Education Dept. Reopens Rutgers Case Charging Discrimination Against Jewish Students

“It took a leader like Kenneth Marcus to finally decide the ZOA’s appeal and to also make it clear that O.C.R. will finally be using a definition of anti-Semitism that makes sense and that reflects how anti-Semitism is so frequently expressed today, particularly on our college campuses,” they wrote. “Hate groups like Students for Justice in Palestine try to convince others that their attacks on Zionism and Israel are legitimate political discourse. But as the State Department definition of anti-Semitism recognizes, these attacks are often a mask for Jew-hatred, plain and simple.”

Mr. Marcus informed ZOA that he would specifically be reviewing one of the three allegations made in its 2011 complaint, which said that a liberal, pro-Palestinian group, Belief Awareness Knowledge and Action, imposed an admissions fee on Jewish and pro-Israeli students who attended an event called “Never Again for Anyone.” The Zionist group said an email proved that an organizer wrote that the group began charging only after it observed “150 Zionists” who “just showed up.”

But according to an account from Palestine Legal, fees were charged for the event only after Rutgers Hillel, a local synagogue, and other Jewish groups sent alerts to mobilize their members to protest the event. The group said that pro-Israel protesters physically assaulted event volunteers and called them “towel heads” and “suicide bombers,” and that a Jewish volunteer was called a “traitor.”

The organizers — who were not students — said they were forced to charge a last-minute fee to cover costs mandated by the university, including an increased price to rent the space and to cover security to manage the protests.

In dismissing the case in 2014, the Education Department determined that the host of the event advertised a $5 to $20 donation, and began charging last-minute fees because the event drew more attendees than anticipated, including many nonstudents.

In their findings letter, department investigators wrote that they had discovered no evidence that Jewish and non-Jewish attendees were selectively charged fees. They said the email that said “150 Zionists” had shown up — which was presented as evidence of the intended discrimination — was heavily redacted, and they could not verify whether that information was credible. The department said it determined from witness statements that all attendees were required to pay for the event if they were not a volunteer. The department also found that Rutgers promptly investigated complaints of bias filed by students.

“Regardless of whether or not it was appropriate to begin charging the admissions fee, O.C.R. did not find sufficient evidence to substantiate that any individuals were treated differently, based on national origin, with respect to imposition of the admissions fee,” the findings letter said.