On July 6, South Carolina’s Governor Henry McMaster signed into law a proviso, originally spearheaded by Representative Alan Clemmons (R), that codified the definition of anti-Semitism.
The change, which will take effect next year, provides South Carolina colleges with a new rubric to use – referencing the definition of anti-Semitism as drafted by the US State Department in 2016 – when deciding if an on-campus crime was motivated by anti-Semitism.
Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, lauded this landmark legislation, noting that while “we have seen a marked increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, according to the ADL, we have not seen a comparable increase in prosecutions for these crimes.”
“The US Department of State has given us the necessary guidance in its definition of anti-Semitism, a definition which has been adopted by 31 countries. It’s time we use that guidance to help steer students toward more tolerance and stop making weak excuses for what is inexcusable,” Rothstein told Breaking Israel News.
StandWithUs is an Israel education organization that operates on campuses across the nation, dedicated to combating the anti-Semitism and extremism through print materials, speakers, programs, conferences, missions to Israel, campaigns, social media and educational films.
According to a StandWithUs press release, the passing of the proviso, included in the state’s budget, is aimed at addressing the alarming spike in anti-Semitic incidents during the past year.
“The increase in anti-Semitic incidents is a national problem,” Rothstein said. “Anti-Semitic crimes left unchecked pave the road for more hate and more tragedy.”
“In its annual Audit of anti-Semitic Incidents, the ADL found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the US rose 57 percent in 2017 – the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking such data in 1979,” explained Rothstein.
She attributed the sharp rise “in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row,” noting, “In most cases, administrators and campus law enforcement were hampered in investigating the crimes by not having a clear definition of Anti-Semitism.”
The proviso also occurs in the context of rising anti-Semitism and extremism in Europe. The UK Labour Party recently adopted a looser definition of anti-Semitism, dodging a number of elements of the IHRA’s (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism and allowing for whitewashing of anti-Semitic incidents. The IHRA’s definition, which is widely accepted internationally and in the UK, is the basis for the US State Department’s definition and the new South Carolina definition of anti-Semitism.
The State Department’s definition includes anti-Semitic calls for violence against Jews, advancing conspiracy theories about Jewish control and Holocaust denial. The definition states that: “Anti-Semitism is 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. […] Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong.’ It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.”
While the proviso does not target speech, opponents of the rubric included pro-Palestinian groups that voiced concern that the proviso would stifle political criticism of Israel on college campuses.
The State Department notes, “Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”
StandWithUs dismissed anti-Israel naysayers and lauded the proviso.
“It’s absolutely necessary to not let false claims against this type of legislation stand. The proviso does not limit speech. One is perfectly free to spout even the most hateful comments. It is directed only to unprotected acts, such as vandalism or assault,” explained Rothstein.
“As with any other crime, a codified definition is the first step in investigation. The painting of a Swastika on a Jewish institution needs to be treated as seriously as any other crime motivated by racism, religious or ethnic hatred. Hopefully when administrators have the tools to treat hate crimes for what they are, students will take the gravity of such acts more seriously.”
She maintained, “Law enforcement and administrators are often left powerless to act because of an unclear definition of anti-Semitism,” adding, “we need to define Anti-Semitism in order to defeat it. Thankfully, South Carolina is leading the way.”