A report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) watchdog group has found a significant rise in anti-Israel activity on US college campuses over the past academic year.
The report found that so far in the 2014-2015 academic year, over 150 “explicitly anti-Israel programs” have taken place or been planned. This marks an increase of 30 percent from the same period last year, when the number of such programs was 105.
“At the same time that these events have been taking place, anti-Israel groups have hurled accusations suggesting that the pro-Israel community is engaged in a collective effort to stifle their speech,” the report reads.
Top on the report’s list of challenges are the continued efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to delegitimize the Jewish state by drawing parallels to Apartheid South Africa and urging individuals, companies and governments to stop their contacts with Israel and Israelis.
The report describes anti-Israel events by student groups and those that have been sponsored or co-sponsored by university departments at a number of institutions, including the University of California-Berkeley, Drew University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“Student groups at a number of campuses are sponsoring a range of programs and initiatives designed with one goal: to isolate, defame and delegitimize Israel,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “Many of these efforts have resulted in increased tension between students and have fostered a hostile atmosphere for pro-Israel and Jewish students. We are particularly concerned by the support these initiatives have received from faculty members.”
The report said that the most active anti-Israel group on campus is Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which organizes a large number of anti-Israel events and promotes divestment by student government bodies.
The report mentioned a recent protest against rising tuition fees at the City University of New York (CUNY), at which SJP complained about the “Zionist administration” in an attempt to use the word as an epithet and “invoking a classic anti-Semitic stereotype which blames Jews for the financial woes of others.”
The ADL also named Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine as among the most harmful anti-Israel groups on campus, saying that they were making inroads with other student groups that had not been traditionally involved with the issue.
“The tactics employed by the BDS movement — along with the continued efforts by anti-Israel student groups seeking to stifle discourse about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel in general through disruption and defamation — is a deeply troubling phenomenon that has contributed to an atmosphere at some institutions where Jewish and pro-Israel students feel uncomfortable voicing their views or even asserting their Jewish identity,” Mr. Greenblatt said.
The report found over 520 anti-Israel events on campus in 2014, including 19 campuses with divestment resolutions.
In an attempt to battle the activity, the ADL in September 2014 started the Words to Action program, meant to teach college and pre-college students ways to effectively respond to anti-Israel bias and anti-Semitism on campus. The organization also launched @CampusADL, a Twitter handle to help students dealing with such issues.
Although the incidents detailed in the report are worrisome, the group maintains that they are also relatively rare, and “the vast majority of Jewish students report feeling safe on their campuses. When such incidents do occur, they are generally condemned by administrators and the wider campus communities at their respective colleges.”