Israel lobby prompts federal investigations over Palestine events

The US Department of Education has opened two separate investigations into the University of California at Los Angeles because of events that discussed advocacy for Palestinian rights.

The investigations have been prompted by complaints filed by Israel lobby groups, which allege that Palestine-related education or advocacy on campus is inherently anti-Semitic and discriminates against Jewish students.

They follow US President Donald Trump’s executive order, signed in December, which allows mere accusations of anti-Semitism against campus critics of Israel to result in lengthy inquisitions by the government.

Israel lobby groups recently filed similar complaints against Columbia University and Georgia Tech.

In November, before the executive order, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into New York University, after an Israel-aligned student claimed that the presence of Students for Justice in Palestine created a “hostile atmosphere.”

The Middle East Studies Association’s committee on academic freedom has called on NYU’s president to reject “all efforts to weaponize allegations of anti-Semitism in order to advance a political agenda.”

An investigation that was previously closed by the US government against Rutgers University in 2014 was re-opened in 2018 by the Office for Civil Rights.

That office is led by Kenneth Marcus, who as an Israel lobbyist working outside the government pioneered the strategy of filing complaints to the Department of Education under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The complaints typically allege that universities fail to protect Jewish students by not cracking down on Palestine solidarity activism or teaching about Palestine.

Marcus developed this lawfare strategy when he was head of the Brandeis Center for Human Rights, an Israel lobby group unaffiliated with Brandeis University.

Marcus will adjudicate the findings of these new investigations. He could determine if universities like UCLA will lose federal funding for not suppressing student advocacy for Palestinian rights.

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