The U.S. Senate unanimously passes a bill that would force universities to include ‘holding Israel to a double standard’ as a form of anti-Semitism.
By James J. Zogby
Without debate or an actual vote, the U.S. Senate stealthily passed a disturbing and dangerous piece of legislation that would require the Department of Education (DOE) to apply the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism in evaluating complaints of discrimination on U.S. campuses.
The State Department definition of and guidelines on anti-Semitism were designed to help U.S. officials monitor anti-Semitism abroad. They were not intended to be applied to police speech on college campuses at home.
In developing their definition and guidance, the State Department adopted language used by the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC):
“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious institutions.”
This description of anti-Semitism is both correct and instructive, as are several examples of contemporary anti-Semitism mentioned in the State Department guidance, including: “accusing Jews, as a people, of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, the State of Israel, or even for acts committed by non-Jews”; or “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews – or the power of Jews – as a collective.” These and other examples cited in the guidance are objectively anti-Semitic and patently wrong.
Where the State Department guidance goes off the rails is when it tries to expand the definition to include “anti-Semitism relative to Israel,” citing, as examples, speech that demonizes or delegitimizes Israel or that applies a double standard to it. The example given for applying a “double standard for Israel” is “requiring…behavior [of Israel] not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” With this expansion of the definition of anti-Semitism, the guidance becomes both subjective and open to dangerous abuse by those who would use it to silence criticism of Israel.
This language is so vague and open to interpretation that when the University of California Board of Regents was being pressed to apply the State Department guidance to California campuses, the lead author of the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism objected, pointing out the dangers this would present to free speech. “Enshrining such a definition...Read More