Letter to the Los Angeles Times Regarding the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act

The following letter was submitted to the Los Angeles Times in response to "Enough already. Not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism." (June 8, 2018)

Letters to the Editor
Los Angeles Times

To the Editor:

Re "Enough already. Not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism." (June 8, 2018):

While we certainly agree that not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism, the legislation is intended to clarify, not blur, lines between political opinions about Israel and anti-Semitism. Most incidents of anti-Semitism on campus are entirely unrelated to anti-Israel activity. But some are. We are concerned about organized anti-Israel activity that crosses the line into anti-Semitism — conduct that can create an atmosphere in which Jewish students feel intimidated and under siege.

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act [ASAA] uses the State Department-adopted definition of anti-Semitism as a reference point for guidance. The Times is correct that many of the examples in the definition are 1st Amendment-protected speech.

But the plain language of the ASAA simply requires the department to “take into consideration” that definition “as part of the Department’s assessment” of whether an investigation is warranted. It does not codify the definition and it does not use it to trigger an investigation or enforcement action.

Disagreement with and even harsh criticism of the government of Israel is protected speech. But that’s very different from intentional, targeted conduct that unlawfully threatens, harasses or intimidates particular Jewish students and jeopardizes their equal educational opportunities.

The ASAA will not change any substantive rights, obligations or standards of review under Title VI. But its enactment can help administrators and others responsible for keeping Jewish students safe on campus better understand how anti-Semitism can manifest while at the same time protecting the free speech rights of all students.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt

CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League

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