Days before a scheduled appearance at Rutgers by the cofounder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the Zionist Organization of America lodged a complaint saying the university may be in violation of federal regulations by allowing a campus environment that is “increasingly hostile, anti-Semitic, and even includes violent threats against a Jewish student.”
According to Susan Tuchman, director of the ZOA Center for Law and Justice, the 15-page letter delivered to RU president Richard L. McCormick April 6 claims the university is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The legislation requires that recipients of federal funding ensure their programs and activities are free from racial and ethnic discrimination, including anti-Semitism.
The letter cites activities that have taken place all year led by BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice that have “demonized Jews in Israel” and attempted to delegitimize the Jewish state. The controversial events have led to counter-protests by Rutgers Hillel and other Jewish groups. The letter also contained steps the ZOA would like to see the university take to remedy the situation.
Responding to the ZOA, university spokesperson Greg Trevor said that the letter contained “numerous factual inaccuracies and makes unsubstantiated accusations against individuals, including students, at Rutgers.”
He did not elaborate on those inaccuracies.
“Rutgers University has long been recognized as an institution where individuals of all backgrounds are encouraged to express their views in a respectful and dignified manner,” he added. “Rutgers strives to ensure that the university is a place where people of divergent backgrounds can communicate without fear of retribution or intolerance.”
McCormick, in a response provided to NJJN by the university, said “Rutgers University has a long history of partnership with the Jewish community and has long prided itself as a welcoming and open environment for people of the Jewish faith and tradition. Members of this community have been a part of Rutgers at every level, from the administration to the faculty to a significant portion of the student body.”
Rutgers has approximately 6,500 Jewish students among its 37,000 undergraduates and graduate students.
McCormick added that the university also values its partnership with the Muslim community and those dedicated to the Palestinian movement.
“It is not taking a political or religious stance on often divisive issues,” wrote McCormick. “Rutgers aims to provide a safe space for all sides to express views in a respectful and dignified manner.”
He added such a position was “wholly separate” from agreeing with the views of any group.
BAKA co-sponsored the talk by Barghouti, who is on a tour promoting his book, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS): The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights. On April 11, Rutgers Hillel executive director Andrew Getraer said Jewish students planned to be at the event to educate attendees and deliver a positive message about Israel.
Officials at Rutgers Hillel declined to comment on the ZOA letter, saying they are not prepared to comment on what may be a legal matter.