Dept of Education opens investigation into anti-Semitism at UC Santa Cruz following events protesting the occupation
(Mondoweiss) -- by Adam Horowitz --
The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights will investigate charges of anti-Semitism at the University of California at Santa Cruz based on a complaint that the university ignored concerns that criticism of Israel was "creating a hostile climate for Jewish people on the campus."
You can read a letter from the Dept. of Ed announcing the investigation here. The move is the first such investigation since the Department announced last October that they were expanding federal anti-bullying guidelines to include religious groups with “shared ethnic characteristics.” Previously, the relevant civil rights statute, Title VI, did not explicitly cover religion. This was a move applauded by Israel supporters, such as the Zionist Organization of America, who saw it as a way to criminalize activism critical of Israel on campus.
The lecturer who brought the complaint is Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who teaches Hebrew at the school. You can read Rossman-Benjamin's complaint to the Education Department here. Among the events she sites as examples of anti-Semitism on campus was a screening of the film Occupation 101 and another event called "Understanding Gaza." This event featured speakers from Jewish Voice for Peace which she characterizes as "an extreme and disreputable fringe of American Jewry."...
To answer how this case has found support at the highest levels of government it helps to look at who is helping push it forward, and how the Department of Education's new policy was created in the first place.
The case is being heavily supported by an organization called Institute for Jewish and Community Research (IJCR) a San Francisco-based organization which is "devoted to creating a safe, secure, and growing Jewish community." A large part of that work is focused on documenting and exposing "anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism." This project is headed up by Kenneth L. Marcus, who incidently served as the Education Department's assistant secretary for civil rights from 2002 to 2004, and was the Staff Director at the United States Commission on Civil Rights during the Bush Administration...
His IJCR also mentions his new book Jewish Identity and Civil Rights in America. Seems to be a bit of a one trick pony. Predictably, Marcus is celebrating the government's decision and sees wide ranging ramification for the Rossman-Benjamin's complaint...
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