Jonathan Karten, 23, a senior at Columbia University, who served in the IDF with the rank of Sergeant, on Tuesday filed the first legal action since President Trump’s December 11 executive order applying Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to Jewish Americans.
Karten asserts that the university is in violation of Title VI for discrimination against Jews.
In the complaint, Karten alleges he was subjected to anti-Semitism on campus.
Attorney Brooke Goldstein, who represents Karten, said her client “has been ridiculed and embarrassed because of his religion and his national identity” on campus by members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) – and by professors.
Goldstein is the executive director of The Lawfare Project – a Jewish civil rights advocacy group that provides legal assistance to Jews who have been targeted because of their faith.
She said Karten was called “a Zionist pig” and other names by members of SJP.
The Executive Order references the path-breaking International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism, which in the American Title VI context would protect Jews on campus from discrimination, including their right to support Jewish self-determination (Zionism) in the Land of Israel.
The complaint alleges that in April 2019, Karten attended an event for the Columbia chapter of Students Supporting Israel, when “a Columbia professor of Arabic literature … approached the table, interrupted the conversation, pointed at Jonathan and yelled, ‘Don’t believe a word he is saying. He is Mossad.’”
“Jonathan felt ridiculed and embarrassed due to someone in authority publicly targeting him, accusing him of being a spy for a foreign government because of his religion and national identity,” the complaint says.
Goldstein’s suit says the last straw for Karten was an incident she alleged took place on Nov. 8, 2019, which included Columbia University modern Arab politics and intellectual history professor Joseph Massad.
In a speech Massad gave at the annual conference of the Jerusalem Fund and Palestine Center, he said:
“The Oslo Accords inaugurated this process of liquidating the Palestinian national struggle while the ‘Deal of the Century’ plans and hopes to conclude it … The only thing standing in its way is the ongoing Palestinian resistance to Israeli settler colonialism and racism that continues inside Israel and Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza; the ongoing Marches of Return in Gaza; and the armed resistance of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades to Israeli invasions in Gaza.”
The complaint notes that “The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades is the military wing of Hamas, which is a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization [FTO]. Izz al-Din al-Qassam has killed more than 650 civilians. It is also directly responsible for the kidnapping and brutal murder of Jonathan’s uncle, Sharon Edri.”