Watchdog: Anti-Israel Activity at American Universities Fuels Antisemitism on Campus

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A new report by a watchdog group has found the “first hard evidence” demonstrating that anti-Israel activity at universities is “at the heart of the rise in campus antisemitism,” TheAlgemeiner has learned.

The AMCHA Initiative on Monday released its “Report on Antisemitic Activity in 2015 at US Colleges and Universities With the Largest Jewish Undergraduate Populations.” According to a corresponding press release, this report is the “first empirical study of its kind,” showing that “the primary agents of antisemitic activity are anti-Zionist students and faculty boycotters.”

Indeed, according to the report, “The strongest predictor of anti-Jewish hostility on campus” is the local presence of a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

The report focuses on three kinds of activity: antisemitic expression, the targeting of Jewish students and BDS activity. With respect to antisemitic expression, it examines language or imagery that uses one or more of eight criteria included in the US State Department definition of antisemitism.

Among the report’s major findings are strong correlations between antisemitic activity or behavior and:

  • anti-Israel student groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)
  • the presence of faculty who publicly support BDS and antisemitism
  • BDS campaigns

The report also finds that anti-Israel attitudes and activity “permeate and are inseparable from campus antisemitism.” It documents “more than 150 talks, rallies, films, displays, etc.,” containing “expression that demonized or delegitimized Israel by drawing on classic antisemitic tropes of Jewish evil, power and mendacity.” Moreover, “a majority of incidents that threatened the safety or well-being of Jewish students … were linked to Israel or Zionism.”

AMCHA Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told The Algemeiner that the report took two months to complete. She also stated:

Sadly, even after multiple student surveys reporting alarming levels … of campus antisemitism, university leaders remain in denial. That will be much harder now. For the first time ever we have objective confirmation of student reports, and we know what is responsible for the frightening escalation in campus antisemitism — anti-Zionism, mainly BDS. [U]niversity leaders must now begin to acknowledge the distinction between scholarly debate and criticism of Israel’s policies — which has every place on a university campus — and anti-Zionism, which is blatant antisemitism, and is the driving force behind the frightening rise in campus antisemitism.

Susan Tuchman, of the Zionist Organization of America, similarly noted to The Algemeiner:

The AMCHA study provides important empirical evidence that BDS and other anti-Israel activities on campus help fuel antisemitism and help create a hostile environment for many Jewish students. This study makes it clearer than ever that university leaders have to respond forcefully to hateful speakers and programs that demonize Israel, that single out Israel for condemnation and punishment, or that call for Israel’s destruction.  For the safety and well-being of their Jewish students, university leaders must … educate their communities that these actions help breed the hatred of Jews and make Jewish students targets on their campuses.

A 2015 survey of North American undergraduates applying to go on a “Birthright” trip to Israel found that nearly a quarter of respondents reported having been blamed for the actions of Israel because they were Jewish; about a third had been verbally harassed because they were Jewish; and nearly three-quarters had been exposed during the previous year to at least one of six antisemitic statements.

AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated, according to its website, to investigating, monitoring and documenting antisemitism on college and university campuses in America.

Watchdog: Anti-Israel Activity at American Universities Fuels Antisemitism on Campus

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AUTHOR

Andrew Pessin

Andrew Pessin is Professor of Philosophy at Connecticut College, and author of several books of philosophy for the general reader as well as a novel. For more information, visit www.andrewpessin.com.


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