ZOA’s Testimony And Legal Complaint
Help Spur Historic Move
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) applauds the historic findings and recommendations issued on Monday, April 3, 2006, by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, to address anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination on U.S. college campuses. The findings and recommendations were based in part on the ZOA’s testimony at the Commission’s hearing on campus anti-Semitism on November 18, 2005.
At the hearing, Susan Tuchman, the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, urged the Commission to support an interpretation of Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 that would protect Jewish college students from anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination. She described the ZOA’s ongoing complaint against the University of California at Irvine under Title VI, the first case of anti-Semitism that the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education has agreed to investigate.
Based on the information provided at the hearing, the Commission made the following important findings:
1) Anti-Semitism on college campuses throughout the U.S. is a serious problem, and derogatory remarks and using swastikas and other symbols of hatred or bigotry are among the conduct that could create a hostile environment for Jewish students in violation of Title VI.
2) Anti-Israel conduct and anti-Zionism can be an expression of anti-Semitism. According to the Commission, “[a]nti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.”
3) Many Middle East studies departments provide one-sided debate about Israel, and may also repress legitimate debate.
4) Many students do not know what rights and protections they have against anti-Semitic behavior.
5) The data on campus anti-Semitism that is currently collected by the U.S. government is insufficient and more data is required to determine the full scope of the problem.
The Commission made the following significant recommendations:
I. The Office for Civil Rights should protect Jewish students from anti-Semitism by vigorously enforcing Title VI against colleges and universities. University leadership must ensure that students are not subjected to a hostile environment engendered by anti-Semitism.
II. If there is any question that Jewish students are protected under Title VI, then Congress should amend Title VI to make clear that they are protected.
III. Colleges and universities should ensure that students are protected from actions that could create a hostile anti-Semitic environment. “University leadership should set a moral example” and denounce anti-Semitic and other hate speech.
IV. Colleges and universities should ensure that all academic departments maintain academic standards and respect intellectual diversity. Federal funds should not be used in a way that supports discriminatory conduct.
V. The Office for Civil Rights should conduct a public education campaign to inform college students of their rights under the federal civil rights laws, including that they have the right to be free from anti-Semitic harassment. The Commission will support this campaign by producing and distributing materials to inform students of their rights.
VI. Congress should direct the U.S. Department of Education to collect and report additional data on anti-Semitic and other hate crimes at colleges and universities.
The ZOA specifically urged the Commission to make some of these findings and recommendations at the hearing last November. Among other issues, the ZOA advocated that the Commission acknowledge the seriousness of the anti-Jewish problem on campus, that the Commission recognize that anti-Zionism and anti-Israel conduct may be a camouflage for what is in reality anti-Semitism, and that colleges and universities have a duty to speak out and condemn hateful speech and conduct against Jews and Israel.
Susan Tuchman, the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, applauded the Commission’s findings and recommendations. “We are deeply gratified that the Commission took our concerns seriously and recognized that Jewish students are facing real problems of anti-Semitism on their college campuses. It is so important that the Commission understood that anti-Zionist propaganda and inaccurate and unbalanced attacks on Israel are a form of anti-Semitism, and also that the Commission condemned such conduct. The Commission’s findings and recommendations support our contention that the anti-Israel divestment campaigns and conferences on college campuses, which disseminate hateful lies about Israel and Zionism, contribute to creating a hostile anti-Semitic environment for Jewish students that may violate Title VI.
The Commission has sent a powerful message to the public, to the Office for Civil Rights — the agency that enforces Title VI — and to college and university administrations across the country: Jewish students are entitled under the law to an educational environment that is free from anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination, which includes conduct that demonizes and delegitimizes the State of Israel. The officials and administrators of colleges and universities have an obligation to ensure a hostility-free environment, and to take a leadership role and speak out against speech and conduct that is hateful to Jews and to Israel.
The Commission’s findings and recommendations have also sent a strong message to Jewish students on our campuses that anti-Semitism and anti-Israel conduct need not be tolerated and that they have legal recourse to fight it. We anticipate that the Commission will be issuing a report based on these findings and recommendations, and expect that it will be submitted to the President and to Congress.
“I also want to thank all the students from UC Irvine who have fully supported the ZOA’s legal effort, enabling us to reach this important milestone. It’s been gratifying to have developed such warm and personal relationships with these fabulous students who have shown such courage, commitment and determination.”
Morton A. Klein, the ZOA’s National President, praised the Commission’s actions.”We praise and appreciate not only the Commission’s findings and recommendations, but also its commitment to support a public relations campaign to inform Jewish college students of their rights under the federal civil rights laws. The ZOA intends to be a partner in that campaign by undertaking its own effort to inform Jewish students and college and university administrators on campuses across the country that anti-Semitism is illegal and that students have tools under the law to combat it. We will be urging Hillel directors on campuses across the country to help us get this important message out to the heads of their respective college and universities and to their Jewish constituents.”
“I also wish to express my sincere thanks to the many outstanding students at UC/Irvine who I met and worked with after my Israel lecture there. Their intelligence, diligence, relentless spirit and love of Israel always inspired me and gave me great confidence in our Jewish future. These students and all the other Irvine students who have been so supportive in helping us fight against the scourge of anti-Semitism deserve our respect and admiration.”