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Anti-Semitism - U.S.  
ADL Statement to US Commission on Civil Rights: Anti-Semitic Incidents on College Campuses RULE Introduction

Posted: November 18, 2005

Other Challenges to Jewish Life on Campus
ADL Education, Outreach, and Resources for Campus Communities
Gaps in Hate Crime Reporting on Campus

The Anti-Defamation League is one of the nation's oldest human relations organizations, founded in 1913 to advance goodwill and mutual understanding among Americans of all creeds and races and to combat racial and religious prejudice in the United States and abroad.  ADL is the nation's leader in the development of effective programs to confront anti-Semitism, violent bigotry, and prejudice. The League's strength is its ability to craft national programming and policy initiatives and then to refine and implement them through our network of 30 Regional Offices. The national headquarters in New York houses extensive research archives and staff members with professional expertise in legal affairs and education.  Complementing these professionals are ADL lawyers, educators, and human relations professionals in Regional Offices throughout the country. 


Since its establishment in 1957, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) has played a very productive role in studying and collecting information about national problems involving discrimination and unfair treatment against Americans, serving as a clearinghouse of information about these concerns, and in devising recommendations for action by Congress and the Executive Branch.  The Commission has a proud tradition of excellent work in raising awareness of national problems.  To cite just one example, the Commission's trailblazing 1983 report, "Intimidation and Violence:  Racial and Religious Bigotry in America," helped set the stage for significant federal and state efforts to address hate violence directed at individuals on the basis of their race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or disability.  The federal government and forty-five states and the District of Columbia now have a regime of hate crime laws designed to protect individuals from violent bigotry.


We welcome the Commission's examination of the issue of anti-Semitism on campus and believe the USCCR can play a productive role in raising awareness of the impact of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry on campus.

The university has traditionally served as an enclave for intellectual expression, insulated from the distractions of the world outside. It has also served as a trendsetter for that outside society, a laboratory where social change first begins to ferment and find an outlet. To a large extent, the excitement and passion on American campuses stem from the combination of scholarly debate and student activism in a sheltered environment.

In recent decades, Jews have generally found the American campus to be a positive environment. Gone are the days of quotas limiting the number of Jewish students at our nation's top colleges and universities. To the contrary, Jews have been able to take advantage of extraordinary opportunities for educational and vocational advancement at colleges and universities.  Moreover, the broad acceptance of Jews in academia has greatly eased the community's integration into society and facilitated a sense of full participation and inclusion in American civic life.  It is also now common to find flourishing Jewish life on many campuses, anchored by vibrant Hillel:  The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life programs and increasingly-popular Jewish Studies Departments.  Jewish faculty have thrived at many of the nation's top institutions, both as teachers and administrators.

Institutional anti-Semitism, discrimination, and quotas against Jewish students and faculty is largely a thing of the past. Jewish students and faculty are found in great numbers at elite universities that once resisted their presence. A majority of Ivy League universities and many others now have or have had Jewish presidents. There are few if any positions in American higher education that are not open to Jewish talent. Therefore, it is paradoxical that the American college and university campus have emerged as a flashpoint for anti-Jewish animus and a site for the expression and dissemination of anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews simply because they are Jews. Sometimes referred to as "the oldest hatred," it has been called anti-Judaism when it targets Jewish beliefs and practices, and anti-Semitism when it targets the Jewish people as a hated "race." Historically, what began as a conflict over religious beliefs evolved into a systematic policy of political, economic, and social isolation, exclusion, degradation, and attempted annihilation. Anti-Semitism did not begin in the Nazi era, nor did it end with the close of World War II. Its continuance over the millennia speaks to the power of scapegoating a group that is defined as "other."


Since its inception, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has been at the forefront of identifying, documenting, and responding to anti-Semitism in the United States and around the world. The ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents has documented national anti-Semitic incidents across the country since 1979 and tracked acts on college campuses since 1984. Reported incidents on campus have increased from the 1984 low of 4 to a high of 143 in 1994. Such incidents include, for example, vandalism of Jewish student offices and other property, personal harassment, anti-Semitic speeches delivered on campus and Holocaust-denial ads printed in college newspapers.


In 2004, the ADL documented 1,821 reported crimes and incidents against people perceived to be Jewish in the United States. The numbers are deceptive, as most experts agree that hate crimes and incidents are vastly underreported.  During 2004, the League identified and responded to over 70 official and identifiable incidents of anti-Semitism on college and university campuses.  Anti-Semitism on the college campus in some ways mirrors the rest of society in terms of types of incidents and trends of increase or decrease. Incidents of personal harassment, including threats and assault, outnumber incidents of property destruction and vandalism on campus, as they do throughout the United States.

At the outset, it is critically important to distinguish between anti-Semitic activities on campus and anti-Israel activities.  We certainly do not believe that every anti-Israel action is a manifestation of anti-Semitism.  But the League is, obviously, concerned about organized anti-Israel activity and propaganda on college campuses, which can create an atmosphere in which Jewish students feel under siege.  Our most recent report about some of the more prominent and influential vehicles and voices of anti-Israel propaganda were detailed in an October, 2004, ADL report entitled "Anti-Israel Activity on American College Campuses". 
The League has also produced an advocacy guide that helps pro-Israel student activists negotiate the fine line between legitimate criticism of the state of
Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric and action.

While there are many instances of anti-Semitism on campus that could be profiled, below is a sampling of alleged recent incidents on campus reported to the League's thirty Regional Offices that illustrate the wide range of challenges facing Jewish students on their campuses.

  • March 22, 2004, an individual reported that an adjunct art teacher at Hunter College made anti-Semitic statements.

  • On April 27, 2004 at Bloomsburg University, a student's message board, on her dorm room, was defaced with "All Jews should suck d_ _k."

  • On September 25, 2004 the words "f_ _k you, Jew boy" and swastikas were written on several cars (which were also keyed) at Indiana University over Yom Kippur weekend in an apartment complex known to have many Jewish students.

  • In September and October 2004 on three separate occasions classrooms in the Jewish Studies Department at Georgia State University in Atlanta were vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti and swastikas.

  • On November 5, 2004 an anti-Semitic cartoon appeared in the Daily Illini, the daily newspaper of the University of Illinois.

  • November 11, 2004, university professors and teaching assistants in the social sciences building of the University of Minnesota reported that anti-Semitic literature was slipped under their doors.

  • On December 5, 2004 at a Temple University fraternity, a former fraternity brother (passed out due to the consumption of alcohol) was stripped naked and had various anti-Semitic and racist remarks written on his body. He was photographed and the pictures were then posted on the Internet.

  • On May 1, 2005, three posters advertising a pro-Israel event at the University of Chicago were vandalized with swastikas.

  • March 2005 at the University of Colorado at Boulder,  two swastikas were carved into a bulletin board at a residence hall.

  • June 2005 at Penn State University, a Jewish student was subjected to anti-Semitic statements written on the message board of her door.


In addition to reports of vandalism and the distribution of anti-Semitic literature, over the past five years, students and faculty around the country have expressed concern over anti-Israel activism on campus that have crossed the line into anti-Semitism.  In some cases, strident anti-Israel events, demonstrations, campaigns and fliers use code words to degrade Jews through the lens of Israel.  Examples range from speakers at student events that compare Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazi treatment of Jews, op-eds in student newspaper that charge pro-Israel Jews with inordinate power over the American government,  divestment and other anti-Israel campaigns that question Israel's right to exist, to a booth set up at an anti-Israel demonstration that displayed anti-Semitic literature.  While Jewish student organizations on campus have been steadfast in organizing counter-demonstrations and positive pro-Israel campaigns to educate and expose charges that cross into anti-Semitism, it is undeniable that many Jewish students and faculty members have felt isolated, intimidated, and threatened by these incidents.


Natan Sharansky, Israel's former Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs, created a concise and useful three-part litmus test to identify when legitimate criticism of Israel crosses the line to anti-Semitism.  In what he calls the "3D Test": demonization, double standards, and delegitimization, Hiding behind a veil of "legitimate criticism of Israel," Sharansky gives us questions to ask to weed out those who are legitimately criticizing Israel, and those who are attempting to defame Jews.

  1. Is the Jewish state being demonized for its action?  Are the problems of the world or the Middle East being blamed on Israel?
  2. Is there a double standard when criticizing Israel in relation to other countries? Are Israeli faults exaggerated and far worse human right violations in other places ignored?
  3. s there an attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state?  Are the Jewish people alone in not having the right of sovereignty?

In addition, importantly, the United States government has recently tailored its own response to the spread of this new stream of anti-Semitism that manifests itself as vilification of Israel.  The State Department's 2005 Report on Global Anti-Semitism states:  "An important issue is the distinction between legitimate criticism of policies and practices of the State of Israel, and commentary that assumes an anti-Semitic character. The demonization of Israel, or vilification of Israeli leaders, sometimes through comparisons with Nazi leaders, and through the use of Nazi symbols to caricature them, indicates an anti-Semitic bias rather than a valid criticism of policy concerning a controversial issue."  Further, the report noted other disturbing manifestations such as "strong anti-Israel sentiment that crosses the line between objective criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism," and "criticism of both the United States and globalization that spills over to Israel, and to Jews in general who are identified with both."  The 2005 Report on Global Anti-Semitism is available on the Internet here: 

The following examples of anti-Israel campus activism would meet both the United States government's and Minister Sharansky's definitions of anti-Semitism:

  • October 2004, Hedy Epstein lectured at Stanford University comparing Nazi treatment of Jews to Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

  • October 14-17, 2004, Duke University was the site of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement's Divestment conference.

  • January 25, 2005 a divestment resolution against Israel passed on campus at University of Wisconsin, Platteville.  The motives of those who promote divestment campaigns like this one are sometimes anti-Semitic, but these campaigns can create an environment in which anti-Semitism can flourish.

  • February 2, 2005 at the University of California at Irvine, Amir-Abdel Malik Ali gives one of many hateful and virulently anti-Semitic speeches.

  • February 24, 2005 at Pace University, Arab students held a conference to "educate" students and faculty as to why Israel is an apartheid state.

  • April 13, 2005 at the University of California, Los Angeles, Al Awda hosts a "Right of Return" conference.


This brief cross section of events includes activities that are certainly legal and protected under the First Amendment.  However, each event left Jews on campus feeling intimidated and under siege.  Disguising anti-Semitic rhetoric through the lens of stridently anti-Israel and anti-Zionist attacks has proved an effective means to attempt to intimidate and harass Jewish students and faculty on campuses throughout the country.  Campus administrators need to be better prepared to distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism.

One prime example are the events that have taken place at the University of California, Irvine.  At UCI,  the familiar face of anti-Semitic rhetoric belongs to Amir Abdel Malik Ali.  Making sure never to insult "Jews", Malik directs his many attacks against Zionist control over the media, the Zionist lobby in Washington D.C., or how the Zionists are behind the war in Iraq.   To go along with Malik's familiar sight at the flagpole on Ring Road, Jewish students have expressed concerns about being intimidated and harassed while expressing their political views on campus.  With the general unrest of many Jewish students on campus, there have been several noteworthy incidents that have taken place over the few years.

         There have been several large anti-Israel rallies on campus, with body bags representing people of "Israeli genocide".

         A group of Muslim students wore green stoles over their robes at graduation last year, signifying to some solidarity with the terrorist organization Hamas, while to others religious solidarity.

          After the destruction of a mock Israeli security wall by arson, the Society of Arab Students organized a so called "campus wide" rally against hate but declined to let the Jewish student organization Anteaters for Israel participate.  UCI's Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez attended the event.

ADL regional offices also routinely receive calls and e-mail from students around the United States who describe virulent anti-Israel bashing that goes on in the classroom.  In a wide variety of academic settings,  but especially in several Middle Eastern Studies Departments, reports of bias against Israel have resonated through the campus community.  The most high-profile recent case involved Columbia University's Middle East and Asia Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) department.  Many claims of stridently anti-Israel rhetoric were made by students against MEALAC professors, and Columbia appointed a committee to investigate the charges. 


The issue first came to prominence with the release of a film entitled Columbia Unbecoming, which was produced by a group of Columbia students under the guidance of the David Project.  The film presented allegations of bias and harassment of students for their pro-Israel views within the classroom to the Columbia administration.  One of the most notorious incidents in the film concerns Professor Joseph Massad who, a student alleges, spent a class recounting the "massacre" by the Israelis in Jenin. When a student raised her hand to ask if it wasn't true that Israel often gives warnings ahead of time before striking terrorist strongholds, Professor Massad screamed back at her, "I will not have you deny Israeli atrocities in my class!"  Another incident involved an out of class lecture at which an Israeli student asked a question. When the professor recognized the student's accent and confirmed he was Israeli, the professor refused to answer the question, asking instead, "How many Palestinians have you killed?"


After the film became public, Columbia President Bollinger was forced to confront the issue, and convened a five member committee to investigate the allegations.  Unfortunately, from the beginning, there were doubts about the objectivity of members of the committee.  Two of the five members had signed Columbia's divestment petition, one had been the thesis advisor of Joseph Massad and instrumental in his hiring at Columbia, and one had written a paper blaming Israel for the rise of anti-Semitism in the world.  The committee's report, issued at the end of last year, did nothing more than recommend a strengthening of Columbia's grievance procedures for students.  Out of many reported incidents, it only acknowledged the credibility of one (concerning Joseph Massad), issuing a very slight slap on the wrist.   


ADL representatives met multiple times with President Bollinger and other members of Columbia's administration.  League representatives also held a number of meeting with the Hillel director at Columbia and students involved on campus, as well. The League's approach in its meetings and public advocacy on this controversy has been to stress the importance of academic freedom for students as well as for professors and to highlight the problem of inappropriate conduct in the classroom and blatantly anti-Israel propagandizing. 


ADL has been very careful not to make accusations of anti-Semitism against Columbia.  When the investigating committee report came out concluding that there was no evidence of anti-Semitism, ADL released a statement  pointing out that this issue was a red herring anti-Semitism had never been the core issue at hand.


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2005 Anti-Defamation League