Anti-Semitism Fight Hinges on Definition

California Ponders When Anti-Israel Speech Is Hateful?

Chilling Effect? Activists attend a California hearing about proposed measures to limit so-called hate speech, which some believe may include legitimate anti-Israel protests.
cecilie surasky
Chilling Effect? Activists attend a California hearing about proposed measures to limit so-called hate speech, which some believe may include legitimate anti-Israel protests.

By Seth Berkman

Published September 25, 2012, issue of September 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

But according to FRA’s Dimitrakopoulos, the working definition was not well received by the organizations on the ground. These groups formulated their own definitions and guidelines when reporting statistics to the EUMC initially, and to the FRA today. Those data are, in turn, compiled and published yearly in the FRA’s annual reports.

In its latest overview of anti-Semitism in the EU, covering 2011 to 2012, the agency makes no mention of its working definition. Each nation reports its respective findings based on its own separate definitions of anti-Semitism.

The California State Assembly’s resolution, known as HR 35, was passed August 28. The University of California is deciding how to respond to a report by a campus committee on anti-Semitism which recommends a ban on what it deems hate speech on its campuses.

UC President Mark Yudof did not publicly support or denounce the assembly’s resolution. But several groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, publicly criticized the measure.

Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, one of the measure’s co-sponsors, said in a statement: “I encourage critics of HR 35 to read the legislation. It specifically recognizes the First Amendment…. The bill has nothing to do with limiting objectionable political free speech.”

But apparently, not every assembly member read the resolution before voting on it.

Assemblyman Bill Monning told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that he and other Democratic legislators believed that the resolution addressed “only real anti-Semitic activities, such as painting swastikas outside Hillel offices.” Monning said he did not know that it included references “to legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies.”
Assemblyman Jim Beall, who supported HR 35, said he had read the entire resolution. He said that with the rising cases of anti-Semitic actions among students, “we’re trying to make a statement saying that’s not appropriate. We’re not telling people they can’t have their freedom of speech.”

Meanwhile, Bonnie Lowenthal, the resolution’s other co-sponsor, told The Associated Press that she would introduce another resolution with new wording in the assembly’s next session, to make clear “in no uncertain terms that students in our universities should feel safe to have differing opinions.”

Feiler, who lives in Sweden, offered some advice: “The most important thing is, we know anti-Semitism exists. We know that it causes problems for the Jews. It should be part of the struggle against all kinds of racism, including Islamophobia. Labeling too many things that are not clear as anti-Semitism endangers the working definition by trivialization.”

Contact Seth Berkman at berkman@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.