Study: Antisemitism Far More Likely At Schools With Faculty Members That Support BDS

by Aaron Bandler
March 21, 2022
Read the original post in the Jewish Journal.

The AMCHA Initiative released a study on March 16 concluding that antisemitism was more likely to occur at schools that had several faculty members endorsing boycotts against Israel.

The study, titled “Faculty Academic Boycotters: Ground Zero for Campus Antisemitism,” found that United States college campuses that had at least five faculty members who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement “were 3.6 times more likely to have acts targeting Jewish and pro-Israel students for harm” and “4.5 times more likely to have incidents involving student BDS promotion.” The study also found that the majority of antisemitic rhetoric and incidents on campuses took place during “the seven weeks following the onset of the Israel-Hamas clashes [in May 2021], despite the fact that many schools were then in the midst of graduation activities or had even completed them.” Examples of such incidents cited in the study included Jewish students at Stanford University being told “Don’t talk to me if you’re Jewish” and someone writing in a Zoom chat during a UC Santa Cruz student government meeting: “u filthy k— HEIL HITLER BURN ALL JEWS.” The meeting was discussing an anti-Israel resolution, according to the study.

Additionally, the study found “an extremely strong correlation” between faculty members who were pro-BDS prior to the 2021 conflict and faculty members who endorsed BDS during May-June that year. The study suggests that this proves “that faculty academic boycotters are successfully influencing their colleagues to embrace an academic boycott of Israel.”

“While much attention is paid to anti-Zionist student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, faculty are flying under the radar, yet they are a significant and dangerous contributor to campus antisemitism,” AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who was one of the researchers in the study, said in a statement. “Our new research overwhelmingly suggests that they are the ones instigating, inspiring, encouraging and modeling the playbook for students to follow.” 

She also noted that the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) is on the verge of endorsing BDS. MESA’s members have been voting on the matter for the past couple of months, and voting ends on March 22. “With the MESA vote looming and 3,000 primary purveyors of Israel-related courses and departmentally-sponsored events about to endorse an academic boycott of Israel – providing disciplinary legitimacy for such faculty abuse – the problem is likely to grow exponentially worse for Jewish students,” Rossman-Benjamin said.

Asaf Romirowsky, who heads Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and the Association for the Study of the Middle East and North Africa (ASMEA), with the latter being an alternative to MESA, told the Journal in a phone interview that the AMCHA study was “solid” and confirmed “what we’ve been observing for years.” “The last war in Gaza that we saw in May … when you saw the plethora of hundreds of statements to come out of departments and centers, all with the same copy-and-pastes, fallacious accusations of crimes against humanity, genocide, apartheid and what not, it was literally appalling,” he said.

As for MESA, Romirowsky said that because MESA overwhelmingly voted in December 2021 in favor of advancing a resolution endorsing BDS for a vote to its membership at large, he thinks it’s a fait-accompli that the organization will vote in favor of the resolution come March 22. “They have laid down the groundwork for this to happen years ago,” he said, pointing to the fact that MESA revised their bylaws in 2017 to state that they are no longer nonpolitical. “They’re clearly a politicized advocacy organization, and BDS ties directly into what they’re doing. The people at the top are pro-BDSers … these are the people who claim to be so-called experts on the Middle East, so there’s a whole trickle-down effect to the whole architecture.

“To my mind, BDS is a halo for the totality to the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Romirowsky added. “So that’s exactly the kind of narrative they’re putting out there.”

MESA did not immediately respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

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