Kenneth L. Marcus, assistant secretary of education for civil rights in President Trump’s Administration, on August 27 sent a letter to the Zionist Organization of America saying he plans to reverse an Obama administration 2014 decision and investigate anti-Semitic acts carried out at Rutgers University that included “denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination” by “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” and by “applying double standards by requiring of” Israel “a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,” the NY Times reported on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for the Education Department issued a statement saying that although its Office for Civil Rights “aggressively enforces” civil rights law, “which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin,” and that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “has made clear that OCR will look at the specific facts of each case and make determinations accordingly.”
“The facts in this case, many of which were disregarded by the previous administration, are troubling,” the DOE statement said.
The initial complaint was filed in April 2011 by the Zionist Organization of America, when Rutgers hosted the founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Omar Barghouti (a graduate of Tel Aviv University), at which point a spokesman for the university said the complaint was “contrary to the true values of Rutgers University” and “not supported by the facts.”
Kenneth Marcus was appointed in June to lead the OCR from the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a nonprofit group fighting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic on campus activities in the US, including advocating denying federal funds to Middle East studies programs that support the BDS movement, the NY Times reported.
According to the Times, Marcus wrote ZOA that while “an individual’s pro-Israel viewpoint itself — or, for that matter, any viewpoint on the policies of the State of Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or related issues — is not protected by” federal civil rights law, “discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics — which may include discrimination against Jewish or Muslim students — is.”
Rutgers University issued a statement saying it had not received an official notification from DOE, but stated that “as always, we would certainly cooperate with the Department of Education should they decide to review the decision.”