Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
An Israel Apartheid Week poster. Two UC Berkeley students whose complaint was rejected by the Office for Civil Rights said Israel Apartheid Week created a hostile environment for Jewish students

A lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz has called on university administrators to wake up and protect Jewish students on campuses around the United States.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin a lecturer in the university’s Languages and Applied Linguistics department and a cofounder of the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization that combats campus anti-Semitism, says that violence against Jewish students has become acceptable at American universities because university officials refuse to act against the phenomenon.

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“Who bears the most blame for the tsunami of campus anti-Semitism? University administrators,” Rossman-Benjamin told the JNS online news service.

“They routinely turn a blind eye to long-standing and pervasive anti-Jewish bigotry and (they) ignore Jewish students’ pleas for help. Language and behavior that would never be tolerated from students or faculty when directed against other campus minorities goes unchallenged by administrators when directed against Jewish students.

In a lengthy op-ed Rossman-Benjamin detailed a series of race-based attacks against African American and Hispanic students at universities around the country. University officials and local politicians reacted swiftly to those attacks, investigating the incidents and fiiling charges against assailants. In one case, California State Assembly Speaker John Perez created a Select Committee on Campus Climate to prevent racial tension at the state’s universities.

Would that Jewish students received the same consideration and protection. In recent years, pro-BDS groups have promoted their calls to boycott Israel with increasingly violent anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery. Professors use university facilities for decidedly non-academic conferences, will little censure. Anti-Israel campaigns are accompanied by talks, rallies, and exhibits containing anti-Semitic imagery, rhetoric, and actions.

Nor have the attacks been limited to hate speech or offensive cartoons. At the University of California, Berkely the head of Students for Justice in Palestine attacked a Jewish student with a shopping cart by. At Harvard and New York Universities, Palestinian students placed “eviction notices” under the dorm rooms of Jewish students at Harvard and New York Universities. At San Francisco State University, “My Heroes Have Always Killed Colonizers” was the theme of an event hosted by the General Union of Palestine Students.

Rossman-Benjamin stresses that anti-Semitic attacks on campus are not limited to students.

The first major source for anti-Jewish sentiment on campus is members of the Muslim and pro-Palestinian student organizations. For more than a decade, these groups have sponsored speakers, films, exhibits, and guerrilla theater that engage in discourse or use imagery and language considered anti-Semitic by the U.S. State Department. These student groups have also been responsible for aggressively confronting students at pro-Israel events and threatening, physically harassing, and assaulting Jewish students.

Rossman-Benjamin says the ongoing siege against pro-Israel students has left many Jewish students and faculty members feeling harassed, intimidated and scarred. Many students say they feel their grades will suffer if they express pro-Israel views in class. In one case, a student at the University of California, Davis was physically assaulted for objecting to anti-Semitic banners displayed at a pro-Palestinian rally. One protestor purportedly screamed in his face, “You are racist and you should die in hell.”

Ultimately, however, Rossman-Benjamin lies the blame for the phenomenon squarely at the feet of university administrators.

“The primary responsibility for addressing campus anti-Semitism rests with university administrators. Unfortunately, they are missing in action when it comes to protecting Jewish students rights and ensuring their safety.

 

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Avi is a news writer for The Jewish Press. In the past, he has covered Israel and the Jewish world for Israel National News, Ami magazine and other international media.
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