Jewish Students Split Over Whether San Francisco School Is Anti-Semitic

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Rob Shimshock Education Reporter
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Jewish students in California are split over whether or not their university’s treatment of them constitutes anti-Semitism.

While five Jewish students and two other individuals sued San Francisco State University for viewpoint discrimination in 2017, students from a group called Open Hillel distinguish between anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias in a friend-of-the-court brief, reported The College Fix.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick previously dismissed a different version of the plaintiffs’ lawsuit and indicated that he was likely to do so again, asking whether the plaintiffs properly claimed that SFSU was discriminating on the basis of religion, according to Tribunal News Service.

“We were arguing that the defendants should be held liable for viewpoint discrimination under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, for ratifying unconstitutional behavior and for supervising unconstitutional behavior, and that knowledge (not specific intent) is the only requirement [for viewpoint discrimination],” attorney Amanda Berman, a Lawfare Project attorney representing the plaintiffs, told The Fix.

Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that students cannot be harassed for protected categories like race, ethnicity and religion, but partisanship is not covered. (RELATED: Campus Group: Pro-Israel Students Met With Thrown Rocks And Spit)

The Jewish plaintiffs allege that SFSU allowed anti-Israel protesters to “physically threaten” Jewish students by ordering school police to stand down during Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s visit to campus. They also assert that the university has “repeatedly denied” Hillel and Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi fair representation at campus events, including non-Jewish groups.

SFSU student Saliem Shehadeh told pro-Palestinian group Palestine Legal that she did not invite Hillel to one student organization fair because of the group’s “demonstrated record of suppression of student rights including advocacy for justice in Palestine.”


But the plaintiffs “are trying to hold SFSU responsible for actions by other students on the campus with whom they disagree,” Open Hillel lawyer Dan Siegel told The Fix. “I hope that the judge will dismiss [the lawsuit].”

“A lot of Jews in the US are critical of the state of Israel,” Siegel continued.

“Hillel frequently acts as a political organization and not as an umbrella organization for all Jewish students,” Open Hillel asserts. “Hillel functions as a political advocacy organization to promote a certain ideological view on Israel.”

While the pro-Israel Hillel group is not a party in the lawsuit against the school, its executive director, Ollie Benn, said no student should be required to hold certain views in order to be included in campus life.

“The current status quo at SF State is as follows: Jewish students can be excluded from full participation in campus life unless they expressly state they are anti-Israel,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “A study conducted by SF State found that Jewish students report feeling less welcome and included in campus life than any other religious group. No student — whether Jewish or not — should be required to express an opinion on Israel or any other subject to be included 100% in campus life.”

SFSU did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

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