(Washington, DC, December 11, 2019) EMET has long been championing the passage of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which would give Jewish students the same Constitutional protections as black, Hispanic, handicapped, and almost any other minority students receive on college campuses.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, but on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
However, we have been witnessing a rising problem of anti-Semitism within the United States. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Jews in America rose by more than a third last year, and amounted to 58 percent of all religious based hate crimes. The Anti-Defamation League’s most recent audit recorded 1,879 acts in 2018, with a dramatic increase in physics assaults. What is most disturbing is the upward trend of anti-Semitic incidents occurring at K through 12 classrooms and on college campuses.
For far too long, American Jewish students have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, and bullying by not only some of their peers, but by many of their professors on college campuses throughout the United States. Much of this harassment has been cloaked under what some erroneously think is the first amendment.
We, at EMET, cherish our first amendment rights and believe that our constitution is the most sacred document in the world. Having said that, educational institutions have a higher responsibility: to create an educational climate that is conducive to learning, which means that it must be free from harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
Hate speech might be protected speech, according to the Constitution, however it is not welcome on the college campus. What has been deemed as free speech in the town square, is not necessarily permissible speech on the campus. Just as, according to our Constitution, one is allowed to use the disgraceful “N” word on the town’s square, that is not permissible within a university setting. Similarly, one should not be allowed to call a Jewish student an “’f’ing Zionist pig“ because he wears a yarmulke on his head or a star of David around her neck, when they walk across the campus, although it is protected speech in the town’s square.
The problem is particularly pronounced in many university classrooms, particularly in our nation’s Middle Eastern Studies programs, where professors have silenced the debate about Israel and have promoted a decisively and exclusively one-sided, anti-Israel agenda. There are countless stories from students across the country about professors who would not allow any student to speak from a pro-Israel perspective, who have silenced them, and have even used their grading system to penalize them, irrespective of how well they have researched, backed up, or footnoted their arguments.
We are not suggesting that criticism of Israeli-policy is not permissible speech, just as it is permissible to criticize any other country’s policy, but when it crosses the line into saying that Israel should not be allowed to exists, as a nation, that is anti-Semitism.
The anti-Semitism Awareness Act, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Tim Scott (Republican, South Carolina), Senator Marco Rubio (Republican, Florida), Johnny Isakson (Republican, Georgia), and Senator Bob Casey (Democrat, Pennsylvania), and in the House by Representative Doug Collins (Republican, Georgia), clearly responds to this issue. It does this by incorporating the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”
Although this language has stalled in Congress, President Trump has done a courageous thing by making it into an executive order.
Says Sarah Stern, Founder and President of EMET, “We, at EMET remain profoundly grateful to President Trump for righting a terrible wrong in this nation. Over the past several years, we have witnessed the most egregious incidents of discrimination against Jewish students throughout America’s college classrooms and campuses. We know that what begins in the classroom and the campus ends up in the boardroom and in the corridors of Congress. This is a necessary corrective to the rapidly metastasizing cancer of anti-Semitism in our society. It is not only good for the Jews, it is good for America, as a whole, because what starts with the Jews never ends with just the Jews.”