For some time the statement held by so many on campuses who believe the Israel-Arab conflict is the result of Zionism, and that equates Zionism with a form of race hatred, where the word itself is used as an epitaph of derision and disdain, raised this Religion Writer’s curiosity to discover a better definition of Zionism. In an effort to find out what Zionism might be, an inquiry was made of Zionist Organization of America’s President Morton A. Klein.
Article and interview by Peter Menkin
Societal support for higher education is grounded in the belief that democracy is reinforced by a good liberal arts education. Stanley N. Katz, director of Princeton University’s Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, warned of the need to reform higher education: “A great deal is at stake for undergraduate education, and for the country. If we believe, as so many of the founders of liberal education did, that the vitality of American democracy depends upon the kind of liberal education undergraduates receive, we need to put the reimagination of liberal education near the top of our agenda for education in our research universities.” Americans cherish their institutions of higher education and are rightfully proud of their quality and world leadership. Students from around the United States and the rest of the globe make great sacrifices to study at American universities, and they generally graduate well-positioned for successful careers and poised to make important contributions to society. The “something amiss in higher education” is not education itself, but rather the inappropriate politics that colors too much of campus life. The solution is not to balance one biased ideology with another but rather to eliminate politics altogether, except as a tool to teach students (and many faculty) to think for themselves.
From the section, “Reclaiming the Civil University,” from Uncivil University Executive Summary.
INTRODUCTION BY THE RELIGION WRITER PETER MENKIN TO THE SERIES
The multi part series I’ve been working on since July, 2012 came to an end in November, 2012. I expect to continue to post this series on the Jewish community’s complaint regarding bullying Jewish Students on University Campuses, and the new use of Title VI 1964 Civil Rights action to effect this problem of bullying students on University campuses. This standpoint of a large if not majority segment of the established Jewish Community in the United States is a report on a given point of view that finds Israel part of this conversation and also the point of view this behavior represents anti-Semitism.
This introduction introduces to the fifth of an going series of six or more interviews, each with Addendum consisting of relevant documents on the matter of bullying Jewish Students and the use of Title VI of the Civil Rights act of 1964 in finding redress is an indication of the more strident and tense situation regarding bullying Jewish students on American campuses. This interview is the second of the series and is held with Morton A. Klein, President, Zionist Organization of America. The conversation via land-line phone from my home office in Mill Valley, California was made to his office in New York City by me, Peter Menkin. The finalization of the text of the interview was made December 10, 2012.
… a collection of voices in interview from American Jewish Community regarding the real concern by them of bullying Jewish students on some University campuses plays a significant role in unmasking anti-Israel actions and behavior as anti-Semitism. That is the Jewish Community thesis and argument brought to legal remedy through Federal Law that is the theme of this series. The basis for this kind of hate and anti-Semitism, bad behavior at best and hateful activity at worst, is evident in the practiced belief that Zionism is an evil belief by those whose actions show them as performing the Jewish bullying.
Claim made by the organization in their words: Founded in 1897, the Zionist Organization of America (“ZOA”) is the oldest pro-Israel organization in the United States. With offices around the country and in Israel, the ZOA is dedicated to educating the public, elected officials, media, and college/high school students about the truth of the ongoing and relentless Arab war against Israel. ZOA is also committed to promoting strong U.S.-Israel relations. ZOA works to protect Jewish college and high school students from intimidation, harassment and discrimination, and in fighting anti-Semitism in general.
Since its founding in 1897, the Zionist Organization of America has been fighting for the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. Under the leadership of such illustrious presidents as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, Rabbi Dr. Abba Hillel Silver, and current National President Morton A. Klein, the ZOA has been on the front lines of Jewish activism.
With a national membership of over 30,000, and chapters throughout the United States (including Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, North Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, South Jersey and Washington D.C.), the ZOA today works to strengthen US-Israeli relations, through educational activities, public affairs programs, working every day on Capitol Hill, and by combating anti-Israel bias in the media, textbooks, and on campuses.
For some time the statement held by so many on campuses who believe the Israel-Arab conflict is the result of Zionism, and that equates Zionism with a form of race hatred, where the word itself is used as an epitaph of derision and disdain, raised this Religion Writer’s curiosity to discover a better definition of Zionism. In an effort to find out what Zionism might be, an inquiry was made of Zionist Organization of America’s President Morton A. Klein. During one of the research periods of this look at bullying Jewish students on campus and the new anti-Semitism, some YouTube webcasts of Morton A. Klein giving speeches on the problems of Israel-Arab conflict, and especially that of bullying Jewish students here in the United States were viewed. There were few of the latter.
In one particular YouTube of a speech, Mr. Klein said he wanted the opportunity to comment on Zionism and something of its Biblical origin and meaning. Though Mr. Klein did not remember that particular remark when asked, it did stick in this writer’s mind so it was interpreted to lead to an interview on the subject. But the main reason for the interview, aside from the active nature the organization plays in this area of University harassment and need for redress, at least as complained by and alleged by the organizations cited in this series, is that Zionist Organization of America is active in leadership regarding seeking redress for the issues at hand through use of Title VI. They are also part of the Jewish community establishment, and solidly a part of the Jewish scene that is organized in a national manner in the United States.
During the time of research and writing of this series, University Presidents and administration officials at University of California were contacted through press officers. No press officer provided a satisfactory response substantive to the subject meriting quotation. No University of California administrator, but a few, at almost any level including top levels cared enough to comment for this Religion Writer, let alone respond.
INTERVIEW WITH ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA PRESIDENT MORTON A. KLEIN WITH PETER MENKIN
About ten or fifteen percent of Jews in America are religious. But that’s a separate issue. In the Old Testament God says to Abraham that I will give you this land for you and your children, and your grandchildren. All the land that you see is yours. It is in the Bible that the Bible explicitly states, frankly, what’s today Israel–and much more to the Jewish people. This is anybody who is born of a Jewish mother or is converted. Abraham was the first Jew. That’s why Evangelical Christians are fervent and supporters of Israel. God gave this land and don’t give it away. End of this issue.
- 1. In the area of an issue that has involved the Jewish Community, and in specific, too, Zionist Organization of America, bullying of Jewish students on University campuses has been met with actions through Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Zionist Organization of America “…been on the front lines of Jewish activism…” Part of the issue regarding bullying of students is one of anti-Semitism and for the purposes of this interview, acts of anti-Zionism as way to anti-Semitism. It seems this method of developing a hateful atmosphere towards Israel through this kind of propaganda can be successful and cause significant trouble for Jewish students on University campuses in the United States. For readers’ information, please tell us what is the Zionist perspective on the creation of the State of Israel and if you will, give us Biblical reference and citation in your response.
King David was the first King of Israel, and that was before 1948. One of the reasons that the Bible is written by God, not Israel and Jews, is that…only God would put in how King David lived his life, and he had many flaws. In the Bible he sent the husband of a woman he desired to the front lines of a war to increase the likelihood to be killed so he could readily have his wife. The fact that one of the great people in history, and his acts were flawed. Our Sages tell us [this is so for it is] that only God would tell the whole truth…
It’s remarkable that, first of all, the Muslims have approximately fifty Muslim countries. Many of them do not allow the free practice of Judaism or Christianity. Many of them are “larger” than the United States. Their enmity towards Jews is so great; they don’t even want the Jews to have a country that is no larger than New Jersey. … It is an open and democratic society that is the opposite of apartheid.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, when you are talking anti-Zionism, you are talking anti-Semitism. If you talk against the State of Israel you hate Jews. The State of Israel in its establishment gave the right to vote to its 20% that are Muslim. For believers in God and Bible believers, [the creation] of Israel was an act of God. For most people this was an act of God. For others this was the creation of a State in 1948 to provide a safe and secure place to live. 100 years before the State of Israel there were pogroms and the Holocaust.
This is a controversy that should never be. The city of Jerusalem is mentioned 700 times in the Holy Book. Every Passover we say, “Again in Jerusalem.” The Muslim holiest book doesn’t even mention it. When it was captured in many wars, they never made Jerusalem its capital [but they did make Ramel (720 about).
- 2. There is myth and misunderstanding about the creation of Israel. In your understanding of its formation and ongoing life, what is its reason to be—especially as it lives today as a State among nations of the World? Is this a matter of religious conviction and appeal, or is it simply realpolitik? Detractors of Israel and in the same measure people who cast evil on the Jewish faith and the State of Israel say it, that is Israel, is an evil nation that does ill to its neighbors, and persecutes people who live in parts of Palestine. Part of a key section of this argument of historic fact, says Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel. Will you comment on how Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, in accord with its religious values and its tradition of faith? In a way, detractors and those regarded with responses of being bullies of Jewish students through the reputed failures by evil acts of the Jewish State, go through “teach ins” annually at some Universities. As part of this response to the question, tell readers a few of these “teach in” methods and what is said that is so harmful as to be anti-Semitic and hate speech.
When Jordan captured Eastern Jerusalem, the real Jerusalem in the Bible. When Jordan had Jerusalem it was a slum. They had no water, no power. No Jordanian visited it. It meant nothing to them. In fact, in the 1948 war, the Jordanians dynamited 68 synagogues in Jerusalem. They then claimed it was not Jewish, after they destroyed the synagogues.
The PLO covenant, talking about how this all their land, [offered] no word of Jerusalem. If it is so holy to them, where is the name Jerusalem. The PLO in 1964, revised [the covenant] in 1968.
The Muslim student associations, that is largely run by professional agitators that have regular meetings on campuses where they say Israel kills babies…disgusting lies that they are…[saying Jews] committed a holocaust against them, and stolen their land by force, has made it on some of these campuses to walk around calling Jews Nazi’s openly. It has made Jewish students not wear Jewish Stars, head coverings, and made Jewish Students uncomfortable on campuses. We are asking administrations to condemn these conferences by name, condemn the students also by name, to make it clear to repudiate these programs. Just to publically repudiate them by name. So far they have only said they condemn anti-Semitism. … I would think the President of Universities condemn this programs by name about these disgusting programs as lie after lie after lie.
Almost every Jew wants to see peace between Arabs and Jews. But these programs and the response of our program is to bring peace. That is its purpose.
The reason the Zionist organization of America was created 150 years ago, it was recreating the State of Israel … to recreate the State of Israel in the homeland of the Jewish People. … In the land given by God to the Jewish people in the Old Testament. To the land that the Jews ruled 2000 years ago when they were forced out.
- 3. Can you speak some about why Zionist Organization of America has reason to be, and what motivates it, and was key in its decision to take on the battle of the issue of bullying Jewish students on campuses? Are there any campuses that have been particularly active in this action of Jewish bullying and hate speech? In your opinion or statement, remind readers if any of the administration or faculty at these Universities has encouraged or participated in what some call, “The New anti-Semitism.” On what do you base this observation: One or two examples are enough?
After Israel was recreated in 1948, ZOA’s position has been to promote strong US / Israel relations and to inform the Congress and people about the ongoing Arab war against Israel that which has continued since 1948. With respect to the campus issue, ZOA has a major campus program on has many campuses with professionals on major Universities on campus. And these campus professionals and students on campuses have been in touch with us telling us about problems they’ve been having on various campuses. That includes primarily intimidation, harassment of and intimidation against Jewish students.
This has included such episodes as major conferences on campuses that have been established and run by Muslim student organizations where speakers have compared Israelis to Nazis, have called for Israel’s destruction… Claiming the Jewish State has no right to exist.
And Jewish students have informed us, as well as our campus professionals, that especially at these Jewish conferences they have been called names, even been spit on, and [made] fearful of wearing Jewish stars or traditional headset for fear of being harassed.
Jewish students at various major universities —when they take courses on the middle east– professors have been hostile towards Israel. When they try to defend Israel against these outrageous attacks, professors have strongly condemned Jewish students, called them names, with no support from the administration after they filed formal complaints against harassment by students and professors. Among the most egregious Universities include, University of California at Irvine, Columbia University, University of Santa Cruz, and Northeastern University, Boston, and many others. The most recent we filed with a complaint was University of Illinois. First we complain and then we forget. Also Rutgers University has been awful.
Very simply, instead of specifically and only attacking Jews, they attack the Jewish State which is filled with Jews. They hide behind hating Israel, to say we are not against Jews. We are against Israel’s existence. If I’d have told you I am against Italy’s existence, would you not think I was against Italians?
You never have attacks against the truly vicious entities like … Hamas… They hide behind the hating of Israel, and that is not against Jews? But they are.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, when you are talking anti-Zionism, you’re talking anti-Semitism. That does not mean people cannot criticism Israel. To say they are saying Israel is Nazism, you are allowing the criticism to become obscene. And when you never criticize the enemies of Israel, you know then it is anti-Semitism.
You do not have to be an observant Jew to like Israel. Most of the favorable organizations are secular. Surveys have shown, the more you follow Judaism’s precepts, the more you follow the Torah, that your commitment or concern for Israel is greater. Most of the Jews in America are secular and find Israel important in their lives. Virtually all the Jewish organizations are secular, as is our own. We respect Orthodox Jews, but 90 percent of my Board is secular. Their [Board’s] commitment to Israel is powerful.
- 4. Returning to the subject of Israel, speak to us some about why an American who is Jewish and either observes the religion or not would find Israel important in their life. The subject is certainly one that holds different viewpoints, even among Jews of various persuasion and faith. As the final part of this question, how are young people working in their lives or practicing a sense of their faith, and in this instance Zionism or the importance of Israel in their lives?
Even secular Jews identify with their co-religionist just as the Irish identify with the Irish problems, just as the Hispanics are concerned about their Mexico. They are concerned about their brothers and sisters. It is a natural affinity for people to feel for their same nationality or ethnicity.
Blacks identified with Obama, for he has a similar ethnic background. It is a natural human trait. Most Jews, and most secular Jews, remember their parents Shabbat, or had Hanukah favors. They remember this kinship that has them identify with Israel because of the birthright program which sends any Jewish younger between 18 and 25 to Israel all expenses paid. This is underwritten by Sheldon Adelson who’s given the Birthright program over $100 million dollars to send young people to visit Israel. Charles Bronfman is one of two of the major supporters of Birthright. The connection to the Jewish State is in every Jews heart.
Promotion video shows Birthright Program: Designed for use with iPhone
This is a video I shot and edited for a subsidiary program of the organization “Birthright” that enables young Jews from America to tour Israel for free, for 10 days.
- 5. We are at the end of our phone conversation as interview. At this time, if there is anything you want to add, or say, please do so. This Religion Writer knows he has not covered the full territory of the subject, nor have we done more than introduce readers to some of the policies, informational matters, history, and reason to be for the State of Israel. But most significantly, we have discussed through your remarks more about the public issue of bullying Jewish students on University campuses and at other levels of schooling.
In 1948 the United Nations offered the Arabs 50 percent of the land. The Arabs said no. From 1948 to 1967 when the Arabs controlled all of Gaza they could have established a State at that time. But they didn’t. In 1967 when Israel captured all of the West Bank, all of Gaza, half of Jerusalem, they offered virtually all of back to the Arabs for a peace treaty. The Arabs said No.
But Israeli Prime Ministers offered 98% of the disputed land, but the Arabs said No. Most recently Israel’s current Prime Minister said we have to negotiate the borders, we must establish this. The Arabs won’t come to the table. They want to destroy Israel. We teach this to college students.
They are shocked to find it out. It has always been destruction of the Jewish State, not the establishment of an Arab State. This has aided students in having sympathy for the Jewish State. Another thing we teach them is Arabs in their schools, their homes, and their sermons teach hatred against the Jewish State. There is no interest in peace by Palestinian Arabs when they see that Arabs are teaching hate in schools, media and sermons that there is no peace in their practice. We are very precise about what is said in their sermons and classrooms when we teach this.
The Birthright Israel Documentary
Uploaded by Justin Kanner on Dec 24, 2010
Watch our documentary “40 Stories” about our trip to Israel where over 40 random Jewish mid 20 somethings from all over the country met up in New York to travel Israel for 10 days.
My friend Jon, who I met on this trip, and I spent an entire summer traveling around to shoot these interviews with all of the friends we made in Israel, and put it together into something we think our viewers might like.
We did not do this for birthright. We did this for us… and for you. We didn’t get paid, we weren’t asked to make it… We had an amazing time and wanted to share it with everyone.
If you’re a Jew, watch this documentary, and if you haven’t already, go to Israel!
The kind of response received from University of Illinois, exemplifies one response to a complaint from Zionist Organization of America:
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
Urbana-Champaign • Chicago • Springfield
Office of the President
364 Henry Administration Building
506 South Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801-3689
Robert A. Easter
October 31, 2012
Zionist Organization of America
Jacob and Libby Goodman ZOA House
4 East 34th Street
New York, N.Y. 10016
Dear Mr. Klein and Ms. Tuchman:
We have received your letter dated October 3, 2012. We regret that you were disappointed by the University’s response to your initial letter. Once again let me reiterate, on behalf of Chancellor Phyllis Wise, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano, Dean of Students Ken Ballom, and our entire staff, the University of Illinois is dedicated to creating and maintaining a community that is welcoming to and respectful of all students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
Let me provide you with some additional information regarding some of the many ways in which the University strives to foster an inclusive and diverse community. As noted in our previous response, new students participate in college-based University I 01 courses, which address such topics as diversity, tolerance, stereotypes, and hate speech. Although the University 101 courses may not specifically identify anti-Semitism in the context of discussing these issues, we believe that the courses provide an excellent means of introducing new students to important principles underlying our University community, including appreciating the experiences and backgrounds
of others, being open to different viewpoints, and communicating respectfully even when we
During the spring semester, all first year and transfer students are required to participate in
!-Connect Diversity & Inclusion Workshops, which are held in residence halls and classrooms across the campus. These workshops use collaborative exercises to address a wide-range of issues, including religious diversity and tolerance. Student facilitators conduct engaging discussions that focus on developing intercultural communication skills and building an inclusive campus for all students. One scenario within the workshop, for example, concerns the responsibility of student organizations to be cognizant.ofreligious holidays and observances in creating their pro’gra itig calendars. · ·· · · · ·
Urbana • (217) 333-3070 • Fax (217) 333-3072 • E-Mail: email@example.com u
Chicago • 1737 West Polk Street • Chicago, Illinois 60612-7228 • (312) 413-9097
This year, the campus is again participating in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. As part of this partnership, the Division of Student Affairs has worked closely with the Religious Workers Association, including the Illini Hillel/Cohen Center for Jewish Life, to develop programming to promote interfaith dialogue and collaboration. During the Spring 2013 semester, Student Affairs is partnering with Illini Hillel to offer a “Freedom Seder” to connect the Jewish Passover with today’s social justice issues.
The University further demonstrates its commitment to cultivating a community that welcomes, celebrates, and respects diversity through the Inclusive Illinois initiative. This program encourages individuals and campus organizations or units to demonstrate their commitment to “advocate for an accessible, safe, and respectful environment” and “acknowledge and respect the multiple identities in each individual.” See http://www.inclusiveillinois.illinois.edw’makeyourcommitment.html.
Each year, the campus publishes an impact report detailing the programs and events sponsored by diverse campus units and student organizations. The most recent report, which highlights the
March 2012 Torah Dedication oflllini Chabad, is available at
In addition to the University’s systemic efforts to create and maintain an inclusive environment, the University has also undertaken specific steps to make the campus more welcoming to Jewish students. More than five years ago, the University’s Dining Services began serving hot kosher meals at dinner in the Lincoln Avenue Residences. The University has worked closely with the Chicago Rabbinical Council on kosher product supervision. Dining Services offers a variety of frozen and refrigerated kosher items in its retail outlets throughout campus. Finally, the Dining Services Eatsmart system, which provides nutritional information for foods served in different dining venues on campus, allows users to apply preferences to determine which items in a particular dining hall are kosher. In addition to being advertised on University Housing
websites, Illini Chabad and Illini Hillel also highlight the kosher meal offerings at the University
on their own websites.
Let me now address specific questions raised in your letter. Regarding the installation on the Quad of the Urbana campus by the Students for !Justice in Palestine (“SJP”) regstered student organization, based on our investigation, the University is not storing the installation. As mentioned in our previous response, a policy addressing “Outdoor Structure and Display Policy” has been drafted for inclusion in the Campus Administrative Manual. Because the policy is still under deliberation, we are not in a position to share the draft policy at this time. Once the policy has been finalized, we would be in a better position to provide you with the final policy.
There are numerous policies and procedures that govern the use ofUniversity facilities, the scheduling of events in such facilities, and the advertisement of such events. The use of University and campus facilities is addressed both in the Campus Administrative Manual, http://cam.illinois.edw’viiiNIII-l.htm, and in the Student Code,
Liberal Arts & Sciences (“LAS”) publications, we refer you to the following Publication Policy for the LAS Chalk, a weekly email newsletter distributed to every undergraduate LAS student, which is available at http://www.las.illinois.edu/students/laschalk/policy/.
Your request that the University undertake a “comprehensive review of university course descriptions and course materials” is not feasible. In Academic Year 2010-2011 alone, there were 15,901 class sections offered and the amount of classes offered differ from year to year.
However, the Office of the Provost has procedures governing the proposal of new courses, which are available at http://provost.illinois.edu/programs/cps/proposingcourses.html. In addition, the College of LAS has a process for approving courses, which is available at
We appreciate your concerns regarding these very important issues. As demonstrated by the extensive programs set forth in this letter, the University takes very seriously its responsibility to create and maintain an environment that does not tolerate invidious discrimination or harassment.
Robert A. Easter
This particular complaint against Rutgers is apparently a major work on the part of Zionist Organization of America. Rutgers has reputedly been one university in the United States that has a problem with bullying Jewish students on campus. This effort for redress of the alleged problem is based on the use of the Title VI section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Religion Writer notes as a reminder that the interpretation that allows such redress by the Title VI part of the 1964 Act is based on the assumption that in the eyes of the Federal Law Jews are a race.
ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA
July 20, 2011
BY FAX ([6461 428-3843) AND E-MAIL
Mr. Timothy Blanchard
Office for Civil Rights, New York Office
U.S. Department of Education
32 Old Slip, 26th Floor
New York, NY 10005-2500
Dear Mr. Blanchard:
We write on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) 1 to complain about the harassment, intimidation and discrimination that Jewish students are being subjected to at Rutgers, The State University ofNew Jersey, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. The ZOA has received troubling reports from Jewish students at Rutgers that the campus environment has become increasingly hostile and anti-Semitic, with serious and intolerable results: Jewish students have been threatened and intimidated, their emotional well-being has suffered, and their ability to participate in and benefit from Rutgers' programs and activities has been impaired. The problems that Jewish students have been facing are described in detail below.
Before filing this complaint, the ZOA sent two letters to Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick-the first dated April6, 2011, and the second dated June 21, 2011- describing the problems reported to us and urging Rutgers to take the necessary steps to eliminate the hostile environment for Jewish students and ensure that it does not recur, as required by Title VI. President McCormick responded to both letters, in essence conveying that no such steps were needed or required. The ZOA strongly disagrees, as do the Jewish students with whom we are working. We write now to ensure that Rutgers starts living up to its obligations under Title VI and provides a campus environment that is physically and emotionally safe for Jewish students and conducive to learning.
1 Founded in 1897, the ZOA is the oldest and one of the largest pro-Israel organizations in the United States. Under the leadership of such illustrious presidents as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and Rabbi Dr. Abba
Hillel Silver, the ZOA has been on the front lines of Jewish activism. With a national membership of over 30,000, chapters throughout the United States, and an office in Israel, the ZOA works to strengthen U.S.-Israel relations; educate the public, elected officials and the media about the truth of the Arab war against Israel; and combat anti Israel and anti-Jewish bias in the media, textbooks and on campus.
A Jewish Student Has Been Physically Threatened And Intimidated
By Other Students And Even By A Rutgers Official
A Jewish student - who will be referred to here as "John Doe" - is one of several Jewish students who have been subjected to a hostile anti-Semitic environment at Rutgers. John Doe, who just completed his junior year, is a columnist for the student paper called the Targum, for which he writes on a variety of topics, including Israel when it is relevant to happenings at Rutgers. Simply for exercising his right to free expression in the paper, John Doe has been subjected to ugly anti-Semitic name-calling and other hateful comments, and to physical threats by other students and even by a university official.
On January 31, 2011, the Targum published John Doe's opinion piece entitled "BAKA Must End Hateful Tactics." In the piece, John Doe criticized BAKA, an anti-Israel student group on campus, for hosting an event called "Never Again for Anyone," in which Israelis were absurdly and offensively compared to Nazis. After the piece was published, another student at Rutgers posted a message on Facebook in which he directly threatened the Jewish student John Doe with violence: "As I was reading the [John Doe] 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” [emphasis added].
At least seven of the writer’s Facebook friends clicked “like” on this message, indicating their approval of the murderous threat against John Doe. One responded with a chilling threat of his own: ”Or makes them martyrs, furthering the strength behind their beliefs. And skinning them alive so they see the afterlife” [emphasis added].
Understandably feeling afraid for his physical safety, John Doe sought police protection and removed his contact information from the Rutgers directory, which is normally accessible to the public. John Doe also filed a bias incident report with the Dean of Students. Rutgers represents that victims of bias will be contacted within 24 hours of filing a bias report. But not a single administrator reached out to John Doe for more than a month. John Doe eventually received a cursory e-mail from the Dean of Students of the College Avenue Campus, informing him that there were insufficient grounds to formally charge the student who threatened him. According to the dean, the student who made the murderous threat was simply given “a warning.”
Threats ofviolence are actionable under the law. Rutgers’ Code of Conduct also specifically prohibits threatening to use force against a person. It is considered to be such a severe infraction that the violator can be suspended or even expelled. It is impossible to understand what more Rutgers could possibly have needed to determine that a student had in fact threatened to use force against John Doe. And it is shocking that the student who threatened to use a crowbar to silence the Jewish student John Doe was simply given a slap on the wrist and issued a warning. Equally shocking is that the university failed to discipline the student who threatened to skin the Jewish student John Doe alive. These were clear and unequivocal threats
against a Jewish Rutgers student, violating the university’s Code of Conduct, yet Rutgers did virtually nothing in response.
Rutgers has also failed to respond appropriately to the threats, bullying and intimidation that John Doe has been subjected to by a university official. After John Doe wrote an opinion piece in the Targum criticizing the student government’s decision to financially support the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund- which he had every right to do- Shehnaz Sheik Abdeljaber, the Outreach Coordinator for Rutgers’ Center for Middle East Studies, posted offensive anti Semitic comments about John Doe on Facebook. She referred to the Jewish student John Doe as “that racist Zionist pig!!!!!!!!” (emphasis added). And she tried to incite other Facebook users against John Doe, 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 John Doe and urging others to find that Facebook page so that they could read the comment and post their own hateful messages.
Ms. Abdeljaber also physically threatened and tried to provoke a physical fight with John Doe. In November 2009, there was a student body meeting about whether the student government should financially support the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. After the meeting, John Doe and a group of his friends were talking to a reporter from the Targum. All of a sudden, Ms. Abdeljaber rushed toward them. Directing her comments to the Jewish student John Doe,
she yelled such words as, “I’m Palestinian. Do you want to take me on? Do you want to fight? I have thick blood. Try me.” Students reported to us that Ms. Abdeljaber was all riled up; she kept pounding on her chest and pointing to her necklace, which was a silhouette of Israel covered by the Palestinian flag.
John Doe and his friends were stunned. They did not know then the attacker was a university official. They urged Ms. Abdeljaber to calm down, to no avaiL Eventually, a university official called the police to diffuse the situation.
Ironically, Ms. Abdeljaber was quoted in the Targum last February, condemning bullying, including when it is carried out through the misuse of language. While purporting to take bullying seriously, Rutgers has ignored Ms. Abdeljaber’s threatening and anti-Semitic conduct toward John Doe. Ms. Abdeljaber is still identified on Rutgers ‘ Web site as the Outreach Coordinator for the Middle East Studies Center. On information and belief, the
university has never investigated her conduct. If it has, the investigation was not a thorough one,
since John Doe was the victim of her bullying and intimidation, and yet he was never contacted by the university regarding what he was subjected· to.
After the ZOA wrote to President McCormick about Ms. Abdeljaber’s misconduct, he responded: ”As you are well aware, inappropriate language does not automatically constitute a breach oflaw or of university policy, nor does an individual’s private conduct necessarily constitute a breach of professional responsibility.” The ZOA finds President McCormick’s response shocking and unacceptable. If a student wrote an opinion piece in the student paper in favor of gay marriage, the Rutgers administration would never tolerate for one second a university official posting a Facebook message targeting that student and referring to him as
“that faggot pig!!!!!!!l” or engaging in some other hateful and bigoted name-calling. Likewise, Rutgers would never tolerate a university official referring to an African American student as “that black pig” or a Hispanic student as “that Hispanic pig.” Nor should it.
It is unacceptable that Rutgers would excuse, justifY and ignore the conduct of a university official who engaged in anti-Semitic name-calling and who actually physically threatened a Jewish student- as the “Outreach” Coordinator of the Middle East Studies Center, no less! What Jewish or pro-Israel student could ever feel safe and comfortable taking a course in Middle East studies, or working with Shehnaz Sheik Abdeljaber, when she has shown such reprehensible hatred toward Israel and Jews?
An Admissions Policy To A Campus Event Was Unfairly Imposed And
Selectively Enforced Against Jewish And Pro-Israel Students
Over the past academic year, the anti-Israel student group called BAKA has been sponsoring and promoting campus programs and events on a regular basis that promote anti Semitic bigotry and demonize Jews and Israel, creating a hostile environment for Jewish students at Rutgers. Here are just a few examples:
• On November 4, 2010, BAKA sponsored a fundraiser called “U.S. to Gaza,” to support breaking Israel’s legal naval blockade of Gaza. Adam Shapiro, co-founder of a vicious anti-Israel group called the International Solidarity Movement, spoke at the fundraiser, inflaming the audience against Israel by exhorting them to “transform this conflict from one between Israel and the Palestinians … to one between the rest of the world and Israel.” Another speaker, Nada Khader, encouraged the audience to support a boycott against Israel, reportedly comparing Zionism-the expression of the Jewish people’s right to live in their historic and religious homeland-to white supremacy. The hostility in the room was unmistakable; every attack against Israel- including the mention of suicide bombings, which have resulted in the murder and maiming of innocent Jewish civilians, and other forms of violence against Israel- was frighteningly greeted with cheering and loud applause.
• On November 16, 2010, BAKA sponsored a speech by Norman Finkelstein, a well
known Holocaust minimizer and Israel-basher.
• On November 19,2010, BAKA sponsored a showing of the film “Occupation 101,” which inflames hatred of Jews and Israel by promoting the incendiary falsehood that the Palestinian Arabs are innocent victims and Israelis their brutal occupiers and oppressors.
• On December 5, 2010, BAKA co-sponsored a “Palestine Culture Festival” that celebrated the Palestinian “legacy of resistance,”- which is code for the endorsement of suicide
‘bombings, terrorist attacks, and the murder of Israeli Jews.
• On January 20, 2011, BAKA sponsored a “Gaza vigil” to commemorate the so-called“massacres” of Palestinian Arabs in Gaza, another inflammatory falsehood that incites
hatred of Jews and Israel. The notion that there were any “massacres” is false; many if not most of the people killed were not innocent civilians but rather operatives for the terrorist group Hamas, whose charter calls for killing Jews and destroying Israel.
• On March 1, 2011, BAKA sponsored a panel discussion entitled “Israel, the Apartheid Analogy and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.” The event incited hatred of Israel by falsely and offensively comparing Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens to how South Africa treated blacks under the apartheid system, and it promoted harming Israel by boycotting Israeli products and cultural exchanges.
• On March 2, 2011, BAKA erected a so-called “apartheid wall”- falsely representing the security fence that Israel has been forced to construct to protect innocent Israeli civilians from terrorists entering Israel. BAKA’s wall was set up outside one of the main dining halls on campus, so that it was virtually impossible for students to avoid. Students residing adjacent to the dining hall were literally forced to walk around the wall in order to exit their dormitory toward College Avenue. These students in particular were unable to escape the wall and its hateful and false propaganda messages about Jews and Israel.
On January 29, 2011, BAKA organized another program entitled ”Never Again for Anyone,” which falsely and outrageously analogized the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews to Israel’s policies and practices toward the Palestinian Arabs. When Jewish students heard about this program, they were understandably upset and outraged, and planned a peaceful response. They would attend the event, sit respectfully, and then at some point, stand up, reveal the tee shirts underneath their jackets -bearing the message, “Don’t Politicize the Holocaust”- and theri quietly walk out. But most Jewish students were prevented from attending because they were subjected to a selective admissions policy that was discriminatory and anti-Semitic.
BAKA had advertised the event on Facebook and Craigslist, representing that it would be “free and open to the public.” The Craigslist ad said, “$5 – $20 suggested donation on entry.” At the event itself, a sign was prominently displayed, suggesting a voluntary contribution of $5.00
to $20.00, but no required admission fee.
But as people began to fill the lobby and so many of them- based on their signs and attire- were Jewish and/or supporters of Israel, the admissions policy was abruptly changed and a mandatory admission fee of$5.00 was announced. Students and community members objected, pointing to BAKA’s own representations that the event would be free. BAKA members were handling the logistics of the event, including manning the doors and sign-in lists. Not one BAKA representative ensured that the admissions policy was implemented as represented and that students could gain admittance without paying a mandatory fee.
Making matters worse, the new and sudden admissions policy was not enforced fairly and equally. BAKA members and others who were deemed friendly to BAKA ‘s cause- by their attire and signs, for example- were observed getting in for free. An unusually large number of students were given green wristbands and permitted to enter without charge, allegedly because they were “volunteering” at the event. To several witnesses, there appeared to be an awful lot of
volunteers; handing out the wristbands seemed a ruse to enable some students, but not others, to attend the event without charge.
In contrast, those who were perceived as Jewish and pro-Israel had to pay to be admitted. Many refused to support the event or its organizers and thus were effectively kept out of the event- which was plainly the organizers’ goal. When some Jewish students saw that members ofBAKA were getting into the event for free, they tried to join BAKA. Rutgers’ policies are clear that student organizations cannot deny membership on the basis of religion, ancestry, or other category protected by law. But BAKA refused to admit the Jewish students to their group, thereby keeping them out of the event unless they were willing to pay to get in.
The reason for the change in the admissions policy was crystal clear. Sara
Kershnar- founder of an outside group, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, which co-sponsored the event- reportedly instructed BAKA students to destroy the signs at the event that indicated that there would be no admission fee. Reportedly, she said, “We need to start charging because 150 Zionists (code for Jews) just showed up!” Ms. Kershnar also told the student volunteers to allow anyone who appeared to be a supporter of the program’s agenda into the event for free. Inside the event, Ms. Kershnar reportedly told the audience, “When we saw that there were … Zionists (again, code for Jews) outside, we decided to charge.” In short, Jews and supporters of Israel were deliberately excluded from an event that was supposed to be free and open to everyone. BAKA endorsed and implemented this discriminatory and anti-Semitic policy.
The day after “Never Again for Anyone,” Rutgers issued a statement “to correct a number of assertions that have appeared in some published reports of the event.” Given the timing of the statement, it was obvious that Rutgers had done little if any investigation into what had occurred on January 29th. The university stated that it was not the sponsor of the event. It identified American Muslims for Palestine (another outside group) as having leased a hall from the university and paid the cost of the event. It stated that the organizers hired two officers to assist with security and crowd control. The university also noted that “[t]he organizers had originally advertised a suggested donation of five to twenty dollars upon entry. At the event, the organizers chose to impose a five dollar entrance fee on attendees.”
Rutgers’ statement ignored the fact that BAKA had engaged in false advertising
in violation of university policies, when it advertised the event as free and open to the public, and then later endorsed and implemented an admission fee. The university’s statement ignored the fact that the admissions policy was selectively enforced against Jews and Israel supporters and thus was discriminatory and anti-Semitic. And the statement ignored and did not condemn any
of the inflammatory and anti-Semitic falsehoods that were promoted at the event to incite hatred
of Jews and Israel. Since January 30th, Rutgers has not issued any other statements about what occurred at the event or how it was handled, or even whether the matter is under investigation.
To all appearances, Rutgers has simply pushed the matter under the rug, at the expense of Jewish
students who were already viewing the campus as increasingly hostile to them and to Israel. The university’s conspicuous indifference to their concerns only served to intensify the climate of hostility.
After “Never Again for Anyone,” several Jewish student leaders tried to work with university officials to address the many problems they were facing. On February 4, 2011, they met with Gregory Blimling, Vice President for Student Affairs, and Kerri Willson, Director of Student Involvement, to discuss what happened at the “Never Again for Anyone” event, as well as their general concerns about the hostile campus environment affecting them and other Jewish students.
The meeting was not productive. Dr. Blimling set the tone for the meeting when
At the meeting, Kerri Willson did not respond any more constructively to Jewish students’ concerns. One of the students present had previously filed a bias complaint and had been led to believe by Dean Cheryl Clarke of the Bias Prevention and Education Committee that her complaint would be addressed at the February 4th meeting with Ms. Willson. But when the student tried several times to bring up the circumstances that led her to file a bias complaint, Ms. Willson stopped her each time. Again, the subject was changed; Ms. Willson repeatedly brought up BAKA’s complaints, suggesting in her tone and manner that the Jewish students were the aggressors and the BAKA students were the victims. Ms. Willson also referred to a speaker whom Hillel was purportedly bringing to the campus and whom the BAKA students found offensive. Ms. Willson said that she had assured the BAKA students that this speaker would not be coming to campus. In fact, neither Hillel nor any other Jewish/pro-Israel campus group ever had any plan to bring this speaker to Rutgers. But that is beside the point. Because to Jewish students, who had been forced to endure one hateful anti-Semitic speaker after the next- all sponsored by BAKA- without one word of condemnation from Ms. Willson or any other Rutgers administrator, it was difficult to believe that Ms. Willson now appeared to be making a judgment about the acceptability of a speaker that Hillel might be considering bringing to the campus.
There was supposed to be follow-up after the meeting on February 4th, but that never happened. None of the students heard from Dr. Blimling, Ms. Willson, or any other university officials regarding how their concerns would be addressed. To the ZOA’s knowledge, the university has not resolved any of the bias complaints that Jewish students have filed. At the end
of the meeting, Dr. Blimling and Ms. Willson committed to organizing a meeting among the Jewish student leadership and the BAKA leadership. To date, they have not done so. Last March, Dr. Blimling wrote to the professional leadership of Chabad and Rutgers Hillel about the campus tensions. He emphasized Rutgers’ commitment to the right to free speech, and also emphasized the need for members of the university community to exercise that right responsibly, without “contempt, open hostility, or personal attacks.” But that is exactly the kind of conduct that BAKA engages in, contributing to the hostile environment for Jewish students. Indeed,
BAKA is so contemptuous that it reportedly refuses even to meet with the Jewish student groups.
One of the students who had filed a bias report notified Dean Clarke ofthe Bias Prevention and Education Committee that her report had not been addressed at the February 4th meeting, and she reached out to the Dean for help. None was forthcoming. When the student suggested that she meet jointly with Dean Clarke and Kerri Willson, Dean Clarke responded
with indifference, essentially ignoring the complaint by saying, “ifkerri [sic] has time. But if we are not going to cover any new ground, what will be the use. We will not say anything you will agree with.” There was no apparent interest or concern in ensuring that a Jewish student’s report ofbias was constructively addressed and resolved.
When the ZOA raised these concerns with President McCormick, he claimed that the university is aware of each complaint filed by students and “and has conducted appropriate investigations.” That is news to those students who never met with an administrator to discuss and resolve their particular complaints and concerns. President McCormick also
responded by explaining that Rutgers’ ability to “discipline its students for intolerant statements” is limited by the First Amendment. But the ZOA had not asked that students be disciplined for “intolerant statements.” Rutgers’ policies prohibit false advertising and engaging in discriminatory conduct. The ZOA urged Rutgers to complete a thorough investigation of what occurred at BAKA’s ”Never Again for Anyone” event, and to enforce its own policies by disciplining violators of university policies.
Jewish Students Are Being Subjected To Hostility In The Classroom
Jewish students are also facing harassment and intimidation in the classroom.
They have reported that Middle East studies courses are so unfairly biased against Israel that they are too uncomfortable or intimidated to enroll in these courses. When they do enroll, they go in expecting that the professor will be biased against Israel -it is simply a question of just how ugly the bias will be. The anti-Israel bias has made students reluctant and even intimidated to speak up and say that they support Israel, both in and out ofthe classroom.
One Jewish student reported that even when a Middle East studies professor tries to “stay neutral,” the “mob mentality” of the class to viciously attack Israel eventually takes over. This student thus avoided many Middle East studies courses that he otherwise would have taken. In this student’s view, the Middle East Studies Center is run more as “a platform for BAKA” than
as an academic department. Indeed, the Center almost always sponsors BAKA’s events, many
of which are anti-Israel.
Reportedly, almost every event sponsored by the Middle East Studies Center starts with a speech demonizing Israel and deploring the suffering of Palestinian Arabs- even when the event itself has nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict. For example, at a Middle East Studies Center event celebrating Arab music, introductory speeches were made by several students describing the oppression of the Palestinian Arabs and their brutal “occupation” by Israel. Each of these students cited Shehnaz Sheik Abdeljaber- coordinator of the Center- as their inspiration. While Jewish students are not required to attend such events, there is implicit pressure to do so, because students are typically given extra credit in their Middle East studies courses for attending them.
Rutgers Knows About The Anti-Semitic Hostile Environment
And Its Harmful Impact On Jewish Students
Rutgers has been on notice for many months that there is an anti-Semitic hostile environment on campus, which is having unacceptably harmful effects on students’ physical and emotional well-being. In a piece published in the Targum on February 7, 2011, the Rutgers Hillel reported 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 BAK.A has publicly targeted.”
Hillel’s report is consistent with the information that the ZOA has received from Jewish students. One student reported that he is afraid to wear anything with the Israel Defense Forces logo on it. He is even uncomfortable discussing on campus his experience of studying abroad in Israel. Another student reported not feeling comfortable wearing anything with Hebrew on it, or anything “plainly Jewish.” Yet another student described a fear of the BAKA protesters, characterizing it as a “constant worry.” Another student described feeling physically unsafe going to events that BAKA sponsors, and with good reason. He has been pointed at and surrounded at BAKA events. When he tried to videotape events so that he could expose the hateful falsehoods that are being promoted on campus about Jews and Israel, BAKA members forced him to leave. Another Jewish student went to a BAKA meeting wearing a kippah (skullcap) and was told to leave. Students describe being afraid even to say on campus that they support Israel. One Jewish student said that based on BAKA’s conduct in specifically targeting her, she could not leave her house, and was so riddled with anxiety that she could not eat or sleep.
When the ZOA apprised Rutgers President McCormick of the many problems that Jewish students are facing, we urged him to implement a systemic response, consistent with the Office
for Civil Rights’ Dear Colleague letter of October 26, 2010. Specifically, the ZOA recommended that President McCormick (1) meet with Jewish students and listen to their concerns; (2) speak out and publicly condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms whenever it occurs at Rutgers, including when anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiment crosses the line into anti Semitism, and when lies about Israel are promoted on campus that are inciting hatred of Jews;
(3) investigate Shehnaz Sheik Abdeljaber’s conduct thoroughly and, if the allegations against her
are substantiated, fire her; (4) investigate thoroughly and resolve fairly each and every bias report that Jewish students have made; (5) investigate thoroughly what occurred at the “Never
Again for Anyone” event and determine whether BAKA should be disciplined for violating university policies; (6) undertake a comprehensive review of university course descriptions and course materials to correct the anti-Israel bias that permeates the classroom, which is creating a hostile learning environment for Jewish students; (7) provide faculty and administrators with training to recognize and address anti-Semitic incidents; and (8) create programs to educate students about anti-Semitism in all of its manifestations
Most of these steps were specifically recommended by the Office for Civil Rights in its Dear Colleague letter. All of the steps are reasonably calculated to eliminate the anti-Semitic hostility at Rutgers and ensure that it does not recur, without impinging on any protected rights. President McCormick has refused to take any of these steps.
We respectfully urge you to investigate the anti-Semitic hostility at Rutgers, which reportedly has been a longstanding problem, and hold the university accountable under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you have questions or need additional information, please contact us at (212) 481-1500. The ZOA would be pleased to provide you with copies of our correspondence with Rutgers, and other evidence in support of our claims. In addition, several current and former Rutgers students are ready and willing to talk to you about their experiences on campus.
Very truly yours,
National President Director, Center for Law and Justice