U. of Calif. Weighs Banning 'Hate' Speech

Stringent Restrictions Coming to Cradle of Free Speech?

Free Speech? A report is urging the University of California to ban a wider range of conduct considered ‘hate speech,’ which could include anti-Israel protests.
milesgehm/via flickr
Free Speech? A report is urging the University of California to ban a wider range of conduct considered ‘hate speech,’ which could include anti-Israel protests.

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published August 02, 2012, issue of August 10, 2012.
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To identify anti-Semitism, the report suggests using a 2005 “working definition” put forth by the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (now called the Agency for Fundamental Rights). That definition, which is used by European watchdog groups to monitor anti-Semitism, states that, depending on overall context, anti-Semitism could include:

• “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor;”

• “Applying double standards” to Israel by demanding it follow standards “not demanded of any other democratic nation;”

• Comparing Israeli policies to Nazi policies;

• Using “symbols associated with classical anti-Semitism” to characterize Israel or Israelis.

The report also notes that UC currently lacks a “hate-free policy that allows the campus to prevent well-known bigoted and hate organizations from speaking on campus.”

The right to bring outside groups on campus without restriction for peaceful speech was one of the primary victories won by the 1964 Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley — a movement in which Jewish students played a prominent role. Its success led to such restrictions being lifted at many other public universities nationwide.

The recommendations will be reviewed by UC’s office of student affairs and its general counsel. If Yudof decides to move forward with them, they will be assessed by the UC academic senate, and by students and administrators. But, as UC president, Yudof retains the final say.

It is not clear what the “hate speech-free campus policy” will entail. The term “hate speech” is not defined. But the report urges that the university should “push its current harassment and nondiscrimination provisions further, clearly define hate speech in its guidelines and seek opportunities to prohibit hate speech on campus.”

Asked for an example of hate speech, Barton, the co-director of the panel that produced the report, said: “The issue is when [pro-Palestinian] groups come on campus and they say, ‘We are the voice of the Palestinians and our voice isn’t being heard and it’s because Jews control the media.’ That is flat-out anti-Semitism.” Barton said he didn’t know if calling Israel an apartheid state would meet the criteria. “I couldn’t give you an answer without looking at the definition of how courts define hate speech.”

Barton’s report was heralded by Jewish groups like Stand With Us, which represents “Israel’s side of the story,” in its own words, on college campuses and beyond. “After all these years, it has given legitimacy to students who have felt this kind of intimidation,” said Roz Rothstein, the group’s executive director. “Your feelings are being validated.”


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