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July 27, 2016 5:45 am

In First Half of 2016, Antisemitism Skyrockets on College Campuses

avatar by Paul Miller

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The Columbia University campus in New York City. Photo: Columbia.

The Columbia University campus in New York City. Photo: Columbia.

Antisemitic activity on college campuses with the largest Jewish undergraduate enrollment drastically increased during the first half of 2016 compared to the same time last year, reports antisemitism watchdog group AMCHA Initiative. After examining over 100 public and private colleges and universities from January through June of 2016, their study found 287 antisemitic incidents occurred at 64 schools, compared to 198 occurrences that took place during the same time last year, reflecting a 45 percent increase.

“The growing problem of campus antisemitism is no doubt a serious threat facing the Jewish community. But this disturbing and dangerous spike and the bolder, more brazen methods of those perpetrating this hate are particularly alarming,” warned Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA Initiative director and co-founder.

Suppression of free speech is among the more disturbing trends revealed in the study. The report cites “14 incidents in which Jewish students’ civil rights were violated by suppressing their speech, blocking their movement or hindering their assembly. Found on 12 campuses, these incidents reflect a significant increase from the first half of 2015, in which eight incidents of suppression occurred on seven campuses.”

The AMCHA report, which uses the definition of antisemitism established by the US State Department, revealed that campus events denying the right of Israel to exist, which nearly tripled in 2016 compared to 2015, correlate directly with “conduct that targeted Jewish students for harm.”

The study confirmed the rapidly growing correlation between antisemitism and activism on the part of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

This year, the student governments of ten schools in the study took up anti-Israel divestment resolutions. Of these ten schools, eight showed the largest increase in antisemitism from 2015 to 2016. Conversely, seven of the nine schools in the 2015 study that considered or voted on divestment resolutions showed a drastic decrease in antisemitic activity this year when no divestment resolution was considered.

“Instead of just boycotting Israel, the anti-Zionists are now boycotting Jewish students,” stated Professor Leila Beckwith, AMCHA co-founder and one of the study’s lead researchers. “Sadly, all too often it is not debate but hate. The lines between political discussions on Israeli policy and discrimination toward Jewish students are being blurred. Anti-Zionists are attempting to harm, alienate and ostracize Jewish students; it is Jewish students’ civil rights that are being trampled. To properly address this rise in anti-Jewish bigotry, universities must adopt a proper definition of contemporary antisemitism and use it to educate the campus community about the distinct line between criticism of Israeli policies and discrimination against Jewish people.”

The report findings, especially the relationship between BDS activity and antisemitic incidents, came as no surprise to David Brog, Executive Director of the anti-BDS education group, Maccabee Task Force.

Brog told the Haym Salomon Center, “BDS is fueling an all-out effort to portray Israel as the world’s most monstrous abuser of human rights. For the idiots who believe this, it is but a short logical leap to the conclusion that those who defend Israel — primarily Jewish students — must themselves be monsters. The link between BDS and antisemitism is crystal clear. BDS is an inherently antisemitic movement that multiplies antisemitism wherever it goes.”

The schools with the largest increase in antisemitic activity are Columbia University, Vassar College and the University of Chicago.

Columbia and Vassar each had 20 documented incidents of antisemitism, increasing from 2 and 3, respectively from the same time last year. The University of Chicago jumped from 2 to 14 incidents. New York University and the University of Minnesota rounded out the campuses with the Largest Increase in antisemitic activity.

The study looked at 113 schools identified by Hillel International as the public and private colleges and universities in the United States with the largest populations of Jewish students. The schools investigated in the 2015 study were included in the latest report.

AMCHA’s report included recommendations for university administrators on how to combat antisemitism and protect Jewish students. Their recommendations included adopting a definition of antisemitism that identifies all forms of bigotry toward Jews, including when criticism of Israel crosses the line into antisemitism. They also recommended allocating resources to educate students and faculty about contemporary forms of antisemitism and anti-Jewish discrimination.

With First Amendment rights of Jewish students also being thwarted, AMCHA suggested schools establish clear guidelines about free speech protected under the First Amendment and conduct which violates others’ civil rights, including disrupting or shutting down campus events and interfering with the rights of those you disagree with to assemble.

The article was originally published by The Observer. 

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