AMCHA Initiative on Tuesday released a new report titled, The Harassment of Jewish Students on US 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.
According to the report, “while acts of classical anti-Semitism in the US 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 US 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 report shows shifts in the types of incidents: classical anti-Semitism has significantly decreased, even as Israel-related anti-Semitism has increased significantly 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 rates: acts accusing Jewish and pro-Israel students of supporting racism, genocide and other evils more than doubled; 47% 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, and expression acknowledging the goal of BDS is to eliminate Israel increased from one incident in 2017 to 32 in 2018.
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-compliant behavior was linked to 86% of Israel-related acts of anti-Semitic harassment; schools with Israel-related anti-Semitic expression were 11 times more likely to have incidents of academic BDS-related activity; 92% of expression of support for academic BDS included Israel-related anti-Semitic expression.
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: incidents of academic BDS promotion or attempted implementation involving individual faculty or academic departments nearly quadrupled; events sponsored by academic departments that contained the demonization or delegitimization of Israel increased by 85%; departmentally-sponsored events at which one or more speakers advocated for or condoned violence against Israel or Israel’s elimination nearly tripled.
“Academic BDS is more dangerous than people realize,” stated Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA’s director and one of the lead researchers behind the new report. “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: 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, but 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; schools must affirm publicly that academic BDS will not be permitted to harm students; the same schools must also make clear that faculty must never privilege politics over their professional responsibility to the educational welfare of their students.