What American Universities Can Learn From the UK
Yesterday, I wrote about the outrageous decision by students at the University of London to deny Jewish students the right to define what constitutes hatred against their group — something that all other minority groups are allowed to do.
In December 2016, the British government adopted the definition of antisemitism advanced during a conference of the Berlin-based International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The definition states:
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.
Examples of antisemitism cited by the conference included:
- 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 interests of their own nations.
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Applying double standards by requiring Israel to behave in a way not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or the blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
- Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
The conference’s definition minimizes gray areas and confusion regarding the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and Jew-hatred.
A spokesman for the University of Central Lancashire said that the cancelled program, titled “Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine,” was called off because it contravened the government’s new definition of antisemitism, and was thus “unlawful.”
Why is it so difficult for American universities to follow this example?
In the US, Israel’s detractors objected to efforts to adopt the State Department’s definition of antisemitism as a means of evaluating campus activities; however, this is an international standard endorsed by the UK, a country that values free speech as much as the United States.
Based on this definition, it is clear that many activities that occur during anti-Israel weeks on college campuses — as well as many of the programs sponsored year-round by Students for Justice in Palestine — are unequivocally antisemitic. The BDS movement, for example, is antisemitic because it denies “the Jewish people their right to self-determination” and applies a double standard by requiring Israel to behave in a way that is “not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
As I wrote yesterday, no university acknowledges a First Amendment right to bigotry — even though the Constitution protects offensive speech — except when it comes to discrimination against Jews.
UCLA communications professor Keith Fink was interviewed on TV last week and noted several examples of that school’s hypocritical interpretation of the right to free speech. In one case, top administrators condemned and took down posters connecting the anti-Israel hate group Students for Justice in Palestine with Hamas. In another, a fraternity was suspended for holding a “Kanye West” party, and the university sent a threatening letter to students warning that all lawful resources would be used against students who engaged in intimidation or harassment. Sadly, this is nothing new for UCLA, which punished a fraternity during my days on campus because it planned a “Viva Zapata” party that offended some students. UCLA is by no means unique; this is the norm across the country.
As I wrote in, “Why do antisemites get to define antisemitism?” if antisemitism is protected speech, then no university should be allowed to prevent other forms of offensive speech. But this will never happen because universities have conceded the First Amendment to pressure groups, and will not tolerate bigotry directed at the LBGTQ community, women, African Americans, Hispanics, Muslims or any other group willing to protest.
Only Jews are denied protection, under the pretext that attacking Jews and Israel is permissible speech. Only Jews are denied the right to decide what constitutes hatred against the Jewish people.
Administrators can no longer hide behind an arbitrary application of the First Amendment. The University of Central Lancashire has set the precedent American universities should follow. Activities that meet the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism should be prohibited. Practically, that means universities should condemn all BDS campaigns and cancel any events on campus — especially those scheduled for the upcoming Israel hate weeks — which are antisemitic.