There were so many new and/or successful pro-Israel initiatives on U.S. campuses in 2013, that, in order to explain how creative and successful each one was, we had to divide the article into a two-part series.
This is the second part, the first ran on December 31, “Guess What: 2013 was a Great Pro-Israel Year on US Campuses!”
Most of the stars reported here were born out of some stalwart’s refusal to allow the anti-Israel forces to get away with the kind of mischief they have enjoyed for far too long on far too many campuses.
Hat’s off to the initial seven and to the following five:
8. A brand new, student conceived of and run organization was created in late 2013 in response to a specific event, but so generalizable, it’s a surprise it took this long for pro-Israel students on U.S. campuses to create.
The name of this new initiative is Students for Accuracy about Israeli and Palestinian Affairs. According to Daniel Mael, co-founder and Brandeis University junior from Newton, Massachusetts, SAIPA was not created as a “hasbara” organization. Instead, it is intended to ensure that public conversations or events about the Arab-Israeli conflict take place before an audience that has been provided with accurate facts and appropriate context.
Think of SAIPA as a CAMERA-like organization that deals with campus events about the Middle East, rather than with media coverage of the Middle East.
Mael, whose op-ed in The Jewish Press described a pro-Israel event at Brandeis last spring that went wrong and which was one of the main inspirations for SAIPA, and co-founder and fellow Brandesian Guy Morag launched SAIPA in October. It became an approved student organization at Brandeis in December.
9. Tammy Rossman-Benjamin teaches Hebrew Language at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A few years ago she and a colleague, Leila Beckwith, started the AMCHA Initiative, the mission of which is to investigate, document, educate about, and combat antisemitism on U.S. college campuses. If this list were not year-specific, the AMCHA Initiative would be on the list. But what Rossman-Benjamin did in her personal capacity in 2013 has earned her a spot.
The Hebrew professor originally filed a Complaint alleging anti-Jewish discrimination by California colleges in 2009. But the Office of Civil Rights, the entity which has jurisdiction over such claims, rejected Rossman-Benjamin’s complaint and two others alleging anti-Semitism at California campuses this summer. Rossman-Benjamin refused to accept the dismissal.
The mistakes made by the OCR which Rossman-Benjamin pointed out in the appeal she filed in October – ones that are made constantly and nearly universally by academic institutions – is the confusion between “free speech” and “academic freedom” to make horrible, false statements about Jews and/or the Jewish state, and support of such events by the academic institutions themselves. The latter constitutes an element of discriminatory harassment, one that is not blanketed with immunity with constitutional protections, even when those may at times may be applicable for individual speakers.
So whether the Office of Civil Rights is willing to recognize Rossman-Benjamin’s painstakingly thorough appeal as valid, her efforts to require academic institutions as well as the U.S. Office of Civil Rights to apply appropriate legal standards and offer legal protection to victims of anti-Semitic activities on U.S. campuses is heroic and a model to be emulated.
10. An example of pro-Israel (or simply anti-anti-Semitic) activity similar to Rossman-Benjamin’s was undertaken by several pro-Israel Brooklyn College students who refused to accept their ouster from an anti-Israel event on campus.
On February 7, Brooklyn College hosted an event co-sponsored by its own political science department promoting the economic and legal warfare movement against Israel known as BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel). Efforts to remove the school’s official promotion of the event went unheeded.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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