US Commission on Civil Rights

Public Education Campaign to End Campus Anti-Semitism
 

Home Page

 WHAT IS ANTI-SEMITISM?

Campus Anti-Semitism reports that many college campuses throughout the United States continue to experience incidents of anti-Semitism, a serious problem warranting further attention. Anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist propaganda has been disseminated on many campuses that include traditional anti-Semitic elements, including age-old anti-Jewish stereotypes and defamation. For example claiming that the Jew are responsible for the killing of Christ or alleging that Zionism is racism.

Campus Anti-Semitism points out that anti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism. It also shows that substantial evidence suggests that many university departments of Middle East studies provide one-sided, highly polemical academic presentations and some may repress legitimate debate concerning Israel. Campus Anti-Semitism emphasizes that when severe, persistent or pervasive, anti-Semitic behavior may constitute a hostile environment for students in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It is important to remember that the Office for Civil Rights’ jurisdiction is based on ancestry or ethnic characteristics, since it does not have jurisdiction to investigate claims of religious discrimination per se. Hon. Stephanie Monroe, Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, has recently stated that the Office for Civil Rights will not investigate allegations of anti-Semitic harassment unless the allegations also include other forms of discrimination over which the Office for Civil Rights has subject matter jurisdiction.

There are many different ways of looking at anti-Semitism, a phenomenon that has been in existence for centuries. Invariably, one finds overlapping elements in the definitions of anti-Semitism. The Department of State’s 2004 report on Global Anti-Semitism is apt in noting that while “there is no universally accepted definition [of anti-Semitism], there is a generally clear understanding of what the term encompasses.” In the context of the report,

“[A]nti-Semitism is considered to be hatred toward Jews—individually and as a group—that can be attributed to the Jewish religion and/or ethnicity. 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.”[1]  

 

Global Anti-Semitism identifies four primary sources of global anti-Semitism. These are:  

  • “Traditional anti-Jewish prejudice that has pervaded Europe and some countries in other parts of the world for centuries. This includes ultra-nationalists and others who assert that the Jewish community controls governments, the media, international business, and the financial world

 

  • Strong anti-Israel sentiment that crosses the line between objective criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism

 

  • Anti-Jewish sentiment expressed by some in Europe's growing Muslim population, based on longstanding antipathy toward both Israel and Jews, as well as Muslim opposition to developments in Israel and the occupied territories, and more recently in Iraq

 

  • Criticism of both the United States and globalization that spills over to Israel, and to Jews in general who are identified with both[2]

The European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia's(EUMC’s)[3] working definition of anti-Semitism reads: 

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.  Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”[4]

 

“In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong.’ It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.  ” [5] (The full EUMC definition gives examples of what may be deemed anti-semitic.)

The Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism in the United Kingdom divides anti-Semitic words and acts into two categories, anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Semitic discourse.[6] Anti-Semitic incidents target Jewish people and property.[7] Anti-Semitic discourse, on the other hand, targets Jews as a group and may be found in the “media or in more private social interaction and often reflects some of the features of historical anti-Semitism, playing on Jewish stereotypes and myths.”[8]

Some forms of anti-Semitism may not be unlawful, others are unlawful but not criminal, and yet others are criminal.  

_____________________________________________________________________________________

1U. S. Department of State, “Report on Global Anti-Semitism,” <http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/40258.htm> (last accessed Sept. 27, 2006).

2 Ibid.

3The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) was first established in 1997. The EUMC commenced its activities in 1998. According to the EUMC, it provides to the “ Community and its Member States with objective, reliable and comparable information and data on racism, xenophobia, islamophobia and anti-Semitism at the European level in order to help the [European Union] and its Member States to establish measures or formulate courses actions against racism and xenophobia. <http://eumc.europa.eu/eumc/index.php?fuseaction=content.dsp_cat_content&catid=2> (Last accessed Sept. 13, 2006).

4 The European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), Discussion Papers, “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism,” <http://eumc.europa.eu/eumc/material/pub/AS/AS-WorkingDefinition-draft.pdf> (last accessed Sept. 13, 2006).

5 Ibid.

6 All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, September 2006, p. 2.

7 Ibid., p.7.

8 Ibid., p. 16.