ZOA complaint seeking probe of Rutgers

The Zionist Organization of America has filed a complaint against Rutgers University alleging that the school fostered a hostile environment toward Jewish students.

The complaint requests that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigate the New Jersey school for violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The complaint was filed, said ZOA’s President Morton Klein and Susan Tuchman, the director of ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice in a statement, “only after numerous serious efforts were made to get the university to respond to a long pattern of anti-Semitic hostility on campus, and the administration refused to do so.”

The brief names a number of examples, including one in which Jewish students allegedly were charged admission to a free event and a student was violently threatened on Facebook, as well as citing an alleged anti-Israel bias in the university’s Middle East studies program.

Rutgers denied the allegations in a statement, calling the assertions “factually inaccurate and significantly distorted,” and said the university “welcomes the opportunity to share with the U.S. Department of Education the accurate facts about the events that the ZOA has misrepresented in its allegations.”

Last October, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reclassified campus anti-Semitism as prohibited discrimination covered by the Civil Rights Act. In March, the Office of Civil Rights launched its first investigation into campus anti-Semitism at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

In April, the American Jewish Committee in a statement criticized what it called the “misuse of Title VI to suppress anti-Israel speech,” saying the approach was “dangerous.” The statement, however, alluded to one of the instances at Rutgers outlined in the ZOA complaint as possibly warranting investigation.

AJC and ZOA were among the Jewish groups that had urged Duncan to issue the new Title VI guidelines last year.

Rutgers Jewish students claim only they were charged for event

Jewish students at Rutgers University and their supporters who turned out to protest a campus event sponsored by anti-Zionist groups said an admission fee to the event was levied only on them.

Some 400 pro-Israel Jewish students and their supporters gathered Saturday night to attend the “Never Again for Anyone” program, which had been billed as a free campus event.

The event was sponsored by the campus student group BAKA: Students United For Middle Eastern Justice, and organized by three national organizations: the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Americans for Muslims in Palestine and the Middle East Children’s Alliance.

According to event organizers, a fee for the event of between $5 and $20 was imposed at the last minute after the university decided to charge the organizations a higher fee to rent the auditorium upon determining that it was not a student event. The fee was set in order to cover the cost of the hall rental and to pay for two security guards engaged after it was learned that there would be protests, according to the Providence Journal.

But student protesters told the newspaper that the sign reading free admission was taken down as they approached the venue and that they believe the charge was a way to discourage the protesters from attending the event, since they would not give money to a group whose message with which they disagree.

If the protesting students had been allowed to attend the event, they would have outnumbered supporters 4 to 1, according to reports.

The event also was endorsed by humanitarian, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, Greek life and anti-racist student organizations at the university, according to the Rutgers student newspaper, The Daily Targum.

A letter by BAKA published in the student newspaper Jan. 27 invited all members of the campus community to the event.

The Jewish students who made the claims on the admission fees reportedly gathered in the lobby of the student center and sang Hebrew songs.

“Never Again for Anyone” is billed as a nationwide tour “to honor those who perished in the Holocaust by upholding the human rights inherent to all people—and particularly for Palestinians living under Israel’s occupation.” At least 14 programs in 11 cities are planned through the end of February.

Rutgers student group holds Gaza fundraiser

A student group at Rutgers University is holding a fund raiser in support of a blockade-busting flotilla to Gaza.

Thursday night’s event, which features a halal buffet, is being held by the campus organization BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice. The dinner and speakers are advertised as in support of U.S. to Gaza, which plans to sponsor a boat in a flotilla to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the New Jersey newspaper The Record reported. BAKA is using student activity fees to sponsor the event, according to The Record.

The New Jersey regional office of the Anti-Defamation League reportedly has contacted the university to protest of the event. The Rutgers Hillel has also opposed the event, according to the newspaper.

The university will allow the event to take place, but it has not been determined where the proceeds will be donated, the report said, with Rutgers looking into whether the groups that make up U.S. to Gaza are eligible to receive tax-deductible donations.