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The Penn Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference last week was odious and Penn’s decision to host it in the name of unfettered free speech is questionable. In 2010, the Zionist Organization of America was instrumental in getting Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to be interpreted and enforced to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination on the campus. The hatred flowing from BDS-type programs was the kind of activity that this was designed to stem. The PennBDS group insists that it is not anti-Semitic and is interested in open dialogue. Ironically, it barred The Jewish Exponent, the local Jewish community’s paper of record, from covering the conference.

Penn officials said they could not do anything about this because it is this private group’s decision. Thus, Penn, a private university which was not obligated to host such a hate-fest, simply handed over the keys to its facilities to this student group with a discriminatory agenda, but then divested itself from any responsibility to make sure the media can monitor it. How can we be sure that the group is not violating Title VI? In the name of the very same free speech that allowed the conference to assemble, the Jewish press had a right to cover it (no discrimination there?). It is hypocrisy gone amuck: BDS, free/hate speech, hands-off monitoring hate.

Lee Bender is Co-President of Zionist Organization of America -Greater Philadelphia District. His email address is

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