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May 8, 2012 10:07 am

On Campus: The Debate Over Anti-Zionism Lawsuits

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U.S. Department of Education building. Photo: www.overturemarketplace.com.

Amid the May 5-8 Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) plenum in Detroit, debate has reignited over the initiation of federal lawsuits against anti-Zionist activities on university campuses.

A 2010 decision by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights prohibited discrimination based on race, national origin or color in federally funded programs, as well as “harassment of members of religious groups based on shared ethnic characteristics.” The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is among the Jewish organizations emphasizing that anti-Israel activities on campus often turn into anti-Semitic harassment.

However, the JCPA last October issued a draft resolution stating, “Lawsuits and threats of legal action should not be used to censor anti-Israel events, statements and speakers in order to ‘protect’ Jewish students, but rather for cases which evidence a systematic climate of fear and intimidation coupled with a failure of the university administration to respond with reasonable corrective measures.”

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, on behalf of the National Conference on Jewish Affairs (NCJA), said it is “irresponsible for the leaders of major Jewish organizations to promote a stricter standard for Jews to meet than for non-Jews in order to seek redress under Title VI.”

Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer at University of California Santa Cruz, filed a lawsuit on her campus in 2009, claiming that anti-Israel activism created a hostile environment for Jewish students.

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