UCLA Tacitly Silences Critics of Israel

In Rightfully Condemning Anti-Semitism, UCLA Student Council Tacitly Silences Critics of Israel

On March 10, 2015 UCLA Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC) passed a “Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism” that re-defines anti-Semitism in terms long pushed by Israel advocacy groups to encompass almost any criticism of Israeli policies.

What’s wrong with USAC resolution’s new definition?

The re-definition includes what’s called the “3 Ds” –  demonization, delegitimization and applying a double-standard” to the state of Israel – a formulation designed to silence legitimate criticism of Israel by calling it anti-Semitic. 

For more information, see this FAQ, “What to Know About Efforts to Re-define Anti-Semitism to Silence Criticism of Israel.” The document explains that what is termed the “State Department definition of anti-Semitism” or the “3 Ds” has dubious legal authority and chilling consequences for open debate about Palestine and Israel on campus.

The re-definition brands advocates for Palestinian human rights as anti-Semitic by blurring the important distinction between criticism of Israel as a nation-state and anti-Semitism. This false equation censors speech by making it taboo to discuss Palestinian rights. If the re-definition were applied by the university as policy restricting speech, it would violate the First Amendment.

Moreover, the definition defeats the purpose of the USAC resolution by diluting and confusing the term.

The resolution was prompted in part by a widely condemned incident in which USAC members questioned whether a nominee for the student judicial board could be objective because of her Jewish identity. PSLS joins the chorus of voices (including campus administrators, UCLA Students for Justice in Palestine and the USAC members themselves) in dismay at the anti-Semitic line of questioning. We commend the USAC for taking a stand against anti-Semitism – a serious phenomenon that must be continually addressed. 

But fighting anti-Semitism requires clearly identifying the term. And it also goes hand in hand with opposing race discrimination against all people, including Palestinians, which the USAC resolution has now branded as taboo.

For a full discussion on the origins of the re-definition of anti-Semitism, its problems, and consequences for open debate, see, FAQ: What to Know About Efforts to Re-define Anti-Semitism to Silence Criticism of Israel.

Jewish Voice for Peace also made a statement about the resolution, available here.