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Watch: California bill equating student activism with anti-Semitism is rubber-stamped with no debate

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One of the many complaints about HR 35, a California bill that conflates activism in solidarity with Palestinians with anti-Semitism, is that it passed quickly with no debate. Now, video has emerged from the vote in late August that shows just how little discussion preceded the vote, which has been decried by students and Palestine solidarity and civil rights groups. It’s the perfect example of how U.S. democracy works when it comes to the question of Israel. 

The video was recently dug up and posted on YouTube by Rebecca Pierce, a Jewish student activist and member of the University of California (UC), Santa Cruz’s Committee for Justice in Palestine. 

The vote passed easily: 66 members of the California State Assembly signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, which decries the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and states that calling Israel an “apartheid state” is an example of anti-Semitic discourse. In a September interview, Rachel Roberts, civil rights coordinator for the California branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, criticized the manner in which the bill was passed. “This happened in the middle of the summer, when all of the California college campuses were out of session,” said Roberts, who noted that legislators were not properly informed on the issue.

As Pierce notes, “author [of the bill] Linda Halderman (R-Fresno) made unsubstantiated and vague claims connecting student criticism of Israel to violence and vandalism targeting Jewish students.” But in a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Education, the American Civil Liberties Union noted that instances of violence against Jewish students “appear to be isolated incidents and/or carried out by unknown persons. They are not part the expressive activities of the SJP and MSA, like Apartheid Week.” Halderman, though, sought to make student activists’ connection to anti-Semitic incidents explicit without any evidence. 

Halderman also praised the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s support for the bill, which was first disclosed by Mondoweiss.

Another legislator in support of the bill, Tim Donnelly, says that the legislation helps to defend “free speech.” But a core complaint of activists organizing against HR 35 is that the bill may chill the speech and activism of students voicing support for Palestinian rights. “Although HR 35 does not create any new law, it effectively encourages university administrators to infringe upon students’ free speech rights. By equating legitimate political debates about geopolitics with anti-Semitism, the resolution emboldens administrators to take action to chill and prevent such speech,” a letter authored by a coalition of progressive groups reads. 

After activists decried the bill and raised concerns about its impact on free speech on campus, legislator Bonnie Lowenthal said that another resolution will be put on the table to address the concerns that have been raised

The video is a perfect example of how the issue of Israel is treated in U.S. legislative houses. Time and time again, whether its’ Congress or a state legislature, a bill expressing support for Israel is taken up with little debate and is rubber-stamped. For instance, a Louisiana state bill in support of Israel passed 36-0 in the Senate last May.

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“America is a thing you can move very easily.” – Benjamin Netanyahu, 2001.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/16/netanyahu-in-2001-america_n_649427.html

Netanyahu gets 29 standing ovations during speech before Congress.
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/05/israeli-prime-minister-gets-20-standing-ovations-in-congress-sends-message-to-white-house/

Speaking of education. December 30, 2012 New Study Shows YU Researcher, Others Appear To Have Cooked The Genetic Books To ‘Prove’ Middle Eastern Origin Of The Jewish People When One May Not Really Exist “The various groups of Jews in the world today do not share a common genetic origin. We are talking here about groups that are very heterogeneous and which are connected solely by religion…[the] genome of European Jews is a mosaic of… Read more »

The boy who cried antisemitism. And when real antisemites turn up who will listen?

calling israel an apartheid state is an example of antisemitic discource

apartheid week then representing?

that re: israel/palestine & such, more & more the word’s getting out

destiny?

now up for grabs

palestine, just & free?

a glimpse of not only what’s possible but of something that if attained could be transformational

So many things are designated anti-Semitic these days the attribution is losing any meaning. Perhaps there needs a precise legal definition such as exists for crimes like rape and so on. Then we would all know where we are and anyone wrongly accused could claim punitive damages. Haaretz has an astonishing piece on a report exploring the ineffectiveness of much well oiled and coordinated pro-Israel propaganda, particularly in the ‘bewildering’ absence of any central anti-Israel… Read more »