Excerpts from T.E.A.M. Talk on Anti-Semitism in San Diego

by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and AMCHA January 10, 2017
 

 

tammy-amchaAMCHA Initiative director, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, spoke to approximately 80 San Diego students, parents, grandparents, educators and community members about the escalating threat of anti-Semitism on San Diego’s and our nation’s campuses at a recent event held in Carlsbad.  The event was sponsored by San Diego’s T.E.A.M., a recently reignited non-profit organization dedicated to bringing balance to the debate on the Middle East.  Here are excerpts from her remarks, delivered this past Sunday at the Carlsbad City Library:

Excerpts from Tammi Rossman-Benjamin’s T.E.A.M Talk

San Diego CA

January 8, 2017

Anti-Zionist sentiment and activity have had extremely negative consequences for many Jewish college students. The injection of the anti-Zionist movement, and particularly BDS, onto campus in the past decade has fueled a significant resurgence in antisemitism.

The lines between appropriate political discourse on Israeli policy and discrimination toward Jewish students have become blurred. Jewish students report that anti-Zionist activists single out, harass, intimidate, and even assault them, regardless of their personal feelings on Israel. And far too often, anti-Zionist expression is laced with centuries-old classic antisemitic stereotypes.

As a result, Jewish students engaging in Jewish activity having nothing to do with Israel — wearing their Jewish sorority or fraternity letters, displaying Star of David necklaces, walking to Hillel for Sabbath dinner – report fearing for their safety and well- being. In addition, because of their support, or even just presumed support, for Israel, Jewish students report being rejected from progressive social justice activities such as pro-choice rallies, anti-rape demonstrations, Black Lives Matter events and racial justice conferences.

In addition to ostracizing and alienating Jewish students, anti- Zionist students repeatedly attempt to shutdown events organized by Jewish students and suppress their free speech about Israel and other topics.

Anti-Israel student groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) whose mission is the promotion of BDS, are found on hundreds of U.S. campuses, including at UCSD and San Diego State University. SJP and similar groups, besides promoting BDS on Facebook and social media, on large “apartheid walls” they build, in op-eds they publish in student newspapers and at events they host regularly, are responsible for organizing campaigns to get their schools to boycott Israeli products and businesses and to terminate their school’s academic exchange programs with Israel. While only half of all resolutions have passed – the divestment resolution at UCSD, for example, passed in 2013– this number is, frankly, irrelevant, because any school whose student government even considers a resolution is racked with divisiveness, hostility, and animosity for weeks on end. At SDSU, for example, a divestment referendum failed last year, though there were significant amounts of anti-Jewish hostility, including numerous antisemitic statements posted to SDSU’s YikYak during the week of the divestment referendum, such as “#SDSUDivest so we can get rid of the jews,” and “Heil hitler.”

In addition, thousands of faculty on hundreds of campuses have publicly endorsed BDS efforts. Some faculty boycotters bring their anti-Israel animus and activism into their classrooms, and it is not unusual for academic departments to sponsor virulently anti-Israel talks and symposia.

In a recent study our organization conducted, examining antisemitic activity on the 100 US campuses with the largest Jewish populations, we found that on close to half the campuses, students are threatened because of their Jewish identity. The study found that incidents of anti-Jewish hostility are very highly correlated with: 1) BDS, 2) anti-Zionist student groups like SJP and 3) the number of faculty who support an academic boycott of Israel; schools with any one of these factors are 3 to 7 times more likely to host incidents that target Jewish students, and the stronger the presence of these factors, the more incidents are likely to be found.

Sadly, the situation is getting worse. In a study we carried out comparing antisemitic activity in the first half of 2015 with the first half of 2016, we found a frightening 45% increase in the number of antisemitic incidents. In addition, the suppression of Jewish and pro-Israel students’ speech and assembly – incidents like the disruption and shutting down of the Mayor of Jerusalem’s talk in a Hillel-sponsored event at San Francisco State University in April — approximately doubled from 2015 to 2016. In addition, expression denying Israel’s right to exist nearly tripled from 2015 to 2016 and correlated with actions intended to harm Jewish students. In other words, across the country anti-Zionist students and faculty are becoming more bold about expressing their true intentions, which are not to criticize Israeli policy, but to oppose the very existence of the Jewish state.

Adding insult to injury are university administrators, who are unwilling to acknowledge, let alone address, acts of antisemitism, and engage in a clear discriminatory double standard: language and behavior that would never be tolerated when directed against other campus minorities go unchallenged when directed against Jewish students.

OK, enough with the bad news. It’s time for some good news. You may have heard about the campaign our organization spearheaded, urging the University of California to identify antisemitism as a bigotry to be condemned no less vigorously than any other racial, ethnic or gender bigotry, and acknowledge that anti-Zionism is the prominent face of antisemitism on UC campuses. To show the Regents this issue was of utmost concern within the Jewish community and could no longer be ignored, we endeavored to bring together as many Jewish voices as we could. By the end of our campaign, sixty Jewish, Christian, civil rights and education advocacy groups, including Hillel, Jewish Federations of North America, JCRC, ADL, AJC, ZOA, CUFI, Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, CAMERA, the California Legislature’s Jewish Caucus, and thousands from the Jewish community stood shoulder to shoulder and spoke in one voice, urging UC to adopt a strong statement about campus antisemitism. This success was achieved through an unprecedented show of unity and can be a model for how other communities can come together to fight campus antisemitism.

Many of us in the community have also begun a campaign at UC that raises the issue of faculty misuse of the classroom to engage in anti-Zionist advocacy and activism. Most recently, we’ve spearheaded a letter from 47 organizations, 175 faculty members and 600 alumni to President Napolitano demanding she ensure that faculty comply with University policy prohibiting political indoctrination.

Working together we can protect Jewish students and stop the escalation of anti-Semitism on our nation’s campuses.  

AMCHA is a non-profit organization that combats anti-Semitism on college campuses across the country.

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