BDS in Paris

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The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement is not only growing on American college campuses, but also at European universities. This is unsurprising, as anti-Semitism has been skyrocketing in Europe in recent years, and where there is anti-Semitism, BDS supporters often emerge. I am a Jewish French student, currently studying abroad in the U.S. for the year. At my university in Paris, Sciences Po Paris, a top political science school, BDS France supporters almost succeeded in calling off a conference at the beginning of the month, titled, “To be a Woman in Israel.”
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The conference, scheduled for April 1, was organized by, “Paris Tel-Aviv,” a multi-denominational French-Israeli student association, with a mission of discovering Israeli culture and History. The conference was supposed to feature four women covering four inter-related aspects of women’s lives in Israel: the everyday life, the mandatory military service, the labor market, and Judaism; show an Israeli-French film: Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem (2014); and hold a discussion on women’s place in the Israeli society. The conference was apolitical and had nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

BDS France denounced the conference, claiming that the representatives of the “Israel Apartheid State” were invited to the conference “under the guise of . . .  women’s rights,” but that all events organized by Paris Tel-Aviv are aimed “to normalize the criminal policy of the State of Israel.” If the conference was not to be cancelled, BDS called for demonstrations in front of the school. The conference, scheduled at the same time as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was speaking at the school, was first adjourned and then cancelled by university administrators nervous about security issues.

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This is part of the BDS strategy, to demonize Israel and everything that is relative to it. On their French website, BDS implies that the speakers are responsible for the “killings of Palestinian civilians” and actively participate in the “colonization.”

Fortunately, following this whole debacle, Noemie Ifrah, Sciences Po Paris student and President of Paris Tel-Aviv succeeded in reinstating the conference, and obtained high security for the event. “The definitive cancelation of the conference would have been a decisive victory for BDS and a great defeat for the freedom of expression,” explained Noemie; a freedom of expression that is threatened in Paris since the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Anti-Semitism at Northeastern University

President Joseph E. Aoun
Office of the President
Northeastern University
716 Columbus Place, Suite 620
Boston, MA  02120

Dear President Aoun,

We are 22 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people who are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at Northeastern University.

We are troubled by the reports of a swastika drawn on a dry-erase board in the common space of the International Village dorm, as well as a mezuzah vandalized at an off-campus apartment building. These incidents follow the disturbing incident that occurred in November of 2014, when swastikas were drawn on two fliers posted on campus to publicize a lecture by an Israeli military official.

aoun_largeIn both incidents, your leadership has been exemplary in identifying such acts as antisemitic, promptly and strongly condemning these actions as hate crimes, stating the University will be investigating, and standing firmly against bigotry. We join Northeastern Hillel in commending you for your, “courage and integrity in swiftly condemning anti-Semitism.”

We share Northeastern Hillel Executive Director Arinne Bravermen’s concern that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and other anti-Israel activities contribute to the creation of a hostile environment for Jewish students. As Ms. Bravermen stated, “I don’t think it’s coincidental that the swastika appeared in the same residence hall where [Students for Justice in Palestine] conducted ‘dorm storming’ with mock eviction notices last spring, and went door-to-door soliciting signatures for their divestment petition, in violation of quiet hours, during midterms just a few weeks ago.”

Congress launches task force to combat anti-Semitism

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Last Tuesday, eight members of Congress launched the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating anti-Semitism to respond to the international resurgence of anti-Semitism. This task force is intended to alert other members of Congress of the recent upheaval of hatred toward the Jewish people all over the world, and to share solutions with the executive branch and foreign leaders.

The Co-Chairs Chris Smith (Republican), Nita Lowey (Democrat), Eliot Engel (Democrat), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican), Kay Granger (Republican), Steve Israel (Democrat), Peter Roskam (Republican), and Ted Deutch (Democrat) explained: “Jewish populations are facing increased levels of hatred, frequently under the guise of political differences or other alibis, but in reality it is solely because of their faith. It is the responsibility of everyone who believes in basic universal liberties and freedoms to condemn this trend and work together to root out the hatred which underlies anti-Semitism.” 

The task force is designed after a wave of anti-Semitic violence in Europe. The most violent ones included the January attacks on a kosher supermarket in Paris, the shootings at a Copenhagen synagogue last month, and the bloodshed at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014. But the task force also expresses concerns about the everyday acts of anti-Semitism rising in Europe and in the US.

Anti-Semitism on UC Campuses

March 19, 2015 Dear President Napolitano and the Board of Regents, We are 23 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of supporters who are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at the University of California.First, we acknowledge and appreciate your statement strongly condemning the recent antisemitic incidents at the University of California that have…

Anti-Semitism Here and Around the World

There is still time to pre-register for an important and engaging event in Chicago: “Anti-Semitism Here and Around the World.” Join DePaul University School of Law’s Center for Jewish Law and Jewish Studies (JLJS) on April 15th, free of charge, as they impart discourse concerning global anti-Semitism. JLJS is co-sponsoring this event with B’nai B’rith International, the Louis…

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.

Groups Express Concern about George Washington University Swastikas

Dr. Steven Knapp
President
2122 I Street, N.W.
Washington, DC  20052
Dear President Knapp,
We are 19 Jewish and civil rights organizations representing hundred of thousands of supporters who are concerned for the safety and well-being of Jewish students on your campus.
As you know, during the last week in February three swastikas were drawn inside International House, a dorm housing sororities and fraternities, three of which are historically Jewish.  We are troubled by the University’s response, and join Jewish student leaders on your campus who are calling for the University to better address incidents of campus antisemitism.
According to reports about the swastikas that appeared in The GW Hatchet and Washington Post, the University:
  • Did not formally acknowledge the swastikas until a meeting with students four days after the initial report was filed.
  • Did not take the issue seriously as students felt compelled to ask their parents to call the university on their behalf in order for the university to take action.
  • Referred to the swastikas as “offensive drawings” but did not publicly acknowledge that a swastika is an antisemitic symbol associated with genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people, and that it particularly targets members of the Jewish community for hatred and discrimination.
  • Is not investigating the incident as a hate crime.
  • May not have adequately trained security personnel to recognize antisemitism and hate crimes, and to appropriately respond to Jewish student concerns.
Jewish student leaders have called on the University to issue a formal apology for not addressing Jewish student concerns about the swastikas in a forthright manner, and asked that campus police officers be better trained in diversity and hate crimes.