(October 31, 2018 / JNS) The Zionist Organization of America sent a letter on Tuesday to two major groups that represent teaching instructors nationwide regarding the seven-year-old case of Rutgers University in New Jersey allowing discrimination against Jewish students.
ZOA national president Morton Klein and Susan Tuchman, director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, wrote to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors, in response to their criticism on Oct. 12 of the U.S. Department of Education reopening the Rutgers case in September.
“We are currently living in a period when racist and xenophobic hatred is being seen more and more on college campuses,” wrote Weingarten and Fichtenbaum. “The events in Charlottesville, Va., during the summer of 2017 are seared in our memory, but the issue remains: Earlier this week, anti-Semitic fliers were plastered around the campus of University of California, Davis; Sacramento City College was defaced with swastikas; and the president of the United States continues to claim that George Soros is funding his opposition.
“In light of that,” they continued, “we would expect this administration, particularly the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, to use its limited resources to investigate serious offenses that threaten the safety and civil rights of students on these campuses.
“Instead, the department has chosen to reopen a seven-year-old case and investigate in particular an allegation that only certain students were charged fees to attend an event organized by a pro-Palestinian group called Never Again for Anyone,” according to Weingarten and Fichtenbaum.
“Now, years later, the DeVos Education Department is trying to use the Office for Civil Rights to expand the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians,” they added. “This is a very dangerous move, as what happened on the Rutgers campus seven years ago was a free exchange of ideas, expressly allowed by the First Amendment, and such an exchange of ideas should be welcomed on our campuses, even when they’re ideas with which we disagree. Religious bias is far different than a discussion of a nation-state’s policies.”
Incidents ‘should be deeply concerning’
Klein and Tuchman slammed Weingarten and Fichtenbaum, saying they are supporting a double standard.
“Your statement acknowledges the serious problem of increasing “racist and xenophobic hatred” on our college campuses, giving as examples anti-Semitic fliers plastered on one campus and the defacement of another campus with swastikas,” said Klein and Tuchman. “Given your concern about fliers and swastikas, it is baffling that you would be untroubled by anti-Semitism that targets Jewish students directly and personally, involving threats of violence and segregation.
“A Jewish student at Rutgers was physically bullied and physically threatened on campus, and Jewish students were singled out and excluded from a campus event that was advertised as open to everyone,” they added. “The ZOA’s Title VI case focuses on these incidents, and they should be as deeply concerning to you as they are to us.”
In response to the charge of the Education Department expanding the definition to include criticism of Israel, Klein and Tuchman said “OCR is simply using a widely used and accepted definition of anti-Semitism in order to assess whether behavior is motivated by anti-Semitic bias.”
The ZOA officials cited the State Department’s use of the definition.
“Your inaccurate statement does a disservice to your respective members, and we urge you to rescind it,” said Klein and Tuchman. “Particularly after the recent massacre of Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, you should be using your respective positions and platforms to vocally support legal cases that fight anti-Semitism and seek to protect the civil rights of Jewish students to a learning environment that is physically and psychologically safe.”