Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

The Real Facts About Campus Anti-Semitism

Those of us who care deeply about the safety and well-being of Jewish students would like nothing more than for Mitchell Bard to be correct. For several years and as recently as last week, Bard has repeatedly claimed that reports of the serious and growing threat of campus anti-Semitism are wildly exaggerated.  Unfortunately, the facts simply do not support Bard’s claims.

A survey of more than 1,000 US Jewish college students by Trinity College revealed that 54% of surveyed students reported experiencing or witnessing instances of anti-Semitism on campus during the first six months of the 2013-2014 academic year.  Another survey of more than 3,000 North American Jewish college students conducted by Brandeis University in the Spring of 2015 found that 75% of students had been exposed to anti-Semitic rhetoric, and one in three students reported having been harassed because they were Jewish.  Just since the start of 2017 there have been scores of student-authored op-eds and articles detailing the anti-Semitism Jewish students and faculty face on campus on a regular basis.

AMCHA Initiative’s studies of anti-Semitic activity at more than 100 colleges and universities most popular with Jewish students, overseen by AMCHA co-founder Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus at UCLA with more than 30 years of scientific research experience, have provided objective confirmation of the Trinity College and Brandeis University findings.  In our 2015 study, we found that 65% of schools played host to one or more incidents involving anti-Semitic language or imagery, and 41% of schools played host to incidents in which Jewish students were targeted for harm, including assault, harassment, destruction of property and suppression of speech. We also found a very strong correlation between anti-Zionist expression, particularly the promotion of BDS, and anti-Jewish hostility: Schools with BDS activity were 2.5 times more likely to play host to incidents that targeted Jewish students for harm, and schools with a BDS-promoting student group such as Students for Justice in Palestine were seven times more likely to play host to such anti-Semitic acts.

In our 2016 study, we found a 40% increase in overall campus anti-Semitism from 2015, with a 100% increase in acts of anti-Jewish genocidal expression, including the drawing of swastikas and other Holocaust-related imagery and graffiti calling for the death of Jews, such as “Gas Jews Die,” “Kill all Kikes,” and “Holocaust 2.0”.  Early results from the first quarter of 2017 show this trend continuing, with a 30% increase in genocidal expression over the first quarter of 2016. These expressions of genocidal anti-Semitism directly threaten Jewish students and cause them to feel less safe on their campuses, as numerous student testimonials have attested. In addition, in dozens of incidents Jewish students were singled out and targeted for harmful behavior by individuals who were demonstrably motivated by antipathy towards the Jewish state, as demonstrated by their affiliation with an anti-Zionist group (e.g. SJP) or expressions of anti-Zionism that they had made prior to, or at the time of, the incident in question.  Members of anti-Zionist groups have carried out an array of intolerant activities to silence Jewish and pro-Israel voices, most frequently through the attempted cancellation, shutting down or disruption of pro-Israel events, but also through the vilification and intimidation of Jewish and pro-Israel groups and individuals, with the clear intention of delegitimizing their perspective or causing them to be too afraid or uncomfortable to express it.

Only by misunderstanding or misrepresenting the data in these empirical studies can one deny the serious and growing threat that anti-Semitism poses to Jewish students. As we demonstrated in our response to one of his previous denials of campus anti-Semitism, Mitchell Bard has engaged in both.

Although we wish it weren’t so, campus anti-Semitism is a real and growing problem.  Denying this reality puts our Jewish students at risk and does a grave disservice to the Jewish community.

About the Author
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the cofounder and director of AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization devoted to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating campus antisemitism in America. She was nominated for Jewish Hero of the Year by the Jewish Federation of North America in 2011 and was named one of 2013’s Bright Pro-Israel Lights on U.S. Campuses by the Jewish Press. Articles and opinion pieces from Rossman-Benjamin have been published in the New York Daily News, Jewish News Service, Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Algemeiner, Independent Sentinel, Jewish Voice, Jewish Post & Opinion, and others.
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