US Congressmen Worried by Campus Anti-Semitism
Thirty-six members of the United States Congress have sent a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan expressing concern over anti-Semitism and intimidation on college campuses. They asked if the Department of Education is making use of the 1964 Civil Rights Act – and particularly Title VI, which bans discrimination in publicly funded institutions – to protect Jewish students from hostility.
"College campuses in the United States are meant to be positive, safe, and open forums for intellectual expression, conducive to learning,” they wrote.
"We believe that enforcing Title VI to protect Jewish students who, in rare but highly significant situations, face harassment, intimidation or discrimination based on their ancestral or ethnic characteristics – including when it is manifested as anti-Israel or anti-Zionist sentiment that crosses the line into anti-Semitism – would help ensure that we’re preserving the integrity of our higher education system by affording the same protection to all ethnic and racial groups on our college campuses.”
The letter was inspired by a briefing organized by Representative Ron Klein (D-Fl) given by Susan Tuchman of the Zionist Organization of America. Tuchman, director of ZOA's Center for Law and Justice, discussed anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses.
ZOA President Morton Klein praised the representatives who signed the letter. Congressman Klein brought attention to “a serious problem plaguing American college campuses: anti-Semitism that often takes the form of vicious anti-Zionist and anti-Israel sentiment, causing Jewish students to feel harassed, intimidated, and, at times, afraid for their physical safety,” he stated.
ZOA has tried in recent years to get the civil rights' office of the Department of Education to investigate allegedly anti-Semitic incidents on US campuses. The office declined to take action, arguing that the incidents were not based on students' “national origins.” The letter from Members of Congress aims in part to clarify that Jewish students should be granted the same protections that are given to racial or ethnic minorities.