A panel of Jewish academics recently presented evidence to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that anti-Semitic programs on college campuses are increasing.
The commission heard testimony from Gary A. Tobin and Susan Tuchman, director of the Zionist Organization of America, that Jewish students at the University of California at Irvine, Columbia University and other campuses have recently experienced hostility and intimidation.
“We would argue that anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Israelism are not a Jewish problem but an American problem, and both are thriving on college campuses,” said Mr. Tobin, who recently wrote a book based on findings procured through polls and on-site inquiries at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research.
The book details incidents of harassment and discrimination on campus and in anti-Semitic college newspaper articles and cartoons over the past few years.
Mr. Tobin said the recent rise in anti-Semitic literature and program speaking engagements is related to the war in the Middle East and the “political discourse” that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the cause of it.
He said the source is leftist ideologues masking their anti-Jewish views through both Israeli policy critiques and race politics.
He said there is a widespread belief that Jews are primarily white: “Placing this in the politics of race this ideology has currency on college campuses because it paints Jews as racists; so, anyone who supports Israel is racist, therefore anti-Semitism becomes acceptable because it is combating racism.”
The commission said it has heard from Jewish students asserting that the incidents have interfered with their ability to participate in campus activities and is looking to see if it can recommend actions to curb such speech and literature without violating First Amendment rights to free speech.
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently announced it would investigate claims of anti-Semitic harassment under its jurisdiction to enforce Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as part of a rule change to protect Jewish students from discrimination, intimidation and harassment.
The commission expressed an interest in issuing a pamphlet or brochure to universities informing students of the legal shift.
Miss Tuchman recommended in addition that the commission issue a report recognizing the problem on college campuses with prescribed remedies to curtail such speech and discrimination and voice those concerns to the OCR.
Mr. Tobin said college campuses have all the tools they need in the form of oversight committees, editorial boards at college newspapers, but he said it is the stakeholders who have the most sway in forcing colleges to deal with the matter.
“Federal, state and local governments, from which universities get the bulk of their funding, and alumni have a moral and fiscal responsibility to address this issue, and they are the best equipped because they hold the purse strings,” he said.