Politics & Government

Controversial anti-Semitism proposal sneaks into SC budget, likely to pass

S.C State House
S.C State House AP

A controversial proposal that aims to curb anti-Semitism on college campuses, but has drawn the ire of free-speech advocates, will likely become law.

The proposal — a "proviso" slipped into the Senate budget that is only effective for one year — would require South Carolina's public universities to take into account set criteria in determining whether a given act met the State Department's 2010 definition for anti-Semitism.

The proviso likely will encounter little resistance in the House, where last year a similar bill passed overwhelmingly, and already has the support of Gov. Henry McMaster.

Proponents say it gives universities tools to investigate and define anti-Semitism. When the bill was introduced last year, Jewish community centers throughout the country, including one in Columbia, had received bomb threats.

"No longer will college campuses be able to sweep anti-Semitism under the rug," said Rep. Alan Clemmons, who authored last year's House bill.

Critics say the definition would discourage student groups from criticizing Israeli policy or participating in pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

"I want it to be clear that in opposing this bill I'm not endorsing anti-Semitism. I'm fighting for freedom of political speech," said Arya Novinbakht, a Jewish student at the University of South Carolina and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine. "A hate crime law would be much more effective to protecting Jewish students on college campuses."

South Carolina is one of five states that do not have hate crime laws.

USC did not take a hard stance on the bill, saying in a statement it decries bigotry and supports freedom of speech.

Sen. Brad Hutto, who has long opposed the House bill and the proviso, noted he would support the proviso or the bill if it applied to other races, ethnicitiesand gender identities and didn't apply to just college campuses.

"(Racism is) totally unacceptable everywhere, and you don't need a definition to know that it is," Hutto said.

Colleges and universities are to use the guidelines to determine whether someone has violated the institutions' discrimination policies.

The proviso defines anti-semitism as:

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

calling for, aiding or justifying the killing or harming of Jews

making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective

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

accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust

accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations

using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis

drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis

blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions

applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation

multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations

denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and denying Israel the right to exist, provided that criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic