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Plan gains to recognize campus harassment of Jewish students as a Civil Rights violation

August 10, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)—The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) praises U.S. Reps. Michael E. McMahon (D-NY) and Gary C. Peters (D-MI) for urging the Department of Education to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation. 

In a letter sent Monday, August 9,  to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Reps. McMahon and Peters joined three dozen other Members of Congress in supporting the ZOA’s long-held position that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be enforced to protect Jewish students, consistent with policy statements issued by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights in 2004.  Title VI requires recipients of federal funding to ensure that their programs and activities are free from racial and ethnic discrimination. 

In July 2010, 36 Members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary Duncan, urging that Jewish students be protected from harassment and intimidation under Title VI. 

The two congressional letters to Secretary Duncan followed from a well-attended June 2010 congressional briefing convened by U.S Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL), co-chair of the Congressional Taskforce on Anti-Semitism.  Susan Tuchman, Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, and representatives from three other organizations, briefed congressional staffers on anti-Semitic harassment on U.S. college campuses and the federal government’s role in addressing these incidents. 

In addition to Rep. Klein, the July letter to Secretary Duncan was signed by the other co-chairs of the Congressional Taskforce on Anti-Semitism — Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN), Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Chris Smith (R-NJ ) – and by Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); Shelley Berkley (D-NV); Gary Ackerman (D-NY); Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL); Ted Deutch (D-FL): Keith Ellison (D-MN); Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL); Brad Sherman (D-CA); Kendrick Meek (D-FL); Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL); Allyson Schwartz (D-PA); Henry Waxman (D-CA); John Adler (D-NJ); Alan Grayson (D-FL); Kathy Castor (D-FL); Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Rush Holt (D-NJ); Jackie Speier (D-CA); Steve Israel (D-NY); Steve Kagen (D-WI); Doug Lamborn (R-CO); Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Jared Polis (D-CO); Michele Bachmann (R-MN); Anthony Weiner (D-NY); Sander Levin (D-MI); Steve Rothman (D-NJ); Buck McKeon (R-CA); John Yarmuth (D-KY); Adam Schiff (D-CA); and Howard L. Berman (D-CA).

Their letter stated:  “We believe that enforcing Title VI to protect Jewish students who, in rare but highly significant situations, face harassment, intimidation or discrimination based on their ancestral or ethnic characteristics – including when it is manifested as anti-Israel or anti-Zionist sentiment that crosses the line into anti-Semitism – would help ensure that we’re preserving the integrity of our higher education system by affording the same protection to all ethnic and racial groups on our college campuses.” 

Endorsing this congressional letter “in its entirety,” Reps. McMahon and Peters said in their letter to Secretary Duncan, “It is critical that our civil rights laws be enforced as broadly as possible to make sure that all students can obtain their education in an environment that is tolerant, respectful, physically and emotionally safe, and conducive to learning.”

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein praised Reps. McMahon and Peters for calling on the Department of Education to provide Jewish students with the same legal protections that other ethnic and racial groups are already afforded: 

“We know from our work on college campuses that Jewish students have been threatened and physically assaulted.  Some students are even afraid for their physical safety because of the hateful speakers and programs that demonize Jews and Israel.  The ZOA thanks Congressmen McMahon and Peters for joining their colleagues in the House in supporting these students and affirming their legal right to a campus environment free from anti-Semitic hostility and Israel-bashing.”

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Preceding provided by Zionist Organization of America

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Netanyahu urges Abbas to begin direct negotiations

July 8, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK, July 7  (Press Release)–In a special address to national Jewish leaders, as well as political, civic and business leaders, sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to “meet me in the coming days” to begin peace talks in order to “fashion a final peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.”

“My idea of peace is that we live next to one another and we talk to each other to achieve peace. The sooner the better. Direct negotiations must start right away,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu. The meeting in New York followed the Prime Minister’s meetings with President Obama in Washington, DC.  
   
Several dignitaries attended the meeting, including New York Governor David Paterson and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who provided greetings at the beginning of the event. Governor Paterson noted that New York shares a bond with Israel because of attacks waged against civilians within the boundaries of both states.

“In this dangerous time, we have no better partner as a state or a country than the state of Israel,” Governor Paterson said. In her remarks, Senator Gillibrand remembered her trip to Israel and specifically to Sderot last year.

“The U.S. must always support Israel’s right to protect her people,” she said, adding that she would use her voice in the U.S. Senate “to bring together bipartisan coalitions in Congress to show the world that our bond is truly unbreakable.” Among the elected officials attending the event were Congressional members Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), as well as NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.  
   
Prime Minister Netanyahu outlined security, legitimacy and prosperity as the three pillars of successful peace. “Security makes peace possible and makes a realistic peace take hold and endure,” he said. Regarding the challenges to Israel’s legitimacy, the Prime Minister commented that there are two lines of attack against Israel: the denial of the Jewish people’s connection to the land of Israel and the denial of Israel’s right to defend itself. “So much of the world supports Israel’s right to defend itself in theory, but consistently condemns it in practice … but the purpose of the Jewish state is to defend Jewish lives,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu, adding that Israel was recognized and commended by British Colonel Richard Kemp for its efforts to prevent civilian casualties on all sides of battle.   
   
Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that Israel faces three great challenges in the coming months: (1) staying focused on preventing a nuclear Iran, (2) redoubling its efforts to find the path to peace with the Palestinians and to those negotiations as soon as possible, and (3) uniting against any effort to challenge Israel’s rights to defend itself.  

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Preceding provided by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

Jewish legislators divided on trying 9/11 suspects in civilian court

November 14, 2009 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release) –Jewish public officials had mixed reactions Friday to the announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that suspects in the 9/11 terror attack on the United States would be brought to trial in civilian court.

Among those issuing statements favoring the move were:

U.S. Senator Russell Feingold (Democrat, Wisconsin), a member of the Senate Judiciary, Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees: “I’m pleased that after more than eight years, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks will finally be brought to justice.  I commend the Obama administration for deciding to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York, which shows the world that this country stands firmly behind its system of justice and its Constitution.  As we saw with Zacarias Moussaoui, Richard Reid, and Timothy McVeigh, our system of justice is more than capable of securely, fairly, and effectively prosecuting alleged terrorists.  I remain skeptical that it is necessary to use the controversial military commission system for cases such as the USS Cole bombing.  Despite the changes enacted by Congress this year, that untested system does not have the track record of fairness and justice that our criminal justice system has.  Nevertheless, today’s announcement is long overdue.”

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (Democrat, New York), representative of Ground Zero and Lower Manhattan as well as Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties,said:

“I thank the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder for their diligent efforts to bring to justice those who have committed acts of terrorism against the United States.  In particular, I applaud the decision to bring those individuals responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center to New York to face trial in our federal courts.  New York is not afraid of terrorists, we want to confront them, we want to bring them to justice, and we want to hold them accountable for their despicable actions.

“It is fitting that they be tried in New York, where the attack took place.  On that day almost 3,000 innocent men, women, and children were murdered, and New York has waited far too long for the opportunity to hold these terrorists responsible. We have handled terrorist trials before, and we welcome this opportunity to do so again.  Any suggestion that our prosecutors and our law enforcement personnel are not up to the task of safely holding and successfully prosecuting terrorists on American soil is insulting and untrue.  I invite any of my colleagues who say that they are afraid to bring detainees into the United States to face trial to come to New York and see how we handle them.

“Trying these alleged terrorists in New York also will allow family members of 9/11 victims to see these trials and confront these defendants in open court. These families deserve that opportunity, and I thank the Department of Justice for providing it.

“Finally, however, I am disappointed that the Attorney General has decided to pursue cases against other Guantanamo detainees in military commissions.  While Congress has reformed some aspects of that system, the military commissions are no substitute for trials in our federal courts or through courts-martial.  We must ensure that these commissions are not simply used as a lesser vehicle for cases in which the evidence is not sufficient.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman (Independent, Connecticut) was opposed to the decision, explaining: “The terrorists who planned, participated in, and aided the September 11, 2001 attacks are war criminals, not common criminals. Not only are these individuals not common criminals but war criminals, they are also not American citizens entitled to all the constitutional rights American citizens have in our federal courts. The individuals accused of committing these heinous, cowardly acts of intentionally targeting unsuspecting, defenseless civilians should therefore be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States.

“The military commission system recently signed into law by the President as part of the National Defense Authorization Act provides standards of due process and fairness that fully comply with the requirements established by the Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions. Earlier this year, when passing the National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate also passed language expressing its clear intent that military commissions rather than civilian courts in the U.S. are the appropriate forum for the trial of these alleged terrorists. I share the views of more than 140 family members of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks who recently wrote to the Senate urging that the individuals charged with responsibility for those attacks should be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States: It is inconceivable that we would bring these alleged terrorists back to New York for trial, to the scene of the carnage they created eight years ago, and give them a platform to mock the suffering of their victims and the victims’ families, and rally their followers to continue waging jihad against America.”

Senator Lieberman urged the Administration to reconsider its decision and to try those charged with responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attacks using the military commission system that was created by Congress and recently signed into law by the President for that very purpose.

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Preceding incorporates press releases from Senators Feingold and Lieberman and Representative Nadler