2016 is unfolding as another unsettling year for Jewish students across U.S. college campuses. According to a report released this week by the AMCHA Initiative, anti-Semitic activities have surged over the past six months. The AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to the investigation, documentation and contestation of anti-Semitism, investigated 113 schools with the largest Jewish populations across the United States. Defining anti-Semitic instances by three criteria: (1) anti-Semitic expression – which following State Department sanctioned guidelines includes anti-Zionist expression, (2) Targeting of Jewish students, and (3) BDS activity. The findings were definitive:
There were a recorded 287 anti-Semitic incidents at 64 of these institutions – an alarming 57% of the total colleges surveyed.
This number is up by 45% from the 198 occurrences documented by the AMCHA in 2015. The AMCHA research also found that suppression of the speech of Jewish students approximately doubled from 2015 to 2016, whilst calls denying Israel’s right to exist nearly tripled.
Moreover, the study provided “ample empirical evidence showing that the presence of anti-Zionist student groups, faculty boycotters and anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) activity are each strong predictors of anti-Jewish hostility.”
According to these findings anti-Semitic instances was twice as likely to transpire on campuses where BDS was present, six times more likely to occur on campuses with one or more faculty boycotters, and eight times more likely to happen on campuses with at least one active anti-Zionist student group such as SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine).
Certainly “the link between anti-Semitic activity and anti-Zionism has become abundantly clear and is openly acknowledged with ever greater frequency by the perpetrators of these activities.”
The new information from this study comports with 2015 LDB-Trinity Anti-Semitism report of 2015, which demonstrated “the startling fact that more than half of Jewish American college students personally experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism during the 2013-2014 academic year.” Indeed, in a survey of 1,157 self-identifying Jewish students from 55 universities and 4 college campuses, 54% admitted to having been a victim of or a witness to anti-Semitic attack. Two years later, these numbers are on the rise.
Yet, as Jennifer Rubin commented in a Washington Post article this week, there is “a piece of good news.” This past spring, the University of California Board of Regents released a acknowledging that anti-Zionism is akin to anti-Semitism and incites hatred against Jews. This was a positive step, especially for a university where these instances seem endemic, and serves as an example for other institutions. The Louis D. Brandeis Center and the AMCHA Initiative both played important roles in working with the Regents on that statement. LDB’s Kenneth L. Marcus had served as one of the Regents two national experts on anti-Semitism.
The Brandeis Center has been constantly engaged in combating this resurgence of anti-Semitism, especially through its legal advocacy initiative. Most recently, for example, together with Hillel International, the Center has been pushing for a response to an incident at UC Irvine, at which protesters chanted anti-Israel, anti-American, and anti-Semitic statements, including calls for an “Intifada” [a call for violence against Jewish Israeli civilians], “All white people must die,” and “F*** the police.” The Brandeis Center is also addressing anti-Semitism in academic associations, as for example in its lawsuit against the American Studies Association.
David E. Bernstein David E. Bernstein is Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia, where he has been teaching since 1995, interspersed with visiting appointments at the Georgetown, Michigan, and Brooklyn law schools.