California Universities Must Define Anti-Semitism – Ron Dolinsky/San Jose Mercury News
Recent anti-Semitic events on university campuses in California have run the gamut from threats and intimidation by faculty and students, to graffiti scrawled on the UC-Berkeley campus that read: “Zionist should be sent to the gas chamber,” creating an atmosphere of fear among Jewish students to the extent that they no longer feel that they can wear symbols of their religion for fear of attack.
While anti-Semitism isn’t new, it is now regularly cloaked in a guise of anti-Israel sentiment, which makes it much easier to freely threaten and intimidate Jews in the name of political discourse. Until now, the California Board of Regents, which governs University of California campuses, has not adopted any working definition of anti-Semitism, making it almost impossible to monitor or combat.
This sad reality has led to the formation of a coalition of over 30 religious and communal organizations to demand that the California Board of Regents adopt the U.S. State Department’s official definition of anti-Semitism, which includes certain types of anti-Zionism, rather than a vague, general statement about intolerance.
Resolutions adopting the State Department’s definition have already been approved by the California Legislature and have proven to be effective. Logic would suggest that what the U.S. government defines as anti-Semitism in France or Yemen should apply equally in California. However, there are strong political forces within the Golden State that would prefer to blur the lines and enable this vile disease to fester.
The State Department’s core definition is clear: “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.” The State Department goes on to include the new anti-Semitism in their definition, which is masked as anti-Zionism and includes demonizing, delegitimizing and using a double standard to judge the state of Israel.
What differentiates anti-Semitism from other forms of racism is that it represents genocidal racism, which includes denial of the existence of a Jewish people’s history or their right to freedom and self-determination. For thousands of years, our Jewish brethren were chased from every land in which they resided, and were denied their basic human rights, land, education, and equal standing in the eyes of their rulers. Above all else, their inhumane conditions, humiliation and mistreatment were intended to annihilate them. Every single Jew alive today is the survivor of an ongoing movement of systematic genocide.
Institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to their students to ensure that civil discourse is the order of the day, and attempts to disrupt, intimidate, and denigrate should be dealt with by the code of conduct of the institution. Most of all, Jewish students should have exactly the same legal rights as all others.
There should be no reluctance whatsoever on the part of any state or local government, Board of Regents, or college to adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. The United States State Department has adopted this definition to monitor and report on anti-Semitism in every country in the world.
On Wednesday, the California Board of Regents will meet to vote on adopting a definition for anti-Semitism. Anything short of the official U.S. State department definition will be a slap in the face of the Jewish community and a triumph for hatred.
Ron Dolinsky is vice president of Proclaiming Justice to The Nations, a Christian nonprofit organization that works to educate Christians about their Biblical responsibility to defend the Jewish people and Israel. He wrote this article for this newspaper.