(December 19, 2019 / JNS) A complaint has been filed with the U.S. Department of Education accusing Columbia University of discriminating against Jewish and Israeli students.
The complaint filed with the Office for Civil Rights by the Lawfare Project, obtained by JNS, states that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is used by faculty and student groups to legitimize discrimination against Jewish and Israeli students because of the latter group’s race, religion and national identity.”
“The equivalent would be using the conflict with Iran to discriminate against Muslim and/or Iranian students or singling out Chinese students and blaming them for Chinese government policy,” continued the complaint. “Yet, when it comes to Jewish and Israeli students, the Columbia administration has allowed a severely pervasive and hostile environment to persist where said students (and faculty) are harassed, singled out and discriminated against under the guise of ‘pro-Palestinian’ advocacy.”
It outlines numerous such cases, including efforts against participants in the group Students Supporting Israel, whose fliers advertising events have been vandalized and covered up by the anti-Israel groups Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine; and SJP students loudly disrupting an SSI remembrance of the Holocaust by calling for “intifada,” which were Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the late-20th century and early 2000s.
The complaint goes on to mention instances of Jewish and pro-Israel students, and a number of faculty members who have been affected by anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist vitriol.
The legal document mentions U.S. President Donald Trump signing an executive order last week addressing anti-Semitism amid the rise in hatred towards Jews in educational settings in the United States, particularly on activities on American college campuses, where the anti-Israel BDS movement has taken a hold among students and even faculty.
It requires the U.S. Department of Education to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism in evaluating such incidents on college campuses and at other educational institutions in accordance with the landmark Title VI, enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities that receive federally financial assistance. Religion was not included among the protected categories.
Columbia University declined to comment.
The Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The culture of discrimination against Jewish students at Columbia University is untenable, as it is at so many colleges and universities in the United States,” Lawfare Project executive director Brooke Goldstein told JNS. “Thanks to President Trump’s recent Executive Order, which includes Jewish people among those protected under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, we have a legal avenue to stop this type of hatred from being perpetuated in our schools.”
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