SC State Rep. Alan Clemmons recently smeared the liberal Jewish peace group J Street as “anti-Semitic”, an extreme opinion that was widely panned. But the SC House recently passed a bill sponsored Clemmons that would enshrine the same kind of smear tactics into SC law. H.3643 invokes a controversial and vague State Department definition of anti-semitism to smear and silence legitimate criticism of the state of Israel on campuses in South Carolina. Language in the bill referencing a “What is Anti-Semitism Relative to Israel?” fact sheet is a direct attack on First Amendment protected political speech and intentionally blurs the line to conflate and equate legitimate viewpoints on Palestine/Israel with anti-Semitism, a backdoor form of censorship. We’ve challenged the bill in both House and Senate subcommittees; both mostly ignored our concerns and rubber stamped the bill without discussion. However, the bill was blocked in the last session by Senator Brad Hutto. Now there is a rush now to get the bill passed with the new session in January of 2018.
- H.3643 is unconstitutional and deeply flawed, and should be blocked.
- At least strip the problematic, unconstitutional language from the bill, specifically the reference to the “What is Anti-Semitism Relative to Israel?”
1. SEND A MESSAGE to the entire SC Senate Education Committee in one quick email (We recommend including a a link to an article listed below in RESOURCES): http://www.scstatehouse.gov/email.php?T=C&C=S2000000525
Op-Ed by Kenneth Stern, author of the definition of anti-Semitism that the State Depart definition referenced in H.3643 is based on: “SC Anti-Semitism Bill Isn’t Needed” http://www.postandcourier.com/s-c-anti-semitism-bill-isn-t-needed/article_f17d607e-29e5-11e7-b4a7-a35035f3dc38.html
Palestine Legal’s Statement & Legal Memo Opposing H.3643 (Signed onto by Carolina Peace and several other civil liberties and human rights orgs) http://palestinelegal.org/news/2017/3/2/south-carolina-lawmakers-considering-unconstitutional-bill-aimed-at-censoring-palestine-advocacy
Op-Ed by USC Professor Josh Cooper, “Bill Would Chill Free Speech on College Campuses” http://www.thestate.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article137750018.html
Op-Ed: Anti-Semitism Bill Would Chill Legitimate Criticism by Kristen French http://www.statehousereport.com/2017/02/23/french-anti-semitism-bill-would-chill-legitimate-criticism/
In 2015, right-wing pro-Israel groups tried to get the University of California system to adopt the exact same State Department definition of anti-Semitism in H.3643 ….with the same agenda. Article from 2015: “Could California Ban Anti-Israel Protests as ‘Anti-Semitic’ Hate?” http://forward.com/news/national/309450/what-is-anti-semitism/
How a similar loose definition of anti-Semitism was used recently to censor legitimate discussion of Palestine/Israel at a UK university http://www.timesofisrael.com/citing-anti-semitism-uk-university-nixes-israel-apartheid-week/
“Should a major university system have a particular definition of anti-Semitism?” Kenneth Stern, author of the definition that the State Department definition of anti-Semitism is based on, argues no.
Jewish Voice for Peace, lengthy report describing the politics of censorship on campus: Stifling Dissent http://stiflingdissent.org/
[NOTE: H.3643 provides no additional protections against discrimination not already provided by law; nor does the bill address the real source of the current wave of anti-Semitic attacks, the “alt-right”; rather, it barks up the wrong tree… supporters have ginned up the claim that “anti-Semitism is rampant on college campuses”. This is patently false in South Carolina. While sadly we can’t say there is no anti-Semitism on SC campuses… if we look close enough, we will find it… saying it is “rampant” or stems from the Israel/Palestine debate is pure fabrication. If the SC Statehouse would like to fight violent extremism by passing a Hate Crimes law (South Carolina is one a few states not to have one) or providing funding for law enforcement to tackle first and foremost the biggest terrorist threat in the US, white supremacist racists, we are all for it. ]
[Photo: Rep. Alan Clemmons meets Israeli settler leader Gershon Mesika. Mesika was later involved in the killing a Palestinian teenage girl he claimed was attacking with a knife. He struck the girl with his car; while she was on the ground, an Israeli soldier shot her dead. Clemmons is committed to an extremely racist, far right pro-settler ideology and even organized a pro-settlements tour of the West Bank for fellow SC Statehouse legislators in December of 2014.]