UCLA Resolution on Anti-Semitism Creates Dangerous Precedent

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Naomi Dann | 845-377-5745 | Naomi@jvp.org

UCLA Resolution on Anti-Semitism Creates Dangerous Precedent

Jewish Voice for Peace welcomes the commitment of the UCLA Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC) to addressing issues of anti-Semitism on campus. We recognize that a recent series of troubling incidents, including anti-Semitic graffiti and inappropriate questioning of a Jewish student, have raised concerns about rising anti-Semitism on campus, which we condemn in the strongest terms. However, we are also deeply concerned that the resolution passed by the USAC on March 10, 2015 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.

The resolution draws on the Š__State Department Definition of Anti-Semitism,Š__ (sometimes referred to as the Š__3 DŠ__sŠ__). However, this definition has no legal standing in the US and was actually removed as a working definition by the European body where it originated. The Š_…3DsŠ__ included in this definition (Š__demonization, delegitimization and applying a double-standardŠ__ to the state of Israel) are so vague that they could be, and have been, construed to silence any criticism of Israeli policies. This Š_…working definitionŠ__ is in fact the product of long-term lobbying efforts by Israel advocacy groups who seek to codify criticism of the State of Israel as anti-Semitic. This is a deeply dangerous assertion that conflates Israel with Jewish people around the world.

Š__Classifying criticism of the state of Israel as Š_…anti-SemiticŠ__ curtails freedom of speech and dilutes the power of the term, which should be reserved for hatred, violence, intimidation or discrimination targeting Jews because of their ethnic and religious identity,Š__ stated Rabbi Alissa Wise, Director of Organizing, Jewish Voice for Peace. Š__This resolution therefore dangerously silences legitimate criticism of IsraelŠ__s human rights abuses and violations of international law that urgently need to be addressed and remedied.Š__ The United States Department of EducationŠ__s (DOE) Office for Civil Rights has emphatically affirmed that criticism of the state of Israel is protected speech on campus.

Š__The enforcement of this definition of anti-Semitism is part of long-term efforts on the part of Israel advocates to silence and intimidate supporters of Palestinian human rights,Š__ stated Jacob Manheim, JVP-UCLA organizer. Š__The resolution, which states that only the self-appointed Š__organized Jewish communityŠ__ can define anti-Semitism, marginalizes the growing number of Jews like me who support nonviolent efforts to hold Israel accountable for human rights violations. We are frequently excluded from Jewish institutions, including UCLA Hillel, who barred our chapter from inclusion as a Hillel organization last spring.Š__

Efforts by Israel lobby groups to expand the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israeli policies have had the adverse impact of weakening the meaning of the term when actual cases of anti-Jewish hate are reported. For example, the much-cited recent Brandeis Center survey on the rise of anti-Semitism on campuses was methodologically flawed in that it left the definition of anti-Semitism to the respondents. Simultaneously, while there has been a media attention given to reports of a rise in anti-Semitism, there has been nearly no attention given to rising Islamophobia on campuses.  For example, in recent weeks there was an Islamophobic smear campaign against Palestinian rights activists at UCLA and prominent US campuses promoted by the right-wing David Horowitz Freedom Center.

Addressing anti-Semitism must go hand in hand with addressing all forms of racism. We at Jewish Voice for Peace are committed to addressing anti-Semitism in the context of other systems of oppression, including, for example, racism and Islamophobia.

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Jewish Voice for Peace (www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org) is a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace has over 190,000 online supporters, over 65 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.

Additional Quotes for Publication:

Rabbi Linda Holzman, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College faculty, and member of JVP Board of Directors and Rabbinic Council:

Š__The language about Š__double standards” or Š__delegitimizing IsraelŠ__ is so vague as to be completely unenforceable. How can students concerned about human rights in Israel and Palestine participate knowing virtually anything they say about Israeli policies could now be construed as an attack on Jews?Š__

Karen Brodkin, UCLA Professor of Anthropology, author of How Jews Became White Folks, and member of JVP Academic Advisory Council:

Š__As a Jew, I find this resolution troubling on two counts. First, itŠ__s pretty presumptuous for any group of Jews to claim their view as the only legitimate representative of Jewish opinion. Jews differ like crazy.

Second, and more important, the resolution, especially its overly broad and inaccurate definition of anti-Semitism would shut down spaces for respectful debate and discussion among Jews and between Jews and non-Jews about the political substance of the issue, namely the policies and practices of the government of Israel. What are alternatives? What would we like to see?Š__



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