South Carolina governor urged his state’s Senate on Wednesday to pass legislation designed to counter campus antisemitism in time for signing on International Holocaust Remembrance Day later this month.
The measure seeks to ensure that South Carolina’s public colleges and universities will take the State Department’s definition of antisemitism into consideration when investigating allegations of discrimination against Jewish students.
The definition encompasses traditional anti-Jewish tropes — such as conspiracies about Jewish control of societal institutions — as well as efforts to “demonize,” “delegitimize,” and apply a “double standard” to Israel. It also acknowledges that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”
The announcement was applauded by some advocates of Jewish students on campus.
Alyza Lewin, director of policy and chief operating officer at the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB), framed the bill as “a significant step” in deterring antisemitic activity in universities, amid a rise in anti-Jewish hostility “on both far ends of the political spectrum.”
LDB emphasized in a statement that the measure “is careful to protect First Amendment rights of all students on campus, and will not curb or restrict free speech or academic freedom.” The State Department’s definition of antisemitism is “substantially similar” to that used by the 31 member states of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and the 50 countries included in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, excluding Russia, the legal group argued.
However, the bill has not been without controversy, with critics claiming that it could be used to chill free speech.
Shortly before it was unanimously approved by the South Carolina Senate’s higher education subcommittee in April, H. 3643 was strongly criticized by Kenneth Stern, who helped draft a working definition of antisemitism for the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). The State Department’s definition of antisemitism was adapted from EUMC’s.
Read More: Algemeiner