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March 2, 2020 7:41 am
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There Is No Effort to ‘Ban Criticism of Israel’

avatar by Adam Levick

Opinion

Two Brooklyn College students kneeling during a rendition of Israel’s national anthem at a match against Yeshiva University on Feb. 23, 2020. Photo: Screenshot.

A Guardian article (“New York: college volleyball players kneel during Israeli national anthem,” Feb. 29) by Victoria Bekiempis began straightforwardly enough:

Two Brooklyn College volleyball players kneeled during playing of the Israeli national anthem at a game against Yeshiva University, a private Jewish educational institution in New York City, earlier this week.

In doing so the players, identified as Hunnan Butt and Omar Rezika, seemed to echo similar examples of athletes making political protests during the US anthem, most notably the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

However, then it throws in the following political “context”:

Reports of the incident surfaced amid a rightwing push to ban criticism of Israel and the occupation of Palestine at US public universities. Brooklyn College is a public institution.

This claim is also included in the strap line of the article.

If you open the link, the claim that there’s a “rightwing push to ban criticism of Israel” takes you to a 2019 Guardian article: “Revealed: right-wing push to ban criticism of Israel on US campuses.” However, the article shows nothing of the sort. The “shocking” email in question obtained by The Guardian is merely an exchange between pro-Israel activists who pushed for a Florida bill known as HB 741.

Here’s a link to the full text of the bill.

As you can see, the bill merely makes clear that the state’s discrimination ban in their public education system should include antisemitism, and that antisemitism should be defined by the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. The IHRA definition makes clear that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic” — and is so uncontroversial that even Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the UK eventually (albeit grudgingly) adopted it. Moreover, there’s nothing whatsoever in the IHRA about criticism of the “occupation of Palestine.”

Further, far from representing a “rightwing” push, the bill actually passed the Florida legislature unanimously!

Quite simply, there is no push, by the right or any other political movement, to ban criticism of Israel in the US.

Adam Levick serves as Managing Editor of UK Media Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

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