Kenneth S. Stern

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Kenneth S. Stern
BornUnited States
OccupationDefense attorney, author
NationalityAmerican
GenreNon-fiction, history
SubjectAntisemitism, hate studies

Kenneth S. Stern is an American attorney and an author. He is director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate,[1] a program of the Human Rights Project at Bard College. From 2014 to 2018 he was executive director of the Justus & Karin Rosenberg Foundation. From 1989 to 2014 he was director on antisemitism, hate studies and extremism for the American Jewish Committee. In 2000, Stern was a special advisor to the defense in the David Irving v. Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt trial.[2] His 2020 book, The Conflict Over the Conflict: The Israel/Palestine Campus Debate,[3] examines attempts of partisans of each side to censor the other, and the resulting damage to the academy.

Education[edit]

Stern earned his A.B. at Bard College, and his J.D. from Willamette University College of Law.[4]

Career[edit]

Stern has testified before US Congress; in 1997 he served as an invited presenter at the White House Conference on Hate Crimes.[4] With Dina Porat, he has analyzed the American militia movement, bigotry on campus, hate on talk radio and the Internet. He is a frequent guest on national television and talk radio shows, including Face the Nation, Crossfire, Nightline, Dateline, Good Morning America, CBS Evening News, and National Public Radio. His report Militias: A Growing Danger, issued two weeks before the Oklahoma City bombing, predicted such attacks on the US government.[4] And his book about the militias, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (1996) was nominated for the National Book Award.

In 2001 he was an official member of the United States delegation to the Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance. Stern was one of the drafters of a Working Definition of Antisemitism, which has been adopted, starting in January 2005, by various international bodies tasked with monitoring antisemitism.[4][5]

Before coming to AJC in 1989, Stern was managing partner of the Oregon law firm Rose and Stern. Stern was trial and appellate counsel for American Indian Movement co-founder Dennis Banks, and argued on his behalf before the United States Supreme Court in U.S. v. Loud Hawk et al. Among his other notable cases was his representation of Portland's homeless community in a federal lawsuit against an anti-camping ordinance, and as co-counsel in a defamation suit against Patricia Hearst, representing Jack and Micki Scott. His book about the Dennis Banks case, Loud Hawk: The United States vs. the American Indian Movement (1994), won the Gustave Myers Center Award as outstanding book on human rights.[citation needed]

Stern's other books are Holocaust Denial (1993) and Antisemitism Today (2006).[citation needed]

Stern is also active in the effort to establish an interdisciplinary academic field of Hate Studies. He previously served on the editorial board of the Journal of Hate Studies, and is a longtime member of the director's advisory board for the Gonzaga University Institute for Hate Studies.[citation needed]

Views[edit]

In his article Holocaust education alone won't stop hate, Stern proposes ways to combat persisting hatred of Jews:

Human rights organizations must be challenged when they do not sufficiently assert that freedom from anti-Semitism is a human right.

Governments must be engaged to ensure that they investigate and prosecute anti-Semitic hate crimes fully.

Monitoring groups must catalog not only the old-fashioned forms of religious and racial anti-Semitism, but also the more contemporary forms that treat the Jewish state in the same bigoted manner that traditional anti-Semitism regards the individual Jew. Campus administrations need to uphold the highest academic standards and make certain that while heated debate is encouraged, intimidation is prohibited.[6]

In an open letter, coauthored with Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, Stern wrote that some of the complaints about anti-Semitism on campus under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 "simply seek to silence anti-Israel discourse and speakers. This approach is not only unwarranted under Title VI, it is dangerous."[7] Stern's letter was disavowed by AJC executive director David Harris, who called the letter "ill-advised."[8] In 2017 Stern testified before the House Judiciary Committee against legislation that would have used a definition of antisemitism, of which he was the lead drafter, as a de facto hate speech code on campus.[9]

In his 2006 book Antisemitism Today, Stern wrote:

"Today’s main practitioners of race-based antisemitism in the U.S. are neo-Nazis, skinheads, Christian Identity adherents (who believe that people of color are subhuman and that Jews are the offspring of Satan), and various other white supremacists and white nationalists.6 While there are important ideological and theological differences among these groups, they all hate nonwhites. They also see Jews as responsible for opening the door to equal rights and opportunity for nonwhites, as part of a nefarious plot to destroy “white America” through immigration, affirmative action, control of the media, and other alleged schemes. While we think of white supremacists as essentially anti-people-of-color with some antisemitism thrown in, antisemitism is actually the ideological (as opposed to emotional) anchor for their movement. If blacks and other minorities are, in their view, unquestionably inferior, how could the superior whites be “losing” the battle? The white supremacists believe it is because of the secret, cabalistic hand of the Jew, pulling the strings behind the scenes. It is because of ZOG (the Zionist Occupied Government). While race-based antisemitism is at a low point, and has been for many decades, there are reasons to be concerned about its possible growth in the decades to come, particularly because demographic projections indicate that the United States will be a majority nonwhite country by the middle of this century. The race-based antisemitism which is at the core of white supremacy may prove an ideological magnet for people who fear this change."[10]

In his book A Force upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate, Stern links Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh with the American militia movement. In a review in Reason, Dave Kopel concludes that he "does not come remotely close to showing that militia members encouraged McVeigh to do anything illegal", but uses circumstantial evidence, guilt by association and undocumented quotes that turn out to be false. Not only militias, but all critics of big government are excoriated in the book. After the 1994 elections, Stern found that "the vitriolic antifederal sentiments of some of these newly elected officials" differed "in detail but not in flavor" from the ideas of racist gangs. Kopel considers his use of charges of anti-Semitism and racism as a way of vilifying opponents and delegitimizing political stands he does not like.[11] But Patsy Sims, writing in The New York Times, noted:

"The underlying ideology that links the individual groups, Mr. Stern says, is a shared conviction that the United States is being taken over by outside forces with the help of Government insiders. In this scenario, militia members see gun control as the first step in an elaborate plot to take away their weapons, then their rights and finally their freedom."[12]

In December 2019, Stern, who has previously served as the lead drafter of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, expressed concerned that right-wing Jewish groups and national governments were using the document to silence what he regarded as legitimate criticisms of Israel.[13] Stern also claimed that the US President Donald Trump's 2019 Executive Order on Combating Anti-Semitism would stifle Palestinian free speech rather than protecting Jewish students.[14] In December 2020, Stern urged the incoming Biden Administration not to adopt the IHRA Working Definition, claiming that it had been weaponized by pro-Israel lobby groups to silence criticism of Zionism.[15][16]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Staff: Director Kenneth S. Stern". Bard Center for the Study of Hate. November 18, 2020. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  2. ^ "Home". Holocaust Denial on Trial.
  3. ^ "The Conflict over the Conflict: The Israel/Palestine Campus Debate". University of Toronto Press. February 2020. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d "Rose Feinberg Memorial Lecture Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism With Kenneth Stern". Temple Israel Boston. April 20, 2007. Archived from the original on July 15, 2007. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  5. ^ Porat, Dina (April 3, 2008). "Stephen Roth Institute: Anti-Semitism and Racism". Tel Aviv University. Archived from the original on April 3, 2008. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  6. ^ Stern, Kenneth (January 21, 2017). "Holocaust education won't stop hate". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Archived from the original on December 12, 2020. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  7. ^ "Anti-Semitism on Campus". American Association of University Professors. Archived from the original on January 17, 2012. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  8. ^ Weiner, Rex (August 11, 2011). "Line Between Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic Protests Splits AJC". The Forward. Archived from the original on February 10, 2021. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  9. ^ Stern, Kenneth (November 7, 2017). "HHRG-115-JU00-Wstate-SternK-20171107" (PDF). United States House of Representatives. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 14, 2021. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  10. ^ Stern, Kenneth (2006). Anti-Semitism Today: How It is the Same, How It Is Different, and How to Fight It (PDF). American Jewish Committee. ISBN 0874951402. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  11. ^ Kopel, David (August–September 1996). "The Militias Are Coming". Reason. Archived from the original on December 18, 2020. Retrieved April 26, 2021.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  12. ^ Sims, Patsy (January 28, 1996). "Armed and Dangerous". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 17, 2020. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  13. ^ Roth, Kenneth (December 13, 2019). "I drafted the definition of antisemitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it". The Guardian. Archived from the original on April 20, 2021. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  14. ^ Cortelessa, Eric (January 9, 2020). "The scholar who wrote the definition of anti-Semitism says it's been subverted". Times of Israel. Archived from the original on March 30, 2021. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  15. ^ Stern, Kenneth (December 10, 2020). "Steering the Biden administration wrong on anti-Semitism". Times of Israel. Archived from the original on January 16, 2021. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  16. ^ "IHRA definition of anti-Semitism has been weaponised, warns lead drafter". Middle East Monitor. December 11, 2020. Archived from the original on March 1, 2021. Retrieved April 26, 2021.

Publications[edit]

Books
  • Holocaust Denial (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1993) ISBN 978-0-87495-102-8
  • Loud Hawk: The United States Versus the American Indian Movement (1994) University of Oklahoma Press, 2002: ISBN 0-8061-3439-9
  • The Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (Simon & Schuster, 1996) (University of Oklahoma Press, 1997: ISBN 0-8061-2926-3)
  • Antisemitism Today: How It Is the Same, How It Is Different and How to Fight It (American Jewish Committee, 2006): ISBN 978-0-87495-140-0
Articles and other publication

External links[edit]