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We Must Implement the US National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism

US President Joe Biden delivers a prime-time address to the nation about his approaches to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, humanitarian assistance in Gaza, and continued support for Ukraine in their war with Russia, from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, US, Oct. 19, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Pool

The White House released the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism last May in response to a dramatic increase in antisemitic incidents. No one could have foreseen that the strategy would be tested so soon by the response to the horrors of October 7.

In the wake of Hamas’ brutal attack, the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust, already surging rates of antisemitic incidents tripled nationwide.

According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, as of December 5, 2023, there had been a 60% year-over-year increase in reported hate crimes for the period after October 7. Most of that increase was driven by crimes against Jews.

The Secure Community Network (SCN) reported a 112% year-over-year increase in North American antisemitic incidents in 2023, the highest increase it has ever recorded. There was a record number of monthly antisemitic incidents in December 2023.

This is exactly the kind of situation that the National Strategy was designed to mitigate — but how is it being employed?

In August 2023, AJC created a Task Force to spearhead the implementation of the National Strategy. Since October 7, AJC has been in nearly weekly meetings with the White House or with the secretaries of Federal agencies. In every encounter, these officials speak about the National Strategy and the important tools it has afforded them in this dark moment.

This summer, AJC began working with the Small Business Administration (SBA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other agencies to implement the National Strategy, signing a Strategic Alliance Memorandum with SBA. Reflective of this work, Federal agencies issued rapid statements of support and solidarity shortly after the October 7 attacks. The USDA even helped organize groups of American farmers and volunteers to travel to Israel to harvest crops that otherwise would have withered.

AJC has been in constant contact with the Department of Education to relay its concerns, flag cases, and help make sure that antisemitic incidents are recorded. The Department’s Office for Civil Rights has specified that Title VI’s protection from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin extends to students who are or are perceived to be Jewish. The Department released an updated complaint form to make filing a complaint easier and pivoted its commitment to hold listening sessions in schools to have “interventions” with the most problematic educational spaces in America.

AJC’s CEO Ted Deutch made recommendations to the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism on Capitol Hill in October. Since then, he has kept regular correspondence with Senators and Congressional representatives on both sides of the aisle, and has pushed them to fully implement the National Strategy and support Israel and the Jewish people.

Countering antisemitism is a whole-of-society effort. It requires all of us to act and make our voices heard. Indeed, the National Strategy does not just include action items for Federal agencies, it includes recommendations for every sector of American society.

As the first line of defense in many instances of antisemitism, local law enforcement must understand antisemitism and Jews. Our newest guide, designed for law enforcement, was released last month in partnership with SCN, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the Major County Sheriffs of America, to ensure they do.

Here are a few steps we can take to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish people.

First and foremost, we can’t be shy about the antisemitism we experience. Whether it’s a potential hate crime, an incident of harassment at an educational institution, or an inciting post on social media, we must report it. Complaints drive data; data drives policy.

We must urge social media platforms to counter antisemitism and Hamas propaganda. After Hamas’ murderous pogrom and the accompanying increase in antisemitism, we all must address increased antisemitism online by implementing policy recommendations from the Call to Action Against Antisemitism, which have been echoed in the National Strategy.

Since October 7, there have been frightening levels of antisemitism on college campuses. We must urge university presidents to take proactive steps against antisemitism on campus by adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, and taking concrete steps to protect Jews on campus, as recommended in the National Strategy.

IHRA’s Working Definition is the most concise, accurate, and globally recognized definition of antisemitism. It is a proven tool for recognizing and fighting antisemitism.

The National Strategy is a detailed, thoughtful document that dedicates a broad range of governmental and non-governmental resources to the fight against Jew hatred. It represents the most serious Presidential commitment to fighting antisemitism in history.

We have the toolkit. It’s time to use it.

Julie Fishman Rayman is the Managing Director of Policy and Political Affairs at the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

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South Dakota Passes Bill Adopting IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

Gov. Kristi Noem (R) speaking to legislators during the State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024 at South Dakota State Captiol in Pierre. Photo: Samantha Laurey and Argus Leader via REUTERS CONNECT

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

Anti-Israel students protest at Columbia University in New York City. Photo: Reuters/Jeenah Moon

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

Graphic posted by University of California, Los Angeles Students for Justice in Palestine on February 21, 2024 to celebrate the student government’s passing an resolution endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. Photo: Screenshot/Instagram

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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