Study: 45 percent spike in anti-Semitic campus incidents

Anti-Semitic incidents on campus have almost doubled so far this year, compared with the same period last year, according to a local watchdog agency.

A new study by the Amcha Initiative, based in Santa Cruz and directed by U.C. Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported on college campuses in the first half of 2016 increased 45 percent over the first six months of 2015. The incidents ranged from physical assault and destruction of Jewish property to suppression of free speech, intimidation, verbal assault and genocidal expression.

Researchers surveyed 113 American colleges and universities with large Jewish student populations, tabulating 287 anti-Semitic incidents reported during the first six months of the year, versus 198 incidents reported last year. In addition, on-campus calls for Israel’s elimination tripled.

The study’s authors draw a straight line from anti-Israel speech and activities to anti-Jewish actions. They report that the strongest predictors of anti-Semitic incidents on campus are the presence of anti-Zionist student groups; faculty members who support academic boycotts; and especially boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activity against Israel.

Student governments at 10 schools in the study debated or voted on anti-Israel divestment resolutions. Eight of those schools showed the largest increase in anti-Semitic incidents, including Columbia University, Vassar College, University of Chicago and New York University.

The study concluded that anti-Semitism was twice as likely to occur on campuses where BDS was present, eight times more likely to occur on campuses with at least one active anti-Zionist student group such as Students for Justice in Palestine, and six times more likely to occur on campuses with at least one faculty member endorsing Israel boycotts.

Several of the incidents occurred on Northern California campuses, according to the report. During a student senate debate at Stanford University last semester, one student argued it was not anti-Semitic to question whether Jews control the media and banks, saying “questioning these potential power dynamics … is a very valid discussion.” (He later apologized for the remark.)

Also, according to the report, at U.C. Berkeley, an SJP rally displayed a map of Israel covered by a Palestinian flag. At an event at San Francisco State University, College of Ethnic Studies professor Rabab Abdulhadi said “Zionism is racism” and “there can only be peace if Israel is defeated.”

In April, members of SFSU’s General Union of Palestine Students disrupted and shut down an appearance by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

The report’s authors recommended that university administrators adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that “identifies all forms of anti-Jewish bigotry, including when criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism,” and allocates resources to educate students and faculty “about contemporary forms of anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish discrimination.” It also urged administrators to distinguish between speech protected by the First Amendment and conduct “which violates others’ civil rights, including disrupting or shutting down campus events and restricting free speech and right of assembly.” The full report can be read at www.tinyurl.com/amcha-initiative-2016. — dan pine