Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Neal Sher, an attorney practicing in New York City. He, along with Professor Ed Morgan from the University of Toronto, is presently representing Sammy Katz, a student at York University in Toronto, who has charged York with legitimizing an anti-Jewish environment on campus.
Previously, Sher was the Director the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which investigated and prosecuted Nazi criminals in the U.S. In that capacity, he was responsible for bringing many dozens of prosecutions and for barring former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim from coming to this country. He also served as the National Executive Director of AIPAC and was the President of the American Section of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.
FP: Neal Sher, welcome back to Frontpage Interview.
So tell us about this case involving Sammy Katz.
Sher: The complaint by Sammy Katz stems from a February 2010 incident at a pro-Israel event held on campus and describes how he was subjected to verbal abuse and a physical assault by persons vehemently hostile to students who support the Jewish state, while campus security failed to intervene or control the volatile situation.
Katz also reveals how York made public statements about the assault aimed at discrediting him, and convened meetings of the media and Jewish organizational leaders at which it spun its own inaccurate version of the episode. The truth is that a university review of the incident concluded that the Jewish students had been swarmed and that Katz had, in fact, been assaulted.
The incident, lack of quick response by York security and the oppressive behavior by York administration in the aftermath, is just the latest demonstration of the lack of even-handed treatment by York University against Jewish student groups. Whereas York has legitimized and encouraged anti-Jewish events such as Israel Apartheid Week and makes no proactive effort to address growing incidents of anti Semitic graffiti and vandalism around campus, it has also treated pro-Israel Jewish students to a higher level of scrutiny and suspicion.
I would add that there is a sense of fear and anxiety over being openly Jewish at York University felt by Katz and many other students. The administration exacerbates these feelings with a poisonous atmosphere of aggressiveness and antagonism towards organized Jewish student groups. There is a feeling that some groups (i.e. anti-Israel groups) are more preferred than others (i.e. pro-Israel groups).
FP: This is the latest salvo in the wars being fought on campus. Tell us about the other wars you are involved in.
Sher: As your readers know, this case follows the federal civil rights case my colleague and I brought against University of California at Berkeley by a Jewish student who had been assaulted on campus last year by a leader of a Muslim student organization during a pro-Israel event.
Also, it is important to note the opening of an anti-Semitism investigation at U.C. Santa-Cruz by the U.S. Department of Education.
The situation at York exemplifies what has been happening on campuses throughout North America. And, it would be naive to think that the hostility will abate. Those who de-legitimize and denigrate are well financed and extremely well organized. They have no intention of relenting or backing down, certainly not through reasoned intellectual persuasion. . It should be painfully clear that dialogue and engagement has failed miserably. On the contrary, the situation has only worsened.
There has been much discussion and debate about how the other side has engaged in what has been termed “lawfare” – the exploitation of judicial systems to intimidate and harass, among others, pro-Israel and Jewish activists. It is high time to take the initiative and use the law and courts to protect our rights and to demand that universities and colleges live up to their obligations
These cases – and there undoubtedly will be others – have been initiated because we firmly believe that our legal system might well be the most effective – perhaps the only – way make sure that universities cease legitimizing and condoning hostility and intimidation towards Jewish students and that they protect students from harassment and bullying.
FP: Neal Sher, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview and we wish you the best in defending those who are no longer safe from abuse and violence on our campuses.