To the Editor:
David Wilensky’s Op-Ed on “the correct use of Title VI” was an amateurish attempt to condemn an important new legal tool for Jewish students, who are now protected from anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. He claims that the Zionist Organization of America, which spearheaded the effort to achieve this civil rights protection, is misusing Title VI “to stifle legitimate discourse” and as a “bludgeon” to advance “far-right political viewpoints.” These ridiculous charges are baseless. Wilensky cites no evidence for his claims, merely engaging in silly name-calling.
The ZOA has never used Title VI to stifle free speech or to advance a particular political viewpoint. We have called on university leaders to exercise their own First Amendment rights and publicly condemn speakers and programs that demonize Jews, compare Jews to Nazis, and call for the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel — all of which is anti-Semitism, according to U.S. government standards.
The ZOA also has called on university leaders to enforce their own rules. Thus, when a Jewish student is physically threatened or assaulted, the wrongdoers must be held accountable and punished. Contrary to Wilensky’s nonsensical accusations, Title VI is all about protecting Jews and ensuring them a campus environment that’s physically and emotionally safe and conducive to learning.
A dozen national Jewish organizations across the political and religious spectrums have supported the ZOA’s Title VI efforts, so that Jewish students would be afforded the same legal protections that other minority groups have had for almost 50 years. They joined the ZOA in a letter to the U.S. secretary of education urging that Title VI be enforced to protect Jewish students.
Forty members of Congress, including 31 liberal Democrats, also sent a letter to the education secretary expressing concern about campus anti-Semitism and urging that Title VI be enforced to protect Jewish students.
Wilensky is young and inexperienced. Hopefully he will learn that fighting anti-Semitic bigotry on campus is not a “right-wing” or “left-wing” issue. The ZOA is proudly doing the same kind of work that other civil rights groups do, such as the ACLU and the NAACP. We filed a Title VI action against the University of California, Irvine, where Jewish students were physically threatened and assaulted. Recently, we filed a Title VI action against Rutgers University, where a Jewish student was physically threatened by other students and even by a university official! There’s little doubt that Wilensky would support legal efforts by the ACLU or the NAACP to address the Irvine and Rutgers situations if African Americans were the victims. It’s sad, shameful and embarrassing that Wilensky is so critical of these efforts on behalf of his own people.
Morton A. Klein
Susan B. Tuchman
Director, Center for Law and Justice
Zionist Organization of America
New York, N.Y.