Title VI a right, not last resort

Title VI a right, not last resort

In Martin Raffel’s column about using Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination (“Rutgers case demonstrates anti-Semitism is in the eye of the beholder,” Nov. 1), he described Title VI as a “blunt instrument [that] ought to be deployed only as a last resort.” He wrongly suggested that Title VI is being misused to silence free speech. And, in his last column (“In my defense …” Nov. 22), he gratuitously attacked the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) for having criticized the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), HIAS, and the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW).

In fact, the ZOA did criticize the ADL for praising the anti-Semitic Black Lives Matter and the Israel-bashing group J Street. The ZOA did criticize HIAS and the NCJW for defending Linda Sarsour, an anti-Semite. The criticism was appropriate and deserved.

As for Raffel’s claims about Title VI, they are completely false. Let us explain:

In 2011, before ZOA filed its Title VI action against Rutgers University, we wrote to the university’s president, detailing the anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination that Jewish students were enduring. We recommended several steps that Rutgers should consider taking to comply with its legal obligations under Title VI, including publicly labeling and condemning acts of anti-Semitism on campus and meeting with Jewish students to listen to their concerns and working together on solutions. Not a single one of our recommendations involved restricting anyone’s free speech. Still, the university didn’t address the anti-Semitism, which led to the ZOA filing a student-backed Title VI complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in July 2011.   

Shortly thereafter, JCPA considered adopting a harmful resolution that would place limits on Jewish students’ use of Title VI — standards that were even stricter than what is required by OCR, the federal agency that enforces Title VI — when they were subjected to anti-Semitism on their campuses. In a letter to JCPA’s board of directors, the ZOA urged members to reject the draft resolution, as no one should put arbitrary restrictions on when victims of anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination may seek legal redress. The resolution was discussed at an October 2011 JCPA meeting; as JCPA’s senior vice president, Raffel was involved in the discussion.   

He alleges that the JCPA’s harmful resolution was widely praised. But the truth is, even member organizations of the JCPA disagreed with it — including the Jewish Community Relations Council of Northern New Jersey, whose community included many Jewish students at Rutgers — for precisely the same reasons ZOA opposed it.

The ZOA works closely with college students. We are acutely aware of the growing anti-Semitism many of them face on their respective campuses, including vicious anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism that are a mask for Jew-hatred, plain and simple.

We can’t allow this to continue. We urge Jewish students and the Jewish community to reject these views about Title VI. We must support Jewish students’ absolute rights and prerogatives to use Title VI to fight the vile anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination they are enduring on campuses across the country.

Morton A. Klein
National president

Susan B. Tuchman, Esq.
Director, Center for Law and Justice
Zionist Organization of America

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