LDB President to Deliver Keynote Address Blasting BDS Movement

This evening in Tel Aviv, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus will deliver an important keynote address at an important conference on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.    The IAM conference, entitled “BDS Campaign Against Israel: On Campusand Beyond,”  will take tonight at 6 p.m. in Tel Aviv University, Max Webb Hall 1.  LDB President Marcus, a former Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, will address “What is Anti-Semitic About the BDS Movement?”  In his keynote address, Mr. Marcus will explain why the BDS movement must be considered anti-Semitic even if some of its advocates deny harboring conscious anti-Semitic intent.  Marcus will also discuss legal tools that can be used to address some of the more extreme abuses of the movement.  Other conference speakers will include historian Richard Landes, political scientist Ofira Seliktar, and journalist Ben-Dror Yemini.  Details on the event are as follows:

The public is invited to the IAM event on “BDS Campaign Against Israel: On Campus and Beyond”  – Wednesday May 14, 2014 at 6pm in Tel Aviv University, Max Webb hall 1.

Entrance from gates 1 and 8, paid parking available.

Speakers bio and lectures

Lecture 1- Keynote speaker: Kenneth L. Marcus

What is Anti-Semitic About the Movement to Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction Israel?

“Supporters of the BDS movement argue that their campaign is a political response to human rights violations. Accusations of anti-Semitism, they often insist, are a bad-faith effort to limit debate on a legitimate topic of moral and political concern.  Kenneth L. Marcus, a human rights expert who formerly directed the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, explains why they are wrong.  In fact, anti-Jewish campaigns have frequently used the rhetoric of their times to justify anti-Jewish bigotry.  The BDS movement, Marcus shows, continues a long-standing effort to marginalize and delegitimize the Jewish people.  Some BDS supporters are consciously anti-Semitic, while others are not.  The essential feature of the movement however is its assault on the State of Israel as the collective Jew.”

Kenneth L. Marcus, President & General Counsel, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.

Pro-Palestinian Anti-Semitism at Vassar

Vassar College, which describes itself as “a highly selective, residential, coeducational liberal arts college,” has recently attracted a lot of attention because of the energetic activism of so-called “pro-Palestinian” groups like Vassar’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) who were apparently supported by dozens of faculty members.  As I noted in a related post a…

Brussels Ban on Anti-Semites’ Summit

Shimon Samuels and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have had a significant victory in their effort to block a summit of anti-Semitic leaders that had been planned for Belgium.  Their report follows:

Wiesenthal Centre commends Belgian Interior Minister, urging her to
now block hatefest organizer’s candidacy in 25 May European Parliament  elections” 4 May, The Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s call for a ban on today’s extreme right hatefest was followed up by Minister of Interior Joelle Millequet and Mayor Eric Thomas of the Brussels suburb of Anderlecht, as a threat to public order.

The ban was supported by the 18 other municipalities of the capital to
ensure that the venue could not be changed at the last minute and
endorsed by the Conseil d’Etat (Constitutional Court) and some 500
invitees were finally dispersed by police water cannon.

The Centre’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon
Samuels, stated,”this victory for Belgian democracy is a defeat for
French anti-Semites, Dieudonnee and Alain Soral, who had presented their
“Anti-Zionist Party” for the last European Parliament (EP) elections
in 2009.”

The Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project Urge NYU to Discipline Students Who Shoved Inflammatory Fliers into Students’ Dorm Rooms

This morning, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law and The Lawfare Project urged New York University President John Sexton and his administration to “firmly and forcefully” discipline the students who shoved inflammatory materials into students’ private rooms at two New York University dormitories on April 24. 

The two independent national civil rights organizations had been approached by New York University undergraduate students who are concerned about an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment in which mock eviction notices were pushed under the dormitory room doors and into the dormitory rooms of Jewish and non-Jewish students.  These flyers contain inflammatory and false accusations and were placed in a manner that created understandable anguish and alarm among the students.

In a letter to President Sexton and Vice Chancellor Linda Mills, the Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project emphasized that the mock eviction notices raised “serious issues under federal civil rights law.”  Specifically, the groups reminded President Sexton and Vice Chancellor Mills that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs that receive federal funds.  “More broadly,” the two organizations wrote, the infractions “raise questions about respect, civility, and mutual understanding and about sensitivity for the reasonable concerns of Jewish students.”

At approximately 3:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 24, 2014, mock eviction notices spreading anti-Israel sentiment had been distributed throughout New York University’s Palladium and Lafayette dormitories by members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).  The eviction notices state, “Palestinian homes are destroyed as part of the state of Israel’s ongoing attempts to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants and maintain an exclusively Jewish character of the state.  By destroying Palestinian homes, the state makes room for illegal Israeli settlements.  The Israeli government itself describes this process as Judaization.”  Not only is this grossly inaccurate, but it reinforces pernicious stereotypes and defamations about the Jewish people.

The Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project explained to Sexton and Mill that “dormitory rooms are virtually the opposite of public forums for speech and debate.  Rather, they are spaces in which students are most vulnerable.  There is no part of a university campus in which is it more crucial to protect student safety, security, and privacy.  This is particularly true during late hours of the night.”  New York University, like many other institutions, has instituted reasonable, content-neutral rules prohibiting the kind of infractions that were committed here.  The civil rights groups insisted that it is “absolutely imperative” that NYU “fully and firmly enforce these rules against the perpetrators immediately, taking fully into consideration the invasiveness of the behavior and the foreseeable harms to dormitory students.”

The Brandeis Center and The Lawfare Project also urged NYU to take into proper consideration that the offensiveness of the perpetrators’ actions was heightened by their selection of a dormitory that is well known to house an unusually high concentration of Jewish students.  “As you are no doubt aware,” they wrote, “Palladium is the only dormitory building at New York University that has a Shabbat elevator.  A university spokesman has argued that the elevator was installed at this location for reasons that are unrelated to the building’s high concentration of Jewish residents.  This is entirely beside the point.  Regardless of the reason for which the elevator was initially installed, your students have made clear to us that its existence is one of the reasons that so many prominent Jewish students are known to live there.  If Palladium was targeted in any part because of its concentration of Jewish students, then this factor must be considered in determining the nature and severity of the infraction.  Either way, however, the perpetrators’ choice of this particular building has aggravated the impact of the infractions.”

Ali Abunimah’s Orwellian Definition of Anti-Semitism

Veteran anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah is currently touring US campuses to hawk his recently published book “The Battle for Justice in Palestine.” As anyone even vaguely familiar with Abunimah’s prolific writings at his Electronic Intifada blog will know, his idea of “justice in Palestine” requires doing away with the world’s only Jewish state, and the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns against Israel that he champions so tirelessly are designed to help achieve this goal.

Among those who have enthusiastically endorsed Abunimah’s new book is Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, who also introduced Abunimah at one of his recent book tour events at Columbia University. In case anyone in the audience was concerned that Abunimah’s agenda and activism is ultimately anti-Semitic, Massad was ostensibly eager to allay such concerns: as a student attending the event highlighted on Twitter, Massad described Abunimah as “a fighter against antisemitism.” Given the fact that some of Massad’s own writings on Israel echo ideas and language that can be found on racist and neo-Nazi sites such as David Duke or Stormfront, it is downright preposterous for Massad to claim any expertise on anti-Semitism except as an avid practitioner.

Needless to say, Massad would firmly reject this accusation. However, he would do so primarily on the basis of the bizarre notion that anti-Israel activists are entitled to their very own self-serving definition of anti-Semitism – a notion that Ali Abunimah fully supports.

Already years ago, Abunimah made it abundantly clear that he not only regarded Zionism as “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today,” but that he also equated Zionism with Nazism.

Abunimah Zionism AntiSemitism

Abunimah Zionism Nazism

At the end of 2012, Abunimah eventually decided that it was time to formalize his views on anti-Semitism and have his fellow anti-Israel activists adopt a truly Orwellian declaration that pretends to reject “any form of racism or bigotry […] including, but not limited to, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Zionism” and that denounces at the same time “the cynical and baseless use of the term anti-Semitism as a tool for stifling criticism of Israel or opposition to Zionism.”

Anti-Semitism: From Ukraine to the U.S.

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus has just published this piece with The Algemeiner online:

Few recent news articles captured more attention than reports that Jews in Ukraine were being ordered to register. Then it turned out that the pamphlets ordering Jews to register might be something of a hoax or a political stunt.

Either way, it appears that Ukrainian Jews are being treated as pawns.

Moreover, the story would not have gotten such play if it hadn’t hit a nerve.

Ukraine has lately seen a string of anti-Semitic vandalism. The Holocaust Memorial in Sevastopol, which had previously been vandalized by neo-Nazis, was recently spray-painted with a hammer and sickle. In Dnepropetrovsk, swastikas were sprayed on the tomb of the late Lubavicher Rebbe Menahem Mendel Schneerson’s brother, Dov Ber Schneerson.  There has also been a recent stabbing and the attempted arson of two synagogues, one last week in Nikolayev.

But the problem is not limited to Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Hungary’s neo-Nazi Jobbik Party won a shocking 21 percent of votes in national elections. Disturbingly, Jobbik now claims particular strength among Hungary’s youth and highly educated voters. Some commentators explain Jobbik’s gains as a protest vote against anti-democratic practices by Hungary’s governing right-wing party amid disarray on the left. Nevertheless, something is gravely wrong when one in five Hungarians votes Nazi.

Then word came out last week that Kazakh’s nationalist magazine, “Star House” displays Nazi symbols and praises Adolf Hitler. The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Simon Samuels protested that the magazine “is dedicated totally to Hitler’s so-called ‘positive contribution’ to history, which would perversely include the Holocaust.”

Nor has the United States been immune from anti-Semitism lately. Frazier Glenn Cross, the founder and former head of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, allegedly shot three people dead at two Jewish-affiliated facilities in Kansas just before Passover. The shooter’s Mayor, Dan Clevenger of Marionville, vocally expressed support for him. “Kind of agreed with him on some things, but I don’t like to express that too much,” Mayor Clevenger reportedly told a local television station before announcing his resignation.

Disturbing incidents are also found on some American university campuses. Last month, after a heated debate over an anti-Israel divestment vote, some Jewish students at the University of Michigan at Arbor told Brandeis Center lawyers that they had been called “kike” and “dirty Jew.” One Jewish student reportedly faced death threats. On other campuses, anti-Israel protests have turned similarly ugly.

These incidents are not all of the same cloth. There is a world of difference, for example, between the Kansas City shooter and the Ann Arbor anti-Israel activists. On the other hand, the incidents do point to a common problem. The post-Holocaust taboo against anti-Jewish hostility is eroding in many parts of the world, including even on some American university campuses.

Some people insist that the Jewish community does not need more protection because it is already wealthy and privileged, and often minimize the problem. This line is often heard on university campuses, where anti-racist groups may sympathize with Palestinian activists. In some cases, they believe the anti-Israel rhetoric and are unsympathetic to Jewish students who support the Jewish state.

Even some Jewish communal professionals are leery of being perceived as too powerful or too privileged. They hesitate to speak out against anti-Semitism or to work with Jewish civil rights organizations. In their heart of hearts, they have come to believe that Jews are already too powerful and should not be too noisy in defending their rights.

MLA Vote: Will Bias Beat Scholarship?

Jeff Robbins has just published the following excellent article at the Times of Israel blog:

There is a scene in Guys and Dolls, the Damon Runyan-inspired tale about entertaining mobsters, in which a thug nicknamed Big Julie From Chicago lays down the law: he will not be shooting craps unless the outcome is safely rigged in advance. He announces to Nathan Detroit, who has beaten him until then using actual dice, that they will now be using his own “specially made” dice.

“I do not wish to seem petty,” Detroit offers, “but your dice ain’t got no spots on them. They’re blank.”

“I had the spots removed for luck,” replies Big Julie From Chicago, “but I remember where the spots formerly were.”

The meeting of the Modern Language Association in Chicago earlier this year featured a resolution censuring Israel for applying visa restrictions to four individuals whom it regarded as a security threat, promoted by academics who pronounced themselves motivated by their passionate support for the free exchange of ideas. But the promoters deployed tactics aimed at preventing those with a dissenting view from being heard with a lack of sheepishness that would have made Big Julie From Chicago proud, and the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley positively beam.

Welcome Stephen A. Cohen and Aviva J. Vogelstein

The Louis D. Brandeis Center is pleased to welcome two new civil rights legal fellows, Stephen A. Cohen and Aviva J. Vogelstein. Cohen and Vogelstein’s appointments marks the Brandeis Center’s continued expansion, as the Washington, D.C.-based civil rights group grows to face the resurgent problem of anti-Semitism on American University campuses.

Stephen Cohen (Steve), who joins the Brandeis Center as a Senior Civil Rights Legal Fellow, is a Seattle lawyer admitted to practice law in the states of Washington and Oregon, the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands and their respective Federal courts. Steve’s fields of practice previously encompassed taxation, business and commercial law, banking and financial services, real estate, estate planning, insurance, administrative law, bankruptcy and civil litigation. Steve received a B.A. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley; a J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco; a LL.M. in corporation law from New York University School of Law, New York City; and a MBA in taxation from the Graduate School of Taxation of Golden Gate University, Seattle.

Aviva J. Vogelstein, who joins the Brandeis Center as a Civil Rights Legal Fellow, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010, magna cum laude, with a BA in American History, and from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2013. She served as Hillel President at Penn, and was active in the Jewish Law Students Association at Cardozo. She gained extensive legal experience through Cardozo’s Bet Tzedek Legal Clinic, Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, and working for a solo practitioner. Aviva feels passionately about fighting anti-Semitism and advocating for Israel, and is very excited to be joining the LDB team.

Call for Papers on Anti-Semitism in the Shadow of the Holcoaust

ViennaThe European Sociological Association’s section on Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism is now one of the most important sources of research on contemporary anti-Semitism.  In advance of their mid-term conference this September in Vienna, the section has issued an interesting new call for papers on “Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism in the Shadow of the Holocaust”:

CALL FOR PAPERS

European Sociological Association

Contemporary antisemitism and racism in the shadow of the
Holocaust

RN31 Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism

Midterm conference 

Deadline for submitting abstracts: 22 May 2014

4–5 September 2014

University of Vienna

The ESA Research Network 31: Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism invites submissions of papers for its biannual mid-term conference. The conference will be held from 4 to 5 September 2014 at the University of Vienna.

We will hold sessions that focus on theoretical, methodological and empirical aspects of research on antisemitism and racism, also in a comparative framework. The network’s perspective is to bridge an exclusive divide between the understanding of antisemitism and of racism, exploring the correspondences and affinities, but also the differences and contrasts. Our over-arching question is to understand what are the material conditions and the social, political and historical contexts shaping variations in antisemitism and racism, across time and across different European and global contexts.

Vassar And The BDS War On Campus

The anti-Zionist – and sometimes also anti-Semitic – website Mondoweiss recently published a lengthy report by the site’s founder Philip Weiss about a meeting that took place at Vassar in early March. According to Weiss, the meeting had been scheduled by the school’s Committee on Inclusion and Excellence in order to discuss guidelines for activism after persistent protests by Vassar’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) against a trip to Israel planned by Vassar’s International Studies program.

Vassar BDS warWeiss began his report by quoting Jill Schneiderman, the professor who had apparently initiated the trip and who had mentioned the meeting in a post on her blog, where she wrote that she “was knocked off-center by a belligerent academic community dedicated to vilifying anyone who dares set foot in Israel.”  Weiss confirmed that the meeting “was truly unsettling,” that “torrents of anger ripped through the gathering” and that “rage against Israel was the theme.” He contrasted this atmosphere favorably with the broad popular support for Israel in the US, asserting that it was very different at Vassar, where “the spirit of that young progressive space was that Israel is a blot on civilization, and boycott is right and necessary. If a student had gotten up and said, I love Israel, he or she would have been mocked and scorned into silence.”

But according to Weiss, Israel’s supporters should expect not just more of the same, but worse to come, because in his view, the “battles we’ve seen so far on campus are just preliminaries.” He predicted that “things are going to get much more belligerent” and asserted that “belligerence may be necessary to the resolution.”

At the end of his detailed report, Weiss offered something like a declaration of war:

“If the SJP students can be obnoxious, their manner is just what feminist Margaret Fuller saw in abolitionists during slavery: tedious, rabid, narrow, prone to exaggeration. And dedicated to a principle worth living and dying for.

Expect many more rage-filled meetings in years to come as the left is broken over this question. How long before students occupy administration buildings of liberal arts colleges that work with Israel? How long before students chain themselves to bulldozers at the Cornell-Technion project in New York city?”

According to Weiss, this militant conduct is also endorsed by BDS leader Omar Barghouti: