San Diego State Student Government Invites Free Speech Violations

Palestine Legal and Jewish Voice for Peace wrote yesterday to San Diego State University (SDSU) warning against free speech violations after the student government passed a resolution that brands Palestinian rights activists as antisemitic.

The resolution adopts a widely-discredited, overbroad and vague definition of antisemitism that classifies virtually all political speech supportive of Palestinian rights as antisemitic. The definition - often referred to as the “State Department definition” – is a favored tool of Israel advocacy organizations to suppress criticism of Israel. It also invites the university to violate free speech.

Palestine Legal’s letter warns, “If [the student government], or any other agent of the university, implements the resolution to restrict or penalize speech supportive of Palestinian rights, you will violate the U.S. Constitution, in addition to California law, and California State University policy.”

The State Department definition is particularly detrimental in university settings, where academic freedom, unfettered debate, and critical inquiry are integral to the educational mission. Even the lead-author of the definition, Kenneth Stern, has repudiated its use in the university context.

At a time when bias incidents and hate crimes, including those motivated by antisemitism and Islamophobia, are on the rise, this resolution serves only to further target Arab, Muslim and other students who advocate for Palestinian rights, while providing no new legal protections for Jewish students.

Read the full letter here.