UCLA resolution conflates anti-Semitism with criticism of Israeli policy

On Tuesday night, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) undergraduate student association council passed a resolution addressing issues of anti-Semitism on campus.

Palestine solidarity organizers, legal defenders of Palestine activism and Jewish activists say that the resolution rightfully condemns anti-Semitism.

However, they are concerned that, in the words of a press release issued Wednesday by Jewish Voice for Peace, the resolution “further enshrines long-standing political efforts to silence legitimate criticism of the State of Israel by codifying its inclusion in the definition of anti-Semitism.”

UCLA’s resolution draws from the US State Department’s “definition of anti-Semitism” which is often referred to as the “European Union Monitoring Centre definition” of anti-Semitism. That 2005 definition was discredited and dropped by the European Union in 2013.

Under the terms of this definition, the EU Monitoring Centre had conflated descriptions of Israeli policies as “racist” with anti-Jewish bigotry — under advice from right-wing Israel advocacy groups which seek to crush criticism of Israel as well as activism supporting Palestinians’ rights.

As Ben White wrote for The Electronic Intifada immediately after the EU body — now called the Fundamental Rights Agency — publicly dropped this definition, “This is certainly not the end of efforts by Israel lobby groups to abuse and manipulate the fight against anti-Semitism in order to target Palestine solidarity work.”

“False equation”

Lawyers with Palestine Solidarity Legal Support (PSLS) say that UCLA’s resolution to re-define anti-Semitism “brands advocates for Palestinian human rights as anti-Semitic by blurring the important distinction between criticism of Israel as a nation-state and anti-Semitism. This false equation censors speech by making it taboo to discuss Palestinian rights.”

PSLS adds, “If the re-definition were applied by the university as policy restricting speech, it would violate the First Amendment.”

Estee Chandler, an organizer with Jewish Voice for Peace in Los Angeles, attended the resolution hearing on Tuesday. She told The Electronic Intifada on Wednesday that ongoing efforts by Israel-aligned organizations to conflate criticisms of Israeli policies with hatred of Jewish people sets a concerning precedent.

“Criticizing policies of the state are not akin to criticizing all Jewish people, or even all Israeli people,” Chandler added. “They are just criticisms of a government — a government that has a troubling human rights record.”

Chandler said that “addressing anti-Semitism has to go hand-in hand with addressing all forms of racism,” including Islamophobia.

Listen to the interview with Chandler via the media player above.

“Long-term political project”

In a document authored by PSLS, lawyers say that there is a “surge of accusations of anti-Semitism against individuals that criticize the Israeli state.”

PSLS adds that using the dropped definition of anti-Semitism — which has “dubious legal authority” — is “the most recent manifestation of a long-term political project attempting to re-define the traditional definition to include criticism of Israel.”

In 2012, the California state assembly unanimously passed HR-35, a non-binding resolution urging university adminitrations to condemn acts of anti-Semitism as well as the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The resolution’s authors said BDS campaigns “are a means of demonizing Israel and seek to harm the Jewish state.”

It was revealed that the resolution was written with help from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a far right-wing Israel advocacy organization that seeks to curb criticism of Israel.

HR-35 was widely condemned by student, alumni and faculty groups, civil rights organizations and legal experts nationwide.

PSLS says that “Classifying criticism of Israel as ‘anti-Semitic’ works to circumscribe important political speech activities, often in violation of the First Amendment. It is also disingenuous and misleading; it does a great disservice to Jewish victims of genuine anti-Semitism by diluting and confusing the term.”

An open letter to UCLA from “concerned Jews across the UC system” rejects the resolution’s conflation between Israel and Judaism and criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

“It is clear that the purpose of conflating criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism is to censor speech against internationally recognized human rights abuses that Palestinians face,” the letter states. “We refuse to have our Jewish identities co-opted to justify Israel’s actions and policies.”

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this conflating is not an accident. check out the link below for a report which defines anti semitism. go to pages 16 - 18 and you will see that the whole point of the anti semisitism crusade since the Gaza murders has been to criminalize any criticism of israheil.



The discredited state department “definition of anti-Semitism” is atrocious. I personally don't think Israel is legitimate because it denies its indigenous population, Palestinian Arabs, equal rights and has banned most of them from living in their land of origin. I don't know any other nation that has done that in modern times to such an extent as Israel has (yes, some countries like Indonesia may be doing the like to some of their tribes, and it's horrible). I don't think this is anti-semitic.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).