U of California Governing Body Declines to Adopt State Dept Definition of Antisemitism in Newly Released Report
The University of California’s (UC) governing body on Wednesday released a report addressing antisemitism and anti-Zionism across the 10 campuses of the UC system, but declining to adopt the US State Department’s definition, The Algemeiner has learned.
The UC Regents will vote on whether to adopt the report, in part or in its entirety, at its March 23-24 meeting.
Aron Hier, spokesman for the Jewish human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center — among those consulted by the Regents in the preparation of the report — told The Algemeiner on Wednesday:
Public officials enjoy the constitutional right to speak — to decry, repudiate, condemn whatever they wish, as they see fit. In this case, the matter is antisemitism/anti-Zionism. As the result of several months of hard work by numerous groups, and especially by UC Regent Norman Pattiz, the Regents Working Group have unequivocally and explicitly condemned anti-Zionism in the opening pages of the report. Though we would have hoped to see that condemnation reiterated in the “principles” at the end, we consider this a heartening, positive and precedential first step toward combating antisemitic attacks on the UC campuses.
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The “Final Report of the Regents Working Group on Principles Against Intolerance” begins with a “Contextual Statement” saying that “there has been an increase in incidents reflecting antisemitism on UC campuses,” and that “opposition to Zionism often is expressed in ways that are … assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture.”
It goes on: “Antisemitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”
Many groups had lobbied the Regents specifically to adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism, according to which certain forms of criticism of Israel are deemed antisemitic, namely those which “demonize,” “delegitimize” or apply “double standards” to Israel.
The report, however, acknowledges those who say that doing so would restrict academic freedom and freedom of speech, as well those who say that by focusing on defining antisemitism, the report would unfairly leave out other forms of bias and prejudice present on UC Campuses.
Thus, it recommends instead that the Regents adopt 10 “Principles Against Intolerance.” These include statements about the nature of a university, the defense of free speech, the prohibition of various forms of discrimination and this:
[T]he University is best served when its leaders challenge speech and action reflecting bias, stereotypes, and/or intolerance. Antisemitism and other forms of discrimination have no place in the University.
Kenneth Marcus, president and general counsel at the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law — who was brought in to serve as one of the Regents’ “national experts on antisemitism” — told The Algemeiner:
It is true that [the report] doesn’t mention the State Department’s definition of antisemitism, and it would be better if it did. That’s not a problem, though, because they are preparing to do something that is every bit as powerful and really quite novel.
The game-changer … is that the Regents are treating extreme anti-Zionism as a form of discrimination, similar to antisemitism. They’re not saying it’s the same as antisemitism, as some commenters have mistakenly interpreted. Rather they’re saying that extreme anti-Zionism may be discriminatory regardless of whether it is equated with antisemitism or not.
Extreme anti-Zionism is not just a political position. It is a form of bigotry similar to other kinds of Jew-hatred. It is time that a major university recognizes this …
The key language is in the “contextual statement” It would have been clearer if they had put it elsewhere, but that is not a big deal. What is crucial is that the Regents adopt the Working Group’s entire package, including the contextual statement. Without the contextual piece, the rest of the statement is frankly somewhat pedestrian; but when the contextual statement is included, the Regents will have taken a big step forward in their efforts to address anti-Jewish incidents on campus … It is only in the “anti-Zionism” language that the Regents have made a major advance.
Congressman Brad Sherman, a ninth-term Democrat from the San Fernando Valley and UC alum who had also lobbied the Regents, issued this press release:
I am pleased to see that the final report explicitly condemns antisemitism and anti‐Zionism. This is a significant victory for Jewish students who have faced multiple, unsettling incidents involving antisemitic epithets, slurs, obscenities and even physical violence.
Since the “Principles Against Intolerance” section fails to explicitly address the problem of anti-Zionism, it is critical that the report’s introduction – which condemns anti-Zionism – is adopted as part of the UC Regents’ policy.
I am disappointed that the report does not recommend the adoption of a definition of antisemitism … The State Department definition appropriately draws the line between normal criticisms of the policies of the State of Israel on the one hand, and disguised antisemitism on the other.
The “Working Group” to create the report was formed after the Regents meeting of September 2015, at which a draft “statement of principles against intolerance” was rejected. The group held a day-long public forum in October to receive public input, and then — according to the report’s “Contextual Statement” — invited four “recognized scholars and/or leaders on the subjects of discrimination, with a particular focus on antisemitism, and on free speech” to present their views. It then convened for a “series of meetings” in December and January to produce the current report.