University hit with lawsuit over pattern of anti-Semitism
San Francisco State University is being sued for allegedly fostering a hostile environment toward Jewish students for the last two decades.
The lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by the nonprofit human rights group the Lawfare Project along with the global law firm Winston and Strawn LLP, accuses the school of allowing disruptive protests and its president, Leslie Wong, of failing to foster a secure environment for “Zionist students.”
"Am I comfortable opening up the gates to everyone? Gosh, of course not."
According to the organization, the lawsuit was filed in the wake of a public demonstration that disrupted the speech by the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, in April 2016.
“At that event organized by SF Hillel, Jewish students and audience members were subjected to genocidal and offensive chants and expletives by a raging mob that used bullhorns to intimidate and drown out the Mayor’s speech and physically threaten and intimidate members of the mostly-Jewish audience,” the Lawfare Project said in a statement.
“At the same time, campus police–including the chief–stood by, on order from senior university administrators who instructed the police to ‘stand down’ despite direct and implicit threats and violations of university codes governing campus conduct.”
The group further notes that no disciplinary action was ever taken against the students who disrupted the scheduled event.
In response to the incident, Hillel International, a Jewish non-profit campus organization, criticized the university for its failure “to provide Mayor Nir Barkat, and more critically, the SFSU students, a safe forum that would uphold the rights and standards of free speech, academic freedom, and academic responsibility on campus.”
According to the complaint, Wong and SFSU have either issued empty promises or justifications for the alleged misbehaviors, such as accusing the AMCHA Initiative, which fights campus anti-Semitism, of “propaganda style tactics” for alleging that an SFSU professor met with suspected terrorists during a taxpayer-funded trip to the Middle East.
Part of the lawsuit also details various comments made by Wong on the issue of anti-semitism, including his remarks on whether Zionists will be welcome on campus.
“That’s one of those categorical statements I can’t get close to…Am I comfortable opening up the gates to everyone? Gosh, of course not,” he said in a May 2017 interview, according to the document.
Amanda Berman, who worked extensively on the Lawfare Project’s investigation of SFSU’s relationship with An-Najah National University in the West Bank, a known recruitment facility for the US-designated terrorist group Hamas, told Campus Reform that the suit seeks monetary and injunctive relief for the defendants.
While she did not specify an amount, she mentioned injunctive relief as the “most crucial aspect of the case,” to “[demand] that certain policies are put in place, that certain actions are taken to ensure what happened with the Barkat event” and other campus incidents “never happen again.”
“It really is a matter of this profoundly intolerant behavior that essentially, at least according to the lawsuit, really does violate the law,” AMCHA Initiative director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told Campus Reform. “And the fact that the university has not addressed this properly gives them a green light to do it again and again and again.”
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