June 10, 2015
News Press Release Uncategorized

ZOA Praises Cong. Sherman for Urging U.S. Education Dept. to Include Anti-Israelism as Anti-Semitism

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) praised U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) today for his continued leadership in fighting anti-Semitism on American college campuses. On June 5, 2015, Congressman Sherman sent a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, urging the U.S. Department of Education to adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism when the Education Department is applying and enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect Jewish students from harassment and discrimination.  The State Department’s definition recognizes that demonizing Israel, apply double standards to Israel, and delegitimizing Israel are anti-Semitic.

In his letter, Congressman Sherman praised the State Department for formulating its definition of anti-Semitism and wrote to Secretary Duncan, “Adoption of the State Department’s definition will demonstrate the Department of Education’s commitment to combating anti-Semitism and protecting all students.  There is no reason why United States domestic agencies should not define anti-Semitism in the same way that the State Department does when the Department monitors anti-Semitism globally.  After all, if an incident that happens abroad will be branded by our State Department as anti-Semitic, then surely we must consider an identical incident to be anti-Semitic if it happens within the United States.  Adopting the definition would demonstrate a clearer and more consistent policy among U.S. government agencies regarding the nature of anti-Semitism and the many ways it is being expressed today.  It would also provide clarity to schools, school administrators, staff, students, and their families, and those charged with responsibility of enforcing Title VI.”

This policy clarifying that Jewish students are protected under Title VI was an important achievement. Yet we see no evidence that it is being enforced.

In addition to urging the Education Department to adopt the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, Congressman Sherman asked Secretary Duncan to provide him with “whatever definition of anti-Semitism, if any, is being used internally by your Department.”  The Congressman also advised Secretary Duncan that “[m]ore work needs to be done to protect students from anti-Semitism,” noting the recent “multiple unsettling incidents” at U.S. schools.

Morton A. Klein, the ZOA’s National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, commended Congressman Sherman for his continued leadership in the fight against campus anti-Semitism:  “The ZOA has been proud to work with Congressman Sherman in combating campus anti-Semitism for many years now.  Congressman Sherman was instrumental in getting the U.S. Department of Education to adopt its policy of protecting Jewish students under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after the Department’s Office for Civil Rights was failing to include Jews as a protected class under the law.

“This policy clarifying that Jewish students are protected under Title VI was an important achievement.  Yet we see no evidence that it is being enforced.  To our knowledge, the Office for Civil Rights has never applied the policy to find a single violation of Jewish students’ rights under Title VI.

“For example, the ZOA filed a Title VI complaint against the University of California, Irvine, which the Office for Civil Rights agreed to investigate.  Jewish students at Irvine faced speakers and programs that regularly and viciously demonized Jews and Israel and called for Israel’s destruction, which is anti-Semitism according to the State Department definition.  Not surprisingly, the verbal assaults escalated to violence, including anti-Semitic vandalism and physical threats and actual physical assaults against Jewish students.  Two students reported to the Office for Civil Rights that they left Irvine and went to study elsewhere because they could not endure the hostility any longer.

“Based on the evidence the ZOA presented to the Office for Civil Rights, investigators at the agency reportedly concluded that “ZOA was right:  Irvine’s Jewish students faced levels of discrimination that were so severe, pervasive, and offensive as to limit their education.”  (See Kenneth L. Marcus, A Blind Eye to Campus Anti-Semitism?  Commentary magazine, Sept. 2010.)  Yet the Office for Civil Rights dismissed the ZOA’s complaint, a decision which the ZOA appealed.  Shamefully and disrespectfully to the many students who had the courage to come forward, the Office for Civil Rights affirmed the dismissal almost nine years after the ZOA’s complaint was filed.    

“As Congressman Sherman rightly informed Secretary Duncan:  ‘You cannot prohibit or vigorously enforce rules against anti-Semitism until you define it.’  We applaud Congressman Sherman’s continued leadership in fighting campus anti-Semitism.  With his help, and the help of others in Congress, Jewish students will have more than a strong Title VI policy on paper.  They have will have a federal agency truly committed to eradicating anti-Semitism in all its ugly forms at federally funded schools.”