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Anti-Semitism on U.S. College Campuses Skyrockets

TEL AVIV – Anti-Semitic activity on U.S. college campuses with the largest Jewish undergraduate populations has skyrocketed during the first half of 2016 compared to the same time last year, a new report shows.

The Amcha Initiative, a nonpartisan anti-Semitism watchdog group, found that 287 anti-Semitic incidents occurred at 64 schools during that time period, reflecting a 45% increase from the 198 incidents reported in the first six months of 2015.

The alarming statistics make Jewish college students the largest group of university students “coming under systematic attack,” with an increasing number seeing their civil rights infringed upon, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Amcha director and co-founder, told the Algemeiner on Tuesday.

The report said that the strategy and tactics employed by anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic groups are “significantly more brazen” today than in the past. It cited the egregious violation of basic civil rights, including suppressing Jewish students’ “free speech, blocking their movements, or hindering their assembly,” as occurring on 12 different campuses.

Anti-Semitic activity “was twice as likely to occur on campuses where BDS [the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign] was present, eight times more likely to occur on campuses with at least one active anti-Zionist student group such as SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine], and six times more likely to occur on campuses with one or more faculty boycotters,” the report said.

“Divestment resolutions and campaigns go hand-in-hand in creating a very hostile environment for Jewish students that manifests in many acts of anti-Semitism,” Rossman-Benjamin said.

Anti-Semitism in the report was defined on the basis of the State Department’s definition as “incidents involving conduct that targeted Jewish students for particular harm based on their Jewishness or perceived association with Israel” – up 64% from 2015.

“Instead of just boycotting Israel, the anti-Zionists are now boycotting Jewish students,” Professor Leila Beckwith, AMCHA co-founder who led the study, said.

Sadly, all too often it is not debate but hate. The lines between political discussions on Israeli policy and discrimination toward Jewish students are being blurred. Anti-Zionists are attempting to harm, alienate, and ostracize Jewish students; it is Jewish students’ civil rights that are being trampled.  To properly address this rise in anti-Jewish bigotry, universities must adopt a proper definition of contemporary anti-Semitism and use it to educate the campus community about the distinct line between criticism of Israeli policies and discrimination against Jewish people.

AMCHA’s report also included recommendations for university officials to “swiftly, forcefully and publicly acknowledge and condemn all acts of antisemitism.”

“What’s happening on college campuses today is not students just being students. The activities of these anti-Israel groups have serious repercussions and cannot be excused. Jewish students are being seriously threatened, their civil rights suppressed and routinely violated across the country,” Rossman-Benjamin told the Algemeiner.

“University administrations cannot say there is no problem,” she said. “The problem is there. It is national and it cannot be ignored.”

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