Tuesday, September 30, 2014
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and a coalition of 13 other national organizations sent a ZOA-authored letter last week to the presidents of more than 2500 four-year U.S. colleges and universities, urging them to protect Jewish students in light of the alarming rise in anti-Semitism both here and around the world, triggered in part by the latest Hamas war against Israel. Reminding publicly funded schools of their obligation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination (or risk losing their federal funding), the coalition of 14 national organizations wrote to college and university leaders: “None of us should tolerate a campus climate of fear or disrespect, which can seriously impair the physical and psychological health of students and create conditions that negatively affect their learning and their ability to achieve their full potential.”
The letter notes with particular concern the harassment and intimidation tactics of a campus group that calls itself “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP). This hate group focuses little if any attention on seeking justice for Palestinian Arabs. Instead, it promotes anti-Semitic hatred and bigotry – including demonizing Israel and calling for its destruction – causing Jewish students at schools like Vassar College, Northeastern University and New York University, among others, to feel ostracized, threatened and unsafe. The SJP also uses tactics to silence and marginalize the views of Jewish students who support Israel, by, for example, disrupting their events and, at UCLA, actually demanding that candidates for student government sign a pledge not to go on a trip to Israel sponsored by certain Jewish organizations.
In addition to the ZOA, the letter to college and university leaders was signed by Alpha Epsilon Pi, AMCHA Initiative, the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Christians United for Israel, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Hasbara Fellowships, the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach, and StandWithUs.
This coalition of 14 groups urged colleges and universities to take the following steps:
- Review and augment campus security so that they are prepared for and able to respond to violence, and alert local police officials to the potential for violence.
- Provide a clear mechanism for reporting harassment, intimidation and hate crimes on campus.
- Issue strong public statements to the university community, urging students, faculty and others to engage in discussion and debate in a civil, tolerant and respectful manner.
- Respond promptly to anti-Semitic incidents by publicly condemning them and the perpetrators, and affirming that anti-Semitism is inconsistent with university values.
- Immediately and thoroughly respond to possible infractions of university rules and policies, and hold wrongdoers accountable for their misconduct.
- Immediately report alleged or suspected criminal conduct to the appropriate authorities.
- Familiarize administrators, faculty, security and other university personnel with the U.S. government standards on anti-Semitism, which explain when anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism cross the line into anti-Semitism.
- Ensure that all forms of anti-Semitism are a focus of the university’s diversity education for students, staff and faculty, and provide appropriate oversight of students and student groups that engage in anti-Semitic conduct.
- Issue a statement to faculty making it clear that students must be able to express their views in class without fear of intimidation or reprisal from other students or professors.
- Exercise moral leadership by publicly condemning anti-Israelism that crosses the line into anti-Semitism.
Urging colleges and universities to combat campus anti-Semitism and implement the recommendations of the ZOA and 13 other groups, Morton A. Klein, ZOA’s National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the Director of the ZOA Center for Law and Justice, said, “Fourteen national organizations have come together, united in their concern for the safety and well-being of Jewish students. The recommendations made in our letter to college leaders are not only doable, but also absolutely necessary for them to carry out. There has been a frightening upsurge in anti-Semitism around the world, including right here in the U.S. Jews have been threatened, physically attacked and even murdered. Synagogues and Jewish property have been vandalized and destroyed. Today, many synagogues have employed armed guards to ensure that Jews will be protected when they come together to pray. This is a recent and deeply troubling phenomenon. Many of our organizations have been threatened with anti-Semitic phone calls, letters and attacks on line.
“No Jewish student on any campus in this country should have a single concern about being ostracized, bullied, or physically attacked. No Jewish student should have a single concern about being harassed, threatened or marginalized for being openly Jewish on campus and openly and proudly loving and supporting the Jewish State of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and America’s most reliable ally.
“We cannot tolerate bigotry, racism, or anti-Semitism on any American campus. None of us would – or should – put up with bigotry against blacks, Latinos, gays or women. We cannot accept bigotry toward Jews either. College leaders must understand the enormous hatred and hostility that Jews are facing at this time, in the U.S. and around the world. It is unfair, unwarranted and shameful, but nevertheless a reality. College leaders must do everything in their power and authority to ensure that our children feel safe – and stay safe – on their campuses.”
To download a PDF version of the ZOA-authored letter click here.