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October 4, 2013 5:49 pm

Northeastern University Finally Responds to ZOA Report of Anti-Semitism in the Classroom, But Takes No Action

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Northeastern University campus. Photo: Wikipedia.

Boston’s Northeastern University responded on Friday to allegations from students of rampant anti-Semitism by faculty on campus, after The Algemeiner pressed the school on why it hadn’t answered a formal letter sent three months ago from the Zionist Organization of America, which helped the students make their case.

The 12-page report from the ZOA cataloged a litany of student horror stories, including intimidation, class harassment and teachers indoctrinating an alternative reality version of Middle East and Israeli history. The report focused on Professor of International Affairs Denis Sullivan, now Co-Director of Northeastern’s Middle East Center for Peace, Culture and Development, who did not respond to The Algemeiner’s requests for comment.

In a statement issued to The Algemeiner, Northeastern University said: “If any member of our community feels marginalized for any reason, the university has a range of offices and avenues where grievances can be heard and resolved. This includes a dedicated Office of Diversity and Inclusion, our extensive student affairs operation, and the university ombudsman.”

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“However, unsubstantiated allegations made by third parties are not sufficient for Northeastern—or any university—to launch internal investigations. Pursuing unsubstantiated allegations is just as irresponsible as ignoring legitimate concerns,” the statement said.

Susan B. Tuchman, the human rights lawyer who heads the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice and prepared the report based on extensive student interviews, said the school’s statement was “just another slap to students and their concerns.”

“The Northeastern University statement says that students should complain if anyone ‘feels marginalized for any reason.’  But as the ZOA letter points out, Jewish students repeatedly complained.  Their complaints were ignored, or the hostility they were subjected to was justified,” Tuchman told The Algemeiner.

“One student who bravely spoke up at a forum about campus civility was publicly demeaned and embarrassed by a dean. You’ve probably seen the videos that are posted on ‘Shame On NEU.’ These videos contain actual recordings of what professors have said in NU lectures,” she said.

Dismissing the reports in our letter as ‘unsubstantiated’ allows the administration to avoid the real issue, about whether Jewish students are being subjected to a hostile learning environment and what must be done to remedy the problem.  Northeastern’s reaction is just another slap in the face for students and their concerns.”

In their report, the ZOA said, “Much of our work is dedicated to helping Jewish students who are being subjected to anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation on their college campuses. We were contacted about longstanding problems that Jewish students have been facing on your campus, both at the undergraduate level and at the law school.”

“More than a year ago, Jewish students wrote you a heartfelt letter, telling you that the ‘Jewish community at Northeastern is beginning to feel unsafe and uncomfortable on campus and we feel it is the obligation of the University to prevent that.’

In addition, a number of Jewish students have appealed individually to you and other university officials for help. Outside advocates for students have also brought the campus problems to your attention, going so far as to document them in three separate and very disturbing videos.”

The ZOA said Professor Sullivan was “a prime example of the problem.”

In one class, Professor Sullivan “fabricated a story about the basis for Christian Zionism, defaming Christian Zionists as anti-Semites who support Israel because that is where they want Jews to live, instead of in their own Christian neighborhoods. When a Jewish student (who happens to come from the Bible belt) challenged this false and ridiculous notion, Professor Sullivan mocked him in front of the class, sending the message to the student that he should know his place and keep quiet.”

“In the same class, Professor Sullivan lied to his students about the origins of the Israeli flag, describing the two blue stripes on the flag as representing the Nile and Euphrates Rivers, and claiming that the stripes symbolize Israel’s desire to take over everything in between the two rivers and expand the Jewish Zionist kingdom. Again, Professor Sullivan lied to his students in order to promote his personal anti-Israel agenda. In fact, the stripes on the Israeli flag were inspired by the blue and white stripes on the tallit (Jewish prayer shawl).”

“Sullivan makes it difficult for Jewish students to challenge his anti-Israel views and outright lies. According to one Jewish student, when you question what Sullivan tells the class about Israel, Sullivan ‘finds a way to make you feel stupid.’ Such behavior is unprofessional, violates the academic freedom of students, and violates the professor’s obligation to teach the truth.”

“In March 2012, Professor Sullivan moderated a lecture by Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, who spoke about ‘The Radical Middle: Building Bridges between America and the Muslim World.’ According to a student who attended the lecture, Ali Gomaa openly lied, outrageously telling his audience that Judaism oppresses women and Israel slaughters babies. Neither Professor Sullivan nor any other faculty member or administrator present at the lecture spoke up to condemn this anti-Semitic falsehood. Indeed, the Provost, Stephen Director, thanked Gomaa for his ‘thoughtful, stimulating presentation,’ with no acknowledgment, let alone criticism, of the hateful message Gomaa was sending to students about Jews and Israel.”

In its statement to The Algemeiner, Northeastern said:

Universities fulfill their mission through the vigorous exchange of disparate ideas. It is clear that some subjects—particularly those that focus on religion and Middle East studies—can be divisive. We have taken steps to ensure that teaching in these fields is balanced and academically rigorous.”

While not addressing the students’ complaints directly, the school has, indeed, “taken steps,” which the ZOA also recognized.

In April, 2013, administrators sanctioned the Students for Justice in Palestine group for misconduct, after the SJP disrupted an event featuring Israel Defense Forces officers that took place on Holocaust Remembrance Day, then requiring the group to write a “civility statement” to judge future conduct. While the sanction was quietly applauded by Jewish groups, including the Boston-based Association for Peace & Tolerance On Campus, whose director Charles Jacobs has railed against the school in Boston’s Jewish Advocate, the move triggered criticism of the school on the grounds of abrogating student rights to free speech in a much higher profile column in the Boston Globe.

The biggest step “to ensure that teaching in these fields is balanced and academically rigorous” was, in June, 2013, appointing a Jew, Professor Dov Waxman, as the Co-Director of Professor Sullivan’s research center on Middle East Peace. Professor Waxman has a PhD from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, degrees in Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University, has taught at Baruch College and Bowdoin College and was a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, and a scholar at the Middle East Technical University, in Ankara, Turkey.

His two books are “The Pursuit of Peace and the Crisis of Israeli Identity: Defending/Defining the Nation,” about how national identity is determining Israel’s foreign policy, and “Israel’s Palestinians: The Conflict Within,” about problems integrating the Arab population of Israel.

Controversial or not, both books present legitimate scholarship, and Professor Waxman’s presence on the faculty should likely mean more “balanced and academically rigorous” classes. Professor Waxman did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the president or executive director of Northeastern Hillel.

In the statement to The Algemeiner, university administration said, “Regardless of the specific academic discipline, we strive every day to ensure that Northeastern is a place where both ideas and individuals can flourish in pursuit of knowledge,” which is, ultimately, what ZOA’s student interviews say is sorely lacking at the school.

Rather than having students “flourish in pursuit of knowledge,” in an interview with the ZOA, a Northeastern student described wilting in the face of anti-Semitism:

“I had never in my life, ever, experienced anti-Semitism first hand until this past year when I witnessed [Economics] Professor [Shahid] Alam and Professor Sullivan display an age old hatred against the Jewish people. . . . I now unfortunately can understand what bigotry really is, and it is absolutely not something that I ever wanted or needed to experience. No one should have to experience hatred like this in their learning environment… This is about doing the right thing and steering the University in the right course. This is about saying that Jewish students are protected just like any other individual on campus. This is about saying that every student on campus is equal and shall be treated with the utmost respect.”

“Neither you nor most of the other university officials even responded” to the student’s complaint, the ZOA reminded the school’s president, Dr. Joseph E. Aoun, in its report. “The one who did reply – Michael Armini, Senior Vice President for External Affairs – did not acknowledge any wrongdoing by Professor Alam. Instead, Mr. Armini justified Alam’s comments as ‘academic freedom.'”

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  • Jenny P

    On my 1st day of college at Kent State over 20 years ago; I walked in and saw an aquaintance who’d attended a different high school. He gave me a dirty look. What followed told me he’d discovered I was Jewish over that summer. As our assignment to write down our race and nationalities on an index card and read them aloud unfolded,I stood and began “My race is caucasion…” the aquaintance stood up from his seat and began yelling at me “You’re not caucasian! You’re a dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking Jew!” I can still hear him clear as day. I calmly tried to state that I am caucasian and the professor told me to stop talking and sit down! Nobody said a word to the anti-Semite! When class ended a security guard stopped me and asked when I was leaving. He said he worried for my safety as he’d heard the screaming about my religion.
    So to the person that stated that Jews need more confidence… is it that, or do we need strength in numbers? When you’re a minority, I’m not sure how much confidence will help. Look where confidence got Martin Luther King, Jr.
    I was scared…I dropped out of that college and attended another university…

  • I guess its to realize that benign Galuth is over. Those who choose Galuth find themselves forced to join the anti-zionist chorus (J-street and such) those who are unwilling to join that chorus will find their best option is to end the Galuth and come home. I did.

  • The bottom line that we are all missing is this… The whole purpose of an internal investigation by NEU would be to either substantiate or not substantiate the claims. If the claims were “substantiated” in the eyes of the university then there’s not much need for an investigation now is there? So when exactly would the situation call for an investigation? And if a 12 page letter written by an attorney on behalf of many students detailing their experiences of discrimination then what does? A single student complaining to some department teachers aid would carry more weight? Don’t these people know they are dealing with Jews and we see right through anti semetism based on ignorance?

    Shame on you northeastern. And the Boston Red Sux STILL STINK

  • DovidM

    University centers for Middle East studies do not typically “attract” (that is, don’t hire) Christian Arabs or non-Arabs who don’t toe the party line. Such centers have been notable for not predicting any of the events of the past 30 years.

  • In my evaluation, this is a structural form of Antisemitism, embedded within the entire university. As such, it warrants further official examination, to expose a rampant campus discrimination, which is clearly based upon ethno-religious specifics.

    These horrendous events represent a collective violation of United States civil protections, which are codified to protect groups and individuals from such manifestations of organized malevolence, and bigotry.

    These are legal matters, which should be addressed by agencies designed specifically to address societal Antisemitism, including the US Justice Dept. (several divisions are applicable), the State Attorney General’s office of MA, and the US State Department.

    Failure to aggressively address this plague will only allow it to metastasize, and cause the academy to further degenerate into a barbaric intellectual sideshow, with crank academics, like those mentioned in the article, permitted to incite, and foment Jew hatred under the hoax of ‘anti-Zionism.’

    Please consider the following;

    GATHER A CONSTITUENCY TOGETHER, AND SEND FORMAL COMPLAINTS TO:

    The Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
    _____________________________________________________

    The Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism welcomes information on anti-Semitic incidents, including personal and property attacks; government policies, including judicial/prosecutorial decisions and educational programs on the issue; and press and mass media reports. The office can be contacted at:

    SEASinfo@state.gov.

    THIS IS A UNITED STATES FEDERAL DEPARTMENT.

  • James Crozier

    On this my birthday I am sad to see that not much has changed. Since the 1840’s C.E. Israel has seen the return of the diaspora. About 50 years later a book all Jews I know repudiate created the falsehood of Zionism. Then the rise of the most virulent haters of Jews of all under the Nazis. After that you would think that the world would have learned it’s lesson, but NO! Hate filled acts have been on the rise against Jews in Europe for a very long time, and to expect that we here in North America are inured from such stupidity is really way too much to expect. Even at schools of higher learning.
    I recall a Professor Whitehead from the local university that spoke at my high school. He was a communist speaking up about U.N. policy in the Middle East. Same shtick, you know…revisionist history, lie upon lie that he was shown up for, ( I could get away with it cause he had no power within the institution I attended). He finally admitted that he was speaking his opinion, and that the real historical facts were as I argued and that his opinion had nothing to do with reality.
    The bible says the poor will always be with us

  • Fred Gottesman

    Folks remember, this is why Brandeis University was founded and is available to all the students that wish to switch. Vote with your pocketbooks. Anti-Semites are always claiming that we are too sensitive or ‘unsubstantiated’ activity. Well, perhaps recordings & lawsuits is the answer. Let these poor, misguided fools stew in their own juices.

  • Why give out good thoughts to those that fears thoughts! Jews can create they own universities and welcome all people to equal right! Otherwise Anti – Semitism will never take end so long Jews has good thoughts.

  • What do you expect from Joseph Aoun an Arab born in Lebanon.

  • FOZLE RABBIE

    AS A MUSLIM ZIONIST I AM STRONGLY PROTEST ON ANT-SEMITISM.I ALWAYS DO FOLLOW SEVEN COMMANDMENTS FROM NOAH LAW.THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD,CREATED THE WHOLE WORLD.WE ALL SHOULD SHOW RESPECT FOR THIS HOLY NATION.THEY ARE THE GOD CHOSEN FROM THE BEGINING OF THE WORLD. FOZLE RABBIE.[BANGLADESH]

  • Efram Paul

    It seems to me that a revival of the JDL is about overdue. In addition, time to bring in the hidden cameras and the lawsuits.

  • Efram Paul

    I think its time for hidden cameras to document what is going on, and then lawsuits. Sue them until they can no longer afford to operate, since their operations are obviously based on anti-Semitism.

  • jb willikers

    I would be willing to guarantee that if a Muslim group complained of “Islamophobia” at the school they would not have received that brushoff response. The reason is that our Universities, to widely varying degrees, demonstrate a politically correct version of anti-Israel and Jew hatred. I think that Christian groups are in a similar situation as this group but without an analogue of virulent anti-Semitism.

  • I’ll bet that half the building have Jewish names above the entrances. The way to get through to the school, which probably receives $ from Saudi Arabia, is to contact these Jewish donors and potential donors.

  • David Most

    Who is funding the Northeastern Middle East Studies? Is it just possible that Arab money has corrupted the leaders of Northeastern?

    We know from every other university that has let the camel’s nose under the tent that anti-Israel and anti-Semitism are never far behind. Funding chairs with big oil $$ is a standard procedure for the Oil sheiks.

    Students must continue pressing the administrators.

    • Once you recognize that Big Oil corrupts thought processes, as it has been doing for the last 80 some years, its time to repudiate Oil altogether. Dump your gas car, get an electric, promote local clean energy, vote for candidates who will block all Oil-based transportation

  • nelson marans

    The inculcation of our college aged students with pro-Arab and anti-Israel rhetoric by similar oriented professors was demonstrated by the turnout of 900 college aged students at the recent J street convention. With a decidedly anti-Israel agenda, J Street, favoring partition of Jerusalem and expulsion of Jews from areas outside of the temporary pre-1967 armistice lines, has attracted students who have been propagandized at a number of leading universities to the detriment of the State of Israel.

  • Mendel

    The history of anti-Semitism in American higher education needs to be taught to this generation of college students,especially to those who are Jews. After World war II, American Medical Schools often had strict quotas on the number of Jews admitted, Well into the 1960’s, individual departments would not hire Jews and University and College administrators often did not care to address such problems. It is also the case that many Jews hold anti Christian and Islamophobic views, and that is also a problem that needs thought and analysis. Nevertheless, the administration at Northeastern University needs to be told by individuals like you and me, that covering up antisemitism on their campus must not be tolerated.

  • Sandy Brown

    We know that there is a lot of anti-semitism all over the world still. It is well documented.

  • Sue Leffler

    Why don’t the Jewish students LEAVE this horrid excuse for a university immediately, taking their tuition money for the years ahead with them?

    Jewish high school students should be made aware of the situation at Northeastern and at other colleges and universities which have shown themselves to be anti-Semitic. College advisors have a duty to report instances of anti-Semitism to prospective clients and their parents.

    Frankly, why would any reasonable student of any religion or belief feel comfortable in an atmosphere of hostility toward one or more religions?

    • Joseph Silver

      Ms. Leffler,
      I agree 100% ! Let the students vote with their feet and let NEU pay for its disgusting behavior with loss of tuitions and even more, loss of academic excellence, since many academic institutions headhunt Jewish students.
      And maybe some of the students will come to Israel and experience true academic freedom in Israeli institutions like Ariel U., Hebrew U., TAU, Weizman Institute, Haifa U., BGU, etc.
      Shabbat Shalom,

    • Mel

      Modern American Dumbth rules the day! Khruschchev knew.
      Never outed Joe McCarthy, Socialist International’s indoctrination machine has fully completed its mission.
      His Broadway and Hollywood witch-hunts have been excised from the history textbooks by revisionist professors, who owe their success to “journalism” schools worldwide.

  • Bernard Ross

    anti semitism is best answered by thuggery and terror. A mugging on the street would be appropriate for the dean and professors involved.

    • Joseph Silver

      Mr. Ross,
      With so infantile a response. one wonders whether you are not trying to provoke more anti-semitism…

      • pinchas

        au contraire, Mr. Silver. a wellplaced fist in the punim (face) of an antisemitic “student” can be very salutary for all concerned. (As for physically striking a professor or dean, that’s going too far– though a few loud curse words in their direction might be a good idea.) All this raises an old topic, why not revive the JDL? Easier said than done, given the putdowns of the JDL and Rabbi Kahane z”l by the whole spectrum of jewish organizations and synagogues. Why not have Hillel sponsor krav maga and judo classes, so Jews can develop confidence and ability to defend themselves and stop being wimps always yelling for help– or is Hillel too busy planning the next pro-gay rally or the next interfaith seder? Another answer is, as others suggest, vote with your feet– though don’t go to nearby Brandeis, which while not quite antisemitic, is largely a lefty post-Zionist academic mishmash of a school.

        • Frederick Remington

          Thank you Pinchas. Our sentiments exactly. Fred & Jenny Remington, Del Mar, CA

          • ricardo

            While assault is illegal and of questionable morality, the Arabs have proven quite adept at utilizing the threat of violence to achieve much of their way with little penalty in jurisdictions from academic (all over) to municipal (Detroit, Paris, etc.) to national (much of the Western world, even extending to our Military and FBI). Clearly, what we have failed to do is to establish a credible threat to counter-balance the aggressor Arab aggressions, though we lack the numbers which Arabs can put on the streets, making it difficult for us to establish such a threatening credibility. Nor are we as irrational – or perhaps more accurately, as predictably violent when crossed – which further erodes our ability to convince people. Yet it is still an interesting notion, that an institution like JDL might arouse sufficient interest to present a threat to those who blithely count on violent Mohammedan support and minimal and totally non-violent Jewish response. Changing the dynamics might change the unfortunate outcomes as well.

        • Lina Rozenberg, Esq.

          Physical violence is never a response to systematic anti-Semitism on campus. Though I would agree that Jewish students should develop greater self-confidence, punching anti-Semitic students, or cursing professors and deans will ultimately undermine their case and will not eradicate the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments which are prevalent on many North American campuses.

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