“While this is a story about Berkeley, it is not only a story about Berkeley. Berkeley is not Las Vegas. What happens there does not stay there. What begins there, and succeeds there, spreads elsewhere.” –Brandeis Center for Human Rights
Jewish students and faculty members have been calling attention to the alarming rise in anti-Semitism on American college campuses for more than a decade. In recent years, that trend has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, wrote Newsweek in a recent op-ed. Anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Zionism has become endemic on college campuses.
From verbal abuse to graffiti-scrawling, to BDS activism, sefer Torah desecrations and attempts to marginalize Jewish students, university campuses across the county have mushroomed into breeding grounds of Jew-hatred and anti-Israel vitriol.
The latest report by the “Stop Anti-Semitism” monitoring group assessing anti-Semitism on U.S. campuses paints an alarming picture, reports the Jewish Star. “The 2022 report reflects a new intensity and pathological escalation of Jew-hatred, laser-focused on Israel.”
Fifty-five percent of students said that they hide their support for Israel, while a shocking 73 percent report hiding their Jewish identity on campus, the article reported.
Seventy-two percent of the students surveyed reported that university administrators consistently fail to take anti-Semitic incidents seriously, whether they concern verbal abuse or threats of physical harm.
According to another survey done by Alums for Campus Fairness, almost 80 percent of students had “experienced campus anti-Semitism personally”—having been either the victim or witnessed the event.
These findings represent a strong indictment of U.S. university campuses for not doing more to combat the pernicious growth of anti-Semitism on their territory.
Ivy League institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia, representing higher education’s intellectual “elite,” turn out to be some of the worst offenders, the Jewish Star article noted. These schools have supported the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) campaign and its publicly declared goal of dissolving “apartheid” Israel and replacing it with idyllic “Palestine.”
Congressmen Urge Crack Down
A bipartisan group of 39 members of the House of Representatives led by Rep. Ted Lieu, D-CA, earlier this year called on the U.S. Office for Civil Rights (OCR), a branch of the Dept. of Education, to offer assistance and protection for Jewish students from the growing threat of anti-Semitism on college campuses.
“According to a recent report by the FBI,” the lawmakers began their letter, “Jews are the most targeted group for religion-based hate crimes in the United States. This wave of anti-Semitism has had a detrimental impact at many American colleges and universities.”
The letter went on to urge the OCR to expedite long-delayed investigations relating to anti-Semitism and acts of discrimination on college campuses, “with some complaints filed as far back as 2018 and still pending.”
The OCR subsequently opened an official investigation into anti-Semitic incidents at the University of Vermont, a school with ironically one of the most extensive programs in Holocaust Studies in America. Nevertheless, UVM has allegedly become a hotbed of anti-Semitism.
In Sept. 2021, a group of apparently drunk students began hurling rocks at the building that houses the UVM Hillel, the religious student center on campus for Jews.
From the official complaint filed with the Dept. of Ed: “When one student living in the dormitory portion of the building called out to the perpetrators and asked them to stop throwing things, one of the rock-throwers responded, ‘Aren’t you Jewish?” This was not a random act of vandalism.
Mezuzah Ripped from Jewish Dorm
In an even more shocking act of vandalism, a mezuzah was vandalized and ripped from the dorm room door of a Jewish student at Michigan State University, a local news station reported.
Freshman Adina Peysakov told WILX that two weeks ago she heard a loud thud against her door. When she investigated, she discovered that someone had torn down her mezuzah.
“I could tell that it was intentional because of how loud it was when it was smacked off and how far it was on the ground from my doorpost,” Peysakov said. “The whole situation, it was very painful and upsetting.”
“The mezuzah is meant to be touched by the fingertips every time you go in and out of the house, so the double-sided tape of the mezuzah is quite strong,” Rabbi Benzion Shemtov of Chabad Student Center at MSU told the news outlet. “It’s not easy for it to come loose and fall down.” The rabbi said all indications are that it was intentional.
At Ms. Peysachov’s request, Rabbi Shemtov helped her affix a new mezuzah to her door.
“I’m very proud of my Jewish identity,” the student said in the interview. “This will not scare or stop me from participating in my beliefs.”
Another UVM student, Avi Zatz, transferred to the University of Florida, which has the largest population of Jewish students of all public universities in the nation.
Talking to Jewish Insider, he spoke about why he transferred. “It would be hard to find a Jewish person at UVM, who is identifiably Jewish, who hasn’t experienced some incident [of anti-Semitic nature],” he said. “Like if you’re wearing a Jewish star and you run into the wrong person, they’ll call you a baby killer or worse. It’s just an everyday culture where you have to hide that you’re Jewish in order to be a normal successful student.”
Micah Gritz, who attends Tufts University, spoke to the Times of Israel about his experience with anti-Semitism. He described hearing a political science professor talk in class about the so-called Jewish lobby exercising control over the U.S. government. Gritz recalled his reaction to this racist trope. “Sometimes I would push back, but you can become exhausted and burnt out fighting for your identity all the time.”
Forced To Resign After Harassment
The OCR has also launched an inquiry into recent incidents of anti-Semitism at the University of Southern California, where a student, Rose Ritch, was elected to a campus-wide student government office and then forced to resign after a campaign of harassment.
The report stated that “students falsely equated Ritch’s support for Israel, the Jewish homeland, with hostility towards Palestinians and thereby justified her removal.”
Furthermore, according to a press release from the Louis Brandeis Center For Human Rights who filed the complaint, “Ms. Ritch’s posters were repeatedly vandalized and the campaign posters of other Jewish students running for student senate were torn down. Ritch was also bullied and harassed repeatedly on social media, and the ongoing and persistent harassment continued after she was elected.”
Another OCR investigation involves the University of Illinois and includes vandalism, such as the Nazi swastika appearing on campus, as well as the destruction of religious objects, and pro-Israel students being insulted with the epithet “Nazi.” The report cites “an alarming increase” in anti-Semitic hate in recent years.
According to the Brandies Center complaint, these and other incidents including swastikas carved into a wall and a tree at Brown University, according to the Brown University Daily Herald, connect to a larger trend across American college campuses that target Jewish students.
“Jewish students across the United States report being excluded from campus organizations, targeted on social media and harassed in classes by students and professors alike,” reported the Times of Israel after reviewing a portion of these incidents in depth.
“Additionally, they’ve seen dormitories and sidewalks vandalized with swastikas, and buildings plastered with flyers that equate “Birthright” trips to Israel with genocide,” the Times of Israel said in its summary.
The Engine Behind Anti-Israel Movements on Campus
The most active anti-Israel group on campus in the United States is SJP (Students for Justice for Palestine,) a network of pro-Palestinian student groups which disseminate anti-Israel propaganda laced with anti-Semitic rhetoric, according to an ADL report, Anti-Semitism and the Radical Anti-Israel Movement on U.S. Campuses.
SJP promotes BDS campaigns against Israel which has become one of the main engines behind the anti-Israel movement on campus. The movement works to harm Israel through boycotting Israeli companies and student exchanges with Israeli universities. Its proponents deny Israel’s right to exist, scoff at terrorist concerns and habitually malign the Jewish state.
SJP propagandizes the belief that Israel engages in “ethnic cleansing” and genocide against the Palestinians, according to the ADL report. This inflammatory rhetoric revives age-old slurs about Jewish sinister intent and fuels hostility toward Jewish students.
Student governments at American universities have been increasingly active in pushing for BDS boycotts against Israel or companies connected to Israel. Muslim backers of the BDS proposals at these institutions control the Mideast narrative, ensuring that lies and distortions of the record go unchallenged, and that many of these proposals are passed by student governments.
The push for divestment has been organized at some 40 campuses, including M.I.T., Princeton, Duke, and other elite institutions of higher education. There it has become wholly accepted for the elite to heap scorn on Israel for “human rights abuses,” while ignoring worse offenses in China, North Korea and Arab countries that support suicide bombers and terrorists.
Jewish students are often too intimidated or outnumbered at student meetings to fight back. Many lack an adequate grasp of contemporary Mideast history to be able to expose anti-Israel falsehoods and propaganda.
Other acts of hostility on campus include tearing down Israeli flags from their displays, circulating petitions urging fellow students to boycott all pro-Israel groups on campus, heckling pro-Israel speakers and noisily disrupting pro-Israel events.
Acknowledging campus anti-Semitism as a moral blight on institutions of higher learning and on the country itself, former President Trump signed an executive order in 2019 on combating anti-Semitism.
The executive order cited Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.
“While Title VI does not cover discrimination based on religion, discrimination against Jews may give rise to a Title VI violation when the discrimination is based on an individual’s race, color, or national origin,” the executive order said.
Berkeley Sets New Record for Discrimination
Unfortunately, universities have done little to implement Trump’s executive order, and the campus situation for Jewish students, far from improving, has significantly deteriorated.
In one of the most blatant examples of anti-Israel activism plunging to new lows, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) persuaded nine student groups at Berkeley Law School —one of most liberal left-wing Ivy League institutions—to amend their bylaws to enforce a ban against bringing pro-Israel speakers to address the school.
An astounding rationale was offered for the unprecedented discriminatory move: the ban was said to be needed “to protect the safety and well-being” of Palestinian students.
“These student law groups have in essence created a Jew-free zone in the hallowed halls of Berkeley Law,” wrote the Newsweek op-ed, quoting Kenneth Marcus of the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law.
The bylaws would bar the law school’s own Jewish dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, from speaking at these university groups, as he has stated his support for Israel.
The “Jew-free” ban quickly ignited a media firestorm, highlighted in an exchange of heated “open” letters from senior Berkeley administrators and representatives of Jewish groups, including the Brandeis Center.
At least 35 Jewish organizations wrote an open letter to the university, condemning the Berkeley ban as a “vicious attempt to marginalize and stigmatize the Jewish, Israeli, and pro-Israel community… This is unabashed anti-Semitism.”
Dean Chemerinsky apparently became rattled by the bad press Berkeley was getting and sought to defuse it by accusing the Jewish organizations of over-reacting; in his words, engaging in “a misguided furor.”
Berkeley’s dean issued a statement that none of the groups who accepted the ban have (yet) actually carried out the policy they adopted, and that if they did they would be subject to “sanctions.” In any case, he asserted, once he voiced his opposition “the issue quickly faded at the Law School.”
Whitewashing the ‘Jew-Free’ Zone?
This turned out to be from the case, prompting charges of white-washing and cover-up.
“No, the issue did not fade at the Law School. That isn’t true,” protested critics in The Militant. “It’s a cover-up. SJP, the pro-Palestinian group behind the ban, fired off a letter contradicting Chemerinsky [who asked SJP to respect the right to freedom of speech]. Their reply to the dean was: ‘Free speech and the exchange of ideas cannot be romanticized when the byproduct of such rhetoric causes harm to marginalized communities.’”
To make it clear they were moving ahead with their censorship of pro-Israel speakers, SJP organized a “Palestine 101 Training” session Sept. 21 aimed at promoting implementation of the bylaws, the article attested. “This time eight more student groups added their names to the call to ban supporters of Israel’s right to exist from speaking at the law school, bringing the total to 17.”
“Most of these groups incorporated the discriminatory laws right into their constitutions, not only their bylaws,” wrote Brandeis Center’s Kenneth Marcus. “They did this to advance the anti-Semitic BDS movement. They are not only banning speakers. The new laws dedicate these groups to “boycotting, sanctioning, and divesting funds from any entity that is complicit in the ‘occupation’ of the Palestinian territories, and supports the actions of the ‘apartheid’ state of Israel.”
The Brandeis letter compared the banning of pro-Israel voices from their campus to the odious tactics used by anti-Semites throughout history to exclude Jews from society,
“Berkeley’s future lawyers – many of whom will one day be our legislators, mayors, and judges – are now expelling Jews from progressive spaces,” wrote Marcus. “While this is a story about Berkeley, it is not only a story about Berkeley. Berkeley is not Las Vegas. What happens there does not stay there. What begins there, and succeeds there, spreads elsewhere.
“The anti-Jewish climate at Berkeley, on college campuses, in the hallways of Congress, and on the streets of New York is not “just” a Jewish problem—because what starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews,” a Newsweek op-ed agreed. “American Jews may flee California and New York for the calmer waters of DeSantis’ Florida, but that is really just a band-aid “solution” for a serious national problem.
“Toleration of anti-Semitism, whether it originates in the political Left or the Right, is a clear sign of civilizational decline,” the article continued. “And if not defeated in America, it will, in hindsight be recognized as one of the clearest warning signs of the irreparable decline of the American Republic.”
As the backlash against Berkeley Law School continues, a legal complaint filed by attorneys Gabriel Groisman and Arsen Ostrovsky has called for an investigation into the school for its “profound and deep-seated anti-Semitic discrimination” against Jewish people, Jerusalem Post reported.
The case remains at a stalemate.
Passover Plague and a Crash Course in Jewish History
Jewish students, writing in The Crimson, Harvard’s newspaper, described their shock and distress when, “returning to school from joyous Passover celebrations this year,” they were disturbed “to enter Harvard Yard and see a large display of Holocaust imagery of barbed wire fences and boxcars, including a barrage of anti-Semitic insults against ‘Zionists.’”
Harvard was holding its annual Israeli Apartheid Week
The week-long event is one of the most virulent anti-Israel programs on campuses across the country, and throughout the world. It features a series of anti-Israel and pro-BDS lectures, demonstrations and theatrical performances and displays.
For the past several years, this event was held on roughly 20 American university campuses, according to ADL. One of the primary purposes of the program, usually run by SJP, is to highlight the alleged oppression of Israel’s security fence against the Palestinian people.
Favored tactics include constructing mock Israeli checkpoints and “apartheid walls,” (Israeli security fences), screening an anti-Semitic documentary, “The Lobby,” that highlights the “all-powerful” influence of the pro-Israel lobby on the U.S government; and distributing fake “eviction notices” to dramatize Israeli “racism” and oppression of Palestinians.
“SJP of Georgetown University in Washington used Israeli Apartheid Week to infuse a fresh injection of hate-Israel sentiment into the student population,” writes the ADL report. The group’s events spanned a full week of nightly events. These events turn into hatred-spewing propaganda campaigns across U.S. campuses, leaving Jewish students feeling besieged, isolated and threatened.
At Harvard, these feelings were compounded by an editorial in late April in support of BDS and Palestinian Liberation. The editorial echoed the demonization of Israel and fantastic lies about Israeli murder of Palestinians protestors, theft of Palestinian territory and gunning down of journalists.
There was heated and sustained pushback from scores of faculty members over the paper’s outrageous bias, but the editors defended their stance.
Then, Jewish students writing in the Harvard Crimson after the Apartheid Week debacle, used the platform to do something audaciously out of sync with the left-wing, pro-Palestinian newspaper. Astoundingly, they got away with it.
‘In Every Generation, They Rise Up to Destroy Us’
Using the words of the Pesach Haggadah, the students presented a crash course in Jewish diaspora history, demonstrating a two-thousand year linkage between the Jewish people and the holy land of Israel. They summed up centuries of oppression, religious persecution and bigotry in a few words.
“In every generation, they rise against us to destroy us,” Jewish students sang in the Vehi She’omda prayer at their Passover seders last week,” the article began. “The passage was written centuries ago and still rings true.
“They rose against us to destroy us during years of our people’s enslavement and backbreaking labor in Egypt, which we commemorate and relive during the Passover seder. They rose against us during centuries of inquisitions, expulsions, pogroms, and blood libels.
“Passover, in particular, was a time of fear for Jews throughout Medieval times,” the article went on. “During this holiday time, gentiles raised baseless accusations against Jews, claiming that they murdered gentile children and used their blood for Passover rituals. These accusations exploded on an annual basis into pogroms and murder sprees, but Jews continued to recite, millennia after their Exodus, “This year we are slaves, next year we will be free people.”
The article went on to explain that witnessing how people rise against Jewish communities in our own current generation is very painful for Jewish students, but recalling the first verse of Vehi She’omda offers comfort.
“It is this that has stood for our forefathers and for us,” meaning the promise G-d made to Abraham, that our ancestors would be redeemed from Egypt and brought safely to the promised land…It is this promise [of redemption] we point to at the end of the seder when we proclaim, ‘Next Year in Jerusalem.’