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New Study: Faculty-Driven BDS is Fueling Campus Antisemitism

Provides Evidence that MESA’s Likely Adoption of Academic BDS Will Be Disastrous


Contact: Nicole Rosen

Santa Cruz, CA, March 16, 2022 – A new study, released today by AMCHA Initiative, reveals that university faculty who have endorsed an academic boycott of Israel are directly fueling a surge in campus antisemitism.

Study Findings:
The study, Faculty Academic Boycotters: Ground Zero for Campus Antisemitism, examined antisemitic activity on campus from the onset of the Israel-Hamas War in May 2021 through the end of the school year, and found that the presence and number of faculty who expressed support for an academic boycott of Israel strongly contributed to every measure of campus antisemitic activity.

“While much attention is paid to anti-Zionist student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, faculty are flying under the radar, yet they are a significant and dangerous contributor to campus antisemitism. Our new research overwhelmingly suggests that they are the ones instigating, inspiring, encouraging and modeling the playbook for students to follow,” stated Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA Director and one of the lead researchers on this study.  “With the MESA vote looming and 3,000 primary purveyors of Israel-related courses and departmentally-sponsored events about to endorse an academic boycott of Israel – providing disciplinary legitimacy for such faculty abuse - the problem is likely to grow exponentially worse for Jewish students.”

The study found that schools with five or more faculty academic boycotters were:

  • 7.2 times more likely to have departments that issued or endorsed anti-Zionist statements;
  • 5.6 times more likely to have a student government that issued an anti-Zionist statement;
  • 3.6 times more likely to have acts targeting Jewish and pro-Israel students for harm;
  • 4.5 times more likely to have incidents involving student BDS promotion and
  • 3.3 times more likely to have incidents involving student anti-Zionist rhetoric.

The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) is poised to endorse the 2005 Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and its call for implementation of the US Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) guidelines. The study notes that what these academics are about to endorse -- USACBI’s rejection of the normalization of Israel in the academy -- not only calls on its adherents to work towards boycotting educational programs in or about Israel and canceling or shutting down pro-Israel events and activities on campus, it also urges the censuring, denigration, protest and exclusion of pro-Israel individuals. What the study concluded is that these USACBI-encouraged actions are directly linked to behavior that harm Jewish and pro-Israel students and were the apparent motivation for the vast majority of the incidents involving the harassment of Jewish and pro-Israel students considered in this study.

Furthermore, USACBI’s encouragement of campus events and academic programming that portray Israel in a wholly negative light, as an illegitimate state unworthy of normalization, could be linked to every incident of anti-Zionist expression in the study, including and especially the unprecedented anti-Zionist departmental statements.

MESA members have been voting on its academic boycott resolution for the past two months, and voting ends on Tuesday, March 22.

Compounding the MESA vote, the University of California Committee on Academic Freedom (UCAF) recently recommended that “departments should not be precluded from issuing or endorsing political statements,” and the UC Academic Senate is currently considering the adoption of UCAF’s recommendation university wide.

“In the absence of robust safeguards from university administrators to prevent faculty from using their university positions and departmental affiliations to promote politically motivated advocacy and activism targeting Israel and its supporters, the problem will continue to grow at a rapid rate,” stated Rossman-Benjamin. “State and federal legislators who are responsible for ensuring that government monies given to institutions of higher education are used for educational purposes rather than political ones, should consider withholding funds from schools that permit faculty and departments to engage in such behavior.”

Some of the Alarming Faculty and Student Behavior That Came to Light in the Study Include:

  • 160 academic departments at 120 U.S. colleges and universities issued or endorsed wholly one-sided, anti-Israel statements containing rhetoric that meets the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
  • The Gender Studies Departments in Solidarity with Palestinian Feminist Collective statement accounted for the largest share of departmental signatories, with 124 departments from 115 colleges and universities. Ethnic Studies departments at 13 schools, Middle East studies departments at 4 schools, Anthropology departments at 3 schools and Architecture, Urban Planning and Art History departments at 5 schools also issued similar anti-Israel statements.
  • All of the faculty statements held Israel solely responsible, and none mentioned Hamas or the 4,000 rockets fired at Israel. Israel was falsely accused of settler colonialism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid and racial supremacy. More than half of the statements called for or endorsed BDS, with most of those specifically supporting an academic boycott of Israel. Many statements explicitly rejected the IHRA definition of antisemitism identifying anti-Zionism as a form of antisemitism, and they defended their anti-Zionist political stance as squarely consistent and within their discipline’s mission.
  • More than half of all incidents involving acts of aggression targeting Jewish and pro-Israel students, antisemitic rhetoric and/or BDS-promotion occurring during the entire 2020 – 2021 academic year took place in the seven weeks following the onset of the Israel-Hamas clashes.
  • The incidence of campus antisemitism during this period (455 incidents) was eight times higher than the same 7-week period in 2020 (57 incidents), and fourteen times higher than in 2019 (32 incidents).
  • Examples:
    • At the University of California Santa Cruz, during an anti-Israel resolution debate at a student government Zoom meeting, “u filthy kike HEIL HITLER BURN ALL JEWS” and “f*** all jews they belong in the oven” were posted onto the Zoom chat function.
    • At the University of Vermont, students in a sexual abuse survivors group issued a statement comparing Zionists to sexual abusers and blocking Zionist students from posting.
    • The Rutgers Hillel detailed that "identifiably Jewish students have been verbally assaulted, some report having their car tires slashed" and Jewish students reported a “social media pogrom.”
    • The Stanford University Hillel described an "alarming amount" of bullying of Jewish students, including Jewish students being told “Don’t talk to me if you’re Jewish” and “I’m not going to talk to you, Nazi.”

AMCHA’s previous studies have revealed similar alarming results. One study of 50 syllabi of courses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that were taught at 40 schools across the country found that courses whose instructors had been signatory to one or more petitions calling for an academic boycott of Israel assigned, on average, four times more readings authored by BDS-supporters than instructors who do not support any form of BDS. Another study of 550 departments of Ethnic, Gender, and Middle East studies across the country found that departments with one or more faculty boycotters were 5 to 12 times more likely to sponsor public events with pro-BDS speakers, and the more faculty boycotters in a department, the more events with pro-BDS speakers.

AMCHA monitors more than 450 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. The organization has recorded more than 4,500 anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses since 2015. Its daily Anti-Semitism Tracker, organized by state and university, can be viewed here.

AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at colleges and universities in the United States.

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