South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster called on the state Senate to immediately pass H. 3643, legislation that adopts the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism to be used by institutions of higher learning in determining whether a violation of a college or university policy prohibiting discriminatory practices on the basis of religion has been breached.
“Anti-Semitism has no place in South Carolina, and the passage of this bill would go a long way towards ensuring that our state and its college campuses provide a welcoming environment for those from all walks of life,” said McMaster.
The Republican governor added, “I’m proud that South Carolina continues to lead the fight against anti-Semitic discrimination and would ask that the Senate immediately bring this bill to the floor for a final vote, so that we may send the strongest possible message to the world.”
State Rep. Alan Clemmons, who authored the nation’s first legislation condemning the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, introduced H. 3643 last February. The original bill had 115 co-sponsors and passed the House 103-3.
“This is an important bill that will effectively combat the rising tide of anti-Semitism we are witnessing across our country,” explained Clemmons.” Studies show that Jews are the single most likely group to be victimized by hate crimes. It is vital that we now provide the Jewish community with the same measure of protection that has long since been afforded to other minority groups.”
In May of last year, the Haym Salomon Center reported:
Sources working closely with a bipartisan group of South Carolina legislators told the Haym Salomon Center that State Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg), the “lone obstacle” to getting the measure passed, was “targeted and influenced by anti-Israel professors and Students for Justice in Palestine.” A letter sent to Hutto, shared on Twitter, supports the sources’ claims. Hutto offered up a last-minute “objection” to the bill, a procedural maneuver that prevented the measure from being brought to a vote.
As of the publishing of this story, Sen. Hutto has not returned our request for comment.
Israel education and anti-Semitism watchdog groups have voiced support for Clemmons’ bill.
Peggy Shapiro, Midwest director for the Israel education group StandWithUs, told the Haym Salomon Center, “I am a child of Holocaust survivors, and from the earliest time I can remember, I’ve heard the words ‘Never Again.’ Now I’m seeing someone transfer those words into action. Anti-Semitism can’t hide anymore.”
Joseph Sabag, National U.S. Director for the Israel Allies Foundation, has been working with federal, state and local legislatures to combat anti-Semitism. Sabag told the Haym Salomon Center, “With anti-Semitism on the rise — accounting for over half the religious crimes in the United States — clearly defining anti-Semitism is necessary for university administrators to create a safe environment for Jewish students.”
Since South Carolina passed anti-BDS legislation in June 2015, 23 additional states have followed their lead. If the Senate passes H. 3643, the Palmetto State will be the first state in the union to codify a universal definition of anti-Semitism, but not the first governmental body.
This past December, Bal Harbour, Florida became the first municipality in the country to implement an ordinance that provides law enforcement with a definition of anti-Semitism, enabling them to investigate such incidents as hate crimes. Bal Harbour’s actions are currently being followed by the nearby towns of Miami Beach, Surfside and Sunny Isles Beach. All are expected to pass similar legislation.
“I’m very excited to see South Carolina present a bill defining anti-Semitism. The bill they introduced last year helped influence the measure we passed in Bal Harbour,” explained Mayor Gabriel Groisman. “I hope, once again, the legislation passed in South Carolina as well as Bal Harbour, will have the same national impact as the anti-BDS measures passed in South Carolina and Bal Harbour.”
Gov. McMaster unequivocally voiced his support for free speech, stating that by no means does this measure infringe on anyone’s First Amendment rights. If passed, the governor intends to sign the measure into law on January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Paul Miller is President and Executive Director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center.