JVP Statement: UCLA Resolution on Anti-Semitism Creates Dangerous Precedent


Please read this important statement just released by Jewish Voice for Peace. I strongly second its conclusion that “addressing anti-Semitism must go hand in hand with addressing all forms of racism.”

Jewish Voice for Peace welcomes the commitment of the UCLA Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC) to addressing issues of anti-Semitism on campus. We recognize that a recent series of troubling incidents, including anti-Semitic graffiti and inappropriate questioning of a Jewish student, have raised concerns about rising anti-Semitism on campus, which we condemn in the strongest terms. However, we are also deeply concerned that the resolution passed by the USAC on March 10, 2015 further enshrines long-standing political efforts to silence legitimate criticism of the state of Israel by codifying its inclusion in the definition of anti-Semitism.

The resolution draws on the “State Department Definition of Anti-Semitism,” (sometimes referred to as the “3 D’s”). However, this definition has no legal standing in the US and was actually removed as a working definition by the European body where it originated. The ‘3Ds’ included in this definition (“demonization, delegitimization and applying a double-standard” to the state of Israel) are so vague that they could be, and have been, construed to silence any criticism of Israeli policies. This ‘working definition’ is in fact the product of long-term lobbying efforts by Israel advocacy groups who seek to codify criticism of the State of Israel as anti-Semitic. This is a deeply dangerous assertion that conflates Israel with Jewish people around the world.

“Classifying criticism of the state of Israel as ‘anti-Semitic’ curtails freedom of speech and dilutes the power of the term, which should be reserved for hatred, violence, intimidation or discrimination targeting Jews because of their ethnic and religious identity,” stated Rabbi Alissa Wise, Director of Organizing, Jewish Voice for Peace. “This resolution therefore dangerously silences legitimate criticism of Israel’s human rights abuses and violations of international law that urgently need to be addressed and remedied.” The United States Department of Education’s (DOE) Office for Civil Rights has emphatically affirmed that criticism of the state of Israel is protected speech on campus.

“The enforcement of this definition of anti-Semitism is part of long-term efforts on the part of Israel advocates to silence and intimidate supporters of Palestinian human rights,” stated Jacob Manheim, JVP-UCLA organizer. “The resolution, which states that only the self-appointed “organized Jewish community’ can define anti-Semitism, marginalizes the growing number of Jews like me who support nonviolent efforts to hold Israel accountable for human rights violations. We are frequently excluded from Jewish institutions, including UCLA Hillel, who barred our chapter from inclusion as a Hillel organization last spring.”

Efforts by Israel lobby groups to expand the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israeli policies have had the adverse impact of weakening the meaning of the term when actual cases of anti-Jewish hate are reported. For example, the much-cited recent Brandeis Center survey on the rise of anti-Semitism on campuses was methodologically flawed in that it left the definition of anti-Semitism to the respondents. Simultaneously, while there has been a media attention given to reports of a rise in anti-Semitism, there has been nearly no attention given to rising Islamophobia on campuses.  For example, in recent weeks there was an Islamophobic smear campaign against Palestinian rights activists at UCLA and prominent US campuses promoted by the right-wing David Horowitz Freedom Center.

Addressing anti-Semitism must go hand in hand with addressing all forms of racism. We at Jewish Voice for Peace are committed to addressing anti-Semitism in the context of other systems of oppression, including, for example, racism and Islamophobia.

11 thoughts on “JVP Statement: UCLA Resolution on Anti-Semitism Creates Dangerous Precedent


    Thanks for sending this out!

    Feeling pretty low today. It was a surreal and lonely experience there last night, as SJP students and their supporters understandably stood down (also preparing for finals), and only 2 JVP@UCLA students 1 SJP student and 2 more supporters made nuanced public comments, to 90ish almost all Jewish students talking about how victimized they feel and how many people warned them that UCLA was anti-semitic.

    It was clear that for many of the students who spoke last night, Israel is part of their religion, they were probably taught that. To hear them saying that they feel victimized on campus was strange and sad. Hearing them talk about the anti-Semitism on campus makes it clear that when they hear Israel being challenged they perceive that as anti-Semitism.

    I know I have been saying this for a long time, but I think it might be wise for JVP to have our Rabbis and other appropriate speakers out on college campuses unpacking Israel, Judaism & political Zionism.

    It is my guess that there is much more Islamophobia at UCLA than anti-Semetism, but in my exchange with David Myers this week, it doesn’t seem like there is an appetite to try to address the problems together and racism in general…

    What is left is a lot of fear.

  2. Benjy Ben-Baruch

    Thank you for posting this.

    Part of the problem is the use of the term “antisemitism” [lc sic!]. It is an anachronistic term that comes from 19th century Austrian and German politics. Applying this term to anti-Jewish attitudes or acts of anti-Jewish hatred today in societies where Jews have become a relatively empowered group is anachronistic and misleading. Applying the term to criticism of the State of Israel or criticism of Zionist ideologies is completely inappropriate and demagogic.

    On the other hand, applying the term “anti-Jewish” to anti-Zionist or anti-Israel politics is problematic because the same so-called “mainstream” Jewish organizations that want to define anything anti-Zionist or anti-Israel as antisemitic have in fact organized themselves and much of the “organized Jewish community” to promote policies that support the Israeli Occupation and the policies of the Israeli government. It is very difficult to try to change US policies toward Israel and the Palestinians without coming into political conflict with these mainstream Jewish organizations. If one is in political conflict with the mainstream Jewish organizations and institutions, is one by definition “anti-Jewish”?

    As I understand it, the entire incident at UCLA began when this confusion affected the questioning of the candidate regarding her loyalty to a set of political views and political actors in the Jewish community that are at odds with the values of the university.

    Just as many religious leaders would like to make attacks upon the anti-abortion activism of religious zealots and their theological cum ideological arguments synonymous with attacks on their religions and upon all who are members of their religious groups, so too do many Jewish leaders want to make all criticisms of Israel synonymous with the anachronistic term “antisemitism”.

    And just as most Christians in this country oppose the Christian right, so too do most American Jews oppose the Israeli Occupation and the Israeli policies that promote and expand that Occupation.

    We are still left with the problem that the term “antisemitism” is anachronistic and the term “anti-Jewish” has been made ambiguous.

    1. i_like_ike52

      Exactly what are the “values of the university” that students seem to be obliged to follow, and who decided what they are? What does “freedom of speech” mean to you? Is it permitted to say things that go against the holy “values of the university”? Is it “freedom of speech” when JVP shouts down and disrupts events at which pro-Israel speakers are appearing? Is support for Israel BY DEFINITION “racist” and is speaking in favor of Israel and its policies to defined automatically as “hate speech” which must be suppressed “in the name of democracy”.
      I was a graduate of UCLA in the 1970’s and I am amazed at what has happened there and that is now considered legitimate to curse out and blacklist Jews who may or may not support Israel.
      America was always considered by most Jews as being “different” than Europe was. This doesn’t seem to be the case any more. Many Jews will draw the appropriate conclusions, just as Jews in France and other places in Europe are dong.

  3. 2skipper

    I am in total agreement on the your s and the Jewish Voice for peace stand on this Issue. Addressing anti Semitism is important. But you cannot pick and choose when human rights are involved. you either support across the board the Rights of all people or you become part of the ongoing problem not just in the Middle east but in every corner of this world

  4. i_like_ike52

    Well, let’s see. Almost half of world Jewry lives in Israel, it is the only country in the world with a growing Jewish population and much of world Jewry outside of Israel support it to one degree or another. So therefore it is quite logical to say that it is NOT antisemitism to say “l love Jews, I just think their country should be destroyed”.

    I think it is delicious when JVP complains about a “lack of freedom of speech” when people complain about their virulent denunciations of Israel, or when HIllel won’t allow BDS’ers to speak at their facilities, but then JVP turns around and tries to shout down and disrupt gatherings at which Prime Minister Netanyahu or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speak in support of Israel.

  5. David

    I agree that addressing anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism should go hand in hand with addressing all other forms of racism.

    I’ve just read the UCLA Resolution Condemning anti-Semitism. I think they did an excellent job.

    Israel is an imperfect country, as are all countries, and in fact, as are all works of mortal men. So it is fair to criticize Israel if it is held to the same standards as all other countries. While Israel isn’t perfect, it has much more freedom of speech, press, and religion, much more tolerance of gender, sexual orientation, and life style, much more belief in the sanctity of life and dedication to peace than any of the surrounding Arab/Muslim countries. So if a single set of standards were being applied, we’d expect much more and sharper criticism of the Arab/Muslim countries and hardly any criticism of Israel.

    But that is not what we see. We see extensive criticism of Israel (way out of proportion to Israel’s failings) and relatively little criticism of the Arab/Muslim countries (much less than would be appropriate for their treatment of women, gays, non-Muslims and their support for terrorists, murderers, and suicide bombers).

    This application of a very high set of standards and expectations for the only Jewish state and a much lower set of standards and expectations for all the other countries (i.e., the non-Jewish states) is discrimination against a Jewish entity (Israel) only because it is Jewish. It is clearly anti-Semitism.

    So criticizing Israel is fair – but only by applying the same standards and expectations that are applied to all other countries.

  6. Charlie Jung

    Sir…if I understand the JVP position is that it is wrong to harass and bully Jewish students….but it is ok to bully harass and drop grades Jewish students who should so bold as to support Israel…..or am I missing something?

  7. Doug Gertner

    As an alumnus of UCLA it must’ve been doubly difficult to endorse this stand on their actions. I admire your work, your clarity, and your resilience in this and similar matters. Be well, stay strong, and keep this important information flowing to us. Most gratefully, Doug


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