Using the Legal System to Combat Anti-Semitism

April 26, 2023 | Phyllis Chesler
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While the U.S., unlike European countries, does not have laws against “hate speech” or what France calls “community violence incitement,” Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and other provisions often give victims of anti-Semitism recourse to bring their complaints to court. Phyllis Chesler examines ten lawsuits brought to this end, and what they accomplished:

The grounds for the lawsuits were diverse: students being expelled or refused membership in student groups based on their pro-Israel and/or Zionist viewpoints. Exclusion from campus events. Social-media posts that read “all Zionists [need] to die,” leading to the closure of the campus Jewish center. Physical injuries to Jewish students and desecration of Jewish centers. Professors and students espousing, cheering, and clapping for pro-Palestinian views that falsely label Israel a “white supremacist” nation that engages in “ethnic cleansing.” Hijacking a Zoom class background by posting Palestinian flags. The vandalism of a Jewish student’s campaign posters.

The proposed legal remedies have ranged from revising current anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies (at New York University and University of Vermont, to name two) to taking (unknown) disciplinary action against students and faculty who have participated in anti-Semitism (such as the professor at Hunter College who participated in the Zoom “hijacking”). Most suggested remedies focus on revising current policies and training to include anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism among its prohibited forms of discrimination.

Crucial to the success of such efforts, note several activists involved in this litigation, is the adoption by governments and institutions of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, which makes it difficult to conceal anti-Semitism as “anti-Zionism.” Chesler also stresses that educational remedies must be properly implemented:

Such educational initiatives cannot remain in the hands of an already biased and indoctrinated American professoriate and administration. They are neither equipped nor inclined to teach that anti-Zionism is part of the new anti-Semitism, that Israel is not an “apartheid” state, [and] that Jew-hatred existed among Muslims in the Middle East and Central Asia long before Israel became a sovereign nation.

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