Letter: A.S. resolution conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism
March 6, 2017
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On February 22, the University Council of A.S. conducted its first reading of a resolution submitted by the Jewish Student Union entitled: “A Resolution to Condemn Anti-Semitism”. As we are experiencing an alarming rise in anti-Semitism in the age of Trump, this resolution is extremely timely and necessary. Like all forms of racism, anti-Semitism must be disavowed and condemned.
However, the resolution’s definition of anti-Semitism is highly problematic. Whereas Oxford Dictionary defines anti-Semitism as “hostility and prejudice against Jewish people,” the resolution cites the State Department’s definition which considers “demonization, delegitimization, and double standards” towards Israel as anti-Semitism.
This attempt to wrongfully conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism has become a familiar tactic used by pro-Israel groups to suppress the surge in support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement, which seeks to peacefully hold Israel accountable for its denial of Palestinian human rights. Moreover, not only would this measure stifle legitimate free speech, it would ironically label Jewish individuals that speak out against Israel as anti-Semites themselves.
It is important to note that the definition JSU is advocating for comes from the European Union where its use has been discontinued due to concerns about its effects on free speech. The UC Regents decided to not include the same definition in a 2016 resolution that condemned anti-Semitism on UC campuses. In addition, the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights have categorically opposed definitons of anti-Semitism that include criticism of Israel.
If one were to speak out against the French government, for example, it would be fallacious to label such a person as inherently anti-French; criticism of a government does not translate to hatred of a people.
Associated Students must condemn anti-Semitism while ensuring that students’ rights to criticize Israel and support the burgeoning BDS movement are not stripped away.
Mustafa Alemi is a third year student studying political science and Middle Eastern studies. He serves on the AS Board of Directors and as the president of Students for Justice in Palestine.