Last spring, a controversial Santa Cruz-based group called the AMCHA Initiative alerted SF State officials about some threatening Tumblr posts by a then-current student. The posts were genuinely disturbing. In them, the student posed with a knife and ranted about wanting to kill Israelis. Needless to say, he no longer attends SF State.

Unfortunately, most of the students and professors AMCHA and similar groups speak out against are not even threatening violence. Instead, they are targeted because of their memberships in groups like Students For Justice in Palestine, or simply because they have criticized the Israeli government’s policies.

This is extremely problematic because it stifles legitimate criticisms of war, occupation and the right to land use. In light of the events of this past summer, we need to start talking seriously about the situation in the Middle East.

A small number of groups including AMCHA, Committee For Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and Stand With Us are behind the vast majority of attacks on students and professors who criticize Israel or sympathize with Palestinians. For saying anything that these groups interpret as anti-Israel—even if the person is Jewish—the group will label a person anti-Semitic.

“If you criticize Israel you’re anti-Semitic, even if you’re Jewish,” said Nora Barrows-Friedman, a Bay Area based freelance journalist who has been harassed by AMCHA for writing about Israel and Palestine. “In my view, that’s a pretty anti-Semitic thing to do.”

According to Barrows-Friedman, who is Jewish, AMCHA and similar groups have never won a case, despite filing several against professors and students.  Barrows-Friedman believes the group’s real strategy is to prevent activism or scholarship on the complex Middle East situation.

Since no one wants to be accused of this particularly infamous form of bigotry, lots of college students and professors simply choose not to talk about the problems in Israel and Palestine. Meanwhile, anything else is fair game for criticism, from ISIS in Syria to the vote for Scottish independence in Britain.

Cecilie Surasky of Jewish Voice For Peace said that AMCHA’s strategies include making lists of professors’ names—and often, their contact information—and emailing them to school administrators and journalists. While the accusations usually lead to nothing, professors can be disciplined or even fired for engaging in academic freedom.

Last semester’s knife incident proves that occasionally, Jewish and Israeli students face violent threats. In this case, calling out this student and alerting the authorities was most likely the right thing to do. Unfortunately, it’s easy to brush off accusations of “anti-Semitism” when it’s brought up by groups like AMCHA every time a student or professor sympathizes with Palestine.

Oliver Benn, director of SF State’s chapter of the Jewish campus organization Hillel said that although they do not work with groups like AMCHA, they are glad when incidents like last semester’s are brought to their attention.

“Jewish groups on and off campus are concerned about the safety of students,” Benn said. “The knife incident illustrates why.”

Students and professors are more likely to utter pro-Palestinian phrases rather than anti-Israel, or anti-Jewish, speech. Even if they were expressing actual anti-Semitism, constant accusations and intimidation techniques would only stifle their freedom of speech, not change their opinions.

7 thoughts on “AMCHA is too aggressive about anti-Semitism”

  1. AMCHA smells like a mossad front op. Read their UCLA report, particularly appendix C. The real intent is to prohibit any criticism of israheil.

    israheili intel is running a
    worldwide propaganda op with its agents running stories about “rising tide
    of anti semitism”. but it is all a lie, just propaganda designed to get
    sympathy for the “poor jews, i.e. zionist thugs” who are committing
    mass murder in gaza. just google: rising tide of anti semitism…………you
    can see the operation for yourself.

    p.s. google also: robert maxwell israels superspy…………..learn how mossad
    controls media in the usa and europe.

    1. The New Observer (linked by Malinan ) is a blatantly racist site. They hate Jews, blacks and other non-white minorities. A simple browsing of their site will reveal that.

      In addition, the founders of the AMCHA Initiative, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is a professor at UC Santa Cruz and Leila Beckwith is a professor emeritus from UCLA. So much for Mossad.

  2. If up until recently there was no need to pay a great deal of attention to the Mosaic Religions it is now imperative to take a second look at the connecting link that supposedly exists between these Religions and God. Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in the Old Testament written by Moses as God’s Law. The Old Testament is based on the Ten Commandments and on the alleged Divine messages given to Moses for all of Mankind. What should capture the attention is the narrative of this event. In our days, it would not be believable the story of a man who claims to have spoken with God while he was alone on a mountain and that carries two stones carved by God’s finger. Instead, beyond all the logic and without any support, this claim from Moses became the single foundation upon which these 3 Religions were built. Besides that, recent studies and researches have all confirmed that the Old Testament was written by several people who had lived in different times. It comes as a surprise the fact that the result of these studies produced by religious scholars is in net contrast with the doctrine taught by their own Religions or that Moses in the Old Testament had reported God’s textual words and wrote them by his own hand. The difference between these two versions is unbridgeable although after thousands of years the two now overlap. The hope is that this millenary lie can show its color in front of One eternal Truth. Because of the fantasies invented in the Bible it will be almost inevitable that Humanity will have to face insurmountable obstacles. A small ground in Jerusalem represents a deeply rooted split between Jews and Muslims. The Jews believe their Messiah will come to Israel only after the Temple built for King Solomon and King Herod (and destroyed the first time in 586 B.C. and a second time in 70 A.D.) will be rebuilt for the third time in the same place as residence for their new King and Messiah. Today in Jerusalem a very large Mosque, Al Aqsa,is built right over the ruins of that Temple. The Muslims believe their Prophet Mohammed ascended to Heaven just from that site which is a place as holy for the Muslims as it is also for the Jews. Today it is difficult to imagine the Muslims in Jerusalem to generously offer to destroy their Mosque for the Jews to rebuild their Temple. Similarly difficult is to imagine the Jews abandoning the idea to receive their own Messiah. The solution is to be found elsewhere and well beyond the 2 Religions. Although all people were made to believe that to accept science is to also reject the faith in God we should have instead an understanding of God that is not in contrast with science. Religion could then look beyond the same science without having to hold hostage the human Mind for centuries.

    1. Ettore Greco (if that is his real name) comments on the reader threads of many sites. He is openly anti-Jewish. This post is remarkably mild compared to most of his writings.

  3. Nora Barrows-Friedman is not Jewish. She is an extremely racist anti-Semite whose job it is to tell racist lies about Jews and Israel. She is a Holocaust denier and supports the evil and genocidal Arab colonist-settlers who call themselves “Palestinians.” She is employed by the racist Arab propaganda site Electronic Intifada.

  4. Since the Fakestinians are an evil and racist people, pro-“Palestinian” is the same thing as anti-Semitism.

  5. As a part-time teacher at UC Irvine (No, I am not Jewish.) I can testify that campus anti-Semitism is real. I find it strange that with all that is going on in the world and the US, the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the number one hot button issue on campus. It is because of a well financed and well oiled pro-Palestinian movement. All too often, the rhetoric spills over into anti-Jewish expression. If you recall the recent expressions coming from GUPS at SFSU about killing IDF soldiers, you know what I am talking about. If you have ever seen Amir Abdel Malik Ali speak on campus, you know what I am talking about. Indeed, the claims of AMCHA are well documented with real incidents.

    You might also have explained that Jewish Voice for Peace, in spite of its deceptive name, noisily advocates for an end to the Jewish state of Israel altogether using disruptive tactics to do so.

    Gary Fouse
    Adjunct teacher
    UC Irvine Ext

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