MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

U of California May Ban "Anti-Zionism" on Campus, Blurring Line Between Political Speech and Hate Speech

In the name of fighting intolerance, legitimate political debate is threatened.

The University of California (UC) Board of Regents Hate speech?Wikipediais considering adding "anti-Zionism" to an ever-growing list of unacceptable forms of "discrimination" that will be outlawed on the state university system's 10 campuses.

The new proposal is an addendum to UC's still-under-consideration "Statement of Principles Against Intolerance," which Will Creeley of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) said in 2015 had the potential to lead to "a kind of race to the bottom, sooner or later, by public universities punishing students or faculty for a particular viewpoint." 

The AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit devoted to battling anti-Semitism on American college campuses, was the driving force behind the addition of anti-Zionism to the list of banned forms of "intolerant" expression, after deeming the previous UC statement to have insufficiently addressed anti-Semitism. In lobbying for the additional speech code, AMCHA cited a number of recent incidents where Jewish students were targeted, including the spraypainting of swastikas on the outside of a Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis.

The latest report from the regents working group states:

Opposition to Zionism often is expressed in ways that are not simply statements of disagreement over politics and policy, but also assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture.

Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.

The UC regents are scheduled to discuss the report on March 23, but it seems that the working group is trying to have it both ways, because later in the report, they add that the university "will vigorously defend the principles of the First Amendment and academic freedom against any efforts to subvert or abridge them." 

It's hard to see how UC plans to square this circle, especially since Zionism, unlike Judaism, is not a religion but a specific political philosophy based on the belief that the land of Greater Israel is the rightful national homeland of the Jewish people. Zionism is not embraced by every person of the Jewish faith, nor is Zionism itself a monolith.

There are plenty of self-described Zionists who are vocally critical of the government of Israel's policies, which presently include building settlements in the occupied West Bank, actions that are officially opposed by nearly every nation in the world, including the US.

Additionally, holding the belief that the state of Israel's creation was misbegoten or unjust is a political position, one that is frequently debated in academia. While controversial, it is not necessarily motivated by anti-Semitism any more than someone opposed to Hamas running a de facto Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip is motivated by Islamophobia. 

On the legitimacy of debating Israel's right to exist, Eugene Volokh writes at The Washington Post:

Whether the Jewish people should have an independent state in Israel is a perfectly legitimate question to discuss — just as it’s perfectly legitimate to discuss whether Basques, Kurds, Taiwanese, Tibetans, Northern Cypriots, Flemish Belgians, Walloon Belgians, Faroese, Northern Italians, Kosovars, Abkhazians, South Ossetians, Transnistrians, Chechens, Catalonians, Eastern Ukranians and so on should have a right to have independent states.

The regents' proposal bears the hallmarks of a classic case of overcompensation and would likely result in legitimate political grievances being prosecuted under the umbrella of "hate speech."

The roots of this prospective policy stem from a 2010 US State Department memo which attempted to define how "anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel." The memo lists the demonization of Israel, applying a double standard for Israel, and de-legitimizing Israel's right to exist as instances where political speech becomes hate speech.

In May 2015, UC President Janet Napolitano said she would support the application of these criteria, which have come to be known as "the 3 Ds," to university policy. The regents ultimately declined to go that far, but the addition of anti-Zionism to its list of intolerable forms of speech feels like their attempt at compromise. 

AMCHA's co-founder and director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told the Jewish-American journal Forward that "the 3 Ds" are the basis for AMCHA's efforts to change UC policy. Rossman-Benjamin said that advocating for the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement which protests Israeli businesses operating in the West Bank should be seen as a form of anti-Semitism. And that's just the start:

So would protests in which activists erect a wall to symbolize Israel’s separation barrier, which is used to block Palestinians in the occupied West Bank from entering Israel and parts of the West Bank itself. Demonstrations in which activists distribute mock eviction notices — meant to mimic notices distributed by the Israeli army to Palestinian West Bank residents whose homes are slated for demolition — would also be deemed anti-Semitic, Rossman-Benjamin said.

Some pro-Israel groups opposed to the Israeli government’s policies in the occupied territories have called for boycotting products manufactured on exclusively Jewish West Bank settlements. But this too would, under certain circumstances, be seen as anti-Semitic, according to Rossman-Benjamin. So would campus events in which former Israeli soldiers from the group Breaking the Silence speak about wrongdoings they claim to have witnessed by fellow soldiers during their military service, she said.

Arguing that anti-Semitism is always part and parcel with anti-Zionism is like saying opposition to Islamism, the political strain of morally conservative Islam that seeks to impose Islamic law on all aspects of life, is inherently Islamophobic, which would come as a suprise to the many Muslim critics who oppose sharia law, the subjugation of women, and the idea of Islamic supremacy.

This is not to say that racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia don't come into play in political debates or demonstrations on campus. But that's all the more reason to not take certain political arguments off the table. 

When students on the campus of UC Berkeley chanted "Long live the Intifada!" in 2014, some saw it as solidarity with the cause of Palestinian self-determination against almost a half-century of occupation. Others saw it as a celebration of terrorism against Israeli civilians.

The disparity in interpretation is precisely why the right to free, robust, and sometimes uncivil debate should always be prioritized over the risk of hurt feelings. Few topics arouse people's passions like Israel/Palestine and those passions will not be abated by disallowing criticism of a nation-state, a political movement, or any particular philosophy. 

As Reason's Robby Soave reported last year, the simple and fairly innocuous act of hanging a Palestinian flag in a George Washington University (GWU) dorm room window was deemed disrespectful to the community by a school administator, and campus police ordered the student who hung it to take it down. In many ways it's a perfect metaphor for the silencing of political speech: If an idea makes you uncomfortable, beseech the authorities remove it, and then it's no longer a problem for you. 

Watch Soave's visit to the GWU campus below:

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Millennial Hipster Vanguard||

    More of these kinds of articles please.

  • MSimon||

    I'm surprised there is not a Trump's daughter tie in.

  • Millennial Hipster Vanguard||

    Right? I found this article well written and informative. Also clearly related to the 1A.

  • Suicidy||

    That would have been nice. They are hot and easy to jerk it to.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This will hit the SJW crowd where they live.

  • Los Doyers||

    On the Sinai?

  • paranoid android||

    In lobbying for the additional speech code, AMCHA cited a number of recent incidents where Jewish students were targeted, including the spraypainting of swastikas on the outside of a Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis.

    Do the rules against "anti-Zionism" have some special magical power to compel people to obey them that the (presumably) existing rules against vandalizing others' property do not?

  • bassjoe||

    Yeah, like most hate speech regulations, I don't understand why vandalism and harassment rules aren't sufficient.

  • BYODB||

    Because those a petty offenses pale in comparison to thought-crime? How can we all be tolerant when there are still people who remain that disagree with us?!?

  • Notorious UGCC||

    Will this finally make the SJWs realize that their censorship BS can be used against *them*?

    No, of course not, they'll just think that anti-Zionism is totally justified and should be legal for that reason. Not like anti-feminism, which is hate speech and unsafe, etc.

  • bassjoe||

    When you believe that the Zionists are the oppressors of [insert oppressed people here], then anti-Zionism is legitimate rhetoric in a social justice campaign on behalf of that oppressed people.

  • creech||

    Alumni of these schools have got to register their disgust - "I'm withholding any future financial contributions until this university starts recognizing free speech."

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    I'm on board, but they keep withholding taxes from my paycheck.

  • Rich||

    AMCHA is the Hebrew word meaning “Your People”

    "Ruh-roh!"

  • ||

    "You know Johnny Hitler?!? I hear he hates books and juice."

  • Swiss Servator||

    Who, the new kid?

  • ||

  • Trigger Hippie||

    https://ci.memecdn.com/783/8077783.jpg

    One of my favorite Far Side comic strips.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Holy Mount Ziooooooon!

  • Notorious UGCC||

    If a university can act against the progs in this way, next up they can ban hoplophobic speech!

  • MSimon||

    They should have gone to a Jewish school like UChicago. Founded by a Methodist.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Or BU.

  • Seamus||

    I thought UChicago was founded by John D. Rockefeller, a Baptist.

  • Bra Ket||

    Aren't they all Jewish schools nowadays?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    OT: Rooting around for kitchen sinks.

    (CNN)Prominent conservatives led by Erick Erickson on Thursday called for a unity ticket and a convention fight to stop Republican front-runner Donald Trump, a sign of the growing desperation in the party establishment to find an alternative to the billionaire businessman.

    "If that unity ticket is unable to get 1,237 delegates prior to the convention, we recognize that it took Abraham Lincoln three ballots at the Republican convention in 1860 to become the party's nominee and if it is good enough for Lincoln, that process should be good enough for all the candidates without threats of riots," Erickson wrote in a statement after conservatives gathered in Washington to discuss ways to thwart Trump's march to the nomination.

    http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/17/.....index.html

  • Millennial Hipster Vanguard||

    You couldn't hold it 4 minutes?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    When you have to OT, sometimes you just gotta OT.

  • MSimon||

    Statement From Conservatives Against Trump By Erick Erickson | March 17, 2016, 01:18pm

    For the LULZ

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    Don't drive this underground; I want to keep it all out in the open.

    The truly crazy ones; that fraction of a percent of students that are just fucking nuts- they are all involved in the pro palestine shit.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    So, Noam Chomsky?

  • Los Doyers||

    I wonder if that dude was draping himself in the Saudi Arabian flag ironically. He had to be, right?

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    Nope. See my comment directly above.

  • bassjoe||

    I'm legitimately curious where the line between a criticism of Israel and prejudice against "Jewish culture" will be.

  • ||

    Line?

  • Los Doyers||

    By line he meant swastika.

  • ||

    Ah.

  • Zeb||

    I don't think it's too hard (if you aren't a screaming moron). Israel is a nation state that does all kinds of shitty stuff, like all nation states. When you start lumping all Jews in with Israel and speculating about an international Jewish conspiracy, then you've crossed the line.

    A lot of the criticism of Israel is really off the deep end. But a lot of the defenders of Israel are pretty nuts too.

  • bassjoe||

    You're assuming screaming morons won't get involved.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, probably not a good assumption. But people do exist who are critical if Israel, but not screaming morons or anti-semites.

  • thrakkorzog||

    Unfortunately, pretty much any discussion of Israel's policy draws screaming morons like moths to a flame. Hell, it could be discussion on something like marginal tax rates in Israel, and sooner or later some yahoo comes along quoting The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

  • dantheserene||

    Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism seem to be used interchangeably in the article and links. I didn't think they were the same thing.
    Like any nation, I don't agree with a lot of things Israel does. That doesn't mean I hate Jews. Heck, I was married to one for a while there.

  • esteve7||

    So when they call the right / libertarians a bunch of fascists, remember they are just projecting. These people are 100x more dangerous than Trump ever will be

  • ||

    Unprincipled chaos.

    Appreciate the article. Difficult for the left to fit Jews (and Asians) into their "system" of justice.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Most of this post is very good, but I disagree entirely with your definition of "Zionism" as "the belief that the land of Greater Israel is the rightful national homeland" of the Jews. Theodor Herzl invented modern Zionism simply as a response to the frenzied anti-Semitism of late nineteenth century Europe. He probably would have preferred the south of France as the Jewish homeland, but unfortunately the Riviera was already taken. Of course, as a practical matter only historical Israel could serve as an emotional rallying point for the world's Jews, but to say that Zionism translates into the claim that the currently existing state of Israel has a right (God-given, I assume) to all the territory encompassed by the vague term "Greater Israel" is quite mistaken. I think a non-Jew such as myself can claim to be a "moderate Zionist", desiring Israel to thrive and prosper without permanently expanding to the currently occupied territories and (especially) not making Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

  • Seamus||

    He probably would have preferred the south of France as the Jewish homeland, but unfortunately the Riviera was already taken.

    As opposed to Palestine, which didn't have anyone living there other than a bunch of filthy wogs.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    They voted down Uganda. (Jewganda?)

  • Notorious UGCC||

  • Notorious UGCC||

    Oh, this is interesting:

    "A project that had some concrete success was the Galveston scheme which contemplated the settlement of Jews in the American Southwest, in particular in Texas. The project received the assistance of Jacob Schiff, the American Jewish banker, and some 9,300 Jews arrived in that area between 1907-1914, through the Emigration Bureau of the Territorialist organization."

    Hey, they could have settled in a place that had oil!

  • Remnant Psyche||

    Does anyone else sorta roll their eyes when they see terms like "hate speech" and "microaggression" used without scare quotes? These are not legitimate concepts and don't need to be used as if they are.

  • Zeb||

    "Microaggression" is just plain silly. "Hate speech" is more dangerous, I think. There is certainly speech that is hateful or conveys hatred. But "hate speech" comes with the implication that there are limitations on the thoughts or beliefs that people should be allowed to express.

  • Remnant Psyche||

    But there are perfectly valid reasons to hate. Why do I care that some psycho lives in a world of bubblegum and unicorns where negative emotions are a no-no?

  • thrakkorzog||

    All the cool kids are being attoaggressed against these days.

  • Bra Ket||

    All political science is just a game of half-truths and guilt-by-association. If a word has negative connotations it is a weapon to be used against "the other side"; hurting them is the whole point, and it can only hurt them to the degree that it's not true.

  • Daft Dada||

    Criticism is not anti-Semitism!!!

    If "anti-Semitic" is to retain any of its true meaning, it should be used only in cases where violence is being encouraged rather than intellectual debate about Zionism and its influence in politics.

    Sheesh!!!

  • Dan Bongard||

    Obviously it is possible to criticize Israel without being an anti-Semite, just like it is possible to criticize black-on-white violence in America without being a racist. But if you do so while ignoring white-on-white, white-on-black, and black-on-black crime, you'd better have a bloody good explanation for your narrow area of interest, because "racism" is by far the most likely explanation.

    Criticism of Israel is similar. Its wrongdoings are neither especially bad or slightly uncommon by world standards, yet there's an anti-Israel BDS movement and no correspondingly popular movements for, say, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, or China. Why is that, exactly?

  • rulierose||

    excellent point. you might also have mentioned the obsessive focus on Israel's "crimes" at the United Nations. something like 75% of all UN resolutions are against Israel.

    when I tried to google that exact number, I found this interesting but depressing article about the history of the UN vs. the Jewish state:

    http://www.worldaffairsjournal.....rimination

    it's really long, but you won't need to read much past 1974. in that year, Arafat and the PLO wanted to speak to the General Assembly.

    "Various European delegates [told a US representative] that PLO spokesmen had undertaken to halt and actively seek to prevent further Arab aerial piracy and terrorist attacks in countries other than Israel if permitted to participate in the General Assembly debate.”

    they were permitted. it's been downhill for Israel and the UN ever since.

  • buybuydandavis||

    This is how to fight speech codes. And Title IX.

    All the Evil People have to get in on the game. Men. Whites. Imperialists. Capitalists.

    Complain and complain and complain and complain and complain. Fight back with the tools given. As long as SJWs are the only ones availing themselves of the power to silence inherent in speech codes, they can silence *others* with impunity and are never silenced themselves, they will continue with their charge toward speech codes.

    The price of liberty is *fighting back*.

  • Bra Ket||

    I guarantee you the SJW's will learn absolutely nothing from having their own tactics used against them. On the contrary they will take notes and learn new abuses. And all this despite crying "liberty", "free speech", etc. for every such fight they lose.

    It is a religion not a set of principles. Transgressors must be ostracized and made examples of.

  • ||

    Two thoughts:

    1. I am not sure how any discussion of middle eastern conflicts can take place if anything that can be spun as Anti-Zionism, or Islamophobia is banned on campus, as literally any position on Palestine can be seen as one or the other.

    2. I have said it before and I will say it again, racism, sexism etc have taken the place of heresy. Criticizing an idea as ______ist or _____________phobic is not addressing the content of the idea in any meaningful way. It is leveling an accusation at the speaker designed to intimidate that speaker, or any listener who might find the idea appealing. It is McCarthyism. It is effective in shutting people up, or marginalizing them. It is not effective in changing minds. And it eventually pushes people who hold any views that do not accord with DOGMA toward extreme positions, tell someone they are like the Klan or Nazis enough and they may in fact decide to believe you.

  • Intraveneous Woodchipper||

    Link to recordings of an academic conference on Leftist antisemitism in modern Europe. Worth a listen even if it is of uneven quality/sanity:

    http://www.pearsinstitute.bbk......tain-today

  • John C. Randolph||

    Speaking as one of the people that these Hamassholes want to wipe off the face of the earth, I don't support shutting them up. They should be perfectly free to say whatever bullshit head-chopper, goatfucker propaganda they want. However, as soon as they lay a hand on anyone else, they should get the shit kicked out of them.

    -jcr

  • thrakkorzog||

    While I agree with you as a free speech absolutist, the left has already set up the rules for speaking about different groups. Considering that some of the most Anti-Semitic speeches in America speech these days comes from left-leaning institutions, I can see the desire to try to hoist those folks on their own petards. While I don't agree with the idea, I understand the appeal to stoop to their level.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Arguing that anti-Semitism is always part and parcel with anti-Zionism is like saying opposition to Islamism, the political strain of morally conservative Islam that seeks to impose Islamic law on all aspects of life, is inherently Islamophobic, which would come as a suprise to the many Muslim critics who oppose sharia law, the subjugation of women, and the idea of Islamic supremacy.

    There is no such thing as 'Islamism'. It is a term created in the west to distinguish jihadis from an assumed massive population of 'moderate' anti-jihadi Muslims.

    And 'many' is defined in this sentence as 'startlingly few'.

  • rulierose||

    I am so confused! the UC system declines to adopt the State Department's reasonable definition of anti-semitism, but they think that banning "anti-Zionism" is going to fix everything? Janet Napolitano continues her amazing string of crappy governance, I see.

    a comment to the author, though, who is a little mixed up on something:

    "Arguing that anti-Semitism is always part and parcel with anti-Zionism is like saying opposition to Islamism, the political strain of morally conservative Islam that seeks to impose Islamic law on all aspects of life, is inherently Islamophobic."

    I used to believe that too. I don't anymore, because I have yet to find an anti-Zionist who is not also an anti-Semite. but maybe you don't understand what "anti-Zionism" means, because your weak example of "opposing the West Bank settlements" is not it.

    when anti-Zionists talk about "the occupation" they're not talking about 1967. they're talking about 1947. they believe that every square inch of Eretz Israel, from Tel Aviv to--well, as they say themselves, "From the river to the sea" should be Judenrein.

    and people who believe the Jews do not have a right to that land--who utter that silliest of terms the "Judaization" of Jerusalem--who dismiss physical evidence of the 4,000 years of Jewish language, culture, and religion--yeah--those people ARE antisemites.

  • ||

    People have called me anti-semitic because I generally support Palestinians over Israelis. The thing is, would anyone care to guess the ethnicity of a native Palestinian Muslim? That's right! He's Semitic too!

    It could be said -- and it would be absolutely true -- that those who support Israelis over Palestinians are themselves anti-semitic.

  • ||

    "... is like saying opposition to Islamism, the political strain of morally conservative Islam that seeks to impose Islamic law on all aspects of life, is inherently Islamophobic."

    That's exactly what the regressive left has been claiming for years already... Criticising something is hating it, y'know!

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online