Finally, the anti-Semitic aspects of the BDS movement are the focus of campus discussion.
In a post on Monday I noted a Report (pdf.) suggesting “Principles Against Intolerance” and containing a condemnation of anti-Semitism, was coming up for vote today at the University of California Board of Regents, UC Regents should seize its Moynihan moment on anti-Zionism.
The key language in controversy was both the general condemnation of anti-Semitism, but most specifically a mention of anti-Zionism in a “contextual statement” that was not part of the Principles themselves (emphasis added):
“During the 2014-15 academic year, the Regents received correspondence and public comment from a variety of sources expressing concern that there has been an increase in incidents reflecting anti-Semitism on UC campuses. These reported incidents included vandalism targeting property associated with Jewish people or Judaism; challenges to the candidacies of Jewish students seeking to assume representative positions within student government; political, intellectual and social dialogue that is anti-Semitic; and social exclusion and stereotyping. Fundamentally, commenters noted that historic manifestations of anti-Semitism have changed and that expressions of anti-Semitism are more coded and difficult to identify. In particular, opposition to Zionism often is expressed in ways that are not simply statements of disagreement over politics and policy, but also assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture.
Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California….“
In that post, I noted the arguments for and against the Report. Those arguments played out today before the Regents in a public comment period.
…The Board voted today, and accepted the Report, including the condemnation of anti-Semitism, with one amendment proposed and accepted at the meeting. The modifier “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism” was added.
Pro-Israel backers of the Report were ecstatic, despite the wording change. In a statement, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin of the AMCHA Initiative stated:
With the deft addition of three small words, University of California Regent Norm Pattiz defused rising tensions Wednesday over whether UC would declare “anti-Zionism” —opposition to the state of Israel — an official form of discrimination at the famously free-thinking school.
Instead, a regents committee accepted Pattiz’ amendment saying that “anti-Semitic forms of” anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at UC.
“We’re very pleased that the Regents acknowledged that some forms of anti-Zionism are discriminatory and have no place at UC. The amended language helps to clarify that the Regents aren’t referring to criticism of Israel, but to opposition to the very existence of a Jewish state and calls for its destruction.”
We did it!!! UC Regents passes Statement Against Intolerance with the Report unanimously. VICTORY, and fitting timing with Purim 🙂
— The AMCHA Initiative (@AMCHAInitiative) March 23, 2016
StandWithUs, a pro-Israel group active on campuses, issued a statement that read in part:
StandWithUs applauds the University of California (UC) Board of Regents for voting unanimously to adopt a new and much improved version of their “Principles Against Intolerance,” originally proposed in September, 2015. The new version shows that the Regents are truly committed to addressing anti-Semitism, as well as other forms of bigotry within the UC system.
The Regents also passed an amendment to the Final Report, stating that, “Anti-Semitism, Anti-Semitic forms of Anti-Zionism, and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.” While this is less unequivocal than the previous language, it is a major step forward in educating the UC community about the nuanced forms of anti-Semitism Jewish students face today.
The document also covers disruptions of speakers, vandalism, discrimination within student government, and other forms of bigotry that Jewish students and others have unfortunately confronted in recent years.
— Roz Rothstein (@RozRothstein) March 23, 2016
Anti-Israel opponents of the Report were furious:
UC Regents just passed a policy that will attempt to suppress and silence Palestine solidarity voices. https://t.co/T16GSqKoLx
— National SJP (@NationalSJP) March 23, 2016
Anti-Zionism has a large, historical presence within Jewish communities. This was pointed out to #UCRegents. They chose not to listen.
— Nora BarrowsFriedman (@norabf) March 23, 2016
Jewish Voice for Peace (which is neither Jewish nor for Peace), one of the most vicious purveyors of anti-Zionist propaganda on campuses, issued the following statement, in part:
This morning the UC Regents adopted a policy on intolerance that fails to address concerns that this policy could be used to police student and faculty speech critical of Israeli policies. The discussion at the Regents meeting today repeated false claims that student activism in support of Palestinian human rights has lead to an increase in antisemitism on campuses.
This has to be viewed as a major defeat for anti-Israel groups, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, because it recognizes the reality that anti-Zionism is the cover for the spread of anti-Semitism in the world. That the Regents did not condemn all forms of anti-Zionism recognized, perhaps, that intellectually one can be anti-Zionist without being anti-Semitic, even if in the real world the two have almost completely merged on the streets of Europe and the campuses of the U.S.
Syracuse University Professor of Jewish Studies Zachary Braiterman writes on the significance:
That such a statement was even considered in the first place is an indication as to how discourse about Zionism and Israel has gone off the rails on so many university and college campuses. In other words, supporters of BDS and other anti-Zionist activists on campus have only themselves to blame. There were many complaints about an earlier statement conflating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism as having “no place” at UC. That language was wisely amended to refer to “anti-Semitic forms” of anti-Zionism.
No doubt, even the revised statement will outrage anti-Zionist activists on campus. They will argue that the statement of principles chills their own free speech and right to protest. But the statement is very clear that even all speech, including prejudiced speech, is to be protected. Mostly, one suspects that activist groups like SJP and JVP and their on-campus advocates will object because of the strong statement against actions on campus that violate by shutting down the free speech of others.
This is indeed a big breakthrough. The BDS movement has dominated the campus conversation with the most outrageous attacks on Israel. BDS doesn’t care if campus divestment motions fail, as long as the campus conversation is about how bad Israel is. Now there is another topic for discussion, the anti-Semitism of the BDS movement, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the anti-Zionist professors who engage in blood libels and other false accusations.