Bard students cleared of false anti-Semitism charges

People standing, holding signs

Despite repression by university administrators, student Palestine activists will not be deterred. (Joe Catron)

Bard College has cleared two students who protested racist speakers last October of false accusations of anti-Semitism.

Ben Mulick and Akiva Hirsch were part of a protest against the anti-Palestinian views of Harvard professor Ruth Wisse, The Forward opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon and Shany Mor, a former senior official of Israel’s national security council.

Mulick read short statements during the panel discussion and Hirsch joined other students in a chant during the question and answer period, both actions fully within the college’s free speech policy.

Ungar-Sargon, who is known for smearing US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar as an anti-Semite based on Omar’s criticisms of Israel lobby groups, claimed she was protested by members of Students for Justice in Palestine just “for being a Jew.”

Mulick and Hirsch were then placed under a months-long investigation by the administration. The college assembled a panel of professors to determine if they had violated the free speech policy.

No formal complaint was ever filed against the students, nor any other members of Students for Justice in Palestine or others who protested.

Bard decided to investigate Mulick and Hirsch on its own, based on the false accusations of anti-Semitism.

Palestine Legal, which represented Mulick and Hirsch, warned the college against any retaliation, arguing that the students cannot be punished under the college’s free speech policy, which explicitly protects “dissent and protest.”

The civil rights group says that college president Leon Botstein announced last week that he was accepting the panel’s finding of no policy violations.

Outpouring of solidarity

“Due to the outpouring of solidarity and the work of Palestine Legal, I wasn’t surprised that either the panel or the president had found any policy violations,” Mulick told The Electronic Intifada.

“The investigation occurred because Bard SJP’s protest didn’t comply with the liberal Zionism of the institution,” Mulick asserted.

“We will continue to struggle until Bard divests and takes a clear stance on normalization,” he added.

Radhika Sainath of Palestine Legal welcomed the panel’s finding that Mulick and Hirsch did nothing wrong.

However, she added, “students shouldn’t have to be put through the wringer just because some off-campus individual disagrees with the view that Palestinians deserve to live in freedom and with dignity.”

“I sincerely hope that the Bard administration has learned that nothing can stop a fearless and determined SJP,” Mulick told The Electronic Intifada.

“I hope they keep in mind all the time and energy they wasted with this investigation if they attempt to try this again,” he said.




Congratulations to Ben and Akiva for this hard-won victory. And to all the Bard students who continue to take a stand against Zionism, your efforts and those of like-minded students across the country are bearing fruit. When the machinery of Zionist repression on campuses lies in ruins, you will find that many more are prepared to join you in the work of dismantling apartheid and restoring the rights and dignity of Palestinians.

And of course, Palestine Legal has lived up to its charter once again, defending free speech in the U.S.

But in the absence of a formal complaint against these students- just a harassment and propaganda campaign- why did Bard College's administration find it expedient to launch an investigation, appoint a panel, and put these students through such a process? How can this be justified? Are we to conclude that it's enough to utter malicious accusations to start a formal investigation of someone? If readers of this forum were to bombard the college administration with charges that, for example, Hillel was engaged in promoting racism through its pro-Zionist activities, would the officers of that organization be subjected to the same intimidating level of scrutiny?

I didn't think so.


Thank god, or someone. Batya U. is a jerk. I wrote her after her attack on Omar last winter and she told me "It's the job of activists to get things wrong". I then asked her if that included Zionists activists. She never replied.


There is nothing new in the claim that critics of Israel or Zionism are anti-Semites. It has long been the position of the Israeli State (certainly since 1967 and arguably earlier) that Palestinians are anti-Semitic by definition. As Zionism is Judaism, in the Alice in Wonderland thinking of the Zionists, it follows that resistance to Zionism's aim of an entirely Jewish Palestine must be founded on hatred of Judaism and of Jews. This is the technique of the thug who approaches you in a bar and asks: "Are you looking at my girlfriend?" and when you answer, "No," says, "Why not?" It is the "have you stopped beating your wife?" mentality. The only surprise is that supporters of Palestinian rights aren't automatically dubbed terrorists. On 28th June 1982, Davar published an interview with an Israeli paratrooper returned from fighting in Lebanon: "..every Palestinian is automatically a suspected terrorist, and by our definition that term is actually true,"; everyone connected with the Palestinian organisation of the economy, the health service etc was "now a terrorist by definition." Language loses all meaning when used in such deliberately tendentious and manipulative ways. Thus, "anti-Semite" is attributed to anyone who isn't a slavish adherent of Zionism. Perhaps soon dogs who bark at Zionists will be called anti-Semites. Perhaps the rain that falls on Zionists is anti-Semitic. Perhaps if a Zionist falls ill with coronavirus it will be called an anti-Semitic illness. Of course, the unwillingness to brook criticism is the sign of a guilty conscience and the method of the totalitarian. Civil society across the globe is recognising Israeli apartheid for what it is. The putatively democratic leaders who act as apologists for racism will be faced down by the people. Racism is a discredited creed. Palestine belongs to the Arabs who will share it with the Jews, if they will only cease their rejectionism.


Bravo to the brave students and Palestine legal
They represent the true meaning of justice and voices that drown out hate speech


Falsely accusing a person of anti-semitism should be as much illegal and punished by law as being a proven anti-semite.

This pro-Zionist tactic of falsely accusing anyone who is not in favour of their extreme aggressive racist/apartheid politics should come to an end and it will only be halted once their tactic of falsely accusing someone of anti-semitism is punished by law!
Anyone in favour of equal rights and justice for the Palestinians, which in my view should be no question at all as it should be a basic human right, is a threat for the Israel lobby and therefore has the chance to be smeared with lies and deceit coming from their fanatic background and supporters. Orchestrated by the (local) Israel lobby with tools like Act.IL.

Anti-semitism is wrong and should be punished by law.
Calling someone an anti-semite because one values basic human rights, or on no grounds at all should be as well.


It is heartening that the SJP actions to uphold human rights and dignity in Palestine against the propaganda of the Israeli-American lobbyists are upheld against false accusations of anti-semitism. Such false accusations trivialize the serious crimes of real anti-semitism - which have nothing to do with criticizing Israel government policies and actions.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).