The complaints typically claim that universities have failed to protect Jewish students by not cracking down on Palestine solidarity activism.
This strategy was pioneered by Marcus himself before he was picked to lead the US government office and allowed to adjudicate them himself.
To this end, Marcus gave the Zionist Organization of America special treatment in reopening a complaint against Rutgers University, according to evidence gathered by nine civil rights groups including Palestine Legal.
Marcus prioritized the ZOA’s complaint over more than 400 other open appeals, including nearly 80 that had been pending for longer than 10 years, according to records obtained by the civil rights groups.
In May, those groups called on the inspector general’s office at the Department of Education to investigate Marcus over violations of federal law.Along with his personal intervention in favor of the ZOA, Marcus had announced that the US government would adopt the so-called IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.
This misleading and politically motivated definition promoted by the Israeli government and its lobby conflates criticism of Israel and Zionism with anti-Jewish bigotry.
Palestine Legal has said that Marcus’ unilateral attempts to change federal policy “may have laid the groundwork” for Donald Trump’s executive order last December which allows mere accusations of anti-Semitism against campus critics of Israel to result in lengthy inquisitions by the government.
“Over the past two years, Kenneth Marcus has not only harmed campus advocates for Palestinian rights … but has also made it harder for survivors of sexual assault to seek justice and support and harder for colleges to promote gender and racial equity and inclusion,” staff attorney Zoha Khalili of Palestine Legal stated on Friday.
“We are relieved that he will no longer be able to abuse the Office for Civil Rights, but we know we have a long road ahead to undo the damage that he and the rest of the administration have done,” Khalili added.
On Friday, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights – an Israel advocacy group unaffiliated with Brandeis University and led by Marcus before his appointment to the Trump administration – announced Marcus’ return.
He will serve as chair of the group’s board.
A hardline opponent of Palestinian rights, Marcus was caught on video in 2016 saying that he wanted to see students criminally prosecuted for protesting Israel’s actions.
The footage was part of Al Jazeera’s undercover documentary The Lobby–USA which was never broadcast by the channel.
A leaked copy of the film was obtained and released by The Electronic Intifada.
Israel lobby courted new UC president
Meanwhile, students, faculty and civil rights activists in California may be gearing up for another fight against an Israel lobby-backed university system president.
The University of California’s governing body has selected its new president, Michael V. Drake, to oversee its 10 campuses, as well as its medical centers and laboratories.
Drake was the chancellor of the University of California at Irvine when students nonviolently protested the visit of then-Israeli ambassador Michael Oren in 2010.
The students, known as the Irvine 11, were arrested, put on trial and ultimately convicted – all with Drake’s blessing.
University police cooperated with Orange County prosecutors to see that the students were charged and tried under California’s penal code – exposing them to the risk of prison and a criminal record merely for protesting against a government official.
All were given community service sentences.
Also on Drake’s watch, UC Irvine suspended the campus Muslim Students Union – a blatant violation of First Amendment rights – in retaliation for the protest against Oren.Israel lobby groups have courted Drake and encouraged his allegiance to Israel for years.
The program takes elite figures including university administrators on propaganda junkets to Israel, in an attempt to promote US-Israeli institutional partnerships and undermine calls for the boycott of Israeli universities that participate in the violation of Palestinian human rights.
Furthermore, Los Angeles-based Israel consul general David Segal took Drake on a 2012 tour of Israel to meet with academic leaders and President Shimon Peres.
Drake reportedly agreed on a “future collaboration with the Israel Institute of Technology, as well as the Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Hebrew universities.”