ZOA Demands Rutgers Respond To Campus Anti-Semitism
June 27, 2011


Jewish Student Receives Death Threats, University Official

Refers to Him on Facebook as “That Racist Zionist Pig!!!!!!!!”






The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has demanded that Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, rectify the hostile anti-Semitic environment on campus, which has had a detrimental effect on Jewish students who have been physically threatened – even with death threats – and made to feel intimidated and unsafe.  Middle East studies courses are so biased against Israel that Jewish students avoid them or are afraid to speak up in class and express their support for Israel.  On a regular basis, an extremist anti-Israel student group called BAKA has been sponsoring and promoting events on campus that demonize Jews and Israel, thereby inciting hatred of them.


In a letter to Rutgers President Richard McCormick dated April 6, 2011, the ZOA detailed the problems reported by Jewish students, which have made them feel threatened, intimidated, and physically unsafe:


·         Aaron Marcus, a Jewish student who is a columnist for the student paper, the Targum, wrote an opinion piece calling on the anti-Israel student group called BAKA to end its hateful tactics.  Another student responded by posting a Facebook message physically threatening Mr. Marcus:  “As I was reading the Aaron Marcus column this morning, I realized how Im [sic] a pretty angry person.  Id [sic] be happy to see him beat with a crowbar.  Violence doesnt [sic] solve problems but it shuts up people who shouldnt [sic] speak.”


·         Seven other Facebook users endorsed the violent threat against Mr. Marcus by clicking “like” on the Facebook message.  One responded with a murderous message of his own: “Or makes them martyrs, furthering the strength behind their beliefs.  And skinning them alive so they see the afterlife.” 


·         Fearing for his safety, Aaron Marcus sought police protection and removed his contact information from the Rutgers directory. He also filed a bias report with the Dean of Students which, according to university policy, is supposed to be responded to within 24 hours of being filed.  More than one month later, Mr. Marcus received a cursory e-mail from the Dean of Students, telling him that there were insufficient grounds to formally charge the student who had threatened him.  The student was simply given a warning; no action was apparently taken against the student who threatened to skin Mr. Marcus alive.


·         Aaron Marcus has also been threatened and intimidated by a university official who engaged in anti-Semitic name-calling against Mr. Marcus on Facebook.  After Mr. Marcus wrote an opinion piece in the Targum criticizing the student government’s decision to financially support the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, Shehnaz Sheik Abdeljaber, the Outreach Coordinator for Rutgers’ Center for Middle East Studies, posted a message on Facebook referring to Mr. Marcus as “that racist Zionist pig!!!!!!!!”  Ms. Abdeljaber also tried to incite other Facebook users against Mr. Marcus, encouraging them to “put his name in fb [Facebook] search . . . he has a fb [Facebook] hate page” — as if celebrating that people were posting hateful messages about Mr. Marcus and urging others to find that Facebook page so that they could read the comments and post their own hateful messages.


·         Ms. Abdeljaber also physically threatened and tried to provoke a physical fight with Mr. Marcus.  After a student body meeting, Ms. Abdeljaber rushed toward Mr. Marcus and began yelling at him, “I’m Palestinian.  Do you want to take me on?  Do you want to fight?  I have thick blood.  Try me.”  Ms. Abdeljaber kept pounding on her chest and pointing to her necklace, which was a silhouette of Israel covered by the Palestinian flag.


·         The anti-Israel student group called BAKA has been sponsoring and promoting campus programs and events on a regular basis that demonize Jews and Israel, thereby inciting hatred of them.  Last January, at a BAKA event entitled “Never Again for Anyone,” speakers falsely and outrageously analogized the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews to Israel’s policies and practices toward the Palestinian Arabs.  The event was advertised as free and open to the public.  But when many Jewish and pro-Israel students and community members showed up in protest of the event, an admission fee was suddenly imposed and selectively enforced:  BAKA members and others deemed friendly to BAKA’s cause were observed getting in for free.  Those perceived as Jewish and pro-Israel had to pay to be admitted to the event.  Reportedly, inside the event, the leader of one of the co-sponsoring organizations told the audience, “When we saw that there were . . . Zionists [meaning Jews] outside, we decided to charge.” 


·         Middle East studies classes are so biased against Israel that Jewish students are too uncomfortable or intimidated to enroll in them.  When they do enroll, they go in expecting that the professor will be biased against Israel and are reluctant and even intimidated to speak up and say that they support Israel.


·         The Rutgers Hillel reported in the Targum that “Jewish students have been threatened with violence, made to feel unsafe in their dorms and sought formal counseling because of physical threats as well as emotional and verbal attacks on them.  This includes individuals who BAKA has publicly targeted.” 


The ZOA has strongly urged Rutgers President Richard McCormick to take several steps to eliminate the hostile anti-Semitic environment on campus, including:  (1) speaking out and publicly condemning anti-Semitism in all its forms when it occurs at Rutgers, including when anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiment crosses the line into anti-Semitism; (2) investigating Shehnaz Sheik Abdeljaber’s conduct thoroughly and, if the allegations against her are substantiated, firing her; (3) investigating thoroughly and resolving fairly each and every bias report that Jewish students have made; (4) investigating thoroughly what occurred at the “Never Again for Anyone” event and determine whether BAKA should be disciplined for violating university policies at the event; and (5) undertaking a comprehensive review of university course descriptions and course materials to correct the anti-Israel bias that permeates the classroom, creating a hostile learning environment for Jewish students.  Emphasizing that President McCormick had the legal obligation to act, the ZOA provided him with a copy of the policy letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on October 26, 2010, clarifying that Jewish students must be protected from anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 


Rutgers President Whitewashes and Ignores Anti-Semitism


President McCormick responded to the ZOA’s letter on April 26, 2011, distorting and dismissing virtually all of the concerns that were raised.  He did not agree to take any of the steps that the ZOA recommended, stating that “[t]he university has already addressed each of the incidents that you have identified . . . [and is] confident that we have satisfied our obligations under both Title VI and the First Amendment.” 


Challenging this contention in a response to President McCormick dated June 21, 2011, the ZOA called Rutgers’ response “inadequate.”  In particular, the ZOA criticized the fact that President McCormick completely ignored the threats, harassment and intimidation that Rutgers student Aaron Marcus has been subjected to by other students and shockingly by a university official.


ZOA National President Morton A. Klein emphasized how troubling Rutgers’ response was, stating, “There’s no doubt that if a university official engaged in bigoted and hateful name-calling against a gay student or an African American student, or threatened and tried to provoke a physical fight with a gay or African American student, Rutgers wouldn’t tolerate that behavior for one second.  And it shouldn’t.  We are shocked that Rutgers is allowing someone who’s been given the title ‘Outreach Coordinator’ of Rutgers’ Middle East Studies Center to continue in that position, after she bullied and threatened a Jewish student simply because he exercised his right to express his views.  What Jewish and pro-Israel student would ever feel comfortable taking a Middle East studies course when the coordinator of the center has shown such viciousness toward Jews and Israel?


“Rutgers needs to start affirmatively addressing the problems that are plaguing the campus and harming Jewish students.  It’s not only President McCormick’s moral duty to eliminate the anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation; it’s also his legal obligation under Title VI.  The Office for Civil Rights has made it clear that Jewish students are entitled to the kind of college experience that every student needs and deserves:  one that’s physically and emotionally safe and conducive to learning.


“We call on all Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee – to demand that President McCormick take action and address the campus hostilities that are affecting and harming Jewish students.”   



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