New York, NY, May 27, 2020 … As universities begin preparing to reopen campuses in the fall semester, ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) is calling on administrators and faculty to take meaningful steps to ensure an inclusive campus climate for all students in response to a series of disturbing anti-Israel and antisemitic actions at U.S. colleges in 2019.
In a new report issued today, ADL issued a series of recommendations for how institutions of higher learning should respond when anti-Israel activism on campus fuels antisemitism. The report extensively details anti-Israel and antisemitic activity that took place on campuses last year and provides an in-depth look at the major sources of funding for anti-Israel groups.
“We anticipate a significant uptick in anti-Israel activity once students are able to return to campuses,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “Some of the more radical expressions of anti-Israel sentiment that we witnessed last year morphed into outright antisemitism. Many of these manifestations left Jewish students feeling besieged and threatened. At a time when antisemitism in the U.S. has spiked to historic levels and against the backdrop of COVID-19, which has revived old anti-Jewish conspiracies, college presidents and university administrators should take steps to prevent this prejudice from violating norms on campus and diminishing the educational experience of these students.”
On Thursday, May 28, ADL will host an online public webinar as part of its “Fighting Hate from Home” series featuring ADL CEO Greenblatt, Hillel President Adam Lehman, Ali Rosenblatt, a student leader and recent graduate of the University of Michigan, and Blake Flayton, a current student at George Washington University, discussing their experiences and concerns with antisemitic and anti-Israel activity on campus.
ADL’s new report, “Antisemitism and the Radical Anti-Israel Movement on U.S. Campuses in 2019,” provides an in-depth look at the major activities and organizations sponsoring them. The report notes that while most anti-Israel activism takes the form of legitimate political expression, a significant segment of the activism reported in 2019 contributed to an atmosphere in which Jewish students felt under attack – and from which antisemitism sometimes emerged.
“At a time when antisemitic incidents have increased, campus antisemitism has a significant impact on the morale of Jewish students and campus communities,” said Greenblatt. “It has contributed to the sense of siege felt by many Jewish college students. This is unacceptable and must change. This is why ADL is working directly with administrators across the country to give them the tools and programming to address this challenge in the coming academic year.”
Radical anti-Israel rhetoric and activities on campus often emerged from Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel and the implementation of annual Israeli Apartheid Week programs, according to the report. Also, the report documented events featuring Israeli or pro-Israel speakers, to which activists sometimes responded with heckling.
Among the incidents cited in the report:
- In March, “references to age-old tropes of prejudice and bigotry” were made and Jewish students were “vilif[ied]…for their commitments and even their heritages” related to Israel and Zionism during a Harvard University Undergraduate Council meeting, according to a statement released by the Harvard Hillel president. The meeting was held to deliberate and vote on whether to award the Palestine Solidarity Committee funding for Israeli Apartheid Week. The Council voted to award the funds.
- In September, anti-Israel and pro-BDS activist Alison Weir, who has a long history of employing antisemitic tropes and associating with antisemites including white supremacists, delivered a lecture at Clovis Community College in California. In 2009, Weir accused Israel of engaging in organ harvesting of poor and needy individuals and Palestinians. In 2008, Weir described Judaism as “such a ruthless and supremacist faith.” Given this history, Weir’s presence on campus was seen by Jewish students as legitimizing discrimination against them.
- At an October student government meeting at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Jewish students were met with signs reading “Free Palestine F*ck Zionists” as they argued against a resolution declaring that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. The resolution passed. One Jewish student reported that the negative impact of this incident was compounded when the student government president followed up the vote with a mass email expressing personal support for the resolution.
As official student clubs, anti-Israel groups on campus receive much of their funding from student government resources, which generally are funded by student activity fees. They also are supported by outside donors, including foundations, some of whom have expressed their own anti-Israel positions.
“At a time when so many prominent philanthropists and mainstream foundations are working actively to mitigate hate and the rise of division in society, it is disappointing that there are a select few who knowingly choose to contribute to organizations that stoke divisive propaganda campaigns that fail to advance understanding or promote peace,” Greenblatt said.
Most notable is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), which provides significant funding to Jewish Voice for Peace. RBF also donates to the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, the Institute for Middle East Understanding and Grassroots Jerusalem, all of which have engaged in anti-Zionist rhetoric that has veered into extremism and/or antisemitism.
Another notable funder is the Westchester Peace Action Committee (WESPAC), which provides significant funding to Students for Justice in Palestine. WESPAC’s own website includes antisemitic content. SJP is also funded by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), some of whose members have a history of making antisemitic remarks.
Policy and Action Recommendations
The ADL report calls on campus administrators and faculty to take a series of steps to address anti-Israel incidents and antisemitism on campus, including more accurate charting of trends in the ways bias manifests on campus, establishing a reporting mechanism to assist administrators and campus leaders in preventing incidents that rise to the level of criminal or civilly liable behavior, and programming to create a more equitable and inclusive campus.
The report states: “It is crucial that administrations and other campus leaders not equivocate, but strongly condemn hate and extremism. In recent incidents, this has proven to be very effective.”