North of Border: Boycott Israel protests have been a staple of campus activities in California. Now, Canadian students have passed a pro-BDS resolution.

Expert on Hate Opposes Campus Anti-Semitism Bill — Based on Definition He Created

A controversial anti-Semitism bill sailing through Congress has a new critic: The expert who wrote the definition on which the bill is based.

Kenneth Stern, formerly the American Jewish Committee’s specialist on anti-Semitism and extremism, says that the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016, which aims to combat campus anti-Semitism, is “both unconstitutional and unwise.”

Stern was the lead drafter of the definition of anti-Semitism used in the bill. He says he did not intend the definition to be used in the manner in which Congress is proposing to use it.

The bill, which has the support of such mainstream Jewish groups as the Anti-Defamation League, would instruct the DOE to consider a definition of anti-Semitism that includes “demonizing Israel” or “judg[ing] Israel by a double standard” when investigating discrimination claims.

That definition, now in use by the U.S. Department of State, is based on a longer anti-Semitism definition that Stern and others wrote for the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia in 2005.

“The definition was never intended to be used to limit speech on a college campus,” Stern wrote. “It was written for European data collectors to have a guideline for what to include and what to exclude in reports.”

Now executive director of the Justus & Karin Rosenberg Foundation, Stern has written a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, calling on the committee to reject the House version of a bill that has already passed the Senate.

He warns that the bill would create a “de facto hate speech code.”

Stern has been a longtime critic of Jewish communal efforts to convince universities and other institutions to officially adopt versions of the EUMC anti-Semitism definition he wrote. In 2011, he broke with his employers at AJC over the usage of the EUMC definition.

In his letter to the House Judiciary Committee, Stern argues that the law already protects Jews from anti-Semitism on college campuses.

“If this bill is passed, its proponents will have the ability to threaten federal funding at colleges and universities where political speech against Israel occurs, and where administrators then don’t try to stop it, or fail to put the university on record calling such speech anti-Semitic,” Stern wrote. “Think of the precedent this would set.”

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or follow him on Twitter, @joshnathankazis.

Author

Josh Nathan-Kazis

Josh Nathan-Kazis

Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires 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 and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. 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 Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Expert on Hate Opposes Campus Anti-Semitism Bill — Based on Definition He Created

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close