South Carolina is the first state to adopt a uniform definition of anti-Semitism. Signed into law on July 6 by Gov. Henry McMaster (R), the new measure requires universities to take the definition into account when reviewing charges of anti-Semitism, which has been increasing on college campuses at an alarming rate.
Contained in a proviso to the annual state budget bill, the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism serves as a guideline for college administrators. The new measure was set into motion last year by Republican State Rep. Alan Clemmons who authored the nation’s first legislation condemning the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
“When Jewish families make the decision to send their children to a South Carolina institution of higher education, they may rest assured that anti-Semitic incidents will be treated with the same degree of seriousness as other acts of discrimination on campus,” explained Clemmons. “The South Carolina Legislature abhors discrimination against all races, ethnicities and religions. This law takes into account the documented disproportionate rise of anti-Jewish hate and prohibits such acts from being swept under the administrative carpet of South Carolina colleges and universities.”
Although the measure is only on the books for the next year, Clemmons told the Haym Salomon Center that he is confident it will eventually be adopted as permanent law and praised the work of anti-Semitism watchdog groups.
“This American milestone in the war against anti-Semitism can be attributed to many wonderful local and national partners but would have never been possible without the assistance and resourcing of Joseph Sabag and the Israel Allies Foundation.”
Israel education groups were quick to praise both Clemmons and South Carolina.
David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, a group that combats anti-Semitism on America's college campuses, told the Haym Salomon Center:
There can be no serious effort to confront anti-Semitism in America without first defining what anti-Semitism is. And there can be no serious definition of anti-Semitism that does not include the delegitimization of Israel that's so rapidly becoming the new face of this ancient hatred. By providing such a definition, Rep. Alan Clemmons and the State of South Carolina are once again taking the lead in addressing issues of concern to America's Jews and their friends. We hope that this is a lead that multiple states will soon follow.
Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWIthUs, an Israel education organization that operates on campuses across the nation, praised both Clemmons and Gov.McMaster for this “landmark legislation.”
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. Law enforcement and administrators are often left powerless to act because of an unclear definition of what anti-Semitism is. The new legislation references the definition of anti-Semitism as drafted by the U.S. State Department. We need to define anti-Semitism in order to defeat it. Thankfully, South Carolina is leading the way.
Opponents of the legislation raise concerns about free speech.
However, as StandWithUs notes, “the anti-Semitism proviso does not target speech, only unprotected conduct such as harassment, assault, and vandalism.”
Gov. McMaster, while voicing his unequivocal support for free speech, has also stated that by no means does this measure infringe on anyone’s First Amendment rights.
Paul Miller is the President & Executive Director of the Haym Salomon Center. [email protected]