Scholars, community members outraged by campaign to smear human rights activism as antisemitic

Law students deliver open letter signed by faculty, students and community members condemning event proposing policies to repress critics of Israeli policies

Seattle, WA (April 19, 2016)— University of Washington Law Students delivered a letter signed by nearly 400 scholars, students and community members from across the country to the UW Law School administration today, condemning the decision to include  Kenneth Marcus of the Brandeis Center in the school’s “Social Justice Tuesdays” speakers series. Marcus has been a key proponent in a well-funded campaign to re-define antisemitism to include criticism of Israel, and has a demonstrated record of harassing student activists for Palestinian human rights.  The letter expressed “deep disappointment in the decision to allow Kenneth Marcus, sponsored by the Brandeis Center and StandWithUs Northwest, to share his work with students under the banner of ‘social justice,’” despite emphatic objections from students, local community members, and professional colleagues who argued that Marcus’ history of filing civil rights complaints against universities over false allegations of antisemitism are a part of a campaign of intimidation against critics of Israeli policy and work to chill speech on college campuses.

The letter’s signatories included prominent scholars such as Judith Butler, the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley, Joel Benin, the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History at Stanford, and Dean Spade, Associate Professor at Seattle University School of Law and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Legal organizations including the National Lawyers Guild also endorsed the letter. “People are shocked the Law School is being used as a platform for a nationwide campaign to repress the growing movement for Palestinian human rights,” said Law student Ari Robbins. “Previous attempts to institute a long-discredited definition of antisemitism once used and now discarded by the European Union Monitoring Centre, have failed at the University of California  in the face of wide condemnation from faculty, students, and community members.”

The letter, initiated by UW Law Students, was presented to Dean Testy during a meeting between the administration and student groups to discuss concerns about racial justice on campus on Tuesday afternoon.

The letter highlighted that many in the community had deep concerns over the sponsors of the event, pointing out that co-sponsor StandWithUs Northwest had a history of working with groups with deeply problematic positions. organizations with deeply problematic positions at odds with a commitment to social justice“I was deeply upset to find out that Social Justice Tuesdays was granting StandWithUs a platform under the banner of social justice, especially in light of the fact that they work closely with organizations like Christians United for Israel, whose leader John Hagee has a history of making homophobic, Islamophobic, and antisemitic remarks. SJT shouldn’t allow SWU to whitewash this history,” said UW graduate student Caitlin Palo.

Students argued that it was important to express opposition to Kenneth Marcus’ proposal. Previous civil rights complaints advanced by Marcus included spurious claims that Muslim Student Unions “fund terrorism” and have ties to “terrorist groups,” and that Students for Justice in Palestine, Muslim Student Associations and Muslim Student Unions help to“fund terrorism” and have ties to “terrorist groups” Despite the fact that these claims have continually been thrown out for lack of evidence, these accusations put Arab and Muslim students at heightened risk of Islamophobic violence and intimidation.

 

 

 

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