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December 2, 2015 / 20 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘discrimination’

Commerce Department to Consider Affirmative Action for Arab Americans

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) published a notice regarding a petition it received on January 11, 2012 from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), requesting formal designation of Arab-Americans as a minority group that is socially or economically disadvantaged.

The formal designation of the Arab-American community as a group that is socially or economically disadvantaged would allow the members of this community to receive assistance from MBDA funded programs, such as the MBDA Business Center program.

The ADC petition included information specifically related to social and economic discrimination against Arab-Americans. It cited “discrimination and prejudice in American society, resulting in conditions under which Arab-American individuals have been unable to compete in a business world.”

The ADC claimed discrimination against Arab Americans increased after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Some little known facts are included in the ADC petition. For instance, it states that “Arab-Americans have faced discrimination since the late 1800s, similar to most other minority groups. They were treated the same way as many other minority groups in the United States and had specific derogatory names directed towards them. While this discrimination initially did not hinder their ability to obtain American citizenship, the situation changed in 1910 when the U.S. Census Bureau classified Syrian and Palestinian Arabs as ‘Asiatics.'”

According to the ADC, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, which initially considered Syrians and Palestinians as “Caucasians,” subsequently issued a nationwide directive ordering the rejection of citizenship petitions for persons who were not “free white persons” or of “African nativity.” Some courts declared that Syrians could be considered “white” while other courts ruled that they were not “free white persons.”

The MBDA notice alerts the public to the fact that the United States Department of Commerce will consider the petition and requests public comment on the propriety of this designation.

MBDA will make a decision on the application no later than June 27, 2012.

Why Do Some Jewish Groups Have A Problem With Legal Protection For Jewish Students?

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Imagine if the NAACP had responded with skepticism to the passage of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and urged African Americans to exercise their civil rights cautiously under this law. Title VI was landmark legislation when it was passed in 1964 to remedy racial and ethnic discrimination in programs receiving federal funding.

In fact, the NAACP fought for Title VI’s passage and has vigorously sought to enforce it to uphold the right of African Americans to be free from discrimination.

Jewish students are facing their own serious problems of harassment and discrimination at schools receiving federal funding. After a six-year campaign by the Zionist Organization of America, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, finally clarified in October 2010 that Jewish students finally would be afforded the same protection from harassment and discrimination under Title VI that other minorities have enjoyed for close to 50 years.

Yet instead of embracing the new legal protection, some in the Jewish community have been strangely critical of it.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs describes itself as “the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community” in the Jewish community relations field. Its national member agencies include the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and more than 100 Jewish community relations councils throughout the country. A year after the policy clarification from the Office for Civil Rights, the JCPA proposed a resolution regarding Title VI. Instead of praising the new policy and committing to a nationwide campaign to educate Jewish students and university officials about students’ right to be protected from anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination under Title VI, the JCPA resolution tried to impose unreasonably harsh standards on when Jewish students should use the law to rectify a hostile anti-Semitic school environment – stricter even than the standards that the Office for Civil Rights applies.

Critics of the new Title VI policy have paid little attention to the fact that the policy has already shown its value.

University of California President Mark Yudof recently issued a public statement in which he condemned anti-Semitic harassment on the UC campuses.

Last month, Rutgers University President Richard McCormick issued a statement publicly condemning a student paper, The Medium, for falsely claiming that an article mocking the Holocaust had been written by a vocal Jewish, pro-Israel student.

McCormick said that “no individual student should be subject to such a vicious, provocative, and hurtful piece, regardless of whether First Amendment protections apply to such expression.”

Significantly, McCormick had failed to condemn previous anti-Semitic incidents on campus. It is likely that OCR’s Title VI policy, which recommends that university leaders label certain incidents as anti-Semitic, played a role in the decisions of both McCormick and Yudof to speak out. Surely also at play was the fact that there are Title VI investigations pending against their schools.

The David Project recently issued a report about rethinking Israel advocacy on campus. Curiously, the report cautions that “legitimate efforts to combat campus anti-Semitism could be complicated by overly aggressive complaints” under Title VI. But what are “legitimate efforts”? And what does the David Project mean by “overly aggressive”? Only weeks after the Office for Civil Rights issued its new Title VI policy, the ZOA was able to use it effectively without even filing a complaint with the OCR. We contacted officials at a Maine high school where there was longstanding anti-Semitic harassment and informed them of their Title VI obligations. The school acted on nearly all our recommendations and rectified the situation.

Would the David Project consider our actions legitimate or overly aggressive? What if school officials had refused to fix the problems? Would a Title VI complaint then have been legitimate?

It is difficult to understand why members of the Jewish community are skeptical of a critical new legal tool under Title VI or why they are sending a cautious message about using it.

We should be fully supportive of Jewish students and holding schools accountable when they don’t respond to campus anti-Semitism.

It’s time for us to stop being “shah-still” frightened Jews of the previous generation and start strongly speaking out on behalf of our Jewish brethren when necessary.

Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America. Susan B. Tuchman is the director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice.

NJ Court: Non-Jew Can Sue for Anti-Semitic Remarks

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that a man who alleges he endured anti-Semitic slurs from his former supervisors can sue them – even though he is not Jewish.

Myron Cowher, a former truck driver for Carson & Roberts Site Construction & Engineering Inc., in Lafayette, N.J., filed suit against his former employers and three supervisors for anti-Semitic jabs such as “only a Jew would argue over his hours” and “bagel meister” he says they made against him for more than a year, according to a report in the Washington Post.

A Superior Court judge had ruled that because Cowher is not Jewish, he could not sue, but the appeals court said Cowher could take the defendants to court for creating a hostile work environment, and that if he can prove the discrimination “would not have occurred but for the perception that he was Jewish,” he may enjoy a favorable outcome.

Though Cowher is Lutheran, and of German-Irish descent, the appeals court said the question at hand is whether a “reasonable Jews” would have found the comments derogatory.

The ruling will enable discrimination suits to be brought by people who are not members of the classes which the law was designed to protect.

Court: Non-Jew May Sue for Anti-Semitic Slurs

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that a man can sue for enduring anti-Semitic slurs from former employers despite not being Jewish.

Myron Cowher, a former truck driver for Carson & Roberts Site Constructions & Engineering Inc., sued the company and former supervisors after allegedly enduring anti-Semitic comments for more than a year. His suit alleges discrimination that resulted in a hostile work environment.

The Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court reversed a Superior Court judge in a 3-0 decision. The appeals court stated that the “proper question” is what effect the derogatory comments would have on “a reasonable Jew,” not on Cowher, who is of German-Irish and Lutheran background.

Experts say the ruling will expand the scope of who can sue for discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by allowing anyone, not just a member of the protected class, to pursue the claim. This significantly broadens the interpretation of the law, which typically has protected people based on their actual age, race, religion or sexuality.

Gregg Salka, an associate at Fisher & Phillips law firm who works with small-business clients, told The Star-Ledger newspaper that “Anyone can pretty much bring a claim, even if they’re not a member of a protected class. It moves the focus more towards the discriminatory comments rather than the actual characteristic of the plaintiff.”

Cowher, of Dingmans Ferry, Pa., said he was the subject of anti-Semitic banter from January 2007 until May 2008, when he left the company for unrelated reasons. His supervisors admitted to directing anti-Semitic slurs at Cowher but insisted that it was part of a “locker-room type exchange” in which Cowher “willingly participated.”

Seattle LGBT to Visiting Israeli Homosexuals: Gay Aveck!

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

In the solidarity business, life can be unpredictable. Take, for instance, the story of the LGBT commission representing the gay community in the city government of Seattle, which this month canceled a Friday reception at City Hall for a visiting delegation of Israeli gay leaders.

The Seattle Times reported that the commission had initially planned to host the meeting, which was requested by the six-member Israeli delegation. The same delegation was also visiting San Francisco and Los Angeles, exchanging “ideas on advancing gay rights.” The Israelis had been made to feel welcome in SF and LA, but in Seattle – not so much.

There was a raucous meeting of gay officials on the Thursday prior to the scheduled visit in Seattle, and a tiny but very loud group were making the case that Israel was “pinkwashing” its horrible treatment of the Palestinians by showing the world how fabulous it is on gay rights.

This is the most creative argument I’ve heard in a while, making the absurd case that the more tolerant and accepting Israel is of its gay citizens, the more vicious it is to others. Remember, it came from the folks who gave us the idea of the “homophobe,” which suggests that if you object to homosexuality it’s because, deep inside, you are homosexual yourself, and the more you object, the deeper your suppressed deviation goes.

The “pinkwashing” concept was likely the brainchild of transsexual, Seattle University law professor Dean Spade, who dubbed the gay delegation’s visit “apartheid and occupation” wrapped in the rainbow flag.

As a result of the very loud objection of very few participants, the commission, which is an important player in the political life of the city of Seattle, canceled the next day’s meeting with the Israelis, because it wasn’t ready to deal with “such complex topics.”

And other scheduled meetings of the Israeli delegation, in Tacoma and in Olympia, were cancelled or pushed off as well.

Members of the delegation told the Times they were shocked. They issued a statement saying: “We expected from the Seattle LGBTQ Commission a strong declaration of its intent to support all LGBTQ activists, regardless of their color, sex or national origin. Sadly, it appears that the commission, representing a minority that continues to face discrimination, also practices that same discrimination.”

There was one righteous voice in the bunch, Wider Bridge, a California-based gay Jewish organization which was promoting the delegation’s visit, and stuck by it. Its representatives told the Times: “The truth is that Israel is a good place to be LGBT, and it is so because there are countless people within Israel doing amazing, courageous work every day … saving lives, including the lives of young LGBTQ Palestinians who often have nowhere else to turn.”

This was backed up by Avner Dafni, executive director of Israeli Gay Youth (IGY), who stated: “In the Palestinian territories, a youth who goes to a gay party can be killed by his own family. Israeli LGBT organizations are often the only places gay or lesbian Palestinians can turn to.”

And gay Jewish activist Robert Wilkes wrote: “Israeli gays or lesbians in Israel are protected from discrimination by law and by the high moral standards of the culture and society. In some respects, Israel is more accommodating to gays and lesbians than we are. For example, the gay partner of a deceased Israeli soldier gets the same benefits as a widow, unlike partners of servicemen and women in the U.S.”

But Stefanie Fox, Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, wrote: “Many of us actively support LGBTQ friends and relatives in Israel and their struggle to live a life free of discrimination, but advances for Jews have not affected Palestinians living under occupation, including those who are LGBTQ, who suffer from discrimination, persecution, restriction, and daily threats of violence from Israel.”

And don’t you go confusing us with the facts, young man…

Leading American Zionist Organization Denounces Israeli Policy on Temple Mount

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has issued an unprecedented press release condemning the Israeli government for perceived discrimination against Jews on the Temple Mount. The rare display of public dissent was prompted by recent clampdowns by Israeli police on visits by Jews, as well as the draconian measures police employ to “guard the calm.”

“The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) believes that unfettered access and freedom to pray at a holy site is a basic, universally recognized right, which certainly should be accorded to Jews in the Jewish State of Israel,” the statement began. “More Jews have wanted to visit the Temple Mount in recent years . . . To their dismay, when they do visit they are subject to blatant discrimination and humiliation by the Israeli police, who are cooperating with and hoping to appease the extremist Muslim Wakf authority on the Mount.”

The press release cited the fact that Jews “have to endure . . . humiliation as they are followed and filmed by Israeli police and representatives of the Wakf . . . prohibitions against visiting the Mount more than once a day . . . ” and “arrests for ‘crimes,’ such as – praying, even silently if one’s lips are moving . . . studying Torah . . . [and] closing one’s eyes.” It also provided recent examples, like the arrest of a 67-year-old man who was quietly reciting a blessing before taking a sip of water, as required by Jewish law.

The statement goes on to criticize the disparate treatment Muslims receive: “Remarkably, if your appearance or behavior openly shows you are a Muslim you are treated with respect, and there is no disruption whatsoever for pursuing your religious activities as you wish to practice.” The disparity is all the more disturbing in light of the fact that “not one act of desecration or disrespect for Muslim holy places has been committed by Jews on the Temple Mount. No Jews ever have terrorized Muslims there or engaged in rioting.” On the other hand, “the worst acts of Temple Mount violence and desecrations have been perpetrated by Muslims, such as raining rocks on Jewish worshippers below at the Western Wall.”

The statement ends by calling on the Israeli government to “end the discriminatory policy that is applied on the Temple Mount,” and urges other prominent American Jewish organizations to join in their campaign.

Decades After Immigrating, Ethiopians Decry Continuing Discrimination

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Thousands marched through Jerusalem on Wednesday to protest discrimination against Ethiopian immigrants, concluding a week of protests sparked by revelations that residents of Kiryat Malachi were refusing to sell or rent apartments to Ethiopian citizens.

Joined by white Israelis and representatives of several rights organizations, the crowds of mostly younger Ethiopian immigrants and children of immigrants marched to the gate of the Knesset, where so many go to air their grievances. Carrying signs calling for an end to discrimination, they decried the social and economic hardships that continue to plague the Ethiopian community, even two decades after their stunning rescue and relocation to Israel. Large sections of the 120,000-strong Ethiopian community lag behind the national average in education and employment, and domestic abuse cases – including dozens of incidents of husbands murdering their wives – have plagued the community.

Successive governments have devoted large sums to housing benefits and a range of other social welfare benefits for Ethiopian immigrants, but advocates say even more is needed for a community that has experienced such a deep culture shock in moving from rural Africa to modern Israel.

Many openly suggest that both the public and private sectors would do more to help the immigrants if they were white, claiming prejudices against the Ethiopians’ skin color and widespread suspicion of the authenticity of the their Jewishness prevent progress.

Thousands of the immigrants were made to undergo a conversion process, to remove such doubts. But religious and racial tensions remain, contributing to the community’s difficulties in integrating with the rest of Israeli society.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/decades-after-immigrating-ethiopians-decry-continuing-discrimination/2012/01/19/

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