The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Campus Outreach division hosted a two-day conference, Emergent Legal Strategies, Title VI, and Campus Anti-Semitism, with students, faculty, and litigators where the future of legal strategies to fighting the growing, unchecked problem of anti-Semitism on college and university campuses was addresses.
“Free speech is the DNA of the United States of America,” said Rabbi Ari Hier, Campus Outreach Director. “On campuses particularly, however, free speech has become the excuse behind which haters hide to demonize Israel and make it very difficult for students to identify with the state inside and outside the classroom. The love of Israel is an undeniably essential component of Jewish identity – at least for the vast majority of Jews on this planet. But that’s not something you want to express if you want to get a good grade in your classes or simply walk through the quad without instigating abevy of hateful looks, smirks, and comments, “ he added.
Photo: Tammi Benjamin, Kenneth Marcus and Joel Siegel
Speaking about recent events, Hier told the gathering that, “The system is being hijacked. What used to be fair political debate has morphed into a new, unrelenting form of anti-Semitism. Under the banner of free speech, Jewish students get insulted, stalked, even attacked sometimes. They witness the Israel being slurred and delegitimized, Jewish students are quite frankly running for cover in the hostile environment that the university breeds against anyone who identifies positively with the state of Israel. Administrators are at a loss for a solution. It seems that free speech takes all – even when it is pervasive and hateful? No one has figured out how to adjudicate on this fine lines issue: the fine lines between free speech and hate speech, and the fine line between fair political criticism of Israel and anti-Semitic, demonizing, delegitimizing, double-standard-applying Israel hatred. This new anti-Semitism has grown sounchecked that some students have taken the matter into their own hand and have come to the courts.”
Jessica Felber, (pictured below far laft with Aryeh Weinberg, Aryeh Zeidman and Rabbi Abraham Cooper), who participated in the conference and shared her story, was a student at UC Berkeley from 2007 to 2010. During that time, Berkeley administrators did not hear her out and did not take substantial measures to prevent the growing hatred against the members of her student group, Tikvah: Students for Israel at UC Berkley. The students were told by a high ranking UC Berkeley administrator: “If someone walks behind you all day calling you a dirty Jew, there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s free speech.” One day, Jessica got rammed by a shopping cart sent her way by a Palestinian student, while she was holding a sign saying “Israel Wants Peace.” Jessica took the university to court in light of the environment which she thought was not equally open to Jewish students.
At several schools, professors have been identified who use their universities’ websites to put up link that connect to efforts to boycott the state of Israel. Despite their very own policies that prevent the use of resources for boycott and politicization, the universities have been responding to complaints that such conducts are protected free speech.
Studies have been conducted that confirm this growing trend of campus anti-Semitism (see ALONE ON THE QUAD: Understanding Jewish Student Isolation on Campus and FACING THE CHARGE OF RACISM: New Research on Jewish Student Identity).
Fore more information, contact the Center’s Campus Outreach Department, 310-553-9036, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter page or mobile device.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400.000 members. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the OAS and the Latin American Parliament.