Israel lobby hard at work to destroy free speech in US campuses
Articles by Chris Hedges, TruthDig; BDS and the American Jewish Community in Tikkun Daily; Eric Ruder, SocialistWorker.org / Citizen Action Monitor’
Students for Justice in Palestine start their work at the College of Staten Island, NY, 2013.
By Chris Hedges, TruthDig
March 16, 2014
The banning of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Northeastern University in Boston on March 7, along with a university threat of disciplinary measures against some of its members, replicates sanctions being imposed against numerous student Palestinian rights groups across the country. The attacks, and the disturbingly similar forms of punishment, appear to be part of a coordinated effort by the Israeli government and the Israel lobby to blacklist all student groups that challenge the official Israeli narrative.
Northeastern banned the SJP chapter after it posted on campus replicas of eviction notices that are routinely put up on Palestinian homes set for Israeli demolition. The university notice of suspension says that if the SJP petitions for reinstatement next year, “No current member of the Students for Justice in Palestine executive board may serve on the inaugural board of the new organization” and that representatives from the organization must attend university-sanctioned “trainings.”
In 2011 in California, 10 students who had disrupted a speech at UC Irvine by Michael Oren, then the Israeli ambassador to the United States, were found guilty, put on informal probation and sentenced to perform community service. Oren, an Israeli citizen who has since been hired by CNN as a contributor, has called on Congress to blacklist supporters of the campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and to prosecute those who protest at appearances by Israeli officials. Some activists at Florida Atlantic University were stripped of student leadership positions after walking out of a talk by an Israeli army officer, and they were ordered by school administrators to attend re-education seminars designed by the Anti-Defamation League. Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (CSJP) was abruptly placed on suspension in the spring of 2011 and barred from reserving rooms and hosting events on campus. The university administration, before the ban, had a practice of notifying the campus Hillel in advance of any CSJP event. The suspension was eventually lifted, after a protest led by attorneys for the CSJP.
Max Geller, a law student and a SJP member at Northeastern whom I reached by phone in Boston, accused the university of responding “to outside pressures,” including that of alumnus Robert Shillman, who is the CEO of Cognex Corp., and hedge fund billionaire Seth Klarman, both supporters of right-wing Israeli causes.
“To prohibit students from holding leadership roles and student groups simply because they engaged in a peaceful political protest is antithetical to the university’s mission to educate students,” he said. “It erases any pedagogical value disciplinary process might seek.”
“In the last year,” Geller went on, “I have received death threats, been publicly and unfairly maligned, and have been threatened with disciplinary measures. This has made engaging in speech about an issue about which I care deeply, both as a Jew and an American, a fear- and anxiety-causing prospect.”
Israel’s heavy-handed reaction to these campus organizations is symptomatic of its increasing isolation and concern about waning American support. The decades-long occupation and seizure of Palestinian land and the massive military assaults against a defenseless population in Gaza that has left hundreds dead, along with growing malnutrition among Palestinian children and enforced poverty, have alienated traditional supporters of Israel, including many young American Jews. Israel, at the same time, has turned into a pariah in the global community. If it were to become devoid of American support, which it largely buys with political campaign contributions funneled through groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel would be adrift. There are a growing number of banks and other companies, especially in the European Union, joining the boycott movement, which refuses to do business with Israeli concerns in the occupied territories.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking before AIPAC on March 4, surprisingly devoted much of his talk to attacking the nascent BDS movement, which he said stood for “Bigotry, Dishonesty and Shame.” He called for BDS supporters to “be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot.” He warned that “naive and ignorant” people are being recruited as “gullible fellow travelers” in an anti-Semitic campaign.
Israeli officials are also apparently attempting to infiltrate the BDS movement and are using subterfuge to link it to Islamic extremism, according to The Times of London. The Israeli government in addition is pushing censorious, anti-democratic bills in the state legislatures of New York, Maryland and Illinois that would impose financial sanctions on academic organizations that boycott Israeli institutions. Meanwhile, the United States and others enthusiastically impose sanctions on Russia for an occupation that is much less draconian than Israel’s long defiance of international law.
The ADL-designed indoctrination classes for university activists are, according to those who have been required to take them, shabby attempts to equate any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
“Myself and two other members of SJP were forced to attend the ADL-sponsored ‘diversity training’ course or we would have violated the terms of our probation and in turn we would be suspended and/or expelled,” said Nadine Aly, a Florida Atlantic student activist who with other activists walked out of a lecture given at the university by an Israeli army officer, Col. Bentzi Gruber, who had helped devise the rules of engagement for Operation Cast Lead, the horrific attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. I reached her by phone at the Florida campus. “The very idea that the administration is implying that it is racist to criticize Israeli policy is ludicrous. We were put on ‘indefinite probation,’ banning us from holding leadership positions in any recognized student organizations, including student government, at the university until our graduation. I was stripped of my position as president of SJP as well as a student senator, and the former vice president of the SJP lost her position as a Student House representative. It is a shame that this university, like most universities, bows to the pressure of the Zionist lobby and wealthy Zionist donors, when they should be protecting the rights of their students.”
The persecution of scholars such as Joseph Massad and Norman Finkelstein who challenge the official Israeli narrative has long been a feature of Israeli intervention in American academic life. And the eagerness of university presidents to denounce the American Studies Association call for an academic boycott of Israel is a window into the insatiable hunger for money that seems to govern university policy. The current effort to shut down student groups, however, raises traditional Israeli censorship and interference to a new level. Israel seeks now to openly silence free speech on American college campuses—all of these student groups have steadfastly engaged in nonviolent protests—and has enlisted our bankrupt liberal elites and college administrators as thought police.
This assault will not end with groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine. The refusal to hear the cries of the Palestinian people, especially those 1.5 million—60 percent of them children—who are trapped by the Israeli military in Gaza, is part of the wider campaign by right-wing operatives like Lynne Cheney and billionaires such as the Koch brothers to stamp out all programs and academic disciplines that give voice to the marginalized, especially those who are not privileged and white. Latinos, African-Americans, feminists, those in queer and gender studies also feel this pressure. Under a bill signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, books by leading Chicano authors have been banned from public schools in Tucson and elsewhere in Arizona on the ground that such ethnic studies promote “resentment toward a race or people.” It is language similar to what former Ambassador Oren has used to justify his call for criminal prosecutions of BDS activists—that they are advancing “bigotry.” The neoconservatism that grips Israel has its toxic counterpart within American culture. And if other marginalized groups within the university remain silent while Palestine solidarity activists are persecuted on campuses, there will be fewer allies when these right-wing forces come for them. And come they will.
Those of us who denounce the suffering caused by Israel and its war crimes against the Palestinians and who support the BDS movement are accustomed to sleazy Israeli smear campaigns. I have been repeatedly branded as an anti-Semite by the Israeli lobby, including for my book “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.” That some of these dissident voices, such as Max Blumenthal, who wrote “Goliath: Fear and Loathing in Greater Israel,” one of the best accounts of contemporary Israel, are Jewish does not seem to perturb right-wing Israeli propagandists who see any deviation from the Israeli government line as a form of religious heresy.
“I have been on tour discussing my book, ‘Goliath,’ since October 2013,” said Blumenthal, with whom I spoke by phone. “And on numerous occasions, Israel lobby groups and pro-Israel activists have attempted to pressure organizations into canceling my events before they took place. I have been slandered by teenage pro-Israel students, prominent magazine columnists and even Alan Dershowitz as an anti-Semite, and my family has been attacked in right-wing media simply for hosting a book party for me. The absurd lengths pro-Israel activists have gone to stop my journalism and analysis from reaching a wide audience perfectly illustrate their intellectual exhaustion and moral poverty. All they have left is loads of money to buy off politicians and the unlimited will to defend the only nuclearized apartheid state in the Middle East. As young Arabs and Muslims assert their presence on campuses across the country and Jewish Americans reel in disgust at Netanyahu’s Israel, we are witnessing pro-Israel forces wage a fighting retreat. The question is not whether they will win or lose, but how much damage they can do to free-speech rights on their way towards a reckoning with justice.”
“It would be heartening if prominent liberal intellectuals would agree with all of my conclusions, or would accept the legitimacy of BDS,” Blumenthal went on. “But the only reasonable expectation we can hold for them is that they speak up in defense of those whose free-speech rights and rights to organize are being crushed by powerful forces. Unfortunately, when those forces are arrayed in defense of Israel, too many liberal intellectuals are silent or, as in the case of Michael Kazin, Eric Alterman, Cary Nelson and a who’s who of major university presidents, they actively collaborate with fellow elites determined to crush Palestine solidarity activism through anti-democratic means.”
Hillel chapters, sadly, often function as little more than Israeli government and AIPAC campus outposts. This is true at Northeastern as well as at schools such as Barnard College and Columbia. And university presidents such as Barnard’s Debora Spar see nothing wrong with accepting Israel-lobby tours of Israel while Palestinian students must risk imprisonment and even death to study in the United States. The launching of campuswide defamation campaigns from supposedly religious houses is a sacrilege to the Jewish religion. In seminary I read enough of the great Hebrew prophets, whose singular concern was for the oppressed and the poor, to know that they would not be found today in Hillel centers but would instead be protesting with SJP activists.
The campus Hillel centers, with lavish budgets and gleaming buildings on campuses often situated in centers of urban blight, offer running events, lectures and programs to promote official Israeli policy. They arrange free trips to Israel for Jewish students as part of the “Taglit Birthright” program, functioning as an Israeli government travel agency. While Jewish students, often with no familial connection to Israel, are escorted in these well-choreographed propaganda tours of Israel, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who remain trapped in squalid refugee camps cannot go home although their families may have lived for centuries on what is now Israeli land.
Israel has for decades been able to frame the discussion about the Palestinians. But its control of the narrative is coming to an end. As Israel loses ground it will viciously and irrationally attack all truth tellers, even if they are American students, and especially if they are Jews. There will come a day, and that day will come sooner than Israel and its paid lackeys expect, when the whole edifice will crumble, when even students at Hillel will no longer have the stomach to defend the continuous dispossession and random murder of Palestinians. Israel, by ruthlessly silencing others, now risks silencing itself.
Donna Nevel, Tikkun Daily
March 07, 2014
Many American Jewish organizations claim to be staunch supporters of civil and human rights as well as academic freedom. But when it comes to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, they make an exception. In their relentless opposition to BDS, they leave even core principles behind. In Israel this week, sixty young people sign open letter to Netanyahu announcing their resistance to the draft in biggest wave of refusal since 2008.
Interfaith Boycott Coalition protest
By Donna Nevel, Tikkun Daily
March 07, 2014
Many American Jewish organizations claim to be staunch supporters of civil and human rights as well as academic freedom. But when it comes to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, they make an exception. In their relentless opposition to BDS, they leave even core principles behind.
The Palestinian-led call for BDS, which began in 2005 in response to ongoing Israeli government violations of basic principles of international law and human rights of the Palestinian people, is a call of conscience. It has strengthened markedly over the last few years among artists, students, unions, church groups, dockworkers, and others. Media coverage of endorsers of the boycott has gone mainstream and viral. Recent examples include Stephen Hawking’s refusal to go to Jerusalem for the Presidential Conference, the successful campaign surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s support for Soda Stream and its settlement operation, and the American Studies Association (ASA) resolution that endorsed boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
Alongside BDS’s increasing strength have come increasingly virulent attacks on, and campaigns against it. These attacks tend to employ similar language and tactics – as if the groups are all cribbing from the same talking points – including tarring BDS supporters as “anti-Semitic” and “delegitimizers.”
These attacks simply don’t address or grapple with the core aspirations or realities of BDS. As described by Hanan Ashrawi, executive committee member of the PLO, in a recent letter in the New York Times, BDS “does not target Jews, individually or collectively, and rejects all forms of bigotry and discrimination, including anti-Semitism.” She goes on to explain that “B.D.S. is, in fact, a legal, moral and inclusive movement struggling against the discriminatory policies of a country that defines itself in religiously exclusive terms, and that seeks to deny Palestinians the most basic rights simply because we are not Jewish.”
The use of name-calling like “anti-Semites” and “delegtimizers” is problematic for a number of reasons, not only because its claims are untrue, but also because it takes the focus off the real issue at hand – whether and how Israel is, in fact, violating international law and basic human rights principles – and, instead, recklessly impugns the characters of those advocating for Israel to be held accountable.
Criticisms, even extremely harsh ones, of the Israeli state or calls to make a state democratic and adhere to equal rights for all its citizens are not anti-Semitic. Rather, anti-Semitism is about hatred of, and discrimination against the Jewish people, which is not anywhere to be found in the call for BDS, and these kinds of accusations also serve to trivialize the long and ugly history of anti-Semitism.
Most recently, the anti-BDS effort has moved to the legislative front. A bill, introduced in the New York State Assembly last month, would have trampled academic freedom and the right to support BDS in its quest to punish the ASA and deter any who might dare to emulate its endorsement of the academic boycott. Those supporting the bill were opposed by a broad coalition of education, civil rights, legal, academic, and Palestine solidarity organizations, as well as Jewish social justice groups. The bill was withdrawn, but a revised version has been introduced that is designed, like the original, to punish colleges that use public funds for activities related to groups that support boycotts of Israel, including mere attendance at their meetings.
The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) worked closely with the sponsors of the New York bill.
Like the JCRC, rather than engaging in substantive debate about the issues raised in relation to BDS, the Israeli government and many Jewish communal organizations choose, instead, to try to discredit and derail the efforts of those supporting BDS.
For example, as recently reported by Ha’aretz, the Israeli Knesset is debating how to continue to counter BDS efforts across the globe, that is, “whether to launch an aggressive public campaign or operate through quieter, diplomatic channels.” It is also considering what the role of AIPAC might be in introducing anti-boycott legislation and how to best bolster military surveillance-which has significant funding behind it-against supporters of BDS.
IAN’s Project Director, Martin Raffel, takes part in a meeting with UN Ambassador Susan Rice alongside Jewish leaders from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Federations of North America & UJA-Federation of New York.
American Jewish communal organizations have also expended massive resources and energy in their campaigns to demonize endorsers of BDS. The Israel Action Network (IAN)-which describes itself as “a strategic initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America, in partnership with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), created to counter assaults made on Israel’s legitimacy”-has funded the anti-BDS effort to the tune of at least six million dollars over a three-year period.
The IAN website characterizes supporters of BDS as “delegitimizers”and says that, in order to gain support from “vulnerable targets,” which include “college campuses, churches, labor unions, and human rights organizations,” delegitimizers utilize Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) tactics, “the same tools used to isolate and vilify apartheid South Africa, Iran, or Nazi Germany. BDS activists, IAN continues, “present distortions, fabrications and misrepresentations of international law in an attempt to paint Israel with the same brush.”
In another example of name-calling without any substance, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL’s) July 2013 report attacked Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), featuring ad hominem accusations (JVP “intentionally exploits Jewish culture”), rather than discussing JVP’s actual positions. (A JVP report on the ADL points out that the ADL not only targets JVP but is well-known for its long history of spying on Arabs and supporters of the Palestinian movement.)
On the charge of anti-Semitism, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in its call to fight the BDS movement, urges it supporters to “learn the facts behind this hypocritical and anti-Semitic campaign,” and the ADL’s Abe Foxman echoed those same sentiments: “The BDS movement at its very core is anti-Semitic.” And most recently, in his speech to AIPAC, Prime Minister Netanyahu, after shamelessly drawing upon classic anti-Semitic imagery of Jews to speak of supporters of BDS, says: “So you see, attempts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, the most threatened democracy on earth, are simply the latest chapter in the long and dark history of anti- Semitism.”
The demonization of BDS is not only the domain of the Israeli government and the mainstream Jewish community. The self-declared liberal J-Street, in its seemingly relentless quest to stay under the Jewish “tent,” has also jumped on the anti-BDS bandwagon, sometimes in partnership with the IAN, which (precisely because J Street is positioned as a peace group) proudly documents its relationship with J Street in fighting BDS. Discussing how J Street is gaining acceptance in the mainstream Jewish community, JCPA’s CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow points to “its role in pushing back against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement…”
Further, the refusal of both liberal land mainstream Jewish groups to discuss substantive issues around Israel’s actions or BDS also reveals itself in language that admonishes BDS as being “beyond the pale.” Recently, for example, as reported by the director of JVP in an op-ed in the Forward, the director of the JCRC of Greater Boston, who has a history of involvement in liberal organizations, explained that “any organization that supports BDS…doesn’t belong at the communal table. In fact, he was referring specifically to Jewish Voice for Peace. He even argued that opening the public conversation to BDS is roughly akin to welcoming the Ku Klux Klan.”
This attempted silencing of those simply discussing BDS plays out even in seemingly minor local skirmishes. For example, last year, the liberal rabbi of a large New York City synagogue canceled the synagogue’s facilities-usage contract with a group of Jews who, he feared, might, on his premises, discuss BDS. That, he said, would be “beyond the pale.”
These attacks against BDS appear to be an almost desperate reaction to the increasing successes of BDS, not only in the world at large, but also within the broader Jewish community itself. Respected members of the liberal Jewish community as well as a few liberal Zionist groups that were vehemently anti-BDS are now calling for boycotts against products made in the settlements and are engaging with the issue publicly. Further, the mission and vision of groups like Jews Say No and Jewish Voice for Peace – “a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights” – are resonating with increasing numbers of Jews who support BDS as a natural outgrowth of their commitments. And that movement is growing in partnership with the broader Palestinian-led movement for justice.
How should the rest of the Jewish community respond? Ad hominem attacks on BDS just will not do. It is time for BDS opponents to take a deep breath. Consider this: BDS is a principled response to Israel’s actions and behavior as an occupier. It is a profound call by Palestinians – and supporters world-wide-for justice. It is not BDS that should be opposed, but, rather, the very policies and practices that have made BDS necessary.
Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is a long-time organizer for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. She was a co-coordinator of the 1989 landmark Road to Peace Conference that brought PLO officials and Knesset members together to the US for the first time. More recently, she was a founding member of Jews Say No!, is a member of the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and is on the co-ordinating committee of the Nakba Education Project, U.S.
Administrators against justice in Palestine
By Eric Ruder, SocialistWorker.org / Citizen Action Monitor
March 18, 2014
THE WAR of campus administrators against students and faculty who speak in support of Palestinian rights and against Israeli apartheid reached a crescendo in mid-March at a number of universities.
To cite the three most prominent examples:
– In Boston, Northeastern University officials banned the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and threatened two students with disciplinary action for a protest in which activists posted mock eviction notices designed to draw attention to the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israeli forces. Though SJP clearly marked the mock eviction notices so they couldn’t be mistaken as the real thing, the university claims the notices targeted Jewish students and made them feel “unsafe.”
– In New York City, Barnard University administrators removed an SJP banner calling for solidarity with Palestine one day after it had been hung. The university had given prior approval for the banner to be displayed, but reversed itself, also after receiving complaints that it made Jewish students feel “unsafe.”
– In Chicago, Columbia College denied a grievance filed by instructor Iymen Chehade protesting the violation of his academic freedom. Chehade was instructed by his department chair to teach in a “more balanced” way after a student complained about Chehade’s use of the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras in class.
In one respect, this is nothing new. At each of these institutions, these attacks on free speech and academic freedom are the culmination of years-long campaigns, in which administrators have worked as accomplices to pro-Israel groups such as the David Project that spearheaded crusades against pro-Palestine student groups and faculty.
But such high-profile attacks come at a critical moment right now. At a time when the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid is enjoying its greatest prominence since its inception in 2005, pro-Israel groups are getting more desperate in their drive to silence it. And they are willing to use any measure, no matter how underhanded, to accomplish their ends.
Their bag of dirty tricks includes campaigns to disrupt and deny the right to free speech; baseless charges designed to undermine academic freedom and intimidate professors; and the phony claim that the frank discussion of Palestinian rights is tantamount to a violation of federal civil rights law.
Pro-Israel groups are using these methods to avoid a debate about legitimate issues that should concern all academics, intellectuals and students–namely, the long and well-documented record of Israel’s violations of international law in its decades-long military occupation of Palestine; its use of ethnic cleansing by means of laws, violence, terror and home demolitions to drive Palestinians from their homes; and its denial of equal rights to Palestinians living inside the borders of Israel.
Understanding the strategies and tactics of pro-Israel groups is necessary for the developing movement for justice in Palestine to defend itself.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
ONE OF the most prominent pro-Israel groups attempting to make American universities “Palestine-free” zones is the David Project, which was founded by notorious neocon and Islamophobe Charles Jacobs in 2002.
Charles Jacobs whose Islamophobia is even too much for the ADL
In 2012, the David Project published a report titled “A Burning Campus? Rethinking Israel Advocacy at America’s Universities and Colleges“ summarizing lessons learned over the years. One of the most revealing points the report makes is that anti-Semitism is actually quite rare on college campuses today:
Pro-Israel organizations have often cast the challenge on campus as an assault on Jewish students, rather than as a spreading pervasive negativity toward Israel. Casting the issue in these terms does not jive with the lived experience of many Jewish students, who know they can identify as Jews and largely not suffer repercussions …Racial anti-Semitism of the kind most associated with the Nazis is not likely a serious problem on any American college campus. Swastikas appearing on a dorm room door or other similar manifestations are often dealt with quickly and seriously.
Since outright claims of anti-Semitism don’t work, according to the report, Israel apologists should try a different approach–such as accusing professors of pedagogical wrongdoing. Though that doesn’t mean that pro-Israel groups never use the charge of “anti-Semitism” to silence their critics–as discussed below–other tactics may be more productive, according to “A Burning Campus?“:
[A]ccusing faculty members who propagandize against Israel of “academic malpractice” is likely to be a much more effective strategy than challenging specific allegations or invoking anti-Jewish bigotry. Rightly or wrongly, the current campus atmosphere is much more sympathetic to charges that teachers are not satisfactorily teaching their subject than to complaints of anti-Jewish bias, and Israel supporters will likely have a greater practical impact by framing their concerns in this manner.
This is precisely the strategy that Zionist groups at Columbia College have used to target Iymen Chehade, but it’s hardly the only or even the most visible example of this approach. For years, the David Project, which has offices in Boston, New York and Israel, made a special example of targeting Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, a respected scholar of modern Arab politics and intellectual history.
As Ali Abunimah recounts in his chapter entitled “The War on Campus” in his new book The Battle for Justice in Palestine:
A major component of the vilification campaign against Columbia faculty was a 2004 documentary produced by the David Project, Columbia Unbecoming, in which students alleged that Massad and other faculty had intimidated and abused those who disagreed with their critical views on Israel and had made anti-Semitic remarks in class. The campaign had high-level support from Congressman Anthony Weiner, then still a rising star before his eventual fall from grace in a lewd-photo scandal.
After a three-month investigation by a faculty investigative committee, Columbia University concluded that the allegations against Massad were unfounded. According to a New York Times editorial:
There is no evidence that anyone’s grade suffered for challenging the pro-Palestinian views of any teacher or that any professors made anti-Semitic statements. The professors who were targeted have legitimate complaints themselves. Their classes were infiltrated by hecklers and surreptitious monitors, and they received hate mail and death threats.
AT NORTHEASTERN, however, apologists for Israeli apartheid have resorted to outright claims of anti-Semitism–even though they are just as baseless as the false allegations made at Columbia/Barnard.
Last July, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) wrote a letter threatening Northeastern University that its federal funding could be at risk if the university didn’t address the “hostile environment” faced by Jewish students on campus. The ZOA said it was considering filing a lawsuit alleging that the university was in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that protects students from racial and ethnic discrimination at federally funded educational institutions.
According to a report that first aired on local television, an anonymous group of Jewish students at Northeastern accused Northeastern administrators of “an atmosphere of intimidation of those who are supportive of Israel, or an official indulgence of anti-Semitism.”
Such frivolous accusations might be amusing if they weren’t obscuring that there truly is a threat of ethnic and racial discrimination against Northeastern students, namely those who openly speak out for Palestinian rights.
The campaign against pro-Palestine voices at Northeastern has targeted professors and SJP members alike, and Americans for Peace and Tolerance–in reality, a Zionist organization known for extreme vitriol–has posted a Facebook page called “Exposing Islamic Extremism at Northeastern University” where commenters have made death threats against pro-Palestine activists by name.
According to a report at ElectronicIntifada.net:
Jewish Students for Justice in Palestine member Max Geller (no relation to Pamela) has received a litany of violent threats [in early November], along with accusations of being a “self-hating Jew” and a “terrorist sympathizer.” One commenter on the page who identified himself as a former marine, for instance, wrote of Geller, “I would seriously introduce that kid to the inside of an ambulance.” Geller told The Electronic Intifada that private messages were even more explicit and included death threats.
This same dynamic is repeated on campus after campus. While the David Project acknowledges that instances of discrimination against Jewish students are rare, the charge of “anti-Semitism” and “creating a climate of intolerance” is used to silence pro-Palestine organizations. In the process, both Palestinian and Jewish students who openly advocate solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice are subjected to smear campaigns, violations of their rights and even threats of violence.
Consider this statement by the Columbia SJP after university administrators, in close consultation with pro-Israel groups, removed their banner, but didn’t even notify SJP members of their decision:
The fact that our banner has been taken down now is a direct violation of our freedom of expression. The removal of our banner this morning has left members of Columbia SJP, Palestinian students on campus and other students that are often marginalized and silenced, feeling that Barnard College does not follow its own anti-discrimination policies. We are alarmed to know that “Palestine” and “justice” are not acceptable in Barnard’s educational space and that certain voices are discriminated against by the College.
Likewise, Louise Love, the interim provost at Columbia College in Chicago, signed the letter rejecting Iymen Chehade’s grievance that his academic freedom had been violated. But in 2005, as associate provost at Chicago’s Roosevelt University, Love supported the decision of a department chair to fire adjunct professor Douglas Giles for his refusal to bar students in his World Religions class from asking whatever questions they wanted and/or discussing Zionism or anything related to Palestinian views about Jerusalem.
Love even defended the department chair as “defending her position passionately” when she called Palestinians “animals” and “not civilized,” according to Giles’ account of his dealings with Love. And stealing a page from the David Project’s playbook, Love said that the department chair’s demand that Giles restrict the content of his course “is not an issue of academic freedom but a pedagogical one.”
[The omitted section is a long quote from Chris Hedges, whose article is posted in full above]