‘Each plaintiff has been the target of repeated verbal and physical threats [and] made to feel unsafe on campus,’ lawsuit claims
Three Jewish New York University students sued the university over its alleged failure to combat campus antisemitism in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks.
Plaintiffs Bella Inger, Sabrina Maslavi, and Saul Tawil allege NYU is “acutely aware of ongoing and disgraceful acts of anti-Jewish bigotry” but “has reacted with, at best, deliberate indifference” by refusing to apply “its own anti-discrimination and conduct policies.”
Facing “genocidal chants” such as “Hitler was right,” “gas the Jews,” “death to kikes,” and “from the river to the sea,” and other abuse, plaintiffs “have been deprived of the ability and opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in NYU [programs]” and “have been put at severe risk of extreme emotional and physical injury,” their Nov. 14 complaint stated.
Saul Tawil voluntarily dismissed claims against NYU on Nov. 16, according to court records. The claims by the other two plaintiffs are still pending.
The College Fix emailed the plaintiffs’ attorneys on Dec. 1 and Dec. 5, inquiring about the lawsuit and how the university plans to respond. The Fix did not receive a response.
The plaintiffs seek redress for “NYU’s egregious civil rights violations that have created a hostile educational environment” for Jewish students in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Title VI “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance,” including universities that accept federal student loans, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The plaintiffs asked the court for an injunction requiring NYU to undertake “institutional, far-reaching, and concrete remedial measures,” including terminating “employees responsible for the antisemitic abuse” and suspending or expelling “students who engage in such conduct.”
“Each plaintiff has been the target of repeated verbal and physical threats, and made to feel unsafe on campus,” the complaint alleges. “They are forced to confront angry mobs of students and faculty members extolling the Hamas massacre, and calling for the deaths of Jews and the annihilation of Israel.”
The same firm representing the remaining two plaintiffs filed another complaint the same day against the University of Pennsylvania.
On Nov. 28, the Brandeis Center filed a Title VI complaint against the University of California, Berkeley, over alleged antisemitism.
The NYU students’ complaint alleges the university failed to protect its Jewish students by inadequately responding to anti-Israel protests, including one sponsored by the national Students for Justice in Palestine.
The SJP called for a “Day of Resistance” to be held on campuses nationwide on Oct. 12, The Fix previously reported. SJP’s toolkit for the event called the Oct. 7 attacks “a historic win for the Palestinian resistance.”
SJP provided materials “featuring graphics of armed figures on paragliders—a reference to one of the methods Hamas terrorists used to penetrate the Gaza border and perpetrate atrocities against Israeli civilians,” according to the complaint and as confirmed by The Fix’s reporting.
According to the complaint, the university’s only response to planned SJP-related events was to refer students “to campus resources such as Campus Safety and the Wellness Exchange, a hotline for students coping with emotional challenges.”
At an off-campus rally on Oct. 17, NYU students and faculty—whom the complaint does not name—allegedly made “slit-your-throat gestures at Jewish students present, including plaintiffs” and screamed various antisemitic slogans, including “Gas the Jews” and “Hitler was right,” according to the complaint.
“Rallygoers also threatened Jewish students with rape, including one of [the plaintiff]’s friends, who was shaking with fear,” it alleges.
On Oct. 8, the day after the terrorist attacks, NYU President Linda Mills emailed a statement to students “that avoided condemning Hamas’s massacre or expressing support for NYU’s Jewish student population,” according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges “NYU’s refusal to condemn Hamas’s slaughter did nothing other than fan the flames of the antisemitism that was already endemic to life at NYU by emboldening antisemitic students and faculty members to escalate their attacks on Jewish students.”
It quotes Mills’ Oct. 8 statement as follows: “No doubt you have heard the news of the multi-pronged and deadly terrorist attack on Israel. The fighting is uncommonly intense, with widespread violence, injuries and loss of life, as well as hostage-taking of Israelis by Hamas.”
The university updated Mills’ statement on Oct. 10 to say: “We want to express NYU’s condemnation of the attack — the indiscriminate killing of civilian non-combatants and the taking of hostages, including children and the elderly, is reprehensible.”
NYU launches Center for the Study of Antisemitism, publishes ’roundup’ of statements regarding the war
The university announced the creation of the Center for the Study of Antisemitism on Nov. 15, the day after the students filed their lawsuit.
The center “will bring together scholars and students from across diverse disciplines…to examine both contemporary and historical manifestations of one of the world’s most enduring forms of hate,” according to the news release. “A new, recent, seven-figure donation to NYU will be used to fund this new academic center.”
On Dec. 5, NYU published an updated “Roundup of Key NYU Statements and Announcements Since Hamas’s Terrorist Attacks on Israel.”
The Fix emailed NYU media specialists John Beckman and Joseph Tirella on Dec. 1 and Dec. 5 to ask whether the announcement and roundup were in response to the Nov. 14 lawsuit and for the university’s response to the allegations. NYU has yet to respond.
In April 2019, NYU student Adela Cojab filed a federal civil rights complaint against the university for turning a blind eye to the “anti-semitic vandalism, verbal attacks and outright violence” by its Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, The Fix previously reported.
The OCR conducted an investigation, resulting in a September 2020 agreement between the OCR and NYU, The Fix reported. Under the agreement, the university revised its anti-discrimination policy to ban “discrimination on the basis of shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics, including anti-Semitism.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with the name of the student, Saul Tawil, who voluntarily dismissed his claim on Nov 16.
IMAGE: Orthodox Union: Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus