Anti-Semitism “should be called out for what it is,” Dan Morain writes (“Prejudice comes in many forms”; Forum, June 28). But Senate Concurrent Resolution 35 dangerously calls anti-Semitism what it isn’t.
The California Faculty Association and other opponents recognize what SCR 35 really is: part of a relentless effort by extremist supporters of Israel to stigmatize, then suppress, criticism of that country.
SCR 35 misleads in two main ways:
First, its descriptions of real anti-Semitic manifestations on campus – occasional graffiti and ugly fliers (perpetrators unknown) and one inappropriate vetting of a candidate for student office – are exaggerated, distorted and joined in the same breath with violent acts abroad.
Second, it invokes a redefinition of anti-Semitism on the State Department website that conflates criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism itself.
Morain states that the redefinition, “adopted by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia,” is “good enough for U.S. presidents and prime ministers of European nations.” But it was never more than a “working definition,” disavowed entirely by the European center in 2012 due to widespread criticism. The State Department says it isn’t intended for use domestically.
And in a recent L.A. Jewish Journal, original drafter Kenneth Stern denounced making it a campus tool: “To enshrine such a definition on a college campus is an ill-advised idea that will make matters worse, and not only for Jewish students; it would also damage the university as a whole.”
Sen. Jeff Stone, the author, and other legislators, noting that SCR 35 quotes only an unproblematic part of the redefinition, deny aiming to stifle campus speech. But outside sponsors, led by Amcha Initiative, make their intentions clear: Removing the redefinition “would be disastrous, and would completely undermine and pervert the original intent of this very important resolution.”
Among Amcha’s examples of anti-Semitism under the redefinition: former Israeli soldiers exposing military misconduct and support for boycotting products from illegal West Bank settlements.
SCR 35 will likely pass. There’s little risk to legislators supporting a nonbinding resolution, plenty opposing one that ostensibly condemns anti-Semitism. More dangerous, however, is a proposal that UC regents officially adopt the entire redefinition. That would seriously chill campus political speech; Palestinian rights advocates, including many Jewish students and faculty, are already relentlessly targeted by Amcha and its allies.
Anti-Semitism, a scourge of European civilization, still exists. But to conflate political criticism of a state’s policies with hatred toward Jews actually makes it more difficult to identify and confront true anti-Semitism when it appears.
David L. Mandel is a Sacramento attorney who has helped lead the opposition to SCR 35 on behalf of Jewish Voice for Peace, the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights and others.