Over objections over academic freedom and free speech, the California State Assembly passed a controversial resolution (HR 35) that calls on universities to crackdown on criticism of Israel. Passed by a voice vote, the resolution includes language that equates criticism of Israeli policies and actions as “anti-Semitism.” While the resolutions original purpose is laudatory and does include clear expression of anti-Semitism, its drafters decided to include criticism of Israel and its human rights record in a measure that at a minimum chills free speech by professor and students alike. Drafted by Republican Linda Halderman, there was no hearing or debate allowed on the resolution. Just a voice vote.
It should be kept in mind that this is a non-binding resolution and, as such, has little coercive impact on universities. However, as public institutions, these schools are likely to take such a resolution as a guideline for the future to avoid the animus and possible retaliatory measures from the legislature. It describes anti-Semitism that should “not be tolerated in the classroom or on campus, and that no public resources be allowed to be used for anti-Semitic or intolerant agitation.”
The key “whereas” provisions lists the acts are deemed evidence of the need for greater action from universities in combatting anti-Semitism:
WHEREAS, Over the last decade some Jewish students on public
postsecondary education institution campuses in California have
experienced the following: (1) physical aggression, harassment, and
intimidation by members of student or community groups in
student-sponsored protests and rallies held on campus; (2) speakers,
films, and exhibits sponsored by student, faculty, and community
groups that engage in anti-Semitic discourse or use anti-Semitic
imagery and language to falsely describe Israel, Zionists, and Jews,
including that Israel is a racist, apartheid, or Nazi state, that
Israel is guilty of heinous crimes against humanity such as ethnic
cleansing and genocide, that the Jewish state should be destroyed,
that violence against Jews is justified, that Jews exaggerate the
Holocaust as a tool of Zionist propaganda, and that Jews in America
wield excessive power over American foreign policy; (3) swastikas and
other anti-Semitic graffiti in residential halls, public areas on
campus, and Hillel houses; (4) student- and faculty-sponsored
boycott, divestment, and sanction campaigns against Israel that are a
means of demonizing Israel and seek to harm the Jewish state; (5)
actions of student groups that encourage support for terrorist
organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah and openly advocate
terrorism against Israel and the Jewish people; and (6) suppression
and disruption of free speech that present Israel’s point of view;
Such anti-Semitism includes speech accusing Israel of “crimes against humanity”; “language or behavior [that] demonizes and delegitimizes Israel”; claims that Israel engages in forms of “ethnic cleansing”; statements portraying Israel as a “racist” or “apartheid” state; statements “applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation;” “actions of student groups that encourage support for terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah”; and “Student and faculty-sponsored boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel.” These are some of the cited examples that are then the basis for the resolution to encourage universities to take further steps to protect Jewish students from such speech.
This makes criticism of Israel the same as a hatred for the Jewish people and human rights activists (and various United Nations figures) bigots.
College campuses are places where such issues of human rights and politics have long been debated under the protection of academic freedom and free speech. The legislature’s intrusion into this protected space is both unwelcomed and unwarranted. These schools already have robust discrimination and hate speech protections.
If these are examples of anti-Semitic or hate speech, then United Nations officials like Judge Richard Goldstone and Jimmy Carter (as well as groups like Amnesty International) would be barred from campuses as anti-Semitic bigots.
This is not to say that these groups or these individuals are correct in their views. Rather they are not criticizing Israel out of anti-Semitism but good-faith view on human rights and civil liberties — just as their critics hold good-faith opposing views. Notably, proponents for Israel do not win this debate by demonizing critics or seeking to silence such speech. The resolution is particularly troubling in California, which is the home of so many leading academic institutions with a long history of political protests and discourse on campus.
What is most striking is that objections were made publicly to this language before passage with even some sponsors expressing concerns. It would have been an easy thing to edit that graph to eliminate areas of legitimate public policy differences and debate but the language was kept in the resolution.
Here is the resolution:.