-Semitism. It is often the case that students feel afraid to speak out against their schools, and administrative officials feel unsure of where the boundary between legitimate criticism of Israel and hate filled anti-Semitism lies, an issue which Marcus discusses in his new book, The Definition of Anti-Semitism:

American Jewish World on Defining anti-Semitism

Erin Elliot Bryan

More than half of 1,157 self-identified Jewish college students at 55 campuses around the United States reported having been subjected to or having witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses. This is according to the National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students, which was released in February by Trinity College and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB).

The survey was conducted in the spring of 2014, before the conflict in Gaza.

In 2015, several incidents of anti-Semitism have been reported at campuses in the University of California system: “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” was found written on a bathroom wall at UC Berkeley; a Jewish applicant for a student union position found her suitability questioned on the basis of her religion at UCLA; and swastikas were painted on a Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis.

And the Anti-Defamation League noted other incidences of campus anti-Semitism that have been reported so far this year: a student at Drexel University in Philadelphia found a swastika and the word “JEW” taped next to his Israeli flag; vandalism at the University of Missouri included a swastika, the Illuminati symbol, the word “heil,” and later, another swastika and the words, “You’ve been warned”; and anti-Semitic posts on a Facebook page called UChicago Secrets included “People are hypocrites. This is a fact. One example? The Jews at UChicago…” and “As a Person of Palestinian descent, I don’t think it is unreasonable or horrific for me to hate Jews…”

“What we’re finding is that campus anti-Semitism is no longer a California problem nor is it just a bicoastal problem,” said Kenneth Marcus, president and general counsel of LDB (which has no connection to Brandeis University), in a recent visit to the AJW office. “It has penetrated to the heartland of the United States and we’re seeing it at places that seemed completely peaceful and harmonious just a few years ago.”

Marcus was in the Twin Cities to launch the newest LDB chapter at the University of Minnesota, which marks the continued expansion of the Brandeis Center Law Student Chapter Initiative. Chapters already exist at William Mitchell College of Law in Minneapolis and St. Thomas School of Law in St. Paul (11-21-14 AJW); 16 chapters exist around the country.

Marcus said LDB chapters provide educational opportunities, such as speakers and events, so that law students understand the problem of anti-Semitism, and how anti-Israel hate often crosses the line into anti-Semitism. Chapters will also offer education and training on civil rights law and human rights law.

“If all they did was to provide education, that would be enough, but these students usually want to do more,” Marcus said. “They want to use their legal skills to fight against campus anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, including the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement. In many cases, they serve as mentors and advisors to the undergraduates using their legal tools and training.”

In a video posted on the LDB Web site, Marcus explains the organization’s three-step approach to combatting anti-Semitism on campus: research, such as the study conducted with Trinity College; education, such as public events, scholarly articles and blogs; and advocacy, such as legal action brought against an institution.

LDB’s expertise is in law and public policy, and Marcus wrote some of the federal policies that deal with issues of anti-Semitism. LDB staff educates university administrators about the line between political criticism and anti-Semitism, and helps them develop effective practices to address anti-Semitism and racism on their campuses.

“Law schools turn out some of the most influential people in society,” Marcus said. “Some law students will become state legislators and other policy makers within just a few years of graduating. So we can’t be in a position where anti-Israel activists have taken over the law schools, and the Jewish community is playing catch-up.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Passes Bi-Partisan Resolution on Combating Anti-Semitism in Europe

On Friday, October 9, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed H. Res. 354 on combating Anti-Semitism in Europe.  The resolution was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and co-sponsored by the other members of the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism:  Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Kay…