Anti-Semitism consequences on college students draws support and criticism

(Source: WIS)
(Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Monday was full of celebration and protest overseas in Israel.

As some applauded the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem; others protested the change. Dozens of Palestinians were killed during those protests in Gaza. 

South Carolina leaders traveled to Jerusalem to support the opening, including State Representative Alan Clemmons (R- Horry). Clemmons tweeted from Israel:

Back in South Carolina, some legislation of his own is drawing support and criticism. Clemmons maneuvered his bill to define anti-Semitism on college campuses into the state budget for next year so it will have a likely chance of passing. 

The bill did not pass on its own, so inserting it as a proviso is hoped to give it life and chance of becoming law for one year beginning July 1 if it is kept in the budget and signed into law by Governor Henry McMaster. 

The proviso would define anti-Semitism on terms including: 

Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of JewsMaking mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, the State of Israel, or even acts comitted by non-Jews Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nationUsing the symbols or images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis, Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions

Some college students feel the definition would infringe on free speech; however, others who support it say 'no,' there's a clear line between expressing political views and doing harm.

Lilly Filler is one who supports the definition and praises South Carolina for it. 

"I did grow up with some anti-Semitism and it was one of the reasons I decided to leave South Carolina to go to college," Filler explains. 

Filler, a resident of northeast Columbia and member of the Jewish community, moved to South Carolina as an infant. Her parents were Holocaust survivors who emigrated to Poland after the war. She remembers her father saying, 'God bless America.'

Filler fully supports the definition as laid out by Clemmons, explaining her belief: "Don't do anything to someone that you wouldn't want done to yourself. Whether you're talking about an individual or when the language talks about Israel, don't say something about Israel that you wouldn't say about France or Germany or Poland in terms of their citizens." 

Those who sponsor the definition of anti-Semitism along with Clemmons include the only Jewish lawmaker in the General Assembly, Rep. Beth Bernstein (D- Richland).

She adamantly believes there is no infringement upon free speech within the proviso.

"What it says is, if you're going to spew some anti-Semitic propaganda and have it accompanied by some kind of vandalism or criminal act, then that would fall under this proviso as being anti-Semitic behavior," explains Bernstein. 

Within the proviso, it is stated: "Nothing in this proviso may be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."

"This will allow for actions to be taken and for consequences to be more appropriate and more severe. First, there's got to be some other presenting violation, then this gets laid on top and I do think it will be protection for people," Columbia Jewish Federation Executive Director Barry Abels said. 

However, some students are outspoken against the bill; Dana Al-Hasan is one graduate student and activist with the group 'Students for Justice in Palestine.'

Al-Hasan has concerns. Her parents are from Palestine. She is saddened by those killed in the protests of the new U.S. embassy. She denounces anti-Semitism but feels her free speech is at risk. 

"So, both of my parents are actually from Palestine and then shortly after 1948 the creation of Israel created a massive displacement, forced displacement of the Palestinian people," Al-Hasan explains. "[The anti-Semitism definition] will violate our first right amendments, our freedom of speech in criticizing another country's segregatory and discriminatory policies."

It would be up to public colleges and universities to discipline those they find expressing anti-Semitic views and acts under the definition, if passed, under each college's individual discrimination policy.

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