Non-Profits Warn NY City Council of “Disastrous Consequences” of CUNY Law Faculty’s “Unprecedented” Academic BDS Endorsement, including “Skyrocket[ing]” Antisemitism
AMCHA Director to Testify at Hearing and Deliver Statement from over 100 Civil Rights, Religious and Education Organizations
Contact: Nicole Rosen
Santa Cruz, CA, June 30, 2022 – Serving as an expert witness at the New York City Council’s hearing on rising campus antisemitism today, AMCHA Initiative’s Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin will warn that faculty-driven boycotts of Israel are directly fueling antisemitism, and she will urge the legislators to prohibit faculty from using university positions and resources for anti-Israel political advocacy, including the implementation of an academic boycott of Israel (Academic BDS).
“Our research has isolated two major sources of campus antisemitism. The first are anti-Zionist student groups whose presence on campus is highly correlated with acts of harassment. A less well-known, but frankly far more dangerous and long-lasting source of campus antisemitism – and one which we believe deserves your immediate attention – are faculty who use their academic positions and the prestige and resources of their institutions to carry out the anti-normalization campaigns demanded by Academic BDS,” will testify Rossman-Benjamin to the Council’s Higher Education Committee.
The hearing begins at 10 a.m. ET and can be watched live here.
AMCHA has logged more than 150 antisemitic incidents on 11 CUNY campuses since 2015 when the group began its tracking. More than 60 of those incidents involve acts that directly target Jewish students for harm, including swastikas and other types of genocidal vandalism, bullying, suppression of movement and assembly and denigration. Most of the acts targeting Jewish students for harassment on CUNY campuses have been Israel-related, and these acts have more than doubled over the last year.
During her testimony, Rossman-Benjamin will also deliver a statement from 106 civil rights, religious and education organizations deeply concerned antisemitism will “skyrocket” if CUNY faculty are permitted to implement Academic BDS. Dozens of the groups are NYC-based, including CUNY-specific organizations such as Hillel of Baruch, City, John Jay, Pace, School of Visual Arts (SVA), Fordham, FIT and The New School; Chabad at Brooklyn College; Bulldogs for Israel at Brooklyn College; Students Supporting Israel at City College of New York; Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY; and the CUNY Alliance for Inclusion.
“It’s crucial to understand that although an academic boycott of Israel claims to target Israeli universities and scholars, its implementation on U.S. campuses, such as CUNY, will directly harm Jewish students,” write the organizations.
“While faculty have a right to support a boycott of Israel as private citizens, our studies provide strong evidence that Academic BDS-supporting faculty are increasingly bringing the boycott’s anti-normalization campaigns into their classrooms and departmentally sponsored events, which in turn incites acts targeting Jewish and pro-Israel students for harm. In fact, our studies have consistently shown that schools with Academic BDS-supporting faculty are 5 to 6 times more likely to have acts targeting Jewish students for harm,” will note Rossman-Benjamin, who was invited to testify by Brooklyn Councilwoman Inna Vernikov.
The hearing comes after faculty at the CUNY School of Law endorsed an academic boycott of Israel, a key component of the pro-Palestinian BDS movement, and demanded CUNY sever its financial and academic ties to Israel. The resolution, first introduced by the Law School Government Association (LSGA) and then endorsed by the faculty, calls for ending popular Israel exchange programs enjoyed by many CUNY students, including the Brooklyn College Program Study in Israel and the City College of New York’s program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, as well as shutting down collaborative research projects with Israeli academic institutions that benefit students and faculty on ten CUNY campuses.
The resolution also singles out for denigration and censure eight Jewish and pro-Israel organizations that serve CUNY’s more than 15,000 Jewish students, accusing the groups of being “directly complicit in the ongoing apartheid, genocide, and war crimes perpetrated by the state of Israel” and invoking blatantly antisemitic tropes to defame CUNY students associated with these organizations.
According to Rossman-Benjamin and the organizations, the implementation of an academic boycott will violate the academic and civil rights of U.S. students since what the official academic boycott guidelines urge faculty to do -- shutter CUNY academic exchange programs with Israel; refuse to write letters of recommendation for CUNY students who want to study in Israel; and disrupt educational activities about Israel or featuring Israeli speakers -- directly subvert the educational opportunities and academic freedom of CUNY students.
In addition, warn Rossman-Benjamin and the groups, Academic BDS directly fuels antisemitic incidents on campus. This is because the academic boycott guidelines also demand faculty fight against “the normalization of Israel in the global academy.” Courses taught by faculty adhering to this anti-normalization principle would not only pervert a school’s academic mission by substituting anti-Israel indoctrination for education, but they would also serve to foment hatred towards Israel and its supporters, a hatred that easily translates into acts of aggression towards Jewish and pro-Israel students.
Indeed, recent studies corroborate the fact that faculty who support an academic boycott of Israel are far more likely to include anti-Israel content in their courses and they show a strong correlation between anti-Zionist instruction and acts targeting Jewish and pro-Israel students for harm, including assault, intimidation, destruction of property and suppression of speech.
“Even before the CUNY Law Faculty voted to endorse the LSGA resolution, the anti-Israel rhetoric and BDS promotion of anti-Zionist students and student groups had created a toxic environment for many Jewish and pro-Israel students at CUNY, with some reporting they had been harassed and even assaulted on campus because of their presumed support for Israel,” note the organizations. “Now that the CUNY Law Faculty has given its full-throated support to a boycott of Israel that not only violates students’ educational rights but incites hatred towards the Jewish state and its on-campus supporters, antisemitism is likely to skyrocket on CUNY campuses.”
Rossman-Benjamin and the organizations strongly urge the committee members to take immediate steps to prohibit faculty from abusing their university positions and using taxpayer funds for political advocacy, including the implementation of an academic boycott of Israel, which they warn will likely result in “disastrous consequences not only for Jewish and pro-Israel students at the CUNY Law School, but for students on every CUNY campus.”
AMCHA monitors more than 450 college campuses across the U.S. for antisemitic activity. The organization has recorded more than 5,000 antisemitic incidents on college campuses since 2015. Its daily Antisemitism Tracker, organized by state and university, can be viewed here.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating antisemitism at colleges and universities in the United States.