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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.

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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16 Responses

  1. Oscar on December 30, 2012, 12:19 pm

    “America is a thing you can move very easily.” – Benjamin Netanyahu, 2001.

    Netanyahu gets 29 standing ovations during speech before Congress.

  2. Les on December 30, 2012, 4:54 pm

    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 ancient peoples and its origin is largely Khazar.”

    Originally published at 9:36 pm CST 12-29-2012

    “My research refutes 40 years of genetic studies, all of which have assumed that the Jews constitute a group that is genetically isolated from other nations,” Dr. Eran Elhaik says.

    That’s because Jews were never genetically isolated, making those other studies fatally flawed and very often contradictory.

    Now Elhaik, in a study that is being called more profound than all of those that came before his combined, has exposed that fatal flaw and is the first to propose a viable way resolve those contradictions, Ha’aretz reports.

    The answer to the origin of the Jewish people Elhaik found is startling – for most of us, out Jewish origins really do begin with the Khazars, the Medieval central Asian people whose ruling elite (and perhaps its merchant class, as well) converted to Judaism.

    The 32-year-old does his work at the School of Public Health of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. His study was published earlier this month as, The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses, in the prestigious journal, Genome Biology and Evolution, which is published by Oxford University Press. This study is based on a complete analysis of the comprehensive genetic data published in preceding studies.

    But in the absence of genetic data for the long-lost Khazars themselves, Elhaik uses a procedure often used by researchers in his field – he used data from populations that are genetically similar to the Khazars, including Georgians, Armenians and Caucasians, populations that Elhaik says have all come from the same genetic soup.

    When doing so Elhaik discovered what he calls the Khazar component of European Jewry.

    According to his study’s findings, the dominant element in the genetic makeup of European Jews is Khazar. Among Central European Jews, this makes up the largest part of their genome, 38%. For East European Jews it does the same, at 30%.

    Elhaik found that European Jews genome is mostly Western European.

    “[They are] primarily of Western European origin, which is rooted in the Roman Empire, and Middle Eastern origin, whose source is probably Mesopotamia, although it is possible that part of that component can be attributed to Israeli Jews,” he told Ha’aretz by phone from Maryland.

    That possibility is important because, if it turns out to be true, it could connect European Jews to Israel. However, even if it is true, that connection is only a tiny part of the overall genome, a percentage so small that it would reportedly not be statistically significant enough to show that the origin of the Jews is the Kingdom of Judah in the biblical Land of Israel.

    But Elhaik’s study did find that there is a genetic continuum linking the Jews of Iran, the Caucasus, Azerbaijan and Georgia with the European Jews. These groups could share common ancestors – probably the Khazars.

    Elhaik says that among the various groupings of European and non-European Jews there is no common genetic origin.

    “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 ancient peoples and its origin is largely Khazar,” he told Ha’aretz.

    But what about other much-publicized studies which claim to show common genetic descent for Jews?

    Many of these papers and books were written by noted professors and published by respected academic journals and publishers – for example, for example, Oxford University Press published, “Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People,” by Yeshiva University’s Dr. Harry Ostrer, who teaches in the departments of pathology, genetics and pediatrics in the university’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He argues that genetics prove the Jews are one people with a Middle Eastern origin.

    Ostrer found no significant evidence for a connection between the Jews and the Khazars. According to Ostrer, genetically Jews are closer to Palestinians, Bedouin and Druze than to the Khazars.

    How could Ostrer and so many others have reached conclusions that are co very different from Elhaik’s?

    Simple, Elhaik says. First these researchers decided what conclusion they wanted to find, and then they set off to find evidence to support it.

    “[Their research] has no empirical basis, sometimes even contradicts itself and offers conclusions that are simply not convincing…It is my impression that their results were written before they began the research. First they shot their arrow – and then they painted the bull’s-eye around it,” Elhaik said.

    “The majority of Jews do not have the Middle Eastern genetic component in the quantity we would expect to find if they were descendants of the Jews of antiquity,” he said.

    To Elhaik, there is no uniquely Jewish gene because each human being is a genetic amalgam, and no population group has ever lived in total isolation from other population groups.

    Haaretz says that it asked a number of scholars from Israel and the Diaspora – both historians and geneticists – what they thought about Elhaik’s article.

    All of the historians declined to comment on Elhaik’s work, arguing that they were not geneticists and lacked the expertise needed to comment on his work.

    But every one of the geneticists Ha’aretz contacted also refused to comment.

    Some ignored Haaretz’s request and never answered at all. Other geneticists claimed they were unfamiliar with population research and therefore could not answer. Still others claimed they lacked the time needed to answer the question.

    The only scholar who answered Ha’aretz’s question was Tel Aviv University professor of history Shlomo Sand.

    Sand wrote the book “The Invention of the Jewish People.” It has now been translated into 22 languages, despite what was until Elhaik’s work was published a stacked deck of genetic research that opposed it.

    Sand has tough words for geneticists looking for Jewish genes.

    “For an ignoramus like me, genetics had always appeared to be crowned with a halo – as a precise science that deals with quantitative findings and whose conclusions are irrefutable. [But] I discovered geneticists – Jewish geneticists – whose knowledge of history ended at what was necessary for their high-school matriculation exams. Which is how I would describe my knowledge of biology. In high school they had learned that there is one Jewish nation, and, on the basis of this historical narrative, they reconstruct their scholarly findings,” Sand told Ha’aretz.

    But what really concerns Sand most is the misuse of genetics to characterize people or nations – something the Nazis did with glee and Sand rightly labels as “dangerous.”

    “[I]n the past, anyone who defined the Jews as a race was vilified as an anti-Semite, today anyone who is unprepared to define them as a race is labeled an antisemite.

    “I used to think that only in such disciplines as history and literature can facts be given various interpretations, but I then discovered that the same thing is done in genetics. It is very easy to showcase certain findings while marginalizing others and to present your study as scholarly research. In general, specialization in genetics can create an incredibly high level of ignorance in history,” Sand pointed out.

    • seafoid on December 30, 2012, 11:02 pm

      Next they can tell us that the land without a people meme was false . Obviously no people can exist in isolation. Jewish food is the proof . Who first married
      schmaltz and the latke?

      • Mooser on December 31, 2012, 12:43 pm

        Seafoid, what is the wierd obsession yoiu have with schmaltz already. It’s good stuff. My non-Jewish (I must remember to ask her, one day, what her religion actually is, besides sacrificing husbands) wife makes it.
        It’s just another fat, useful in cooking. Flavored with onion, it’s heavenly.

      • seafoid on January 3, 2013, 3:25 pm

        Everytime I fry the legs of a chicken to release the schmaltz, Mooser, I.think.of you. And the bots had a choice. Schmaltz or sadism. And they let down the onions.

  3. seafoid on December 30, 2012, 5:29 pm

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

  4. yourstruly on December 30, 2012, 10:42 pm

    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


    now up for grabs

    palestine, just & free?

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

  5. NickJOCW on December 31, 2012, 5:31 am

    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 propaganda organisation. Apparently the report deliberates at some length the non-existence of this imaginary monster.

    • NickJOCW on December 31, 2012, 7:51 am

      Perhaps it is not as astonishing as it first appeared. Centralised, hierarchical movements have leaders who may be bribed, suborned, threatened or otherwise neutralised and it can be unnerving when that line if closed because no such positions exist. Many years ago when Huw Weldon ran the BBC the female staff made a pitch for a crèche and he decided he would finesse this by taking their leader, committee chairperson or whatever she might be to a good lunch and deploying his not inconsiderable charm on her. Alas for him, there was no committee chairperson and if he wanted to discuss the matter he had to go to a full meeting and talk to them all; upon deliberation it appeared less daunting to give them their crèche.

  6. eGuard on December 31, 2012, 5:55 am

    For personal sanity, I think this is a joke. From a comedy. CA, you’ve come a long way.

  7. Egbert on December 31, 2012, 8:26 am

    News at 11:
    California State Assembly passes laws stating pi = 3 and the sun revolves around the earth.

  8. NickJOCW on December 31, 2012, 11:18 am

    Is it possible that a serious vertical section of the IDF has gone rogue and the fact is concealed from the public?

  9. Terri Ginsberg on December 31, 2012, 11:42 am

    To add insult to injury, Assemblymember Linda Haldeman (R-Fresno) draws a subtle analogy between Palestinian student activism and Mexican immigration when she says, “[Antisemitism] continues to be a problem from Northern California to our southern border….” In this way she implicitly rationalizes the necessity of apartheid walls in both Palestine/Israel and along the U.S.-Mexican border. Hence “antisemitism” becomes a catch-all for anything the neocons and their right-wing Zionist lackies don’t like, including especially racial and class difference and the challenges their genuine freedom poses to the present political-economic order.

  10. DICKERSON3870 on December 31, 2012, 6:11 pm

    ● RE: “California bill equating student activism with anti-Semitism is rubber-stamped with no debate”

    ● MY COMMENT: This is yet another reason that I fear Revisionist Zionism and Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of their inordinate sway over the U.S.) might very well be an “existential threat” to the values of The Enlightenment [like “the right of free speech”] ! ! !

    “How We Became Israel”, By Andrew J. Bacevich, The American Conservative, 9/10/12
    LINK –
    ‘Israelis are helping write US laws, fund US campaigns, craft US war policy’, by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, 6/30/12
    LINK –
    “America Adopts the Israel Paradigm”, by Philip Ghiraldi,, 7/05/12
    LINK –
    “Report: Israeli model underlies militarization of U.S. police”, By Muriel Kane, Raw Story, 12/04/11
    LINK –
    “David Yerushalmi, Islam-Hating White Supremacist Inspires Anti-Sharia Bills Sweeping Tea Party Nation”, by Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 3/02/11
    LINK –
    “Boston airport security program rife with racial profiling has Israeli links”, by Alex Kane, Mondoweiss, 8/14/12
    LINK –

  11. DICKERSON3870 on December 31, 2012, 6:17 pm

    P.S. RE: “. . . I fear Revisionist Zionism and Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of their inordinate sway over the U.S.) might very well be an ‘existential threat’ to the values of The Enlightenment [like “the right of free speech”] !” – me (above)

    MY ADDENDUM: And the right to “due process” ! ! !

    “Obama’s kill list policy compels US support for Israeli attacks on Gaza”, By Glenn Greenwald,, 11/15/12
    The US was once part of the international consensus against extra-judicial assassinations. Now it is a leader in that tactic.

    [EXCERPTS] Israel’s escalating air attacks on Gaza follow the depressingly familiar pattern that shapes this conflict. Overwhelming Israeli force slaughters innocent Palestinians . . .
    . . . Meanwhile, most US media outlets are petrified of straying too far from pro-Israel orthodoxies. . .
    . . . Obama had no choice but to support these attacks, which were designed, in part, to extra-judicially assassinate Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jabari as he was driving in his car. . .
    Extra-judicial assassination – accompanied by the wanton killing of whatever civilians happen to be near the target, often including children – is a staple of the Obama presidency. That lawless tactic is one of the US president’s favorite instruments for projecting force and killing whomever he decides should have their lives ended: all in total secrecy and with no due process or oversight. There is now a virtually complete convergence between US and Israeli aggression, making US criticism of Israel impossible not only for all the usual domestic political reasons, but also out of pure self-interest: for Obama to condemn Israel’s rogue behavior would be to condemn himself.
    It is vital to recognize that this is a new development. The position of the US government on extra-judicial assassinations long had been consistent with the consensus view of the international community: that it is a savage and lawless weapon to be condemned regardless of claims that it is directed at “terrorists”. From a 15 February 2001 Guardian article by Brian Whitaker on the targeted killing by Israel of one of Yasser Arafat’s bodyguards [emphasis added]:

    “International opprobrium was directed at Israel yesterday for its state-approved assassinations of suspected terrorists – a practice widely regarded as illegal. . .
    . . . “The United States, while also condemning Palestinian violence, made clear its disapproval of the assassinations. . .
    “State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: ‘The use of Israeli helicopter gunships, Palestinian attacks against settlements and motorists, the use of mortars by Palestinians and the targeted killings by the Israeli Defence Force … are producing a new cycle of action or reaction which can become impossible to control. . .

    . . . As the Council on Foreign Relations documented in April of this year:

    “The United States adopted targeted killing as an essential tactic to pursue those responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have employed the controversial practice with more frequency in recent years. . .

    In essence, what we find, yet again, is that the governments of the United States and Israel arrogate unto themselves the right to execute anyone they want, anywhere in the world, without any limitations, regardless of how many innocent civilians they kill in the process. . .


  12. dbroncos on January 1, 2013, 12:10 pm

    Years ago I was part of a Palestinian solidarity demonstation in Philly. A man approached me and said, “I’m a lawyer. If you run into any trouble give me a call. I’ll help you for free. Here is my card.” I can easily imagine that if SJP activists in California get into leagal trouble because of their work they’ll be offered lots of legal help from many quarters. The Zionists are playing with fire here and far from having a “chilling effect”on activism HR35 provides a great occasion to ramp up demonstrations and protests in an effort to increase the possibility that lawmakers will try to enforce the bill even with the use of pepper spray, handcuffs and paddy wagons. Dramatic arrests followed by farcical trials will launch the profile of SJP activists into a bright spotlight – the opposite effect from the one intinded by the Zionists. Zionists will be the big losers in court and in the court of public opinion.

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