Universities, colleges “may be liable for massive damages” if they fail to prevent anti-Semitism on campus, Israel Law Center warns.

US colleges to receive warning letters on anti-Semitism

By JOANNA PARASZCZUK
09/08/2011 02:41  Jerusalem Post

Hundreds of US college and university presidents were set to receive warning  letters on Thursday morning, instructing them of their legal obligations to  prevent anti-Semitism on campus.

The letters also remind universities it  is their legal duty to prevent university funds from being diverted to unlawful  activities directed against the State of Israel.

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Civil rights group the  Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) is carrying out the legal campaign in response  to “an alarming number of incidents of harassment and hate crimes against Jewish  and Israeli students on US college campuses.”

“Anti-Israel rallies and  events frequently exceed legitimate criticism of Israel and cross the line into  blatant anti-Semitism, resulting in hateful attacks against Jews,” the center’s  lawyer Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said on Wednesday.

One university that has  attracted criticism over anti- Semitism on campus is Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

Aaron Marcus, a senior at Rutgers, says he was  dubbed a “racist Zionist pig” in a public Facebook posting by a fellow  student.

The political  science and history student said he complained about the incident to the  university administration, but was told the student’s comments were protected  under the US Constitution’s First Amendment, and she had a right to freedom of  speech.“They didn’t even mention that her actions were in direct  violation of the student code of conduct or acknowledge the fact that she was  taking part in an extreme case of campus bullying,” Marcus said.Lawyer  Kenneth Leitner, Israel Law Center’s director of American affairs, said “perpetrators of hate” are exploiting academic ideals.“By condoning it,  college administrators have allowed an environment of intimidation and hostility  against Jewish students and faculty to fester on campus,” Leitner  said.This sort of harassment and intimidation interferes with students’ educational rights, and poses a threat to their physical safety and well-being,  according to the Israel Law Center.The center hopes the legal warnings  will prompt US colleges to take action against what it says is a growing problem  of campus hatred.

“Jewish and Israeli students are often too intimidated  to speak because they fear they will be held collectively responsible for the  supposed ‘wrongdoings’ of the Jewish State of Israel,” the Law Center’s warning  letter says.

Former Brandeis University student Herschel Hartz said US  universities are guilty of a double standard by allowing anti-Semitism to thrive  while protecting students of other ethnicities against  discrimination.

“Brandeis University ignores anti-Semitism and seeks to  brush it under the rug,” he said.

Hartz said that when he confronted his  then-roommate over anti-Semitic messages posted on an online instant messaging  service, the roommate assaulted him.

He called campus police, but  eventually took the issue to court and obtained a restraining  order.

Brandeis didn’t do anything to protect him, Hartz said.

“If  you look into the history of Brandeis University around that time, a freshman  student was expelled for putting posters on the campus expressing an  inappropriate joke about Islam. The double standard is amazing,” he  said.

The Law Center’s letter also reminds schools of their legal  obligation to monitor the funding and activities of all on-campus student  groups, and warns them that by failing to do so, they could unwittingly fall  foul of stringent US legislation.

The letter cites a recent ruling by the  US Supreme Court in the Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project case, which held it  is illegal to provide any support to a terrorist organization – even if that  support appears to be relatively benign.

In that case, the Supreme Court  found providing any support to a terrorist organization, even for supposed  humanitarian purposes, was enough to incur criminal liability.

The Law  Center points to the Muslim Students Association (MSA), which operates in  hundreds of college campuses in the US, and which it describes as “the  university arm of the Muslim Brotherhood organization.”

“Although I have  no information that any MSA chapter is directly supporting Hamas at this time,  certain MSA chapters have openly supported Hamas in the past, and your  institution must remain vigilant of the difference between protected speech and  prohibited conduct, especially as it pertains to funds that your institution  knowingly provides,” the Law Center’s letter reads.

The Law Center also  refers to a Rutgers University event last year, in which students group BAKA – Students United for Middle East Justice successfully applied to a student-run  allocations committee for an event in support of US To Gaza, an organization  that was raising money to buy an American ship to run Israel’s blockade of the  Gaza Strip, in support of Hamas.

In its letter, the Law Center warns the  funding runs counter to the US Neutrality Act, which makes furnishing money for  hostile naval expeditions against any country at peace with the US a crime.

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