This summer, the failure by Stanford University to adequately respond to threats of violence made by a Muslim student against other students dramatically illustrates that anti-Semitism does not rank anywhere near the same level of concern as hate speech against blacks or gays.
Indeed, the incident made clear that the justice system and even many Jewish groups were reluctant to act or even issue strongly worded rebukes. When Jews are the targeted hate population, many today give only weakly worded expressions of “concern,” but do nothing of consequence to stop anti-Semitism which only encourages more such expressions of hatred and endangers the safety of Jewish college students.
The incident at Stanford occurred in July, university student Hamzeh Daoud made violent threats on Facebook against pro-Israel students. Daoud had some stature on campus as a former student Senate member and a soon-to-be, residential advisor (RA) for a dormitory. He also worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and was active in the terror-linked, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
Daoud’s SJP involvement is a cause for concern. The anti-Semitic group, founded by Hatem Bazian, who raised money for a Hamas front and headed the UC Berkeley Muslim Student Association, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, is described by NGO Monitor as “the organization most directly responsible for creating a hostile campus environment saturated with anti-Israel events, BDS initiatives, and speakers.”
SJP routinely smears Israel by falsely characterizing it as an “apartheid state,” denounces Israel’s self-defense measures against Arab-Palestinian terrorism and supports the Hamas-inspired Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Jewish state.
“I’m going to physically fight Zionists on campus,” Daoud posted online in July, adding, “After I abolish your ass I’ll go ahead every day for the rest of my life to abolish your petty ass ethnosupremacist settler-colonial state.”
The posts were nothing new for Daoud who had a pattern of anti-Semitism posts, as established by Pennsylvania attorney Jerome Marcus. Acting on behalf of an unnamed Jewish undergraduate, Marcus retrieved earlier posts by Daoud, including one that said, “F*** your liberal zionist ass. F*** you Jewish state.”
Surprisingly, instead of firing the student, Stanford allowed him to resign from his RA appointment. The university issued a statement that they had “engaged with the student” who made the decision to step down from his RA position and apologized in a letter to the Jewish community. From their “extensive case assessment,” they concluded that Daoud did not pose a physical threat to other members of the community.
The university administration went so far as to portray the student as a victim and exhibited concern for alleged death threats against him, called for policies against intolerance, which already exist in the university’s Fundamental Standards, and suggested “thoughtful engagement” within the Stanford community.
Further, Stanford vilified the Stanford College Republicans for their “vehement statements,” “barrage of petitions,” “paid advertisements” and even a legal threat to the University should Daoud retain his RA position. The Santa Clara County district attorney’s office, taking its cue from the University, declined to investigate further and press charges.
This contrasts dramatically to college disciplinary actions taken after haters targeted other groups. In three cases this past school year, college students were disciplined for racist comments, albeit non-violent ones, against blacks. At the University of Alabama, Harley Barber ranted about her hatred for black people in a video and was promptly expelled. Natalia Martinez, a student at Georgia State University was suspended from the soccer team and decided to withdraw from the university after using a racial epithet on Finsta. Spencer Brown, an Appalachian State University freshman, was suspended from the tennis team for a racist tweet.
In a 2010 case of alleged “anti-homosexual” bigotry, Eastern Michigan University student, devout Christian Julea Ward, was removed from a graduate program in school counseling over her belief that homosexuality is morally wrong. Even at Stanford, in a 2014 precedent action, the Graduate Student Council retracted funding for the Stanford Anscombe Society, a student group that promotes traditional values of marriage, family and sexuality. In this case, no threats of violence existed, but LGBT groups successfully lobbied against the group and made the case to a politically correct, university administration that taking a position against homosexuality is a form of discrimination.
In Daoud’s case, the Pennsylvania attorney, Marcus, cited the Anscombe Society incident in a letter to Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. Marcus proclaimed that inaction by Stanford after full knowledge of Daoud’s statements would constitute discrimination against Zionist students and violates federal law, as well as the university’s established policies. Marcus demanded the firing of the student and the reactivation of his social media accounts for further university investigation and public review.
Meanwhile, responses by Jewish organizations were mixed. Only two organizations demanded concrete action. The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), which “works to protect Jewish college and high school students from intimidation, harassment and discrimination, and in fighting anti-Semitism in general,” called for his immediate expulsion from school and censured Stanford for failing to condemn Daoud’s conduct, inadequately punishing him and allowing him to decide whether or not to step down as RA. They pointed to other social media posts issued by the student and the fact that Stanford had suspended the housing privileges of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity for “creating a hostile environment for female students.”
ZOA pointed out that the university was violating its own rules in the Daoud case as enshrined in the “Fundamental Standard” requiring students “to respect and uphold the rights and dignity of others regardless of race, color, national origin or ethnic origin” as well as the tenets of free speech available to all students. They reminded Stanford of its moral and legal obligations to protect all students and to ensure a non-hostile learning environment for Jewish students under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
The Israel Group (TIG), a non-profit whose primary mission is “to cripple the BDS movement,” sought legal action by writing to the Santa Clara District Attorney requesting an investigation of Daoud’s threat and hate crime against Jewish students. The TIG pointed out that Stanford violated two California laws, California Threat Law P.C. 422 (a) and California Hate Crimes Law P.C. 42255. Further, TIG explained that the threats were specific and immediate and a cause for pro-Israel students to fear violence. The organization called for the DA to take steps to prosecute Mr. Daoud for violation of these statutes.
Meanwhile, other Jewish organizations provided mere expressions of outrage. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an international NGO that claims it “fights anti-Semitism and all kinds of bigotry,” conveyed “deep concern” about the student’s statements directed toward the campus Jewish community. The ADL recognized the Facebook posts as a violation of the University’s Fundamental Standard, the standard of conduct for Stanford students that includes making threats as an act of misconduct.
Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world represented at more than 550 colleges and universities, responded through its Stanford chapter by stating how disturbed they were by the incident. They explained that they had been working with the university to make sure that established protocols were followed and had called for an assessment of the impact of the posts disparaging pro-Israel, Jewish students. In her statement, Hillel Rabbi Jessica Kirschner remarked that she appreciated that the student in question had later modified his remarks by calling for an “intellectual fight” and had ultimately reached out to Jewish students.
Incredibly, the American Jewish Committee, one of the oldest Jewish advocacy organizations with 33 offices worldwide that claims to “counter anti-Semitism in all its guises,” voiced appreciation for Daoud’s “grace” in recognizing that his posts would make it untenable for him to serve as RA. AJC’s Rabbi Serena Eisenberg further minimized the threat by stating, “This incident was not about the Middle East, Israelis or Palestinians, but about the way ideas are debated on Stanford’s campus and the world beyond.”
StandWithUs, which defines its goal as “fighting hate and the new anti-Semitism while protecting, educating and inspiring the next generation of pro-Israel voices on-campus and beyond” also indicated their concern about the threat of violence and criticized the university for taking too long to respond. However, they stopped well short of demanding any action and stated that “further threats by this student” should “result in expulsion.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), a human rights organization that “confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism,” “stands with Israel” and “defends the safety of Jews worldwide,” expressed outrage over the threats of violence and called for the student to be removed from his duties as RA. SWC Rabbi Abraham Cooper demanded that the university administration denounce Daoud’s “verbal thuggery” and warn other members of SFP that further threats made against Jewish students will lead to expulsion and removal from campus. He emphasized the fact that Jewish students have been subject to “intimidation, harassment, and virulent campaigns demonizing the Jewish state on many of America’s finest campuses.”
It is remarkable that only two organizations that purport to support Jews and Israel demanded serious action in response to threats of violence. In the end, Daoud was given only a tiny slap on the hand with no real disciplinary action taken.
In effect, the university’s failure to act leaves organizations such as SJP free to spout their anti-Israel rhetoric and engender anti-Semitism and threaten Jewish students on campus. Jew hatred continues its precipitous rise and Jewish students increasingly report how unsafe they feel. Surely this kind of complacency ensures that the problem will not be appropriately addressed in the future and the situation for Jewish students on campus will only worsen.