Hundreds of US college and university presidents were set to receive warning
letters on Thursday morning, instructing them of their legal obligations to
prevent anti-Semitism on campus.RELATED:Opinion: Can universities study anti-Semitism honestly?UC-Irvine students secretly met with Hamas official
The letters also remind universities it
is their legal duty to prevent university funds from being diverted to unlawful
activities directed against the State of Israel.
Civil rights group the
Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) is carrying out the legal campaign in response
to “an alarming number of incidents of harassment and hate crimes against Jewish
and Israeli students on US college campuses.”
“Anti-Israel rallies and
events frequently exceed legitimate criticism of Israel and cross the line into
blatant anti-Semitism, resulting in hateful attacks against Jews,” the center’s
lawyer Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said on Wednesday.
One university that has
attracted criticism over anti- Semitism on campus is Rutgers, the State
University of New Jersey.
Aaron Marcus, a senior at Rutgers, says he was
dubbed a “racist Zionist pig” in a public Facebook posting by a fellow
According to Marcus, that comment was made after he questioned a
Rutgers University Student Assembly decision to donate money to the Palestine
Children’s Relief Fund, a nonprofit organization with close ties to Islamic
charity the Holy Land Foundation, which funds Hamas.
science and history student said he complained about the incident to the
university administration, but was told the student’s comments were protected
under the US Constitution’s First Amendment, and she had a right to freedom of
“They didn’t even mention that her actions were in direct
violation of the student code of conduct or acknowledge the fact that she was
taking part in an extreme case of campus bullying,” Marcus said.
Kenneth Leitner, Israel Law Center’s director of American affairs, said
“perpetrators of hate” are exploiting academic ideals.
“By condoning it,
college administrators have allowed an environment of intimidation and hostility
against Jewish students and faculty to fester on campus,” Leitner
This sort of harassment and intimidation interferes with students’
educational rights, and poses a threat to their physical safety and well-being,
according to the Israel Law Center.
The center hopes the legal warnings
will prompt US colleges to take action against what it says is a growing problem
of campus hatred.
“Jewish and Israeli students are often too intimidated
to speak because they fear they will be held collectively responsible for the
supposed ‘wrongdoings’ of the Jewish State of Israel,” the Law Center’s warning
Former Brandeis University student Herschel Hartz said US
universities are guilty of a double standard by allowing anti-Semitism to thrive
while protecting students of other ethnicities against
“Brandeis University ignores anti-Semitism and seeks to
brush it under the rug,” he said.
Hartz said that when he confronted his
then-roommate over anti-Semitic messages posted on an online instant messaging
service, the roommate assaulted him.
He called campus police, but
eventually took the issue to court and obtained a restraining
Brandeis didn’t do anything to protect him, Hartz said.
you look into the history of Brandeis University around that time, a freshman
student was expelled for putting posters on the campus expressing an
inappropriate joke about Islam. The double standard is amazing,” he
The Law Center’s letter also reminds schools of their legal
obligation to monitor the funding and activities of all on-campus student
groups, and warns them that by failing to do so, they could unwittingly fall
foul of stringent US legislation.
The letter cites a recent ruling by the
US Supreme Court in the Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project case, which held it
is illegal to provide any support to a terrorist organization – even if that
support appears to be relatively benign.
In that case, the Supreme Court
found providing any support to a terrorist organization, even for supposed
humanitarian purposes, was enough to incur criminal liability.
Center points to the Muslim Students Association (MSA), which operates in
hundreds of college campuses in the US, and which it describes as “the
university arm of the Muslim Brotherhood organization.”
“Although I have
no information that any MSA chapter is directly supporting Hamas at this time,
certain MSA chapters have openly supported Hamas in the past, and your
institution must remain vigilant of the difference between protected speech and
prohibited conduct, especially as it pertains to funds that your institution
knowingly provides,” the Law Center’s letter reads.
The Law Center also
refers to a Rutgers University event last year, in which students group BAKA –
Students United for Middle East Justice successfully applied to a student-run
allocations committee for an event in support of US To Gaza, an organization
that was raising money to buy an American ship to run Israel’s blockade of the
Gaza Strip, in support of Hamas.
In its letter, the Law Center warns the
funding runs counter to the US Neutrality Act, which makes furnishing money for
hostile naval expeditions against any country at peace with the US a crime.