In its annual year-end survey of global anti-Semitism, the Simon Wiesenthal Center warned that the global effort to “demonize and delegitimize” Israel was gaining a foothold in U.S. academia.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s social action director, told theWashington Examiner that colleges and universities were now part of the “front lines” in the struggle against anti-Semitism. Israel’s critics “are trying to take a page out of the playbook used against South Africa in 1980s,” Cooper said.
As evidence, the center’s study, “2014 Top Ten Worst Global Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Incidents,” pointed to a union, United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents teaching assistants at the University of California at Berkeley. In December, the local voted to back the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel — the first-ever US labor group to do so.
The BDS movement is sharply critical of Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians and aims to use economic means to force it to change. The Wiesenthal Center warns that its “real impact is to hurt prospects for peace and to mainstream hate against Israel and her supporters.”
“It is not having an impact on the Israeli economy, but it is poisoning the discourse,” Cooper said.
The center reported that in a November forum at UC-Berkeley, hosted by Local 2865, a pro-boycott activist told a pro-Israel student: “As long as you choose to be on that side, I’m going to continue to hate you.” Cooper noted that the calls to join the BDS movement have spread through academia, citing Columbia and New York University as prominent examples.
Cooper said the center would also push UAW’s leadership, which has not backed the BDS movement, to release a strong statement opposing the local’s decision.
A spokesman for Local 2865 could not be reached. The union’s website is down and receiving a “makeover,” according to a statement posted at its web address.
Labor for Palestine, an activist group that has worked with Local 2865, called the center’s charges “defamatory” in an email to the Examiner: “The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s defamatory charge of ‘anti-Semitism’ against UAW 2865 members — many of them Jewish — who overwhelmingly supported their union’s courageous BDS resolution proves just one thing: supporters of apartheid Israel have no legitimate defense against the growing worldwide movement for justice and equality in Palestine.”