Battling BDS: Sanctioning Islamist antisemitism stokes retaliation

Goldstein’s 2006 landmark film, The Making of a Martyr, documents the illegal state-sponsored recruitment by violent Islamists of innocent Muslim children towards violence.

June 26, 2019 22:02
3 minute read.
Battling antisemitism with 21st century technology

Battling antisemitism with 21st century technology. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Today’s antisemitism in the United States is of a different ilk than historical forms launched in Europe nearly a century ago. A new poll from the Hudson Institute reveals almost 60% say antisemitism is more commonplace now than 15 years ago.

In the most recent action in California, a judge denied a motion filed by a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement representative seeking retaliation against attorneys who successfully secured the right to free speech, and freedom from discrimination for American Jewish students.

In so doing, the judge ruled against Islamist antisemitism.

Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, a founding member of the BDS movement, brought the motion against human rights attorney Brooke Goldstein, founder and director of The Lawfare Project, seeking penalties of nearly $429,000.

Goldstein, director of the New York based nonprofit litigation fund defending the civil rights of Jewish communities worldwide, along with fellow counsel from Winston & Strawn, had earlier this year won a civil rights lawsuit against the California State University System. CSU was found guilty of cultivating a campus environment hostile to Jewish students.

The case was prompted by the earlier incident at San Francisco State University excluding Hillel, a Jewish student group, from a campus “Know Your Rights” fair. The Lawfare Project recognized this as an act of discrimination and bigotry on the basis of their Jewish identity.

The Lawfare Project assisted the excluded Jewish students in filing state and federal lawsuits against CSU on the basis that SFSU had violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, legislation which enshrines equality and outlaws all forms of discrimination.

Both the state and federal lawsuits were settled earlier this year, and CSU agreed to a landmark financial and policy settlement that included the public university network’s unprecedented confirmation of anti-Zionism as racism and recognition of Zionism as integral to Jewish identity.

At the time, Abdulhadi – who is a Muslim woman of Arab descent, ethnic studies professor and the director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative at SFSU – and her colleagues had acted as if they could exclude Jewish students from campus activities with impunity, as long as they labeled these students as “Zionists.”

As part of the settlement, CSU agreed to put policies and procedures in place to safeguard the rights of Jewish students, and to diminish the power of faculty who abuse their positions to victimize Jewish students.

In a direct response to CSU’s commitment to protect Jewish students on campus following the settled civil suit, Abdulhadi filed a motion for sanctions against Goldstein and colleagues in the US District Court for the Northern District of California alleging “improper purposes and tactics.”

Labeling Goldstein an Islamophobe, Abdulhadi overlooked Goldstein’s work battling human rights violations befalling Muslim victims of Islamism.

To be transparent, Goldstein and I have collaborated on work highlighting Muslim women advocates fighting honor violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation while working toward the elevation of Muslim women’s voices.

Goldstein’s 2006 landmark film, The Making of a Martyr, documents the illegal state-sponsored recruitment by violent Islamists of innocent Muslim children towards violence. She has worked to advocate against child suicide-homicide bombing.

The judge dismissed Abdulhadi’s counter sanction and confirmed the civil rights lawyers had not filed frivolous or manufactured cases nor had they operated out of bad faith.

Author and scholar of antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt, professor of modern Jewish history at Emory University, notes that while the BDS Movement is portrayed as a social justice movement advocating for Palestinians, its core ambition is the dissolution and demographic eradication of the Jewish state.

When called out for antisemitism, BDS actors charge intolerance, claiming attacks against them are the new racism. They achieve this in public protest and discrimination against Zionist Jews, and through filing of baseless legal claims seeking to immobilize targets confronting antisemitism.

While this most recent ruling was a victory, the fight against antisemitism is not over. Just as history has seen victory over such efforts in the past only to be reborn in America, such struggles for freedom and fairness continue.

The writer is a member of the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation, serving on the Committee Combating Contemporary Antisemitism Through Testimony, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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