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May 2, 2014 7:18 am

Jewish Students Tell University Administrators: Time to Stop Hiding

avatar by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin /

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Israeli Apartheid Week in May 2010 on the University of California, Irvine campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

JNS.orgAs soon as an African American student at San Jose State University who was racially harassed and bullied by his dormitory roommates came forward, university, county, and state officials began an investigation. Within days, prosecutors labeled it a hate crime, battery charges were filed against three of the roommates, and the university had suspended them. Within weeks, California State Assembly Speaker John Perez announced the creation of a Select Committee on Campus Climate, and its first task was to look into this incident and find a way to prevent others like it.

When a white male threw a beer at Trinity College sophomore Juan Hernandez and yelled, “Get off our campus,” Trinity launched an investigation and charges were brought against the perpetrator. When anti-gay remarks were written on message boards that hang on dorm-room doors, Elizabethtown College began an investigation, engaged the FBI, and disciplinary action was taken.

Compare that to the situation for Jewish students. Over the last several years, Jewish students on campuses across the country have been physically, emotionally, and intellectually harassed, intimidated, threatened, and bullied, not only by their fellow students but also by some of their professors.

Anti-Israel student activists at the University of Michigan last month hurled death threats at Jewish student council members and called them “dirty Jew” and “kike.” At University of California, Berkeley, a Jewish girl holding an “Israel Wants Peace” sign was ramrodded with a shopping cart by the head of Students for Justice in Palestine. At Harvard University, the Palestine Security Committee frightened Jewish students by placing mock eviction notices on their dormitory rooms. At Northeastern University in Boston, Students for Justice in Palestine vandalized a menorah and disrupted Jewish events. At San Francisco State University this past fall, the General Union of Palestine Students hosted an all-day event where participants could make posters and t-shirts that said, “My Heroes Have Always Killed Colonizers,” meaning Jews. And just last week, at New York University, pro-Palestinian students slipped “eviction notices” under the doors of 2,000 undergrads, scaring Jewish students and parents.

The first major source for anti-Jewish sentiment on campus is members of the Muslim and pro-Palestinian student organizations. For more than a decade, these groups have sponsored speakers, films, exhibits, and guerrilla theater that engage in discourse or use imagery and language considered anti-Semitic by the U.S. State Department. These student groups have also been responsible for aggressively confronting students at pro-Israel events and threatening, physically harassing, and assaulting Jewish students.

Over the past couple of years, the groups have also promoted campaigns to boycott Israel or companies that do business with Israel. These campaigns are accompanied by talks, rallies, and exhibits containing anti-Semitic imagery, rhetoric, and actions. Jewish students have reported fearing for their safety in the days leading up to and after the campaigns, saying they were “continuously intimidated” and “repeatedly threatened.”

The second source of anti-Israel sentiment on campus is faculty. In classrooms and at departmentally sponsored events, faculty members have advanced lies and distortions about Zionism, Israel, and Jews, and advocated the elimination of the Jewish State. Although their rhetoric is unscholarly, politically motivated, and even at times anti-Semitic, these professors have wrapped themselves in the mantle of academic freedom, making it very difficult to challenge.

For four years, David Klein, a mathematics professor at California State University, Northridge, has been using his university’s server to promote his Web pages calling for the economic, academic, and cultural boycott of Israel. His Web pages contain a litany of false and inflammatory statements and photographs intended to incite hatred and promote political activism against the Jewish State.

David Lloyd is a professor of English at University of California, Riverside. In January, he organized an event on his campus that featured Omar Barghouti, the founder and most vocal advocate for the campaign to boycott Israel. Barghouti accused Israeli soldiers of “hunting children,” saying that soldiers “entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.” He also accused “Israel and its well-oiled lobby groups” of “buying and paying for the allegiance of Congress” and controlling the media. Course credit was dangled to students in eight courses for attending Barghouti’s hate speech.

At NYU, Prof. Lisa Duggan hosted a conference for students that constituted nothing more than a platform for 21 anti-Israel activists to spew their hatred of the Jewish state and promote a boycott intended to hasten its elimination. Fully aware of its unscholarly, anti-Semitic, politically motivated purpose, Duggan wrote on Facebook, “PLEASE DO NOT post or circulate the flyer. We are trying to avoid press, protestors and public attention.”

The impact of this academic Israel-bashing on students has been enormous. Students have reported feeling emotionally and intellectually harassed and intimidated by their professors, to the point that they are reluctant or afraid to express a view that is not anti-Israel in their classes. They are often afraid to come forward and confront the professor or complain to the university for fear of retaliation.

Sadly, Jewish students who have spoken out have been vilified and attacked for even trying to call attention to the anti-Semitic behavior they are experiencing. For example, at a University of California, Davis anti-Israel “occupation” rally last November, a student who expressed concern about the anti-Semitic banners displayed at the protest was physically assaulted by a protestor who screamed in his face, “You are racist and you should die in hell.”

Who bears the most blame for the tsunami of campus anti-Semitism? University administrators. Distressingly, administrators routinely turn a blind eye to this long-standing and pervasive anti-Jewish bigotry and ignore Jewish students’ pleas for help. Language and behavior that would never be tolerated from students or faculty when directed against other campus minorities goes unchallenged by administrators when directed against Jewish students. The primary responsibility for addressing campus anti-Semitism rests with university administrators. Unfortunately, they are missing in action when it comes to protecting Jewish students rights and ensuring their safety.

Administrators: It’s time to stop hiding.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz and cofounder of the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization that combats campus anti-Semitism.

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  • A similar incident happened to my brother when he attended University many years ago.
    However many of those Jewish students were of a different kind of caliber to the Jewish students of today.
    These Jewish students weren’t prepared to take the situation lying down and not doing anything about.
    They hunted down all the perpetrators responsible for making university life so miserable for the rest of the Jewish students took them to a secluded place and knocked the living hell out of them.
    They left them needing urgent hospital treatment for the following three months together with a note attached to each of them explaining why this had happened to them.
    After that incident there was never any further trouble for the Jewish students, they could then fully concentrate on their allotted subjects in total tranquility for their remaining period at the University.

  • Fritz Kohlhaas

    Those disgusting leftist/Marxist/progressives/or whatever
    they call themselves just love to intimidate, threaten,
    insult, use violence, hate free speech etc., etc., etc..
    They are vermin!

  • Every Jew must learn to defend him or herself. I am a Shoah survivor and know that even in the camps this was possible.
    When faced with physical violence one must respond in kind. When during the prewar period American Nazis held public meetings attacking Jews, the Jewish Mafia was persuaded to get involved. It only took 15 of these Yidden to clear a hall of Nazis, even if they had to throw them out of the windows.
    Whether we win is not important. Anyone attacking Jews must know that he will have a fight on his hands.

    • Emenuel

      Yes sir, message received! In kind.

  • Susan Rehbach

    Ditto on Emanuel’s comments! Thank you for pulling together the pervasive picture and naming it!

    I don’t know anything about the internal politics of universities, but does the term “administration” include the Board of Trustees? It seems to me the Boards of Trustees of each university or college have a big hand to play in those policies. And why are the local (off-campus) police not called in? I think the students who are assaulted, threatened, or harassed should be filing charges with the local police and DA! Do you know whether that has been the case?

  • Jack

    Alumni, stop giving if Jewish students aren’t protected.

  • Debra Michels

    I was just thinking about this a few days ago when the Donald Sterling episode was on the news – that I wished there were the same kind of solidarity in society, to stand by Jews when we face anti-Semitism!

    • AlanJ

      I whole-heatedly agree with you. However North American Jewish “leadership” has been non-existent for a long time. When you look at Abe Foxman’s tenure at the ADL, what has he done to lead the Jewish community to protest en-masse. He’s done nothing. During the last presidential election, Foxman appealed to the Jewish community not to use Israel as a “wedge issue”. Where are his priorities. He is more interested in currying favor with a Jew-Hating president who has shown over and over again that he does not support Israel. It is good that Foxman is retiring. It is a shame that he was hired in the first place. Obama removed a plank of the Democratic party that stated that Democrats support Israel’s position that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel. When he got flack, he covered his political behind by recommending the inclusion of this plank once more. But take a look on YouTube to see the backlash from the delegates to the Democratic convention, many of whom opposed the reinstatement of the Jerusalem plank. The result of a lack of strong leadership is that 70% of American Jews returned the nation’s most ineffective president to office. Jewish leadership today is no better than in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Then, as now, they have no interest in aggressively countering what is becoming an existential threat to both Israel and the Jewish people.

      • James

        Please, don’t say Obama is a Jew hater. It’s just stupid hyperbole, isn’t true and doesn’t help.

      • Emenuel

        Thank you AlanJ and you are completely correct. You must be highly educated. Apparently the State Department advocates the use of violence and criminality in problem solving (I’m saying that after reading the todays story how the US advocates creation of a Palestinian state even through violence which is NOT US OFFICIAL POLICY). The sad but true part of what you say is, who comes after Foxman? is he not a survivor himself? How can we prevent infiltration by J-Street type leftist bigots? By having tough standards and sticking to them, that discipline is the heart of our culture, we will be methodical.

  • LouA

    Where are the Jewish congressmen and the Jewish organizations on this issue, their silence is deafening.

  • Emanuel

    Thank you Tammi, so much for what you did at UCSD, that was and is a deplorable situation. I personally wrote to L. Wong to ask that he do the right thing. YES, you are right, this is yet another disgusting bigoted double-standard that is applied to Jews, that no other race or ethnicity would ever tolerate nor would the authorities tolerate it. Lisa Duggan is a turd in sheep’s clothing. Tammi, you are a hero!!!