November 2019 -- Cheshvan-Kislev 5780,  Volume 25, Issue 11

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Campus BDS Efforts Expanded Beyond Israel to Direct Attacks on Jewish Students

As students settle back onto campuses across the country, AMCHA Initiative releases a new report, The Harassment of Jewish Students on U.S. Campuses: How Eliminationist Anti-Zionism and Academic BDS Incite Campus Anti-Semitism.  The report illuminates a number of critical shifts and increases in campus anti-Semitism in the past year and includes recommendations to help university administrators take action now to address many of the alarming trends.


“While acts of classical anti-Semitism in the U.S. reached near-historic levels in 2018 and included the deadliest attack against Jews in American history, the nation’s colleges and universities revealed a somewhat different but nonetheless troubling story. On U.S. campuses across the country, harassment motivated by classical anti-Semitism actually decreased, and significantly so. At the same time, however, the number of Israel-related acts of harassment increased significantly,” wrote the researchers.


The main findings of the report include: Shifts in types of incidents: Classical anti-Semitism significantly decreased, Israel-related anti-Semitism significantly increased from 2017 to 2018.


Acts of classic anti-Semitic harassment of Jewish students decreased 42%, while incidents of Israel-related anti-Semitic harassment increased 70%.


Direct targeting of Israel’s supporters for harm, especially Jewish students, reached alarming levels: Acts accusing Jewish and pro-Israel students of supporting racism, genocide and other evils more than doubled; 147% increase linking Jewish and pro-Israel students to “white supremacy.”


Attempts to exclude Jewish and pro-Israel students from campus activities more than doubled, with expression calling for the total boycott or exclusion of pro-Israel students from campus life nearly tripling.


Israel-related anti-Semitic expression increased significantly in amount and blatant eliminationist intent: Expression demonizing and delegitimizing Israel increased 32%, with expression accusing Israel or Zionism of “white supremacy” more than doubling.

Expression promoting or condoning terrorism against Israel increased 67%; Dramatic increase in student and faculty acknowledgment that goal is to eliminate Israel; Expression promoting or condoning elimination of Israel more than doubled; Expression acknowledging opposition to Zionism increased more than three-fold; Expression acknowledging the goal of BDS is to eliminate Israel increased from one incident in 2017 to 32 in 2018.


There has been a shift in BDS Tactics: Divestment campaigns declined, while academic BDS activity more than doubled from 2017 to 2018. Student-led anti-Israel divestment campaigns decreased slightly, with more than half of the 2018 divestment votes ending in failure. Promotion or implementation of academic BDS increased by more than 100%.


Academic BDS Incites Campus Anti-Semitism: Academic BDS strongly linked to Israel-related anti-Semitic harassment and rhetoric. Academic BDS-compliant behavior was linked to 86% of Israel-related acts of anti-Semitic harassment.


The report says that there has been a dramatic increase in the Faculty role: Faculty took a much more active and prominent role in academic BDS promotion and implementation, and in the promulgation of anti-Semitic expression used to justify academic BDS. Events sponsored by academic departments that contained the demonization or delegitimization of Israel increased by 85%.


“Taken together, these results suggest that the significant increase in acts of Israel-related harassment seen in 2018 may have been a direct consequence of the increased promotion and implementation of academic BDS. Specifically, academic BDS’s mandate to boycott or suppress programs, collaborations, events, or expression that promote ‘the normalization of Israel in the global academy,’ as well as the academic BDS-compliant ‘common sense’ mandate to criticize, protest and boycott individuals who are deemed complicit with or supportive of ‘Israel’s crimes,’ appear to greatly encourage anti-Semitic behavior… These data also highlight the prominent and growing role that faculty play in advocating for and implementing academic BDS. They suggest, too, that faculty play a no less important role in providing academic legitimacy to the Israel-related antisemitic expression that accompanies and justifies academic BDS promotion and implementation.


AMCHA results “highlight the fact that attempts to promote or carry out anti-Zionism’s eliminationist goals inflict direct and substantive harm on Israel’s on-campus supporters, particularly Jewish and pro-Israel students,” explained the researchers in the report.


“Academic BDS is more dangerous than people realize,” stated Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA’s director and one of the lead researchers.  “Not only does implementation curtail students’ educational rights and opportunities, its promotion on campus, particularly by faculty who give it academic legitimacy, is inciting an alarming increase in harassment against Israel’s presumed supporters, first and foremost Jewish students.  Administrators must take the necessary steps now to stop these unacceptable acts of intolerance.”


The report concluded with recommendations for university administrators:

• Equity: Establish uniform standards of behavior for all students. Israel-related anti-Semitism is often viewed by university administrators as politically-motivated and is left unaddressed.  However, harassment is harassment, regardless of the motivation of the perpetrator or the identity of the victim.  While anti-Zionist speech is protected under the First Amendment, the intolerant behavior such rhetoric incites must be addressed. Jewish and pro-Israel students must be afforded the same protection as all other students.


• Guarantee No Harm: Affirm publicly that academic BDS will not be permitted to harm students.


• Professionalism: Make clear faculty must never privilege politics over their professional responsibility to the educational welfare of their students.


AMCHA monitors more than 400 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. The organization has recorded more than 2,500 anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses since 2015. AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at colleges and universities in the United States.