Brandeis Center and SPME Defend Tammi Rossman-Benjamin Against Attacks

The Brandeis Center and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) have just issued the following statement:

WASHINGTON, DC — The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East today issued a Joint Statement in defense of University of California at Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin. Rossman-Benjamin, an activist known for her opposition to campus anti-Semitism, has recently been the target of a public campaign of character assassination because of her advocacy for the civil rights of Jewish college students. LDB and SPME joined together today to defend Rossman-Benjamin against these smears and to denounce efforts to suppress advocacy for the civil rights of university students.

Rossman-Benjamin is a co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that combats anti-Semitism on American college and university campuses. She is also a member of the Brandeis Center’s Academic Advisory Board and a former member of SPME’s Board of Directors. Rossman-Benjamin has famously accused her university, UC Santa Cruz, of harboring a hostile environment for Jewish students. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has opened an investigation into Rossman-Benjamin’s complaint, which is now pending.

On June 20, 2012, Ms. Rossman-Benjamin delivered a speech at the Ahavath Torah Congregation in Stoughton, Massachusetts. During the course of that speech, Ms. Rossman-Benjamin described anti-Semitic incidents at the University of California. Ms. Rossman-Benjamin attributed some responsibility for contemporary campus anti-Semitism to two organizations, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association. Rossman-Benjamin also stated that some members of these organizations have had connections with terrorist organizations. In response to that synagogue presentation, student activists at the University of California have launched a campaign to condemn Rossman-Benjamin. As a result of this campaign, in March 2013, Associated Students at the University of California (ASUC) at Berkeley adopted a resolution that called on outgoing UC President Mark Yudof to condemn Rossman-Benjamin’s remarks.

LDB and SPME jointly announced: “We find the accusations against Rossman-Benjamin to be false, scurrilous, and unjustifiable. Over the years, Rossman-Benjamin has tirelessly campaigned against anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli harassment. Perversely, Rossman-Benjamin is now being branded a purveyor of hate speech and Islamophobia precisely because she attempted to expose hate speech which her accusers would prefer to shield from scrutiny.”

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “I have worked with Tammi Rossman-Benjamin over the years, and I consider her to be a bold and courageous fighter for the civil rights of Jewish college students. It is reprehensible that some people are targeting her for abuse because of her fight against campus anti-Semitism.”

Turkey’s “Darwinian” Islamization: Implications for Israelis and Jews

As Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan returns home from his visit to his biggest western fan, President Barack Obama, only to prepare for a controversial pilgrimage to Hamas-controlled Gaza, Turkey’s educational system is being mocked internationally. A spoof in “The Scientific American” focuses on revelations that Istanbul textbooks have pictured Charles Darwin as “a hook-nosed Jew” who consorted with monkeys. Writer Steve Mirsky offers the counter-revelation that Darwin’s “On the Origins of Species” (1859) was really first titled: “L’Chaim: The Whole Megillah!”

Perhaps Turkey’s increasingly “religious” public schools should have taught instead that Darwin was “the first Islamist.” Certainly Prime Minister’s Erdoğan’s stealth evolutionary blueprint for transforming Turkey from a secular republic into a Muslim state suggests that—in Turkey at least—Islamism may be the “survival of the fittest.” For a detailed analysis see my report, “From Ally to Nemesis: How Erdoğan’s Islamists Hijacked Atatürk’s Nation and Put It on A Collision Course with Israel and the U.S.” (Simon Wiesenthal Center, October, 2011).

In North America and Western Europe, the public knows little about what’s happening in Turkey except it’s avoided the worst of post-2008 global economic turmoil, and is a good place to vacation—unless you are an Israeli, given rocky Turkish-Israeli diplomatic relations since the Turkish “Mavi Marmara,” the flag ship of the so-called “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” was understandably interdicted in 2010 by Israeli commandos. Attempts by Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to repair relations by belatedly apologizing to Ankara have proved unproductive so far.

Today, Turkey’s economy does not look quite as good, and Turkey’s Syrian border looks horrible, compared to a few years ago when Erdoğan visiting Egypt was greeted like a Neo-Ottoman Sultan. Even so, it is important to understand what Erdoğan has accomplished in just over a decade and its implications for the global situation of Jews as well as Israelis.

Norway’s New Generation Quislings

NorwegianBecause it “gives support to old conspiracy theories about Jews controlling media,” the Oslo Newspaper, “Dagsavisen,” recently took down from its site pro-Palestinian activist Siri Lill Thowsen’s article: “Is There Jewish Dominance over International and Norwegian Media?”

Though the anti-Israel Lobby is howling in protest that the removal demonstrates Thowsen’s thesis, nothing could be further from the truth.

Afloat on North Sea oil, Norway is also awash in movements to rehabilitate its Nazi collaborationist past as well as align with Israel’s mortal enemies in the present.

Not too long ago, “Adresseavisen” published a satiric cartoon—”Antisemitism Is Advancing Disturbingly in Europe”—that depicted Palestinian president Abu Mazen kneeling before a skull-capped Israeli prime minister Netanyahu sitting at a desk with the sign: “The new Jerusalem is Being Built Here.” A construction zone was shown featuring the sign that hung over the entrance to Auschwitz: Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work Liberates”).

Anti-Semitism Without Many—if Any—Jews

Japan.Jews.2The phenomenon of anti-Semitism without many—if any—Jews has again been placed in the spotlight by a survey of Polish middle school students about Jews in relation to the seventieth anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The finding that the children’s knowledge about the Uprising was “extremely weak” has been disputed by Magdalena H. Gross in “The Tablet” (“Do Polish Kids Hate Jews?,” May 7, 2013). She also questions the other findings that were played up in Don Snyder’s story in “The Forward” (“Half of Polish Students Don’t Want Jewish Neighbor,” April 22, 2013):

60.7% would be unhappy if their girl friend/boy friend turned out to be a Jew. 44.1% would be unhappy if a Jewish family moved into his/her neighborhood. 45% would be unhappy if it was found there was a person of Jewish origin in his/her family.

Why is Gross skeptical? Because “the personal preferences of high-school students about Jewish neighbors or sexual partners [do not] seem to be all that relevant, in a country that is overwhelmingly Catholic and where Jews are largely an abstraction.”

LDB Academic Advisor Alvin Rosenfeld Honored

Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, a distinguished scholar and member of the Louis D. Brandeis Center’s Academic Advisory Board, has just received a major award from his home institution, Indiana University. The Brandeis Center congratulates Dr. Rosenfeld for this distinction and commends IU Provost Lauren Robel for bestowing the honor.

WASHINGTON, DC, May 5, 2013 — The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law today lauded LDB Academic Advisor Alvin Rosenfeld  on the occasion of his receipt of the Provosts Medal from Indiana University. Indiana University Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel presented the Provost’s Medal to Professor Rosenfeld, an internationally recognized scholar of contemporary anti-Semitism, Holocaust literature, and Jewish studies who established and has led Indiana University’s Jewish Studies program as well as its Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism.

Rosenfeld is IU’s Irving M. Glazer Chair of Jewish Studies, a professor of English and Jewish studies, and a member of the Louis D. Brandeis Center’s Academic Advisory Board. Although he is best known for his work in Holocaust literature, Rosenfeld is also a leading expert in the study of contemporary campus anti-Semitism. The Brandeis Center, which was established to combat campus anti-Semitism, has been privileged to have Dr. Rosenfeld on its board and to work with The Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism. In addition, this blog recently described the success of Rosenfeld’s newest book, The End of the Holocaust

Louis Farrakhan at 80: A Needless Legacy of Hate

Louis Farrakhan at Million Man March (1996)There are those—like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.—taken from us too soon. Then there are those who live on into historical obsolescence. And so it is that Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan who turns 80 this month.

Had Farrakhan’s battle with prostate cancer ended soon after 1996’s Million Man March on Washington, his legacy would have been quite different than now. Then, he staged a political triumph by attracting some 700,000 African Americans around such goals as reducing drug abuse and gang crime. Despite his bizarre three-hour speech at the event—free of anti-Semitism but replete with conspiracy theories right out of the UFO and anti-Masonic playbooks—he would have been lauded for the climax of his controversial career in a remarkable feat of African American cultural renewal.

Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper and I have continued to track Farrakhan in hopes of a change of mind and heart that would open the door to a productive dialogue with the Jewish community. No such luck. What we’ve got instead are calculated teases when Farrakhan promises to meet with rabbis, combined with self-justifying declarations that he’s “only told the truth” about Jews—whom hearing “the truth hurts”—followed by renewed outbursts of anti-Semitism. In 1978, after Elijah Muhammad’s son, Warith Deen Muhammed, moved in the direction of authentic Islam, Farrakhan broke with him and reconstituted the NOI. He became notorious in the 1980s for calling Judaism a “gutter” or “dirty” religion and Hitler “a great man”—statements his apologists continue to try to explain away.
Born Louis Eugene Wolcott in the Bronx in 1933, he first tried a career as a pop singer, billed “Calypso Gene” or “The Charmer,” before emerging into prominence under the name Minister Louis X (later changed to Farrakhan), as a disciple of Malcolm X in Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam. Farrakhan’s NOI career had elements of a Shakespearean tragedy with him self-cast as the betrayer of his mentor, Malcolm X, whom Ossie Davis eulogized as “our own black shining prince!”

Jews and Genocide

An archetypal joke of the second half of the twentieth century is that Germans (or Europeans) will never forgive the Jews—for the Holocaust.

When I think about the historiography of modern anti-Semitism, I think of two odd bookends: the historian Martin Jay—whose claim to fame is a book on the Horkheimer-Adorno Frankfurt School, but whose more recent jag is the claim that Jews themselves (because of Zionism, etc.) are the primary cause of post-Holocaust anti-Semitism and Albert Lindemann whose “Esau’s Tears” (1997) argues that Jews (because of their “pushy” entry into the professions, etc.) were the primary cause of pre-Holocaust anti-Semitism.

It was probably inevitable that the empty space between these bookmarks would be filled—or the capstone of the intellectual arch completed—and now this has been done by a formidable intellectual and cultural historian: Jan Assmann. In “The Price of Monotheism” (2010) (followed by his “Cultural Memory and Early Civilization” [2011])—Assmann, an Egyptologist who’s branched out into European history, argues in broad strokes that “the gift of the Jews”—monotheism—is the root cause of modern intolerance including the Nazi genocide. (See Richard Wolin’s “Biblical Blame Shift” in the “Chronicle of Higher Education.”)

“Wake Up to the Anti-Semitism, You Complacent British Middle Classes”

In today’s Ha’aretz, Britain’s’s former Minister for Europe, Denis MacShane, pens a trenchant critique of English anti-Semitism, bitingly entitled: “Wake up to the anti-Semitism, you complacent British middle classes.”  MacShane has seen hard times recently, but today’s intervention demonstrates that he is still a vital voice on the global scene.  In this new piece, MacShane castigates the English middle classes, as well as the U.K. Employment Tribunal, and calls for a thorough review of strategies to combat anti-Semitism.