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AMCHA Initiative Tag

What’s happening to Jewish and pro-Israel students on many American universities and colleges from coast to coast is horribly ugly. On “hotspot campuses” the problem is only getting worse. “Hate Spaces: The Politics of Intolerance on Campus”, a new 70 minute documentary recently released by the organization Americans for Peace and Tolerance, chronicles the rampant anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activism prevalent on many of America’s institutions of higher learning. We featured the film’s trailer in a recent post and the movie premiered in NYC on November 30. Last week, I had the opportunity to watch the film in its entirely. In this follow-up post, I review the documentary’s central themes and take-home messages.

So this is interesting. Students for Justice in Palestine and its related groups are responsible for much if not most of the anti-Israel activity on campuses. We have documented dozens of incidents of intimidation and violence, scroll through our SJP Tag. For additional background, see reports by The Tower Magazine, The ADL, NGO Monitor and AMCHA Initiative. This is one of the milder shout-downs and stage takeovers by SJP:

Last month, Syracuse University (SU) made headlines when a faculty member in the Religious Studies Department dis-invited an award-winning Israeli NYU Professor and filmmaker from a campus event out of fear of offending the political sensibilities of her BDS-supporting colleagues (see our prior posts covering the story). At the time, pro-BDS faculty signed a petition (subsequently posted onto Facebook) denying that any pressure to disinvite the filmmaker had existed and expressing their commitment to free speech and academic freedom. But now many of these same professors, keen on moving the campus in a BDS direction, are making demands that call into question this articulated devotion to a campus community open to free expression.

We have followed the problems at Oberlin College for years. Rather than revisiting everything, please scroll through our Oberlin Tag. The most recent incident involved Professor Joy Karega, who posted blatantly anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on Facebook, including linking the Rothschild family to a global conspiracy. Karega Rotshchild Image Karega also accused Israel of attacking Charlie Hebdo as part of a false flag operation and being the equivalent of ISIS.

Yesterday the University of California at Berkeley rescinded its suspension of a course, Ethnic Studies 198: Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis—a vehemently anti-Israel, one-credit, once-a-week, student-led course. The entire purpose of the course appears to be political advocacy and organizing, in violation of university policy for an academic class. California Regents Policy 2301 provides:
“The Regents…are responsible to ensure that public confidence in the University is justified. And they are responsible to see that the University remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest. Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination…constitutes misuse of the University as an institution”.
The course was so obviously political advocacy that the course poster [see Featured Image and below] used the completely discredited BDS propaganda map which was so false and misleading that MNSBC apologized for once using it during a news segment.

On Sunday, July 31, 2016, I drove down to Ithaca, NY to give a talk titled “Hate Speech and the New Antisemitism: Why Anti-Zionist Extremism is on the Rise and What We Can Do to Stop It”. The lecture was sponsored by the Ithaca Area United Jewish Community (IAUJC). The Ithaca Coalition for Unity and Cooperation in the Middle East (ICUCME), a local grassroots anti-racism organization, assisted with the event logistics and publicity. A video of my 60 minute lecture is now available on You Tube (full embed lower in the post). Below I highlight its main themes, breaking the hour-long lecture into segments so that readers can click on to those portions of the talk that are of most interest.

For the past decade, anti-Israel activists in the United States and Europe have called on pension funds, universities and churches to sell their stock in companies that do business with Israel, particularly its defense establishment. They have also called for people and governments to boycott Israel, its products and services. It’s part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign that seeks to isolate Israel from the international economy and force the Jewish state to make concessions to the Palestinians. BDS proponents say they want to promote human rights and peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but it’s hard to ignore that their criticism is nearly always directed at Israel while groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are given a pass. The effect is not to promote peace, but to portray Israel’s efforts to defend itself as immoral and indefensible.

Late last month, Vassar College students narrowly rejected a proposed Israel-boycott. Legal Insurrection led the way in exposing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity at Vassar over the past two years. Key parts of the problem were vocal faculty who were hostile to Israel and favorable towards the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The Vassar administration, while opposed officially to BDS, seemed frozen by the aggressive tactics of student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. Despite the repudiation of the boycott, reports of anti-Jewish hostility and administration inaction increased so much so that Jewish students solicited help from outside groups. Thirty four Jewish and civil rights groups participated in the letter to Vassar College President. Thursday, the AMCHA Initiative issued a press release detailing Vassar student concerns and the response from outside groups:

In a post on Monday I noted a Report (pdf.) suggesting "Principles Against Intolerance" and containing a condemnation of anti-Semitism, was coming up for vote today at the University of California Board of Regents, UC Regents should seize its Moynihan moment on anti-Zionism. The key language in controversy was both the general condemnation of anti-Semitism, but most specifically a mention of anti-Zionism in a "contextual statement" that was not part of the Principles themselves (emphasis added):
"During the 2014-15 academic year, the Regents received correspondence and public comment from a variety of sources expressing concern that there has been an increase in incidents reflecting anti-Semitism on UC campuses. These reported incidents included vandalism targeting property associated with Jewish people or Judaism; challenges to the candidacies of Jewish students seeking to assume representative positions within student government; political, intellectual and social dialogue that is anti-Semitic; and social exclusion and stereotyping. Fundamentally, commenters noted that historic manifestations of anti-Semitism have changed and that expressions of anti-Semitism are more coded and difficult to identify. In particular, opposition to Zionism  often is expressed in ways that are not simply statements of disagreement over politics and policy, but also assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture. Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California...."
In that post, I noted the arguments for and against the Report. Those arguments played out today before the Regents in a public comment period.

On November 10, 1975, the United Nations General Assembly passed the infamous “Zionism Is Racism” Resolution 3379:
"Determines that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination"
The Resolution came on the heels of the failed 1973 Yom Kippur attempt by Arab armies to destroy Israel with Soviet backing, and the 1973 Arab oil embargo to pressure the West to abandon Israel. Resolution 3379 was not phrased as anti-Jewish hatred. It was framed in terms of anti-Zionism, a rejection of the Jewish people's right to self-determination in the homeland of the Jewish people. But the anti-Zionist phraseology did not fool anyone, least of all United States Ambassador to the United Nations Daniel Patrick Moynihan. In what would become one of his most famous speeches, Moynihan rose to denounce the Resolution as anti-Semitic and to declare it a "great evil... loosed upon the world."

At one level, you could put this post in the "tell me something I don't already know" category. For several years I have been documenting anti-Israel activity on campus, typically part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and carried out by groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). At the same time, I've pointed out many instances where such anti-Israel activity crossed-over into overt anti-Semitism, including at places like Oberlin and Vassar. (And that's putting aside whether the radical extremist anti-Israelism itself is anti-Semitic.) So the correlation between anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism seems obvious. When the only Jewish-majority nation in the world is demonized and dehumanized based on factual falsehoods and distortions under standards applied to no one else, it is no surprise that the hate manifests itself in hatred not just of Israel, but of Jews.

Oberlin College is an institution in turmoil over the past several years, and anti-Israel activism is part of the problem. Now, over 200 alumni are claiming the anti-Israel activism has created a hostile environment for Jews, and the alumni are demanding the college take action to address the problem. The issue of when anti-Israelism crosses into anti-Semitism is a hot topic on campuses recently because of the very aggressive tactics of anti-Israel campus groups, and the intense demonization of Israel. "Intersectionality" analysis is used by anti-Israel activists to try to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement and other similar movements:
Every real or perceived problem is either blamed on or connected to Israel. The concerted effort to turn the Black Lives Matter movement into an anti-Israel movement has at its core the claim that Israel is the root of problems of non-whites in the United States. Thus, if a police chief somewhere attended a one-week anti-terrorism seminar in Israel years ago, every act of brutality by a cop on the beat is blamed on Israel.
When City University of New York Students for Justice in Palestine, for example, tried to turn the Million Student March into an anti-Israel event and blamed high tuition on Zionists, the CUNY Vice Chancellor called it “thinly-veiled bigotry, prejudice, anti-Semitism.” At Vassar College, SJP circulated a Nazi cartoon after weeks of anti-Israel activism that included picketing a course which involved travel to Israel. Prof. Miriam Elman laid out the history and analysis in Fighting The Hate: When Does Anti-Israel Become Anti-Semitic? As described below, it appears Oberlin may need to go through a similar self-evaluation.

According to media reports last week (see, for example, here and here) Scott Harrison, a Scottish anti-Israel activist, was sentenced last week to a year in jail. Back on October 25, 2014 he threw acid in the face of an 18-year-old woman manning a stall in Glasgow shopping center. The stall was owned by the Israeli cosmetics company Kedem. The victim, Greek-born Iona Georgianna, said she felt like her face was “melting” during the horrible attack. Luckily, a quick-thinking co-worker had the good sense to throw water on her head, sparing Georgianna from the worst of the acid’s effects. A Scottish court handed down the 12-month sentence for assault to injury. Harrison will be held in custody pending the results of an appeal filed by his lawyers.

The academic year in progress features several Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) resolutions to boycott Israeli universities by major academic professional organizations, as well as preparatory boycott activity to lead up to votes in future years. Here is the schedule, in chronological order, based upon what we now know: 1. National Women’s Studies Association (Boycott Resolution Voting Now through Nov. 25) 2. American Anthropological Association (Denver, November 20)(Boycott Resolution Vote) 3. Middle East Studies Association (Denver, November 21-24, 2015)(Boycott Activity) 4. American Historical Association (Atlanta, January 7-10, 2016)(Boycott Resolution Vote) 5. Modern Language Association (Austin, TX, January 7-10, 2016)(Boycott Activity) Each of these boycott resolutions adopts the general PACBI dictated BDS guidelines.

The misnamed "Jewish Voice for Peace" (JVP) has launched a national campaign along with other anti-Israel groups to claim that "pro-Palestinian" speech is stifled around the country. In fact, The accusation of speech stifling is a passive-aggressive move to preclude legitimate criticism. As we demonstrated, what JVP and other such groups really want is Freedom from Criticism. Two events in Ithaca and Rochester, New York, are being used by JVP to claim a "wave of censorship and bullying is sweeping upstate New York." As we demonstrate below, JVP has seriously misstated what happened, and those events show the contrary to what JVP is claiming.

JVP's Anti-Israel Event to Third Graders in Ithaca

One of, it not the first, actions JVP took in furtherance of the "stifling" campaign is unfolding in upstate New York. In ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ defends anti-Israel Third Grade event, we explained that the local Ithaca JVP branch, run by anti-Zionist (and now Code Pink) activist Ariel Gold, is defending bringing the highly controversial Bassem Tamimi to a third grade class as part of a one-sided presentation demonizing Israel.

By now most of our readers should be familiar with the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement. Scroll through our BDS and American Studies Association tags for a horrifying history of the perversion of academia by obsessive-compulsive Israel (and in some cases, Jew) haters. Recently a UAW affiliate representing graduate student instructors passed a BDS resolution. A paltry 20% of the membership bothered to vote, but as often is the case in these things, the anti-Israel students were more motivated, and the resolution passed. The vote at Berkeley was outsize in favor of BDS (no shock there) and made much of the vote margin. That resolution committed the membership to agitating against Israel in the classrooms, something that violated the U. California rules on classroom conduct. University officials confirmed that position. U California Regents Policy Letter September 8 2014 Dozens of faculty signed a petition in favor of the grad student BDS resolution. A coalition of pro-Israel groups wrote to U.C. officials demanding to know whether the conduct rules also would apply to faculty.