South Carolina takes important step toward antisemitism bill

After passing in the South Carolina House of Representatives, the antisemitism bill was stalled in the state Senate for several months, but it finally passed on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

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April 19, 2018 19:57
3 minute read.
3D printed kippa

A Jewish youth wears a 3D printed kippa made by computer science Prof. Craig Kaplan of University of Waterloo in Ontario. (photo credit: CRAIG KAPLAN)

South Carolina will soon become the first US state to codify a universal definition of antisemitism, after its Senate and House of Representatives reconcile different wording next week in a landmark bill that is set to be the model for states across America and countries around the world.

Despite its small Jewish population, South Carolina was the first US state to pass a bill outlawing boycotting, divesting from and sanctioning Israel, versions of which have now passed in half the 50 states and are expected to pass in six more by the end of the year. Israel Allies Caucuses are now working on passing similar anti-BDS legislation in their countries.

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South Carolina Rep. Alan Clemmons, who authored both bills, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that he is aiming for similar success with the antisemitism legislation, when he “takes the bill on the road.”

“Jewish students on campus are the point of the antisemitism spear in the US,” Clemmons said. “By giving a clear and uniform definition of antisemitism to university administrators and mandating its use, we are protecting the rights of Jewish students and all students on campus. No longer will reports of antisemitism be swept under the administrative rug.”

That definition of antisemitism is taken from a US State Department decision in 2010 and an accompanying fact sheet that singles out demonizing, delegitimizing and having a double-standard for Israel.

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” the definition said. “Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The fact sheet added blaming Israel for all interreligious or political tensions, applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation, and denying the Jewish people its right to self-determination, and Israel the right to exist. But it also said that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

Once the text reconciliation happens, the bill will be included in the South Carolina state budget proposal that will be signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster in a few weeks and will take effect in July.

The legislation does not address BDS directly and if there was an anti-Israel protest on a campus that called for boycotting Israel, that would be legal due to free speech laws. But if vandalism occurs or the protest turned violent, that illegal activity would have to be seen through the prism of antisemitism and university administrators would have to deal with the victims as victims of illegal discrimination.

After passing in the South Carolina House of Representatives, the antisemitism bill was stalled in the state Senate for several months, but it finally passed on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

South Carolina state Sen. Larry Grooms, who shepherded it through the Senate, said the bill was important, because he saw too many cases of antisemitism, in particular on college campuses.

“Antisemitism is on the rise, and we had an opportunity to say we won’t tolerate that in South Carolina,” said Grooms, who like Clemmons is a Republican. “We are proud to be the first state that passes an anti-discrimination law that defines antisemitism. Our faith ties with Israel and its people run deep in South Carolina, and I’m proud ours is the first state to step up and say what antisemitism is and to demand that it end on our campuses.”

State Sen. Darrell Jackson, who is a democrat and an African- American pastor, said he helped pass the bill, because it was important to send a bipartisan message on such a key issue.

“Any type of discrimination is horrible, and history has shown us that when facing discrimination, you cannot be neutral or silent,” Jackson said. “When you are, people suffer. We had to send a message that we in South Carolina will not be a part of that. This is beyond partisan politics. It’s about doing the right thing.”


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