The Purim Miracle in a Courtroom


Having analyzed the decisions and judgments of Polish prosecutors and judges in cases concerning anti-Semitic and racist hate speech one may wonder what makes them so lenient and sympathetic towards the views voiced by bald and well-muscled men who are eager to extend the right arm in the air with a straightened hand and make the Nazi salute? If one could suspect that this attitude of the Polish judiciary towards hateful words just shows fascination with the doctrine of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, one could sigh with relief. However, I have no doubts, unfortunately, that the reasons for this are different – most often it is just opportunism, sometimes perhaps even a positive response to anti-Semitic and racist slogans.

Thus it is especially important to single out and praise those prosecutors and judges who are not afraid of breaking this disgraceful pattern of discontinued proceedings and court acquittals, so typical in cases brought against soccer fans who reveal their anti-Semitic and racist attitudes at football arenas. It is ironic that the majority of those who curse out a “Jew referee”, in this way expressing their dissatisfaction with the red card shown to a player of their team, have never seen a single Jew in their entire life.

We waited for a very long time in Poland for the court judgment which was recently handed down by the district court in Warsaw. The court sentenced 17 soccer yobs to do community service, make money contributions to the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland and… watch Izabella Cywińska’s movie “The Purim Miracle”. After a nearly one year long investigation the prosecutors accused 17 identified hooligans who publicly incited others to racial and religious hatred. Initially the court discontinued the case and said that chanting yobbo slogans cannot be qualified as hate speech. The prosecutors did not agree with the discontinuation and the case was re-examined by the court. A wise, sensitive judge adjudicated that the words “Juden auf den Gas” are synonymous with inciting to hatred against the Jews. One may only wonder: is it more terrifying or farcical that Polish football fans, who call themselves true patriots, chant such words in German, the language of those who during the Second World War wanted to annihilate their motherland and the nation?

Fifth College Cuts Ties to Controversial American Studies Association

According to Inside Higher Ed,  a fifth institution has cut ties with the embattled American Studies Association.  Over sixty universities have lambasted the ASA’s controversial anti-boycott resolution, in addition numerous scholars, commentators, Jewish groups, and the American Association of University Professors.  To their credit, four institutions went beyond statement-making and actually dropped their membership in…

Five Takeaways from the ASA Debacle


What should we learn from the American Studies Association’s lopsided December 15 vote to endorse the anti-Israel boycott?  Here are five takeaways:

  1. The Jewish Community Got Beat

There is no question about it.  The American Studies Association’s anti-Israel boycott resolution  is a defeat for everyone who is concerned about anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in higher education.  The ASA is the largest, most important academic association to support the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS).  By a membership vote of nearly 2-to-1, the ASA voted to support a limited academic boycott of Israel, the first country that the association has ever seen fit to treat in this manner.

For years, Israel’s supporters have observed that BDS tarnishes Israel’s reputation even when it fails.  Until recently, BDS resolutions failed over and over again in the United States.  Yet each battle imposed a cost, as Israel was falsely cast in the public mind as a rogue nation.  The harm is obviously greater when these resolutions actually pass, as they have recently on some university campuses, such as the University of California at Berkeley and Irvine.  The ASA resolution gives a scholarly imprimatur to a cause that is at best political and at worst bigoted.

2.  The ASA Was the Biggest Loser

In the end, the ASA is the biggest loser, and this outcome will not be lost on other associations.  For its efforts, the ASA is now publicly mocked, ridiculed and condemned, even by some of its own members and past presidents, as well as by major scholars and numerous university presidents.  Even those who do not discern anti-Semitism in the ASA resolution nevertheless perceive a violation of academic freedom.  The American Association of University Professors announced that the boycott would violate the academic freedom “not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it.”  More importantly, perhaps, the ASA has now lost any scholarly reputation that it might previously have had and is now seen as a largely political institution.

LDB President Publishes New Essay on Global Anti-Semitism

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus is publishing an important new paper on “The Definition of Antisemitism” in a new volume on contemporary global anti-Semitism, Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity.  The paper provides a timely intervention into a lively public debate over the meaning of “anti-Semitism” at a time when hostility towards Jews is often hidden under the guise of hostility to Israel.

LDB academic advisor Charles A. Small, who heads the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, included Marcus’ paper in his edited volume, which is published by one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious academic presses, Brill Academic Press of Leiden, the Netherlands

The essays are written by scholars from a wide array of disciplines, intellectual backgrounds, and perspectives, and address the conference’s two inter-related areas of focus: global antisemitism and the crisis of modernity currently affecting the core elements of Western society and civilization.  Marcus’ paper is an outgrowth of the Yale conference’s panel on law and anti-Semitism, which Marcus chaired.

Marcus’ paper provides his first major intervention into a question that has divided anti-Semitism scholars and public figures.  Specifically, Marcus demonstrates that both new and old anti-Semitism share deep ideological connections and cannot be addressed through ordinary educational methods.  Marcus is expanding this paper into a book-length project for publication next year.

Judd Serotta Elected to Brandeis Center Board

The Brandeis Center has just announced the election of Philadelphia litigator Judd Serotta to its board of directors.  Mr. Serotta is a distinguished litigator, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ New Jersey Advisory Committee, and an active member of the Jewish community.  The press release announce his election appears below:

Philadelphia Litigator Judd Serotta Joins Louis D. Brandeis Center Board

WAHINGTON, DC (PRBuzz) December 13, 2013 The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a public interest advocacy organization established to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all, announces the election of Philadelphia litigator Judd Serotta, Esq., to the Center’s Board of Directors. Mr. Serotta previously served as a member of the Brandeis Center’s legal advisory board.

The LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “Judd Serotta’s addition further strengthens the Center’s strength in civil rights legal advocacy.  I have known Mr. Serotta for several years and consider him to be an outstanding lawyer.”  Serotta joins Richard Cravatts, Adam Feuerstein, Rachel Lerman, Marcus, and Tevi Troy on the Brandeis Center’s governance board. “The timing is auspicious,” Marcus observed.  “The Brandeis Center has just formed its first three law school student chapters this Fall and is actively pursuing legal matters on several university campuses.”

Brandeis Center Responds to the Journal of Academic Freedom

In its 2013 publication, the Journal of Academic Freedom discussed the topic of academic boycotts, primarily focusing on the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).  In her introduction, the Journal’s editor, Ashley Dawson, wrote that the “reviewers of the submitted articles. . . felt [the articles] could have the salutary effect of pushing the AAUP to discuss criteria for responding to violations of academic freedom. . .” on an international level, since the AAUP’s current policy opposes boycotts.  However, what followed was a compilation of articles presenting one-sided narrow viewpoints on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and academic freedom. 

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In response to this biased presentation, several scholars came together to present a series of response papers.  In “The Very Foundations of the University”, the Brandeis Center’s Kenneth L. Marcus and Sitara Kedilaya outline the alarming yet growing position of several academics: that the Jews are the most dangerous threat to the university.  Too many academics embrace the narrative that Zionists threaten the university by suppressing speech contrary to their nefarious interests, especially their conspiracy to hide crimes inflicted by Israelis on innocent Palestinians.  Such warnings resonate with age-old stereotypes of the Jews as fantastically powerful, diabolically conspiratorial, and cosmically dangerous.  According to these anti-Israel scholars, the Zionist threat consists of orchestrated complaints by pro-Israel students who insist that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.  To assert this position, these scholars too narrowly construe the true definition of anti-Semitism, and therefore must deny that anti-Semitism is the serious problem on many university campuses that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says it is. In other words, they must create a safe haven for those anti-Jewish bigots who cast their anti-Jewish rhetoric in terms of Israel. 

“Knockout Attacks” Don’t Bode Well for African Americans, Jews, or Anybody Else

The lid has finally blown off the simmering cauldron. For about a month, there have been reports of “knockout attacks,” mostly in Northeastern cities. These reports have not looked too closely at the ethnicity of the attackers while generally characterizing the attacks as “random” and lacking the specificity of “hate crime” targeting.

But now Brooklyn’s Crown Heights section—a combustible mosaic of African Americans, mostly Hasidic Jews, and Latinos mostly “people of color” of Caribbean descent—has produced stories about ten attacks that recall the paradigm of black-on-Jewish violence indelibly imprinted on the neighborhood’s history back in 1991 when rabbinic student Yankel Rosenbaum was fatally stabbed during what amounted to an anti-Semitic pogrom in the wake of the accidental death of an African American child run over by a Jewish limousine driver. Back then, Reverend Al Sharpton was stirring up the cauldron. Fortunately, today he is calling for an end to “knockout attacks.”

In terms of violent street crime involving Jewish victims and African American perpetrators—almost never the reverse—the history goes back a hundred years to when Eastern European Jewish immigrants first interacted with mostly southern black migrants to New York City. (Some would consider as a counter-example “subway vigilante” Bernhard Goetz who in 1984 shot four black teenagers he targeted as muggers.)

National Law Student Conference Gains Star Power

The Brandeis Center just announced two superstar additions to the faculty of our inaugural national law student leadership conference: international lawyers Richard Heideman and Abraham (Avi) Bell.

The LDB national law student conference, to be held in Los Angeles, California on January 2-3, 2014, marks the launch of the Brandeis Center’s law student chapter program. Just a few slots remain for law student leaders interested in attending the leadership conference and learning from Heideman, Bell, and other leading authorities.

Mr. Heideman, a world-famous legal practitioner and civic leader, has served as President of B’nai B’rith, Head of Delegation to the United Nations Durban Conference, and Chief Trial Counsel for Israeli victims of terrorism at hearings convened on behalf of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies by the Dutch Center for Information and Documentation on Israel coincident with the International Court of Justice Hearings at The Hague. He authored the brief filed with the International Court of Justice regarding legal issues arising from Israel’s construction of its terrorism prevention security fence.

Professor Bell, an internationally prominent international law scholar, is Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law. Professor Bell clerked for Justice Mishael Cheshin of the Supreme Court of Israel and for the High Court of Justice Department within the Israeli State Attorney’s office.

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “We couldn’t be more delighted by the addition of Heideman and Bell to the fabulous agenda for our Los Angeles conference. Law student attendees will be very lucky to learn from these legal superstars.”

US Legal Tools to Fight Anti-Jewish Discrimination

“There is an essential paradox at the heart of the current resurgence of campus anti-Semitism. Universities should be centers of reason and tolerance, yet in the United States, they are the main source of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism.

“There are many ways to address this problem, but one of the most important approaches is based on civil rights law.  Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the primary legal tool available to protect Jewish and Israeli university students against discrimination. It is critically important because young people are more vulnerable and more impressionable than others. Title VI prohibits discrimination in federally funded programs on the basis of race, color or national origin.