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May 5, 2017 11:23 am

The Sad — But True — Facts About Campus Antisemitism

avatar by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin


Israeli Apartheid Week is an annual anti-Zionist initiative. The pictured event took place on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

Those of us who care deeply about the safety and well-being of Jewish students on college campuses would like nothing more than for Mitchell Bard to be correct. For several years, and as recently as last week, Bard has repeatedly claimed that reports of the serious and growing threat of campus antisemitism are wildly exaggerated. Unfortunately, the facts simply do not support Bard’s arguments.

A survey of more than 1,000 US Jewish college students by Trinity College revealed that 54% of surveyed students experienced or witnessed instances of antisemitism on campus during the first six months of the 2013-2014 academic year. Another survey of more than 3,000 North American Jewish college students conducted by Brandeis University in the Spring of 2015 found that 75% of students had been exposed to antisemitic rhetoric, and that one in three students had been harassed because they were Jewish. And since the start of 2017, there have been scores of student-authored op-eds and articles detailing the antisemitism that Jewish students and faculty face on campus on a regular basis.

The AMCHA Initiative’s studies, led by a UCLA professor with more than 30 years of scientific research experience, examined antisemitic activity at more than 100 colleges and universities most popular with Jewish students, and our findings were consistent with the Trinity College and Brandeis University studies.

In our 2015 study, we found that 65% of these schools reported one or more incidents involving antisemitic language or imagery, and that 41% of schools played host to incidents in which Jewish students were targeted for harm — including assault, harassment, destruction of property and suppression of speech. We also found a very strong correlation between anti-Zionist expression, particularly the promotion of BDS, and anti-Jewish hostility: Schools with BDS activity were 2.5 times more likely to play host to incidents that targeted Jewish students for harm, and schools with a BDS-promoting student group, such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), were seven times more likely to play host to such antisemitic acts.

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In our 2016 study, we found a 40% increase in overall campus antisemitism from 2015, with a 100% increase in acts of anti-Jewish genocidal expression, including the drawing of swastikas and other Holocaust-related imagery and graffiti calling for the death of Jews, such as “Gas Jews Die,” “Kill all Kikes” and “Holocaust 2.0.” Early results from the first quarter of 2017 show this trend continuing, with a 30% increase in genocidal expression over the first quarter of 2016. These expressions of genocidal antisemitism directly threaten Jewish students and cause them to feel less safe on their campuses, as numerous student testimonials have attested.

In addition, in dozens of incidents, Jewish students were singled out and targeted for harmful behavior by individuals who were clearly motivated by antipathy towards the Jewish state — as demonstrated by their affiliation with an anti-Zionist group (e.g. SJP) or expressions of anti-Zionism that they had made prior to, or at the time of, the incident in question. Members of anti-Zionist groups have carried out an array of intolerant activities to silence Jewish and pro-Israel voices, most frequently through the attempted cancellation, shutting down or disruption of pro-Israel events, but also through the vilification and intimidation of Jewish and pro-Israel groups and individuals, with the clear intention of delegitimizing their perspective or causing them to be too afraid or uncomfortable to express it.

Only by misunderstanding or misrepresenting the data in these empirical studies can one deny the serious and growing threat that antisemitism poses to Jewish students. As we demonstrated in our response to one of his previous denials of campus antisemitism, Mitchell Bard has done both.

Although we wish it weren’t so, campus antisemitism is a real and growing problem. Denying this reality puts our Jewish students at risk, and does a grave disservice to the Jewish community.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is a retired University of California faculty member and the director of AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit campus antisemitism watchdog organization.

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