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:

LDB in Boston, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

This week will provide opportunities to see Brandeis Center lawyers in action in Boston, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.  At noon today, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus will address “The New Anti-Semitism” at St. Louis University School of Law.  This event, in which Marcus will discuss legal approaches to contemporary Jew-hatred, kicks off a particularly busy…

WHY THE JEWS DID NOT ALWAYS LOVE ST. PATRICK’S DAY

The “You Don’t Have to be Jewish to Love Levy’s Real Jewish Rye” ad debuted 50 years ago this year. Of course, you also don’t have to be Irish to march at the front of the official St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Unlike David Dinkins in 1993 and Bill de Blasio this year, New York’s Jewish mayors have never boycotted the Parade despite the running controversy over its exclusion of organized gay participants.

Irish-Jewish relations in New York City, this time of year—and not only this time—are usually bathed in a hue of shamrock-colored bagels and nostalgia. Relations between Irish and Jews in the old country also have their stock repertoire of feel-good images, including two father-and-son Jewish lords mayor of Dublin, nineteenth-century “Liberator” Daniel O’Connell’s declaration that “Ireland is the only Christian country I know of unsullied by any act of persecution against the Jews,” Home Rule Crusader Michael Davitt’s journey to Czarist Russia in 1903 to expose the Kishinev Program, Ze’ev Jabotinsky journey to Ireland to model his movement to drive the British out of Palestine on the IRA, and Yitzhak Shamir the taking the guerrilla code name “Michael” after the Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins.

Even so, the Irish—including Irish Jews—have long memories. Even if it were not for the anti-Israel bias of the IRA and former Irish President Mary Robinson, Irish Jews would remember the Limerick Pogrom of 1904, supported by Sein Fenn founder Arthur Griffith, and Irish President Éamon de Valera’s signing of the official book of condolence on Hitler’s death on May 2, 1945, despite de Valera’s prewar friendship with Chief Rabbi of Ireland (and later Chief Rabbi of Israel) Isaac Herzog.

Launch of Northeastern Law School Chapter – March 19, 2014

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law is happy to announce the launch of its Northeastern law student chapter, located in Boston.   Danit Sibovits, LDB Staff Attorney heading the legal advocacy initiative, will be speaking at the launch.  The law school chapter initiative is the newest phase in the Brandeis Center’s campaign…

Brandeis Center Welcomes Brooklyn College Administration’s Apology for its Handling of 2013 Anti-Israel Event: Jewish Pro-Israel Students Vindicated by Apology, Further Action to Protect Civil Rights Will Be Pursued

The Brandeis Center welcomes some good news for three of our clients.  On Friday, Brooklyn College President Karen Gould publicly apologized for the school’s forcible ejection of four Jewish pro-Israel students from a 2013 anti-Israel event sponsored in part by the school. The Brandeis Center, which represents three of the students removed from the lecture, had called for a public apology from Brooklyn College, and was pleased when the apology was issued late Friday afternoon.

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus lauded the apology in a press release issued this morning:

“This apology reflects the fact that the university violated the constitutional and civil rights of our clients at a public event. This was a shameful incident, and we are pleased that the university has accepted responsibility,” said LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus. “We appreciate the apology and look forward to working with the school to ensure that other Brooklyn College students will not have to endure what happened to our clients.”

Here’s a summary of the case, which many readers will recall from last year:

On February 7, 2013, the Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine chapter – with official sponsorship from the school – hosted an event promoting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which is aimed at Israel. The event featured Judith Butler … and Omar Barghouti….

Shortly after the four Jewish students – including LDB clients Melanie Goldberg, Michael Ziegler, and Ari Ziegler — arrived at the event, they were forcibly removed by two public safety officers of Brooklyn College at the urging of an event organizer unaffiliated with the school.

Brooklyn College President Karen Gould directed the school’s apology, reprinted in full below, to the four students. In the wake of the BDS event, the students had been falsely accused of wrongdoing and subjected to intense scrutiny from school officials and the media, but were vindicated by a two-month investigation into the incident conducted in March and April, 2013 by the City University of New York, of which Brooklyn College is a part.

The CUNY investigation, which included interviews with more than 40 witnesses, found that the non-campus-affiliated event organizer was motivated by a “political viewpoint” in removing the students as he had heard Melanie Goldberg’s pro-Israel views at a prior campus event; that the administrators and public safety officers at the event wrongly deferred to the event organizer; and concluded that “there was no justification for the removal of the four students.”

In the Brooklyn College apology, Gould stated that a College spokesperson had released “an erroneous” statement to the press after the event saying that the students were being disruptive. Gould acknowledged that the university’s statement was false.

The Brandeis Center has emphasized that more work remains to be done:

BDS Supporters Worry About Freedom of Speech

Judith Butler and Rashid Khalidi, both well-known academics and high-profile supporters of the BDS movement campaigning for “boycotts, divestment and sanctions” against Israel, have issued a statement that was originally circulated under the dramatic title “Support Freedom of Expression! Oppose Intimidation!” They claim that there are “accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS.”

Since both Butler and Khalidi are prominent academics, they obviously have many opportunities to voice their views in prestigious venues and media outlets. However, both recently faced protests against scheduled appearances at Jewish institutions, and the events were eventually cancelled. Their call to “oppose intimidation” should therefore also be seen as part of the currently ongoing debate about the question if Jewish institutions should welcome speakers who advocate the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state, which is the openly acknowledged goal of BDS. As Omar Barghouti, who is widely regarded as the founder and most prominent leader of the BDS movement, declared already ten years ago: “Zionism is intent on killing itself.  I, for one, support euthanasia.”

Rethink 2014: Tweeting Against International Hate Week

Rethink2014 is a clever movement to oppose Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) on Twitter.  Specifically, the group’s Twitter feed last week consisted of photos of young people holding up signs that explain why they are against the annual anti-Israel hate week which is put on in different parts of the world throughout the months of February in March. The group’s Twitter site explains, “Students challenging the apartheid smear and bringing the real Israel to you.  Don’t believe the hype….  Re-educate.  Re-assess.  Rethink.”  Some of the best are presented in this YouTube video.

Rethink2014 Anti-SemitismThese photos, collected on the Rethink2014 Facebook page, reflect the variety of reasons for resisting IAW.  Some student statements are personal and emotional, although they express very different perspectives:

  • I love Israel.
  • Although I am not Israels [sic] biggest supporter, this week singles out the Jewish state and once again chooses to ignore the human rights violations of surrounding Arab states.
  • Someone needs to stand up for Israel’s right to exist.

Many statements focus on the dishonesty of the IAW campaign or the need for genuine education as opposed to propaganda:

  • It is an ignorant, unhelpful campaign.
  • A week is too long to devote to a lie.
  • It ignores Israel’s security needs to promote a one-sided story.
  • Calling Israel an Apartheid state is inaccurate and insulting.
  • Racial supremacy does not exist in Israel.
  • It can wrongly influence those people that are undecided
  • People shouldn’t be bullied into a biased, untrue belief.
  • Let’s educate others not just on the definition but on the reasons why Israel isn’t an apartheid. Let’s strive to educate and learn!

Rethink2014 EqualityOthers offer specific reasons why the comparison between Israel and South Africa makes little sense, including the rights that Palestinians enjoy in Israel but may be denied elsewhere throughout the Middle East:

  • Israel is the only country in the Middle-East where a Palestinian can criticise the government.
  • Arabs in Israel have democratic rights and are represented in the Knesset.
  • Israel has universal suffrage, unlike its neighbours.
  • Muslims have freedom of religion in Israel.
  • I see more of a rainbow nation in Jerusalem’s streets than in London.
  • I, a former South African living in Israel, have proudly voted alongside Arab citizens in the last Israeli election.
  • I interact with Arabs on daily basis. This would not be possible under Apartheid.
  • I see more of a rainbow nation in Jerusalem’s streets than in London.
  • Otherwise a Muslim would not be able to work in the Israel Embassy in London.