New York University banner.
(photo credit: NYU PHOTO BUREAU)
StandWithUs and another NGO have sent a legal letter to New York University’s president demanding he probe discriminatory conduct against Jews and Israelis and discipline students’ organizations that caused the discrimination.
The letter explained that certain student groups are acting to boycott Jews and Israelis in a manner that may violate university policies and civil rights laws, while implying the university could be held accountable if it did not fully address the issues.
On April 9, 51 NYU student organizations signed a joint statement pledging to boycott Israeli goods, academic institutions and conferences, and numerous pro-Israel organizations.
Additionally, the statement promotes the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and commits to boycotting TorchPAC and Realize Israel, NYU’s pro-Israel student organizations.
As the letter from StandWithUs and the Louis D. Brandeis Center states, the statement by the 51 student groups “effectively discriminates against Israeli students at NYU on the basis of their national origin.
It also “effectively discriminates against many Jewish students, as Zionism is the movement for Jewish self-determination.”
In this way, the discriminatory statement “seeks to denigrate this vital aspect of mainstream Jewish identity.”
The letter by the two NGOs complimented NYU president Andrew Hamilton for taking initial positive steps in expressing his disapproval of the BDS statement and in calling for dialogue.
However, the letter was clear that the issues at stake were not merely moral and a source for dialogue, but also unambiguously legal.
StandWithUs legal director Yael Lerman said the BDS statement could lead to Jewish and Israeli students being banned from all events in which they intersect with the other 51 groups.
This was similar to what was “happening on campuses across America right now, where Zionist groups are not invited to participate, but in NYU’s case, they made it official,” she said. Lerman cited events at California Polytechnic State University last week as an example.
Louis D. Brandeis Center legal director Aviva Vogelstein said that “the issue is that these students are essentially being offered a deal: Renounce your sense of connection to Israel, and you will be accepted within the student community.
“In other words, they are being told that full participation in student life depends on their willingness to suppress or compromise their connection to Zionism, Israel and the mainstream of Jewish life. This becomes a legal issue because this condition is not placed on other religious, racial or national origin groups,” Vogelstein said.
Lerman said: “We call on the NYU administration to investigate acts of bigotry and to show a zero tolerance policy for any violations of state law or university policy,” meaning that mere dialogue was insufficient, and NYU might need to put some student groups on probation.
TorchPAC co-president Rebecca Stern said: “University is a time for learning and freedom of opinion. When fellow students decide to issue a boycott, that is a detriment to their college experience and the environment NYU is trying to create. Such a policy will only strengthen the divide between students on this issue and creates tension that does not need to be there. We welcome discussion and believe that dialogue with those who disagree with us is the key to reconciliation and understanding. The boycott is antithetical to the university’s mission of fostering diversity.”
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