Politics & Government

Anti-Semitism bill passes SC House

Protestors gather in front of the White House in Washington during a demonstration against Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Protestors gather in front of the White House in Washington during a demonstration against Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 20, 2014. AP

The S.C. House on Thursday overwhelmingly passed an anti-Semitism bill that pro-Palestinian student groups denounced last month as an effort to suppress criticism of Israel on S.C. college campuses.

House members voted 103-3 in favor of state Rep. Alan Clemmons’ bill. The Horry Republican assured representatives that his proposal addresses an uptick in anti-Semitic activity without censoring free speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jewish community centers across the United States, including one in Columbia, recently have been targeted with bomb threats. Passing the bill, which now heads to the state Senate, sends a message “that South Carolina opposes bigotry,” Clemmons said.

The bill would require S.C. colleges to use a 2010 U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism when investigating alleged civil rights violations on campus.

Free speech advocates and pro-Palestinian groups have noted that definition includes examples of anti-Semitism “relative to Israel.” But the bill’s supporters say the definition is meant to help colleges determine whether violations of university policy – such as assaults – are anti-Semitic in nature.

“This bill will help provide colleges with the proper tools to ascertain the intent of persons engaged in unlawful activity,” said state Rep. Beth Bernstein, D-Richland, the only Jewish lawmaker in the S.C. Legislature.

The bill has 115 co-sponsors in the House. Only six members had not signed on to sponsor the bill or had taken their names off the bill by Thursday.

David Matos, president of Carolina Peace Resource Center, said his group will testify against the bill again when the Senate takes it up.

“It’s clearly unconstitutional,” Matos said. “The intent is to suppress political speech and smear it as anti-Semitism.”

State Reps. Jonathon Hill, R-Anderson; Josiah Magnuson, R-Spartanburg; and Leola Robinson-Simpson, D-Greenville, cast the only votes against the bill in the House.

Hill, a former sponsor who took his name off the bill, told the House he opposed applying a State Department definition of anti-Semitism to U.S. citizens. “It does not necessarily account for the rights of American citizens to free speech. It’s designed for application in a geopolitical context.”

Avery G. Wilks: 803-771-8362, @averygwilks

DEFINING ANTI-SEMITISM

Here is the U.S. State Department’s definition: “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 facilities.” Modern examples of anti-Semitism, according to the State Department, include:

▪ Calling for, aiding or justifying the killing or harming of Jews

▪ Making dehumanizing or demonizing allegations about Jews or the power or Jews as a collective, including the myth of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions

▪ Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, the state of Israel or acts committed by non-Jews

▪ Accusing Jews as a people, or Israel, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust

▪ Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than their own nations

Examples of anti-Semitism relative to Israel, according to the State Department, include:

▪ Demonizing Israel, such as using symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or by comparing modern Israeli policy to that of the Nazis

▪ Delegitimizing Israel by denying Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist

▪ Applying double standards for Israel by requiring of it behavior not expected of any other democratic nation

Criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic, the State Department says.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of State

  Comments