Jewish students at American University in Washington D.C. have filed a federal complaint claiming ‘rampant and pervasive antisemitism’ on campus after they were investigated for filming pro-Palestine vandals ripping down Israeli hostage posters. In a 26-page complaint, the students say they have experienced all manner of antisemitism including threats, spitting, the targeting of classrooms and being called offensive names such as ‘Zionist pig.’
In the most concerning incident, the Jewish students sent video to the university authorities that showed the Gaza ‘hostage’ posters being removed by other people on campus. The posters they were ripping down contained the names and faces of the 240 civilians kidnapped during the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel . But rather than go after the perpetrators who ripped down the posters, the university instead turned the tables and began an investigation into the Jewish students who had filmed the footage.
The Jewish students were charged with harassment and disorderly conduct for recording the incidents. The office justified the actions of the other group of students saying they were ‘removing unauthorized postings.’ Yet, university policy declares: ‘No community member should remove or deface any poster.’ The students appeared particularly selective in which ‘unauthorized’ posters they removed and were filmed removing only ‘hostage’ posters rather than other flyers in ‘unauthorized’ locations, the complaint details.
‘This allegation is pure pretext. First, the students removed the Jewish students’ hostage posters from authorized locations as well as from alleged ‘unauthorized’ locations. Second, the students who removed the hostage posters replaced them with their own posters,’ the complaint states. The federal complaint filed by six American University students, alleges the presence of ‘widespread and persistent antisemitism’ on campus, with the administration offering a minimal response. American University boasts a significant Jewish student population, with approximately 21 percent of undergraduates and 17 percent of postgraduate of the Jewish faith.
The detailed 26-page complaint outlines instances of threats, spitting incidents, classroom targeting, and offensive name-calling like ‘Zionist pig.’ The complaint described how the university administration responded as ‘harassing, discriminatory and retaliatory.’ The students had recorded the video lawfully in a public place ‘to support their claims of anti-Semitic vandalism, because their previous complaints had been summarily dismissed for lack of evidence.’ ‘The vandalizers themselves, meanwhile, are not being held accountable, only the Jewish students are being investigated,’ the filing said.
Chairman of the Brandeis Center, through whom the complaint was filed, Kenneth Marcus (pictured), a former Education Department assistant secretary for civil rights, criticized American University for neglecting its legal duty to safeguard Jewish students from unlawful targeting and harassment. ‘Shamefully, AU has repeatedly chosen to turn a blind eye to the anti-Semitism snowballing on its campus,’ Marcus said. ‘Not only has the university failed in its legal obligation to protect Jewish students from illegal targeting and harassment, it is attempting to bully those brave enough to speak up,’ he said.
‘The university’s delinquency is reprehensible, and it only signals to the AU community there are no consequences for those who harass, threaten, assault or shun Jewish and Israeli students, emboldening those hostile to Jews even further.’ Marcus (pictured) suggested that the university had not only failed in its obligations but had also tried to intimidate those who spoke out against antisemitism – essentially creating an environment where anyone who carried out harassment faced no consequences.
In one disturbing incident, two FBI agents had to provide security at a Jewish student’s piano recital after ‘AU was unable to ensure his safety’. A poster for the event was vandalized in yellow marker with someone crossing out the student’s face and daubing ‘Death to the Zionists. Hitler was right’, across the front.
The student claimed to have been called ‘Zionist pig’ and ‘Zionist killer.’ It then took the university a further five days to respond to his report which only happened after he complained to professors. Weeks after the October 7 attacks, two Jewish freshmen found their dorm room doors vandalized with swastikas with a Nazi slogan found on the same floor. American University President Sylvia Burwell quickly issued a statement declaring: ‘This hateful act of antisemitism is reprehensible.’
American University have responded insisting the institution is committed to supporting Jewish students and combating antisemitism. ‘There is no tolerance for antisemitism at AU,’ Matthew Bennett, the vice president and chief communications officer at American University told The Washington Times. ‘We take these issues and any concerns from our Jewish community seriously, and we review and address them.’ Bennett said the claims mentioned in the complaint are either being addressed or have been mischaracterized – with some previously unknown to the university. He was keen to stress how the university had introduced proactive measures in combatting antisemitism two years ago amid the global rise in antisemitism.
The university claims to have sought expertise from the Anti-Defamation League, and conducted training sessions for various groups within the university community. Since the October 7 attacks by Hamas, in which more than 1,200 civilians were killed, the Department of Education’s office for civil rights has been bombarded by with complaints about antisemitism on campuses across the country. Investigations have been opened at 50 universities, colleges and K-12 school districts. Hillel International says there has been a 700 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents between October 7 through last Friday, January 18, compared with the same time last year. At Columbia University in New York, two inquiries have been launched: one into antisemitism; the other into allegations of Islamophobia.
Although free speech has been revered on college campuses for years, the Israel-Hamas war and its rhetoric appear to be widening the fault lines and pushing students to demand that university leaders take a side between clashing versions of free speech. It came to a head in December when leaders of three elite colleges were called to Congress to testify on campus antisemitism. The then-presidents of Harvard, UPenn and MIT all attended a heated congressional hearing concerning anti-Semitism on campuses. The three presidents were all grilled for hours about the angry protests at their schools and what they have done to protect Jewish students. Former Harvard President Claudine Gay (pictured) and her counterparts all condemned the acts of Hamas and disavowed antisemitism generally, but she refused to speak out against students calling for the genocide of Jews.
Republican Elise Stefanik (pictured) was dogged in her questioning of the leaders, demanding to know whether such calls violated their policies on bullying. Gay replied that this decision was ‘depending on the context’ and when asked to clarify said: ‘Anti-Semitic rhetoric, when it crosses into conduct that amounts to bullying, harassment, intimidation — that is actionable conduct and we do take action.’ All three university conceded the rising antisemitism and vowed to crack down on it, but used their testimony to say there have ‘also’ been ‘rising incidents of Islamophobia.’
Want more stories like this from the Daily Mail? Visit our profile page here and hit the follow button above for more of the news you need.