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U. of California Regents Delays Anti-Semitism Debate Until September

The University of California Board of Regents will wait until September to address adopting the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism.

The expectation was that the board was going to discuss the issue during its July 22-23 meeting in San Francisco and take a vote. No reason for the delay was given. The regents do not meet in August.

The State Department’s definition, which has generated controversy, notes that denying Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and holding it to a double standard are ways in which anti-Semitism can be manifested.

In May, 57 California rabbis signed an open letter to the board urging the regents to adopt the definition. The letter read, in part: “We believe that it is essential for campus administrators and staff to be trained in using the State Department definition to identify anti-Semitic behavior and to address it with the same promptness and vigor as they do other forms of racial, ethnic, and gender bigotry and discrimination.”

At the same time, a petition sponsored by pro-divestment groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace garnered 4,000 signatures. It reads in part: “The proposed definition does not protect students and in fact endangers the capacity of students and faculty to be critical thinkers and speakers.”

In a radio interview with a Boston radio station in May, U.C. President Janet Napolitano said that her “personal view” is that the University of California should adopt the State Department’s definition, but that the regents must vote to adopt it before it can become U.C. policy.

Meanwhile, the California Assembly this week passed a resolution urging “each [U.C.] campus to adopt a resolution condemning all forms of anti-Semitism.” Originally passed by the state Senate in May, the amended version of the bill now returns to that body for final approval. If the measure is passed there, it does not need to be signed by the governor.

Though the latest version of the bill omits references to Israel and Zionism, it borrows from the State Department definition of anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

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