Campus Watchdog: Jewish Students Single Largest Target of Systematic Suppression of Civil Rights at American Universities (INTERVIEW)
Jewish college students are the largest university population “coming under systematic attack,” with an increasing number seeing their civil rights infringed upon, the head of a campus watchdog group told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative — which combats, monitors and documents antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America — made the comment following the release of a shocking new report revealing the dramatic rise of antisemitic activity across more than 100 US college campuses between January and June 2016.
According to the report, anti-Israel and anti-Zionist groups on campus “have become significantly more brazen in both their strategy and tactics,” which has contributed greatly to an increase in antisemitic activity.
Dramatic findings of the report include: antisemitic incidents on college campuses increased by 45 percent as compared with the same time period in 2015; the suppression of Jewish students’ freedom of speech and assembly doubled, while calls for Israel’s elimination tripled. The calls and acts opposing Israel’s right to exist were found to be highly correlated with behavior that targeted Jewish students for harm.
The presence of three factors — anti-Zionist student groups; faculty who support boycotts of Israel; and pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activity — are “each strong predictors of anti-Jewish hostility.”
Rossman-Benjamin said that while anti-Israel groups — such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — still focus on attacking Israel, Jewish students have become new fodder for their malicious activities. Jewish and pro-Israel students across the country are being bullied, harassed and intimidated — many times physically and violently — for their support of the Jewish state. “We are seeing this happen more and more across the country, and it is very worrisome,” she said.
“These issues are now getting up close and personal, and increasingly so. The campaigns are not just about Israel and targeting Israel for dehumanization and delegitimization, but targeting anyone supporting Israel,” she told The Algemeiner. “Jewish students are the first target, whether they actually support Israel or not. Their support is presumed just based on the fact that they are Jewish.”
Part of the national anti-Zionist campaign being waged on college campuses, Rossman-Benjamin said, is guided by an “anti-normalization” policy, which “attempts to shut down all expression about Israel.”
“The civil rights of Jewish students are being trampled on. Their freedom of speech, expression and assembly are being suppressed by these anti-Israel groups. They make no effort to hide this and state it openly in different forums, such as official documents we’ve reviewed from various SJP groups and public social media postings,” she said. “They are expanding the boycott against Israel to boycott the Jews and Jewish students on campus.”
One of the more interesting findings of the investigation, Rossman-Benjamin said, is the correlation between BDS activity and antisemitic expression.
“What became clear is that at the heart of a lot of the increase are specific campaigns to promote divestment resolutions pending at different student senates. We found that almost all schools that had a dramatic increase in antisemitism that was statistically significant all had divestment resolutions happening during that time period,” she said, claiming that the opposite also held true — with schools that saw divestment resolutions in 2015 and not in 2016 seeing a decrease in antisemitic activity.
“Divestment resolutions and campaigns go hand-in-hand in creating a very hostile environment for Jewish students that manifests in many acts of antisemitism,” she said.
One of the AMCHA report’s main recommendations to university officials is to “swiftly, forcefully and publicly acknowledge and condemn all acts of antisemitism.” Doing so, it says, indicates a zero-tolerance policy for such activities.
“The attack on Jewish students is a concerning national trend that cannot be ignored any longer. University officials cannot have a type of wishful thinking when something bad happens on their campus and will the situation to not happen again,” Rossman-Benjamin told The Algemeiner. “What’s happening on college campuses today is not students just being students. The activities of these anti-Israel groups have serious repercussions and cannot be excused. Jewish students are being seriously threatened, their civil rights suppressed and routinely violated across the country.”
“University administrations cannot say there is no problem,” she said. “The problem is there. It is national and it cannot be ignored.”