Brandeis Center Presses Vassar College to Hold Student Group Accountable

 

The Brandeis Center has urged Vassar College President Catherine Bond Hill to take penalizing action against the college’s chapter of SJP, Students for Justice in Palestine. In a letter to Vassar President Catherine Bond Hill on May 19th, 2014, “We believe that this incident may raise serious issues concerning federal civil rights law.” SJP recently posted a Nazi propaganda poster on their Tumblr page.

The posters are German from 1944 and they portray a monster in a Star of David loincloth with many hands, wearing a KKK (Ku Klux Klan) mask, holding a little man grasping a moneybag, and attached to an American plane wing while it destroys a European town. It is entitled “Liberators.” The Brandeis Center urges Vassar President Bond Hill to take swift action against this group.

The Center made it clear to President Bond Hill that this incident at her school is a step backwards in the fight for respectful discussion, saying, “More broadly, this incident is deeply offensive and antithetical to basic notions of civil discourse.”  Brandeis Center lawyers added, “we urge you to take additional prompt and effective action to address this problem including taking strong disciplinary action against SJP.”

This incident at Vassar comes just days after its chapter of SJP Vassar posted other material on its Tumblr page concerning the Holocaust and the UN’s response. This cartoon shows major powers during the creation of Israel. It shows the Jews moving Palestinians in 1948; upset, the Palestinians ask why the Jews can do that, and the major powers respond with “Holocaust, Holocaust indeed.” This is propaganda to suggest that any so-called “illegal action” by Israel is justified by the Holocaust.

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:

Should Jewish Law Students Be Complacent?

Recently, anti-Israel activists have become active on several American law school campuses, conducting controversial events at Columbia, Fordham, Davis, and elsewhere.  Meanwhile, activists have created hostile environments for Jewish students at several universities.  If you are a Jewish law student, or a non-Jewish law student who cares about justice, should you be concerned?  Here are…

Jewish Prisoners’ Kosher Food Case Successfully Resolved in Florida

It is good to see the successful resolution today of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s lawsuit establishing the right of Florida prison inmates to kosher food.

Earlier today, Bruch Rich, an Orthodox Jewish Florida prisoner, withdrew his four-year-old complaint seeking a kosher diet, as a result of a a recent court order that requires the State of Florida to provide Jewish state prison inmates with a kosher diet. Despite Florida’s substantial Jewish population, that state had ironically been the only remaining major state penal system refusing to providing kosher meals to Jewish prisoners who observe the orthodox Jewish dietary laws or kashrut.

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “Although we deplore the crimes of which Mr. Rich was convicted, we believe that the principle of equal protection of the laws requires that state penal institutions provide reasonable accommodations to religiously observant prisoners, including both Jews and non-Jews.  In this case, we are delighted that the Becket Fund has succeeded in protected this basic constitutional right. This is a case of basic fairness and justice. It is deeply unfortunate that Florida refused to provide this necessary accomodation until they were forced to do so, and the Becket Center is owed a debt of gratitude for bringing a just resolution about.”

Although the Brandeis Center is principally focused on campus anti-Semitism, we have also spoken out against anti-Semitism and religious discrimination in penal institutions and elsewhere.  For example, in November 2012, Marcus testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the topic of discrimination against Muslim American prisoners.  Marcus has published academic research on this subject as well.  “We deplore discrimination of all religious groups,” Marcus commented, “whether Muslim, Jewish, or what have you.”

The Becket Fund provides the following additional background in a press release issued today:

Bruce Rich was born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish household. Since his incarceration, the Florida Department of Corrections has denied him a kosher diet, citing alleged cost and security concerns. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represented Mr. Rich, arguing that the denial of a kosher diet violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act because it forces him to choose between his religious practice and adequate nutrition.

The Purim Miracle in a Courtroom

Purim

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?

Israel Lives in a Dangerous Neighborhood, Struggles Against Terrorism and is Engaged in a Battle for Justice at the United Nations

Over the past sixty five years, Israel has faced and continues to face momentous challenges including wars, skirmishes, rocket attacks, terrorist murderous suicide bombings and assaults on her citizens, challenges to her legal status, boycotts, threats, accusations and demonization.

In the summer of 2000, Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization met at Camp David with President Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The Prime Minister offered to the Palestinians an agreement that included the establishment of the Palestinian state based on territorial borders that essentially constituted approximately 96% of the land located west of the Jordan River, known as the West Bank and included the Gaza strip on the Mediterranean.

Much to the chagrin of President Clinton and disappointment of PM Barak, Chairman Arafat did not accept the proposal and left the President and the Prime Minister essentially standing alone at Camp David.

Shortly thereafter, in late September 2000, the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada commenced, bringing with it murderous suicide bombings and other attacks inside Israel, targeting busses, shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, University cafeterias and attacking people in their homes and in the streets.

In response, in order to protect her people, the Israeli government commenced construction of a terrorism prevention security fence, parts of which include concrete barriers akin to what we know as Jersey walls on our expressways, although portions are quite high and obtrusive in order to provide safety to vehicles and persons below.

This terrorism prevention security fence is called by some a “wall”; and was the centerpiece of a request of the UN General Assembly referring to the International Court of Justice a legal question worded as follows:

What are the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, as described in the report of the Secretary-General, considering the rules and principles of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions?

Islamic Republic of Iran: The World’s Worst Sponsor of Terror Must Be Stopped

The Islamic Republic of Iran, a designated State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1984, remains the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism” according to the U.S. Department of State’s most recent Country Reports on Terrorism. Yet the world continues to turn a blind eye to Iran’s sponsorship of terror, ignoring the suffering of terror victims and the instability sown by terrorist groups acting at the behest of the Islamic Republic of Iran and continuing both threats and attacks throughout the world .

While the United States, Europe and the United Nations have imposed sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world has not stopped Iran’s continued development of its nuclear enrichment program. Sanctions, strong and clear, approved by the United States Congress and the White House, have not done the job. During his tenure as Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flaunted the international community’s repeated deadlines and there is no indication that Iran’s new President or its Ayatollah leadership will stop their drive to achieve nuclear capability. How can the world accept the prospect of a nuclear Iran, with its inherent real-time dangers, including its threats against Israel and the United States, particularly when viewed through the lens of Iran’s continued sponsorship of terrorist attacks? Indeed, separate from and in addition to the justified and crucially important ongoing focus on Iran’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threat, the time is ripe for the US and the world to take concerted steps to stop Iranian-sponsored terrorism.

SYRIA: A STATE SPONSOR OF TERROR NOW KILLING ITS OWN PEOPLE

The Syrian Arab Republic has been listed on the US Department of State List of State Sponsors of Terror since 1979 and continues today as one of the world’s worst sponsors of terror, funding and providing safe haven for Hezbollah, HAMAS and other terrorist organizations.

Support takes the form of money, passage through and across roads and airports, safe houses and providing safe haven for the training of terrorist organizations and their operatives.

Syria’s relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran has had Syria serving as a conduit for Iranian terrorist sponsorship, as well as the feeding of materials, men, munitions, training and activities in both Syria and Lebanon. Particular focus has been in Lebanon’s Bakaa valley where Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations have trained and operated for decades. Syria hosted the infamous Abu Nidal and his terrorist organization in Damascus and its military-style training camps which operated under Syria’s intelligence and from which the Abu Nidal Organization launched attacks on sites in Europe. Included in these terror assaults were the Rome and Vienna Airport Attacks in 1985 and the EgyptAir Flight 648 Hijacking, also in 1985.

Standing up for Victims of Terror

The use of litigation in the United States Federal Court system is an essential tool in standing up for victims of terror.  While governments negotiate, victims can use the federal court system to not only seek monetary damages but also to give victims and their families voice against state sponsors of terrorism.

Victims have been afforded this opportunity as a result of legislation approved by the United States Congress which provides an avenue for the pursuit of justice through the United States court system.

Through an exception in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), immunity from prosecution is lifted against those states which have been declared State Sponsors of Terrorism by the United States Department of State. By lifting this immunity, victims and their family members (mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouse and children) may now bring these terrorist-sponsoring nations into Federal Court and require them to answer for their actions in supporting terrorism and terrorist attacks.