“Jews are the new Nazis,” someone yelled at a student government meeting. A swastika was found on a Jewish student’s dorm room door. A sign in a plaza claimed that Jews are the masterminds behind an international illegal organ trafficking ring. Posters of Jewish events were ripped down and thrown in the garbage.
You might think these events took place recently, but they are actually my recollections from UC Berkeley when I was an undergraduate student from 2009 to 2013.
At the time, I took solace in the belief that UC Berkeley was on the anti-Jewish fringes, relative to other universities around the country. “The rest of America isn’t like this,” I told myself.
But incidents on American campuses since October 7 make it clear that this hatred has spread well beyond places like UC Berkeley. Fortunately, there are several concrete actions leaders can advocate for to combat antisemitism on campus.
First, the Federal government should aggressively investigate exclusionary practices that limit the ability of Jewish students to participate in campus life. These practices have resulted in student government leaders being pushed out of their positions for identifying as Jewish, or Jewish student clubs receiving unequal treatment relative to other groups.
Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the Federal government is already granted authority to investigate these exclusionary practices, and to withhold Federal funds if institutions are found at fault. However, enforcement generally occurs on a case-by-case basis, such as through individual complaints. To tackle the problem quickly and comprehensively, the Federal government should launch a large-scale investigation of several universities who reportedly engage in this exclusionary behavior in place of the current piecemeal approach.
Second, ethnic studies courses should be reworked by school districts, university boards, and state legislatures to teach history, culture, and religion instead of the heavy emphasis on Marxist and Postcolonial ideology.
When I enrolled in Native American Studies at Berkeley, I was excited to learn about the history, culture, and religion of Native American tribes. However, the class itself was mostly dedicated to reading theorists, like Frantz Fanon, who simplifies the world into “colonizer” and “colonized,” while also literally calling for violent revolution against the so-called colonizers.
When conflict between Israel and its neighbors arises, many ethnic studies students see Jews as the white colonizers (even though Jews are not colonizers, and more than 50% of Israeli Jews would be considered BIPOC in America) versus the “colonized” people of color. This stunningly superficial interpretation is then used as rationale to engage in violent actions against Jews.
Going forward, if Post-colonialism and Marxism must be included in courses, these theorists must be balanced with their ideological rivals.
Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi, who advocated for social cohesion, peaceful coexistence, and nonviolent resistance, would be a good start.
Third, state legislatures and/or governing boards that oversee universities should mandate regular performance audits of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) teams on campus.
The rise in DEI presence on campus has coincided with an increase in antisemitism. One analysis found that DEI staffing at the University of Michigan more than quadrupled from about 40 in 2002 to 167 in 2021. At worst, these DEI efforts are contributing to antisemitism. At best, they are ineffective at curbing it.
Here is a video of a former DEI official being told that protecting Jewish students did not fall under her mandate because they were “white oppressors,” and her job was to “de-center whiteness.”
Requiring DEI offices to use data, such as campus climate surveys and discrimination complaint trends, to publicly report on the degree to which DEI efforts are reducing antisemitism — and all forms of bigotry for that matter — will hold DEI officials accountable to the values they profess to uphold.
Fourth, university administrators must better coordinate with local law enforcement partners to ensure the enforcement of laws to protect students from physical harm at protests. While the First Amendment includes the right of free speech and the right to peaceably assemble, some universities forget to prioritize other applicable regulations on gatherings, such as laws against physical harassment and blocking buildings/sidewalk access.
While I was a student at Berkeley, protesters from Students for Justice in Palestine blocked an entrance to campus during a protest. When one student in a wheelchair attempted to pass, protestors began to kick him until he retreated. Police officers observed in the distance and did nothing.
Ignoring illegal actions of some students during protests unnecessarily endangers other students and has the effect of chilling speech among those who are understandably afraid of physical altercation.
In addition to the ideas set forth here, combating antisemitism on campus requires leaders who are willing to first call out the problem. While it can be intimidating to call out evil due to fear of appearing biased or becoming a target of vitriol, it is in times of great turmoil where taking a stand is needed most.
To those leaders reluctant to speak out and act, consider Hillel’s famous question: “If not you, then who? If not now, when?”
Ben Goldblatt is a Certified Fraud Examiner and a government oversight expert.
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South Dakota Passes Bill Adopting IHRA Definition of Antisemitism
South Dakota’s state Senate passed on Thursday a bill requiring law enforcement agencies to refer to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when investigating anti-Jewish hate crimes.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) already adopted the definition, which has been embraced by lawmakers across the political spectrum, via executive order in 2021. This latest measure, HB 1076, aims to further integrate the IHRA’s guidance into law and includes the organization’s examples of antisemitism. It now awaits a vote by the state House of Representatives.
“As antisemitism continues to rise across America, having a clear and standardized definition enables a more unified stance against this hatred,” the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), said in a statement. “We appreciate Governor Kristi Noem for making this legislation a policy goal of hers, strengthening the use of the IHRA Working Definition in South Dakota through legislation, following the December 2021 adoption via executive proclamation.”
CAM called on lawmakers in the lower house to follow the Senate’s lead and implored “other states to join the fight against antisemitism by adopting the IHRA definition, ensuring the safety and well-being of their Jewish residents.”
First adopted in 2005 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism states that “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and includes a list of illustrative examples ranging from Holocaust denial to the rejection of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. The definition is used by hundreds of governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations.
Widely regard as the world’s leading definition of antisemitism, it was adopted by 97 governmental and nonprofit organizations in 2023, according to a report Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) Antisemitism Research Center issued in January.
Earlier this month, Georgia became the latest US state to pass legislation applying IHRA’s guidance to state law. 33 US States have as well, including Virginia, Texas, New York, and Florida.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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Columbia University Sued for Allowing Antisemitic Violence and Discrimination
Columbia University allowed for antisemitism to explode on campus endangering the welfare of Jewish students and faculty, StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice and Students Against Antisemitism (SAA) alleges in a lawsuit announced on Wednesday.
Filed in the US District Court of Southern New York, the complaint recounts dozens of reported antisemitic incidents that occurred after Oct. 7 which the university allegedly failed to respond to adequately because of anti-Jewish, as well as anti-Zionist, bias.
“Columbia refuses to enforce its policies or protect Jewish and Israeli members of the campus community,” Yael Lerman, director of SWU Center for Legal Justice said on Wednesday in a press release. “Columbia has created a pervasively hostile campus environment in which antisemitic activists act with impunity, knowing that there will be no real repercussions for their violations of campus policies.”
“We decline to comment on pending litigation,” Columbia University spokesperson and vice president for communications told The Algemeiner on Friday.
The plaintiffs in the case accuse Columbia University of violating their contract, to which it is bound upon receiving payment for their tuition, and contravening Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. They are seeking damages as well as injunctive relief.
“F— the Jews,” “Death to Jews, “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” students chanted on campus grounds after the tragedy, violating the school’s code of conduct and never facing consequences, the complaint says. Faculty engaged in similar behavior. On Oct. 8, professor Joseph Massad published in Electronic Intifada an essay cheering Hamas’ atrocities, which included slaughtering children and raping women, as “awesome” and describing men who paraglided into a music festival to kill young people as “the air force of the Palestinian resistance.”
300 faculty signed a letter proclaiming “unwavering solidarity” with Massad, and in the following days, Students for Justice in Palestine defended Hamas’ actions as “rooted in international law.” In response, Columbia University president Minouche Shafik, opting not to address their rhetoric directly, issued a statement mentioning “violence that is affecting so many people” but not, the complaint noted, explicitly condemning Hamas, terrorism, and antisemitism. Nine days later, Shafik rejected an invitation to participate in a viewing of footage of the Oct. 7 attacks captured by CCTV cameras.
The complaint goes on to allege that after bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on their people, pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.
More request to the university went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while Students for Justice in Palestine held demonstrations. The school’s powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP continued to host events whole no one explained the inconsistency.
Virulent antisemitism at Columbia University on the heels of Oct. 7 was not a one-off occurance, the complaint alleges, retracing in over 100 pages 20 years of alleged anti-Jewish hatred at the school.
“Students at Columbia are enduring unprecedented levels of antisemitic and anti-Israel hate while coping with the trauma of Hamas’ October 7th massacre,” SWU CEO Roz Rothstein said in Wednesday’s press release. “We will ensure that Columbia University is held accountable for their gross failure to protect their Jewish and Israeli students.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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University of California-Los Angeles Student Government Passes BDS Resolution
The University of California-Los Angeles student government on Tuesday passed a resolution endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as false accusation that Israel is committing a genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.
“The Israeli government has carried out a genocidal bombing campaign and ground invasion against Palestinians in Gaza — intentionally targeting hospitals universities, schools, shelters, churches, mosques, homes, neighborhoods, refugee camps, ambulances, medical personnel, [United Nations] workers, journalists and more,” the resolution, passed 10-3 by the UCLA Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC), says, not mentioning that UN personnel in Gaza assisted Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.
It continued, “Let it be resolved that the Undergraduate Student Association of UCLA formally call upon the UC Regents to withdraw investments in securities, endowments mutual funds, and other monetary instruments….providing material assistance to the commission or maintenance of flagrant violations of international law.
The days leading up to the vote were fraught, The Daily Bruin, the university’s official student newspaper reported on Wednesday.
“Non-UCLA students” sent USAC council members emails imploring them to vote for or against the resolution and USAC Cultural Affairs Commissioner and sponsor of the resolution, Alicia Verdugo, was accused of antisemitism and deserving of impeachment. The UCLA Graduate Student Association and University of California-Davis’ student government had just endorsed BDS the previous week, prompting fervent anticipation for the outcome of Tuesday’s USAC session.
Before voting took place, members of the council ordered a secret ballot, withholding from their constituents a record of where they stood on an issue of monumental importance to the campus culture. According to The Daily Bruin, they expressed “concerns” about “privacy” and “security.” Some members intimated how they would vote, however. During a question and answer period, one student who co-sponsored the resolution, accused a Jewish student of being “classist” and using “coded” language because she argued that the council had advanced the resolution without fully appreciating the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the history of antisemitism.
“As a Guatemalan, …my country went through genocide,” he snapped at the young woman, The Daily Bruin’s reporting documented. “My family died in the Guatemalan Mayan genocide. I understand. I very well know what genocide looks like.”
Other council members voiced their support by co-sponsoring the resolution, which was co-authored by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group that has held unauthorized demonstrations and terrorized Jewish students across the country.
Responding to USAC’s decision, Jewish students told the paper that they find the campaign for BDS and the attempts of pro-Palestinian students to defend Hamas’ atrocities myopic and offensive.
“How can anyone dare to contextualize since Oct. 7 without acknowledging that the Jewish people are victims of such a cataclysmic attack?” Mikayla Weinhouse said. “BDS intentionally aims to divide a community. Its supporters paint a complex and century-old conflict in the Middle East as a simplistic narrative that inspires hate rather than advocates for a solution.”
University of California-Los Angeles denounced the resolution for transgressing school policy and the spirit of academic freedom.
“The University of California and UCLA, which, like all nine other UC campuses, has consistently opposed calls for a boycott against and divestment from Israel,” the school said in a statement. “We stand firm in our conviction that a boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty and to the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on this campus.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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