NGO in an­ti­semitism case: Giv­ing JVP and not Hil­lel a seat at SFU is still dis­crim­i­na­tion

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By YONAH JEREMY BOB

Giv­ing only Jewish Voice for Peace a ta­ble at a stu­dent ac­tiv­i­ties fair but not to Hil­lel is still in­vid­i­ous dis­crim­i­na­tion, an NGO told a US fed­eral court in Cal­i­for­nia, in an an­ti­semitism law­suit against San Fran­cisco State Univer­sity.

The state­ment was made last week at the first hear­ing in the Law­fare Project’s case against the univer­sity for decades of al­leged dis­crim­i­na­tion against Jews, but the full tran­script of the hear­ing was only now re­leased and ob­tained by The Jerusalem Post.

The univer­sity de­nied the al­le­ga­tions and won a short-term tac­ti­cal vic­tory in get­ting the case tem­po­rar­ily dis­missed, but the court said this was pri­mar­ily to give Law­fare Project and univer­sity stu­dent plain­tiffs an op­por­tu­nity to amend their law­suit.

The amended law­suit will fo­cus on more se­ri­ous and re­cent an­ti­semitism griev­ances in­stead of the decades of in­ci­dents the orig­i­nal law­suit men­tioned.

At its heart, the case as­serts that the univer­sity vi­o­lated its Jewish stu­dents’ right to free speech, free­dom to as­sem­ble and right to have law en­force­ment pro­tect th­ese rights, as part of sys­tem­atic dis­crim­i­na­tion or de­lib­er­ate in­dif­fer­ence to a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment against Jews.

Law­fare Project’s lawyer, Seth Weis­burst of Win­ston & Strawn LLP, made the state­ment about dis­crim­i­na­tion against Hil­lel in re­spond­ing to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia fed­eral judge Wil­liam Or­rick’s ques­tion about how he could ac­cuse the univer­sity of an­ti­semitism at the stu­dent fair when JVP, a Jewish group, was given a ta­ble.

Weis­burst re­sponded: “So this fair was set up... it was de­cided that Jewish stu­dents weren’t en­ti­tled to have a ta­ble… You men­tioned the JVP group… To use an anal­ogy… if a group of Chi­nese stu­dents were ex­cluded” be­cause of poli­cies of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, “that’s ob­vi­ously in­vid­i­ous dis­crim­i­na­tion.” “And hav­ing a ta­ble of some cherry-picked peo­ple who will sup­port your point of view and be­ing able to point to them can­not be a way to avoid li­a­bil­ity,” he con­tin­ued.

Another cen­tral ques­tion that Law­fare Project and the univer­sity will be ex­pected to butt heads about when the amended law­suit is filed is whether top of­fi­cials sim­ply knew that there was dis­crim­i­na­tion di­rected against Jewish stu­dents or whether they helped or­ches­trate it.

This was the is­sue where Judge Or­rick said Law­fare Project needed to be more spe­cific and nar­row its fo­cus to where it had more con­crete ev­i­dence.

“We be­lieve this is an or­ches­trated… se­ries of events… they didn’t want to have the event [host­ing Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat] hap­pen… They de­cided to move it to a room that far fewer peo­ple would at­tend… they were or­dered by the Dean of Stu­dents to tell the po­lice to stand down and take no ac­tion, and that had the ef­fect of… this speech be­ing shut down… and no­body could hear the speech,” said Weis­burst.

Weis­burst added that Pro­fes­sor Rabab Ab­dul­hadi, Dean Be­g­ley, Dean Mon­teiro and other of­fi­cials were also in­volved in acts of “re­tal­i­a­tion” against Jewish stu­dents for their views and events they or­ga­nized.

The law­suit was trig­gered fol­low­ing the al­leged com­plic­ity of se­nior univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors and po­lice of­fi­cers in the dis­rup­tion of an April 2016 speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

Dur­ing that event, or­ga­nized by the univer­sity’s Hil­lel group, Jewish stu­dents and au­di­ence mem­bers were al­legedly “sub­jected to geno­ci­dal and of­fen­sive chants and ex­ple­tives by a rag­ing mob that used bull­horns to in­tim­i­date and drown out the mayor’s speech and phys­i­cally threaten and in­tim­i­date mem­bers of the mostly Jewish au­di­ence.”

The law­suit as­serts that “cam­pus po­lice – in­clud­ing the chief – stood by, on or­der from se­nior univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors who in­structed the po­lice to ‘stand down’ de­spite di­rect and im­plicit threats and vi­o­la­tions of univer­sity codes gov­ern­ing cam­pus con­duct.”

A JVP spokes­woman Tal­lie Ben Daniel re­jected the Law­fare Project’s nar­ra­tive in the case, stat­ing: “De­spite this law­suit’s claims, this suit is not about pro­tect­ing Jewish stu­dents from an­ti­semitism, it is the lat­est in an on­go­ing ef­fort to si­lence ad­vo­cacy for Pales­tinian hu­man rights on cam­puses.

“‘Pro-Is­rael’ or­ga­ni­za­tions have… at­tempted to dis­solve a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing be­tween An-Na­jah Univer­sity in the oc­cu­pied West Bank and SFSU; per­se­cuted Pales­tinian pro­fes­sors, and pub­licly ha­rassed Pales­tinian stu­dents, ar­gu­ing for dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween crit­i­cism of the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment… poli­cies to­wards Pales­tini­ans, and anti-Jewish sen­ti­ment.”

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