Kenneth Marcus of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, suffered a new defeat in his campaign to enforce politically correct pro-Israel discourse on U.S. college campuses. After persuading an Orthodox Jewish Barnard College student to file a formal complaint against a professor accusing her of steering the student away from an Israel studies course and introducing a climate of hostility toward Jewish students on campus, the U.S. Department of Education dismissed the complaint. Among the claims offered was that Professor Rachel McDermott made an assumption based on the student’s “Orthodox dress” that she would feel uncomfortable with the anti-Israel environment in the classroom.
The student and her academic advisor had a discussion about whether she should take a course offered by Palestinian-American professor Joseph Massad, who is the bete noir of the pro-Israel lobby. Though he played no role in the complaint, it’s no accident that he played some part in inspiring the action. In fact, Marcus attempted to argue that having an uninvolved professor steer a Jewish student away from a Massad course indicated that his department was instilling a hostile environment for Jews on campus. How do you spell P-R-E-P-O-S-T-E-R-O-U-S?
Marcus is an officer in the far-right Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. One of the key campus professors who helped organize the Columbia complain was Prof. Judith Jacobson who circulated a third hand version of the complaint which led to Marcus’ action.
A similar federal lawsuit was also dismissed against UC Berkeley. The judge said students and faculty may express views critical of Israel on campus and this was protected speech. Not to mention the concept of academic freedom, which not only allows but encourages a diversity of views in the classroom.
Marcus has also been trolling at Evergreen College in Olympia seeking to target Prof. Steve Niva, a popular Middle East studies faculty member who is the target of attacks by StandWithUs and the Israeli Pacific NW consul general. Marcus inspired complaints are still active against UC Santa Cruz and ZOA has filed a similar action against Rutgers. The pro-Israel advocate, who formerly was an official in the U.S. Office of Civil Rights spuriously attempted to liken a professor steering a student to or away from a course to a real estate agent steering a minority couple to and from a real estate transaction with a racial motive.
It is simply preposterous to claim that sending a Jewish student toward or away from a particular course can be anti-Semitic. I’ve never heard of such academic-legal claptrap in my life. Marcus is simply making up concepts, throwing them against the wall like spaghetti, and seeing which ones stick. When he sees a strand on the wall he exclaims: “Aha, you see, anti-Semitism. I told you so.”
To be clear, I believe there is anti-Semitism in the world and that when it is found it should be exposed and uprooted. I believe in protecting Jews and anyone suffering from ethnic prejudice. But there is no such thing as anti-Israelism and those who suggest there is are academic charlatans. Kenneth Marcus is a fraud. StandWithUs is a fraud. Akiva Tor is a fraud as far as charges like this are concerned. I’m glad that a federal court and the U.S. Department of Education have confirmed this. It doesn’t mean Marcus will stop trying. That’s what these pro-Israel trolls do.
Electronic Intifada has a full account of these events along with pertinent documents from the case.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.