Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

Groundbreaking Lawsuits Battle Anti-Semitism at Elite Universities

 

A groundbreaking lawsuit against NYU by an influential Manhattan law firm for fomenting anti-Semitism on its campus and encouraging mob tactics has rocked the academic community. It turns out to be just the first in a string of lawsuits the firm will soon be filing against eight other elite universities, Mr. Marc Kasowitz, a senior partner, told Yated in a wide-ranging interview.

The hard-hitting 83-page brief by Kasowitz Benson Torres alleges that NYU and its administrators have a long history of enabling anti-Semitism to flourish, by turning a blind eye to hate speech, threats and bullying of Jewish students.

This abusive conduct soared to a crescendo after the savage Hamas massacres of Oct. 7, when the atmosphere at NYU became fraught with anti-Israel hatred and Jew-baiting at a series of vitriolic rallies, the brief alleges. Jewish students were afraid to walk across campus and attend classes.

“The same pattern exists at a number of major universities,” Kasowitz noted. “These schools have permitted anti-Semitism to fester on their campuses by adopting an attitude of deliberate indifference, which emboldens the perpetrators. Yet no one is holding [the schools’ leadership] accountable. We believe we can change that.”

The universities about to be hit with lawsuits are Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, Yale, MIT, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania and UC-Berkeley. These Ivy League institutions are increasingly seen as  places of degraded mainstream culture, led by woke-indoctrinated, left-wing professors who in turn are indoctrinating a whole generation of young Americans with a morally bankrupt worldview.

On many of these campuses, hatred of Israel has become all-pervasive and indistinguishable from anti-Semitism, and is condoned and even respectable.

 

Serial Violators of Title VI

Kasowitz’ firm is taking a novel approach in turning to the courts to force universities to comply with Title VI federal civil rights legislation. These laws outlaw discrimination on the basis of race, color or ethnicity in institutions accepting government funding.

“Title VI cases have been few in number and not very successful because it’s difficult to meet the bar of proof for discriminatory behavior,” the attorney explained. “We’re sure our lawsuit will meet that bar.”  

The lawsuit representing three Orthodox Jewish NYU students, Bella Ingber, Sabrina Maslavi and Shaul Tawil, is unique in that it highlights in meticulous detail a long-running history going back many years, during which NYU has consistently flouted not only federal and state laws but its own Codes of Ethical Conduct.

Despite its serial violations of Title VI, NYU continues to accept millions of dollars in federal funding to which only institutions who comply with the law are entitled.

In December 2019, President Trump expanded the meaning of “discrimination” to include anti-Semitism. He issued “Executive Order 13899 on Combating Anti-Semitism.” He directed the executive branch to enforce Title VI against discrimination “rooted in anti-Semitism as vigorously as against all other forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VI.” [See Sidebar]

Universities have unfortunately done little to implement Trump’s executive order, and the campus situation for Jewish students has significantly deteriorated. The Kasowitz lawsuit will be one of the first high profile cases to test that order.

 

‘Less About Money Than Changing Behavior’

 

Offering multiple examples, the lawsuit argues that NYU administrators selectively apply their anti-discrimination policies for the benefit of all minority groups on campus except Jews.

With respect to hate speech, verbal abuse, threats or intimidations against Jewish students, NYU habitually downplays, slow-walks, or simply ignores the complaints, the lawsuit says.

Although the lawsuit asks the court to require NYU to pay compensatory and punitive financial penalties, “the goal of the lawsuit is less about money than changing behavior,” Kasowitz told Yated.

“Our reason for bringing this lawsuit is to force a change in the practice of universities abandoning Jewish students, refusing to protect them against discrimination by students as well as faculty,” he said. “The main goal is to get injunctive relief, to have policies and protocols implemented that will ensure fair and equal treatment of Jewish students and effect a real change in the environment at NYU.”

“The first step was to shine a light on the unlawful conduct. We had to investigate and uncover the history of the anti-Semitic campus environment NYU had created by tolerating and greenlighting anti-Semitic activity for years.”

The lawsuit seeks specific “remedies” to uproot the climate of anti-Semitic bigotry, including  the firing of professors and staff who engage in hate speech and calling for the destruction of Israel and genocide of the Jewish people.

The complaint also calls for the suspension or expulsion of students who demonize Israel and Jews, vandalize the property of Jewish students, disrupt peaceful pro-Israel rallies, taunt, stalk and threaten Jewish students, burn Israeli flags and tear down pro-Israel posters.

Massive Influx of Money from Gulf States

The brief notes that at the same time NYU was turning a blind eye to the increasingly hostile anti-Semitism gripping its campus, it was receiving a massive influx of foreign, concealed donations from authoritarian regimes.

“From 2014 through 2019, NYU received over $263 million in undocumented funding. During the same period, Qatar—which shelters and protects Hamas leaders and helps fund the terrorist organization—contributed over $2.7 billion in undocumented funding to institutions of higher education in the United States.”

These reports are but the tip of the iceberg, Kasowitz noted. The brief cites reports that lavish funding from Gulf states has a proven correlation with surges in anti-Semitic incidents at universities receiving the financial handouts. A November study reinforced this view, pointing out that monetary grants from Arab states to U.S. colleges correlate with “a 300 percent overall rise” in Jew-hating incidents at these schools.

Evidence shedding light on how much NYU received secretly and from which donors will surface during discovery, Kasowitz told Yated.

Demonstrating the mushrooming of anti-Semitism at NYU during past years, the lawsuit cites a letter signed in May 2019 by more than 140 alumni and faculty members of NYU School of Medicine to NYU President Hamilton. The letter urges him to combat a “climate of anti-Semitism at NYU that creates a hostile environment for Jewish students” and warns him that in recent months, anti-Semitism had been “normalized” on the university’s campus.

The brief goes on to detail some of the most glaring cases described in the letter to President Hamilton, which includes NYU hiring of anti-Semitic professors, welcoming anti-Semitic speakers and repeatedly refusing to enforce its own policies against anti-Semitic harassment.

“Hamas’s savage massacres of Oct. 7 lit a match to a highly combustible campus environment” at NYU,” the complaint alleges. “It opened the floodgates to soaring anti-Israel rallies and hate fests,” as well as vandalism against Jewish property, violent threats against Jews and calls for genocide.

“NYU students have publicly detailed their fear and trauma in the face of raging and unchecked anti-Semitism on campus,” the brief states, citing plaintiff Bella Ingber who posted that “being a Jew at NYU right now is scary. There are signs that read ‘Globalize the Intifada!’ which is a historical call for the extermination of Jews. Chants of ‘Gas the Jews’ and ‘Hitler was right’ ring out on campus.”

 

Nightmarish

The lawsuit describes a string of nightmarish anti-Semitic incidents attested to by the plaintiffs, and the infuriating responses of NYU’s head honchos to whom they went for help. These officials mouthed soothing but empty assurances, feigning concern but taking no action.

Reading through the complaint captures the sense of being trapped in a Kafkaesque universe in which nothing makes sense, and any pronouncements by authorities regarding anti-Semitic activity on campus come across as false, bizarre and out of touch with reality.

In one incident, Bella Ingber and Sabrina Maslavi, along with other members of Students Stand with Israel, attended an Oct. 17 evening vigil for the victims of the Hamas massacre at a park near NYU to Washington Square.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a virulently anti-Israel group of students and faculty with shady ties to Hamas, gathered at the same venue in a noisy protest. Bella and Sabrina saw SJP members burn an Israeli flag and make slit-your-throat gestures at the Jewish students, threatening to assault them. Member of SJP screamed profanities and called for “Death to the Jews.”

“Fearing for her safety,” recounts the lawsuit, “Sabrina asked a police officer to walk her to a subway station so she could go home to her parents’ house. During the trip home, she suffered a panic attack, sensing that one of the menacing protesters was following her home.”

The following morning, Bella Ingber reached out to NYU’s Dean Rodriguez, expressing that she and her friend needed urgently to meet with him to share their fears over surging campus anti-Semitism.

At the meeting, they poured out their hearts about the overwhelming hostility and threats of violence, and NYU’s failure to address it. “They said it had made their lives unbearable,” the lawsuit states.

Dean Rodriguez’s response? He would try to “get a handle on the situation.” Nothing more. The two students left the meeting totally disheartened.

 

Try the Wellness Hotline If You Can’t Take the Jew-Hate

In another instance, Shaul Tawil, the third NYU plaintiff in the lawsuit, related that he was riding his bike past Washington Square Park (near the university) when he saw a crowd, including six men wearing keffiyehs, surround a woman who they had spotted earlier at the pro-Israel vigil. They were screaming that she was “a murderer, crying fake tears [for the Israeli victims].”

Tawil instinctively removed his yarmulke. He moved behind a truck on the sidewalk to videotape the harassment. One of the men spotted him, and approached him, screaming abuse. He forced Tawil to open his phone’s camera and delete the video of the gang harassing the pro-Israel supporter. Tawil did so while the man shouted profanities in his face, ordering him “to get out of here, dirty Jew.”

Upon arriving home, Tawil called Campus Safety, NYU’s department for monitoring incidents posing threat or danger to students on campus. After being strung along for a week, he was finally invited to meet with Jennie Torres, an investigator with the Campus Safety department.

After hearing Tawil out, “Torres responded that there was nothing NYU could do for him, other than direct him to NYU’s Wellness Exchange, the hotline for students coping with emotional challenges,” the lawsuit attests.

This is emblematic of the callous cynical treatment of Jewish students at NYU, where victims of anti-Semitic harassment are told they are suffering from “emotional challenges,” the complaint states.

 

NYU Allows Its Library to Be Hijacked

A third incident described in the lawsuit, “the Library rally” stands out as the most shocking example of how NYU has allowed itself to be commandeered by pro-Palestinian and pro-terror elements.

“On October 20, 2023, NYU permitted the Library to be taken over by NYU students and faculty members, who used it as the staging ground for an anti-Semitic rally featuring hours of genocidal chants calling for the destruction of Israel and violence against its Jewish inhabitants,” the lawsuit alleges.

More than one hundred SJP students and faculty members entered the Library and, in direct
violation of NYU’s Student Conduct Policy, hung signs on the Library’s upper levels. Using an amplified sound system, they began to chant anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slogans, calling for violence.

It gets even more sickening. Faculty members at the Library rally openly endorsed the goal of eradicating Israel and perpetrating violence against its citizens. They uttered expressions of glee and admiration for Hamas’s October 7 slaughter, burning, torture and kidnapping of Israeli civilians.

“NYU has not taken any disciplinary action against faculty members who participated in the Library hate fest,” the lawsuit charged.

NYU President Linda Mills is portrayed in the lawsuit as using denial and shifting the blame for anti-Semitic disturbances to Jewish students in order to silence them.

At a November 1st meeting with Mills attended by eight Jewish students, the students presented her with a petition signed by 4,000 members of the NYU community, expressing concern over NYU’s increasingly hostile anti-Semitic environment. The students shared personal stories about the anti-Semitic harassment they had faced and the extent to which they felt unsafe on campus.

In response, “Mills chided the students for being “alarmist” and insisted that reports about anti-Semitism on campus were being blown “out of proportion,” the lawsuit states.

“She then made the outrageous request that the Jewish students help her “spread the message” that allegations of anti-Semitism at NYU were exaggerated, and that NYU was safe for Jewish students.

This is the president of the university trying to manipulate Jewish students into helping her cover up the very incitement and hatred that was traumatizing them!

**

Canary In the Coal Mine

Penning his reflections on the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht in Sapir, editor in chief Bret Stephens wrote: “Kristallnacht was more than a pogrom in the heart of supposedly civilized Europe. It was the signal that all the old categories — decency, order, fairness, justice, reason — no longer applied. Broken glass was a reminder of how brittle the barrier between civilization and barbarism could be.”

“This moral shattering did not happen overnight. It was years in the making. It first required the preparation of the public mind to accept that anything was permissible when it came to the Jews.”

Is appalling anti-Semitism at the nation’s leading universities a way of “preparing the public mind” that anything is permissible when it comes to the Jews? Like the death of the proverbial “canary in the coal mine,” this depravity sends a urgent warning that the poisoned air in the “mine” has reached toxic levels and it is past time to find an exit. How many are paying attention?

 

*****

Former President Trump Expanded Title VI to Include Anti-Semitism

 

When President Trump issued his Executive Order on Combating anti-Semitism in Dec. 2019, he clarified that the working definition of anti-Semitism should align with the definition established in 1998 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This organization comprises over thirty-five countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, the European Union, the United Nations, and even some Muslim-majority countries, such as Bahrain and Albania.

Hundreds of municipalities, universities and legislatures have separately endorsed the IHRA definition, and this is the yardstick that the federal government and many states in the country employ in defining behavior or actions as anti-Semitic, and thus in violation of Title VI.

The definition includes engaging in classic anti-Semitic tropes such as a sinister Jewish plot to achieve world control; claiming Jews are inherently evil; calling for Jews to be killed, harmed or harassed, and blaming Jews for the world’s ills.

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism also includes accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than to their own nations. It encompasses acts of Holocaust denial, claiming Jews invented or exaggerated the magnitude of the Nazi genocide for profit.

IHRA also exposes the deceptive cloaking of anti-Semitism in the language of “anti-Zionism”—hiding Jew-hatred behind the pretense that demonizing Israel has nothing to do with Jews-hatred.

The IHRA definition also labels as anti-Semitism the act of imposing on Israel political or moral behavior that no other nation is expected to meet, as well as holding all Jews responsible for unpopular actions of the Israeli government.

Lastly, according to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination; for example by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor, is also act of anti-Semitism.

 

*****

The writer would like to express a note of thanks to Mr. Marc Kasowitz for giving graciously of his time and insight for this article.

 

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