The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has demanded that Rutgers, The
State University of New Jersey, rectify the hostile anti-Semitic environment
on campus, which has had a detrimental effect on Jewish students who have
been physically threatened – even with death threats – and made to feel
intimidated and unsafe. Middle East studies courses are so biased against
Israel that Jewish students avoid them or are afraid to speak up in class
and express their support for Israel. On a regular basis, an extremist
anti-Israel student group called BAKA has been sponsoring and promoting
events on campus that demonize Jews and Israel, thereby inciting hatred of
In a letter to Rutgers President Richard McCormick dated April 6, 2011, the
ZOA detailed the problems reported by Jewish students, which have made them
feel threatened, intimidated, and physically unsafe:
· Aaron Marcus, a Jewish student who is a columnist for the student
paper, the Targum, wrote an opinion piece calling on the anti-Israel student
group called BAKA to end its hateful tactics. Another student responded by
posting a Facebook message physically threatening Mr. Marcus: "As I was
reading the Aaron Marcus column this morning, I realized how Im [sic] a
pretty angry person. Id [sic] be happy to see him beat with a crowbar.
Violence doesnt [sic] solve problems but it shuts up people who shouldnt
· Seven other Facebook users endorsed the violent threat against Mr.
Marcus by clicking "like" on the Facebook message. One responded with a
murderous message of his own: "Or makes them martyrs, furthering the
strength behind their beliefs. And skinning them alive so they see the
· Fearing for his safety, Aaron Marcus sought police protection and
removed his contact information from the Rutgers directory. He also filed a
bias report with the Dean of Students which, according to university policy,
is supposed to be responded to within 24 hours of being filed. More than
one month later, Mr. Marcus received a cursory e-mail from the Dean of
Students, telling him that there were insufficient grounds to formally
charge the student who had threatened him. The student was simply given a
warning; no action was apparently taken against the student who threatened
to skin Mr. Marcus alive.
· Aaron Marcus has also been threatened and intimidated by a
university official who engaged in anti-Semitic name-calling against Mr.
Marcus on Facebook. After Mr. Marcus wrote an opinion piece in the Targum
criticizing the student government's decision to financially support the
Palestine Children's Relief Fund, Shehnaz Sheik Abdeljaber, the Outreach
Coordinator for Rutgers' Center for Middle East Studies, posted a message on
Facebook referring to Mr. Marcus as "that racist Zionist pig!!!!!!!!" Ms.
Abdeljaber also tried to incite other Facebook users against Mr. Marcus,
encouraging them to "put his name in fb [Facebook] search . . . he has a fb
[Facebook] hate page" -- as if celebrating that people were posting hateful
messages about Mr. Marcus and urging others to find that Facebook page so
that they could read the comments and post their own hateful messages.
· Ms. Abdeljaber also physically threatened and tried to provoke a
physical fight with Mr. Marcus. After a student body meeting, Ms.
Abdeljaber rushed toward Mr. Marcus and began yelling at him, "I'm
Palestinian. Do you want to take me on? Do you want to fight? I have
thick blood. Try me." Ms. Abdeljaber kept pounding on her chest and
pointing to her necklace, which was a silhouette of Israel covered by the
· The anti-Israel student group called BAKA has been sponsoring and
promoting campus programs and events on a regular basis that demonize Jews
and Israel, thereby inciting hatred of them. Last January, at a BAKA event
entitled "Never Again for Anyone," speakers falsely and outrageously
analogized the Nazis' treatment of the Jews to Israel's policies and
practices toward the Palestinian Arabs. The event was advertised as free
and open to the public. But when many Jewish and pro-Israel students and
community members showed up in protest of the event, an admission fee was
suddenly imposed and selectively enforced: BAKA members and others deemed
friendly to BAKA's cause were observed getting in for free. Those perceived
as Jewish and pro-Israel had to pay to be admitted to the event.
Reportedly, inside the event, the leader of one of the co-sponsoring
organizations told the audience, "When we saw that there were . . . Zionists
[meaning Jews] outside, we decided to charge."
· Middle East studies classes are so biased against Israel that
Jewish students are too uncomfortable or intimidated to enroll in them.
When they do enroll, they go in expecting that the professor will be biased
against Israel and are reluctant and even intimidated to speak up and say
that they support Israel.
· The Rutgers Hillel reported in the Targum that "Jewish students
have been threatened with violence, made to feel unsafe in their dorms and
sought formal counseling because of physical threats as well as emotional
and verbal attacks on them. This includes individuals who BAKA has publicly
The ZOA has strongly urged Rutgers President Richard McCormick to take
several steps to eliminate the hostile anti-Semitic environment on campus,
including: (1) speaking out and publicly condemning anti-Semitism in all
its forms when it occurs at Rutgers, including when anti-Israel and
anti-Zionist sentiment crosses the line into anti-Semitism; (2)
investigating Shehnaz Sheik Abdeljaber's conduct thoroughly and, if the
allegations against her are substantiated, firing her; (3) investigating
thoroughly and resolving fairly each and every bias report that Jewish
students have made; (4) investigating thoroughly what occurred at the "Never
Again for Anyone" event and determine whether BAKA should be disciplined for
violating university policies at the event; and (5) undertaking a
comprehensive review of university course descriptions and course materials
to correct the anti-Israel bias that permeates the classroom, creating a
hostile learning environment for Jewish students. Emphasizing that
President McCormick had the legal obligation to act, the ZOA provided him
with a copy of the policy letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education's
Office for Civil Rights on October 26, 2010, clarifying that Jewish students
must be protected from anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation under Title
VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Rutgers President Whitewashes and Ignores Anti-Semitism
President McCormick responded to the ZOA's letter on April 26, 2011,
distorting and dismissing virtually all of the concerns that were raised.
He did not agree to take any of the steps that the ZOA recommended, stating
that "[t]he university has already addressed each of the incidents that you
have identified . . . [and is] confident that we have satisfied our
obligations under both Title VI and the First Amendment."
Challenging this contention in a response to President McCormick dated June
21, 2011, the ZOA called Rutgers' response "inadequate." In particular, the
ZOA criticized the fact that President McCormick completely ignored the
threats, harassment and intimidation that Rutgers student Aaron Marcus has
been subjected to by other students and shockingly by a university official.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein emphasized how troubling Rutgers'
response was, stating, "There's no doubt that if a university official
engaged in bigoted and hateful name-calling against a gay student or an
African American student, or threatened and tried to provoke a physical
fight with a gay or African American student, Rutgers wouldn't tolerate that
behavior for one second. And it shouldn't. We are shocked that Rutgers is
allowing someone who's been given the title 'Outreach Coordinator' of
Rutgers' Middle East Studies Center to continue in that position, after she
bullied and threatened a Jewish student simply because he exercised his
right to express his views. What Jewish and pro-Israel student would ever
feel comfortable taking a Middle East studies course when the coordinator of
the center has shown such viciousness toward Jews and Israel?
"Rutgers needs to start affirmatively addressing the problems that are
plaguing the campus and harming Jewish students. It's not only President
McCormick's moral duty to eliminate the anti-Semitic harassment and
intimidation; it's also his legal obligation under Title VI. The Office for
Civil Rights has made it clear that Jewish students are entitled to the kind
of college experience that every student needs and deserves: one that's
physically and emotionally safe and conducive to learning.
"We call on all Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League
and the American Jewish Committee – to demand that President McCormick take
action and address the campus hostilities that are affecting and harming