UC Davis: The Louis D. Brandeis Center Approach to Preventing Threatening, Anti-Semitic Behavior

When three Jewish students tried to speak at a November 2012 protest against Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense on the University of California, Davis campus, they were silenced with shouts of “Leave our space!” “Shame on you!” and “Long live the intifada!”

The harassment only got worse.

The protesters then started chanting “F**k Israel” and gave the Jewish students a choice – join the chant, or be removed from the building. When they refused to leave, the three students were forcibly backed against a wall of windows while the protestors pounded their fists in the air, and made threatening physical gestures. The school officials nearby did nothing to try and control the situation.

There was a clear pattern of troubling behavior – these bitter clashes took place shortly after an unrelated outdoor demonstration held on campus turned into a rally against Israel.

UC Davis had quickly become a hostile environment for Jewish students. In addition to fostering a malicious campus culture, by allowing this threatening campus life to continue, the school threatened its federal funding: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits the use of federal funding for public programs – including public universities – found to discriminate based on race, color or natural origin.

Vendetta Claims a Victim

Arab teenager

According to Lee Smith whose beat is the Mideast, Arabs are better at feuding than making war. This is why it was not only a terrible crime, but a tragic mistake when apparently Jewish extremists—outraged by the kidnap-murder of three teenage Jewish boys, Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar—invited an Arab-Jewish blood feud by kidnapping and killing an innocent Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem. Multiple arrests have been made in Israel with relative alacrity—in contrast to the Palestinian Authority which lacks the will or the ability or both to arrest those responsible for the triple murder. Whoever killed the Arab boy, Mohammed Hussein Abu Khdeir, should be prosecuted and punished to the maximum extent of the law for a terrorist crime that weakens the moral foundations of the Jewish state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said as much and virtually every other Israeli in publish life has said as much.

“The abduction of the Arab teenager was carried out by extremists, acting on their own, who stand condemned by every sector of Israel’s democratic society. The kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teens, who have not been yet captured, was carried out by members of a terrorist group (Hamas) that is part of a Palestinian government,” declared Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The young men arrested for burning alive the Arab boy are being compared to European berserk “football hooligans.” No analogy is adequate to the depravity of the crime, but a better one is the kidnap-murder in Paris in 2006 of Jew of Moroccan descent, Ilan Halimi.

There are those among left-wing Jewish commentators whose initial reflex was to demand that we place the kidnap-murder of three Israel teens “in political context.” “Providing this context may be taboo at a time when the entire country is focused on the fate of three kidnapped Israeli teens, wrote journalist Mairav Zonszein, “but it is part and parcel of the story here.” Gidean Levy in “Haaretz” went so as to declare: “Only Israel is permitted to carry out illegal, immoral operations. Only it is permitted to be sanctimonious, to be shocked and to shout from the rooftops when others do the same thing to Israel.”

Zonszein, Levy, and other critics of the Jewish state in western newspapers as well as Israel should take more seriously the perverse reactions—and not only by Palestinians—to the kidnap-murder of three Jewish teens whose deaths should give us all pause.

The Worst Campus Anti-Semitic Incidents of 2013-2014

This past academic year was a turbulent  one on many college campuses, keeping the Brandeis Center’s legal advocacy initiative busy from coast-to-coast protecting Jewish students from hostile environments.  Which incidents do you think were the worst?  Unfortunately, there have been many to choose among.  Here are a few to consider:

BDS protestASA – On December 15, the American Studies Association (ASA) voted to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  By a membership vote of 2-to-1, the association supported a limited academic boycott of Israel, the first country the ASA has treated this way.

AASA – Before there was the ASA, there was the AASA.  Earlier this past year, the Asian American Studies Association unanimously approved a resolution endorsing a boycott of Israeli universities.

Vassar SJP neonat HolocaustVassar – Vassar College’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) posted a 1944 German poster on its Tumblr page portraying a many-handed monster wearing a KKK mask, holding a little man grasping a moneybag, while stomping over a European town. The Brandeis Center urged Vassar to take swift disciplinary action against the student group.

New York University – At NYU, SJP members shoved mock eviction notices under students’ dormitories room doors and into their private rooms at two NYU dormitories.  One of the dormitories is known for its high concentration of Jewish students.  The Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project have urged NYU to “firmly and forcefully” discipline the students.

Michigan IIMichigan – In mid-March, Jewish pro-Israel students were called “kikes” and “dirty Jews,” threatened and otherwise harassed by BDS activists.   The Brandeis Center has urged the university to respond.

San Francisco State – Mohammad Hammad, a then-San Francisco State University student, late last year posted pictures on his Tumblr account with him holding a long knife captioned, “Imagine me cutting off the heads of those in the Israeli Defense Forces with this.” More recently, the Brandeis Center has joined an AMCHA Initiative letter calling for investigation into the use of university funds to sponsor a faculty member’s trip to the Middle East to meet with groups designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. Department of State. In the past, San Francisco State has been very strong at responding to problematic incidents, and we are hopeful that President Wong will maintain former President Corrigan’s strong legacy.

Northeastern University School of LawNortheastern – Northeastern University’s chapter of SJP has been charged with many offenses including sliding unauthorized documents under students’ dormitory doors, not obtaining required permits, and defacing school property.  Northeastern placed the chapter on probation, later reinstating them subject to various important conditions. The Brandeis Center has established a chapter at Northeastern School of Law.

Temple – Recently, a Temple University professor questioned the deaths of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. These comments come during unsuccessful efforts to convince MLA to adopt resolution critical of Israel. According to a spokesman from the University, Professor Alessio Lerro is “entitled to promote his controversial ideas.” The Brandeis Center has urged Temple President Theobald to respond more forcefully to these outrageous statements.

The More Things Change…

The late Gary Tobin was often ahead of his time.  Here is what he said about the Presybterian Church nine years ago: The vast majority of Presbyterians are neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel.  Yet, a few activists were able to capture the institutional decision-making processes to pass anti-Israel resolutions.  This phenomenon is widespread on campuses as…

Aleksander Dugan: Rasputin Redux?

Speculation is percolating about an emerging “new fascist international”—stretching from France (stamping ground of the Le Pens and the National Front), to Spain (whose extremist rightist figure head is Prince Sixtus Henry of Bourbon-Parma, leader of the Catholic-monarchist Carlist movement), to Austria (where Heinz-Christian Strache heads the fascist Freedom Party), to Greece (where “Golden Dawn” is headed by Nikolaos Michaloliakos), to Hungary (where Marton Gyongyosi heads the vicious Jobbik Party), to Bulgaria (where Volen Siderov is founder to the far-right Ataka Party), to Vladimir Putin’s expansive-minded Russian Federation.

To the extent that there is a nucleus of fact beneath overblown hype, the question emerges who might provide the ideological glue for such a new alignment?

The cultural and religious gaps among these right-wing forces is such that the probable answer is nobody. Yet Putin’s Russia—the prime mover behind the new far right—is also providing the movement with a primus inter pares.

His name is Aleksandr Dugan who is being pictured, not without some plausibility, as a sort of reincarnated Rasputin, the “Mad Monk” whose unbridled charisma helped lead the Russian Empire presided by the last of the Romanovs over a cliff. His roots are uncovered in several recent books including James D. Heiser’s “‘The American Empire Should be Destroyed’: Aleksander Dugan and the Perils of Immanentized Eschatology” (2014).

The Presbyterian Church and the Ku Klux Klan

At their General Assembly on Friday, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to divest from three companies that supply Israel with equipment used in the West Bank and in the blockade of Gaza. Enemies of the Jewish community are rejoicing.  Former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke  exulted, “Bravo to the Presbyterian Church for standing up to Jewish racism and supremacism!”  Duke is right to praise the Presbyterian divestment vote, which supports what the Ku Klux Klan stands for.

David Duke’s endorsement will undoubtedly embarrass the Presbyterian Church, since it underscores the anti-Semitic character of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  Regardless of the Presbyterian delegates’ intentions, they have made common cause with a global movement that aims to marginalize and delegitimize the Jewish state.  In this sense, the BDS movement continues longstanding efforts to marginalize and delegitimize the Jewish people.

The connections between BDS and anti-Semitism have not been lost on the Presbyterian Church.  The divestment resolution (Resolution 04-09contains an unusual formal comment by the Church’s Advocacy Committee for Racial and Ethnic Concerns (ACREC).  In this statement, ACREC addressed the anti-Semitism charge explicitly, endorsing the unusual argument the Jewish community should “suspend their campaigns against anti-Semitism indefinitely” in order to focus exclusively on the Palestinians.  In other words, their official position is that it does not matter whether their resolution is anti-Semitic, since anti-Semitism is not as important as Jewish organizations say it is.

This extraordinary argument is taken from American-born Israeli journalist Larry Derfner, whom ACREC quotes as arguing last year:

The ADL [Anti-Defamation League] goes after anti-Semitism with a fist, it goes after Israeli racism with a sigh. As a matter of fact, the ADL and the entire American Jewish establishment should suspend their campaigns against anti-Semitism indefinitely and take a look at what’s going on in Israel.

It is not hard to see why this would be appealing to David Duke, but it is disappointing to see it adopted by a mainline Protestant denomination.  This argument, coming from within the Jewish community, supports Duke’s efforts to convince people to tolerate anti-Semitism. Derfner may not be a household word, but if he is known for anything, it is that the Jerusalem Post fired him a few years ago after he tried to justify terrorist attacks on Israelis, writing, “I think the Palestinians have the right to use terrorism against us.”  Derfner has apologized for his apparent defense of terrorism, which may be explained by his tendency to write hyperbolically.  Unfortunately, the Presbyterians have taken his arguments literally.

What is remarkable is that the Presbyterian Church would find it necessary to adopt Derfner’s argument about anti-Semitism as part of a resolution that does not purport to address anti-Semitism at all.  But the connection makes sense.  After all, the Church delegates must have felt some discomfort at advancing the BDS movement in light of that movement’s unsavory aspects.  Derfner’s argument gives them the blessing they need, even if it comes from a man who seems to have tried to justify terrorism against the Jewish people in the past.

This argument, if taken as literally as ACREC appears to take it, is that Jews exaggerate the extent of anti-Semitism in order to diminish the suffering of other peoples.  This is an example of what is called “anti-Semitism denial,” because it mimics the logic of Holocaust denial.  The global resurgence of anti-Semitism is now well-established.  Those who deny the existence of global anti-Semitism, or argue that it is greatly exaggerated, do not merely express an erroneous opinion.  Rather, their position is that Jews abuse their power to intimidate governments and major institutions, deceiving others in order to gain unfair advantage.  This argument would be entirely implausible, except that it relies on deeply entrenched anti-Semitic stereotypes, that even well-meaning Presbyterian delegates have apparently found convincing.

Brandeis Center and AMCHA Initiative Seek Answers in Potential Misuse of Taxpayer Dollars

The Brandeis Center has joined the AMCHA Initiative in pressing for an investigation into San Francisco State University Ethnic Studies Professor Rabab Abdulhadi’s potential misuse of public university funds.

The organizations have sent a letter asking California State Controller John Chiang to investigate “a serious and blatant misuse of University and state funds.” Documents obtained by AMCHA through a California Public Records Act request suggest that Professor Abdulhadi received more than $7,000 from the University, after she misrepresented her intended destinations on forms needed for insurance and administrative purposes. On these forms, Abdulhadi had claimed she would be presenting a paper in Beirut at an academic conference, but she in fact went on a “political solidarity tour.” The AMCHA letter continues, “As part of the delegation organized and led by Abdulhadi, the group met with known PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled, as well as with Islamist leader Sheik Raed Saleh, who has been incarcerated by Israeli authorities for aiding and abetting Hamas, an organization who charter calls for the murder of Jews.”