California Assemblywoman Targets Anti-Israel Campus Activism, Or: Five Criticisms of Israel that Are Inherently Not Anti-Semitic

Steve Rhodes/Flickr Creative Commons
A protest against the 2009 Israel-led incursion on Gaza. 
The California Assembly recently passed a resolution that calls upon college and university leadership to condemn anti-Semitism on campus. Assemblywoman Linda Halderman (R-Fresno) authored the resolution, which demands "no public resources will be allowed to be used for any anti-Semitic or any intolerant agitation." 

University of California officials promptly denounced HR 35 as "problematic" because of First Amendment concerns. Meanwhile, those of us familiar with this tired old game from UC Irvine (like myself: Go Anteaters!) rolled our eyes.

Halderman cites a recent study commissioned by the University of California which examined a percentage of Jewish students ' college experiences, some of whom felt that demonstrations critical of Israeli policies on campus crossed the line into hate speech. The recommendations, which ask the UC to "adopt a hate-speech free campus policy" and "define anti-Semitism" were highly criticized by a wide-ranging group of Jewish students and faculty who asked the president's office to table the report. 

But maybe it would do some good for the UC administrators to define anti-Semitism, because while anti-Semitism still exists, (and not only on college campuses--we're looking at you, Institute for Historical Review), the label is far too liberally applied and some clarity is in order. Here is a list of five things that are mislabeled as anti-Semitic by the likes of Halderman: 

1. Calling for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Campaign Against Israel is not Anti-Semitic
NDNG/Flickr Creative Commons
Caterpillar Inc. supplies bulldozers like this one to Israel.

A national boycott of companies that provide services and products, mostly militarily-rooted, to Israel, like Caterpillar, Motorola and Veolia, is at the core of the BDS movement. The movement has gained steamed in recent years, especially on college campuses. Long touted as a form of nonviolent resistance, the BDS campaign has garnered support from Jews and Palestinians alike. Its goal is simple--put economic pressure on Israel to stop expanding illegal settlements, end the siege on Gaza, and the occupied territories overall. To call the campaign anti-Semitic is to demonize a legitimate resistance tactic borne out of criticism, and normalize a disregard for multiple violations of international law and human rights. 

2. Holding "Israel Apartheid Week" on College Campus is not Anti-Semitic
monad68/Flickr Creative Commons
Students protest during Israel Apartheid Week.

Many college campuses hold a week of events in spring dubbed "Israel Apartheid Week." The goal is to raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians, problematic policies of the Israeli government, and the United States significant role in funding the occupation. Some students protest the week by holding signs that read "hate speech." When it comes to raising awareness about home demolitions, checkpoints that impinge freedom of movement, and the daily hardships--that ain't hate speech, that's the truth of modern-day Israel, and it sounds a lot like the apartheid days of South Africa.

3. Calling for a Two-State or One-State Solution where Palestinians and Israelis Live Side by Side as Equals is not Anti-Semitic.
The Advocacy Project/Flickr Creative Commons
A checkpoint to a village in the West Bank.

There is varying rhetoric surrounding arguments regarding the one-state or two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. Some Israelis fear that a unified Israel, where not just Jews but also Palestinians can be citizens, will compromise Israel's Jewish majority; meanwhile, Palestinian activists fear a viable two-state solution is harder to imagine as Israel continues to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank. But that isn't the point. There is nothing anti-Semitic about advocating for Palestinians to have equal rights--the right to enfranchisement, freedom of movement, free elections and decent living conditions. 

4. Protesting Israeli Diplomats is not Anti-Semitic.

Whenever the case of anti-Semitism on UC campuses is brought up, the case of the Irvine 11 seems to be mentioned shortly thereafter. In short, protests directed against Israel, through whatever means, seem to consistently be deplored as anti-Semitic. The protest of a representative who serves a state by prettying its problematic policies that lead to the repression of an entire people, including its own citizens, is not anti-Semitic. Full disclosure: I married one of the Irvine 11, and he's a nice guy!

5. Being Anti-Zionist is Inherently not Anti-Semitic
danny.hammontree/Flickr Creative Commons
Orthodox Jews protesting Zionism.

Israel's creation is rooted in Zionism, not Judaism, and although the two are inextricably linked, one doesn't equal the other. Do I need to bust out the Encyclopedia Britannica for y'all? Of course I do! It defines Zionism as a "Jewish nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine." The key word is nationalist, which unites a community based on nation and race, and not on faith. It inherently positions one people over another, the philosophy of which has created inequality and injustice by viewing Palestinians and other minorities as not worthy of belonging to Israel. Judaism, like any religion, advocates for the opposite--justice, peace and respect for all human beings.

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As a liberal Zionist jew I would definitely agree that numbers 2, 3 and 4 are indeed legitimate forms of protest or expression.  Calling for a boycott of Israeli goods and services is not for the simple fact that it is collective punishment (something the pro-Palestinians always refer to as immoral) , counterproductive, and achieves nothing.  Furthermore, most advocates of the BDS deny Israel's right to exist and this is not only not acceptable but it also is borderline anti-semitic.  Which brings us to number 5 - Just because there is a minuscule percentage of jews (mostly ultra-orthodox) who are against Zionism, that does not make it acceptable to deny the right of an entire people to live freely and securely in their spiritual and archaeological homeland.  To reject Zionism is to reject the right of Jews to live free from persecution under their own protection - a right given to every nation-state in Europe and many other places in the world.  Although Zionism has become somewhat of a dirty word among many progressive-thinking Americans (partially because of posts like these that say it's OK to be anti-Zionist), it is only because of misinformation and misunderstanding of what Zionism is.  Today there are streams of Zionism such as Liberal Zionism (which I identify with) as well as "Messianic ZIonism" which I reject.  To say that all Zionists are evil and against Palestinian sovereignty, security etc, is simplistic ignorance.  
Zionism, contrary to popular extreme leftist propaganda, is not based on the rejection of Palestinian nationalism, while Palestinian nationalism is expressly based on the rejection of Zionism which means the destruction and end of Israel.  No, it is NOT OK.  


Full disclosure: you are a warped bigot!. What a horrible piece of trash piece this is!

JBinOC topcommenter

Great job, Yasmin. 

It's great to see anyone stand up to the coordinated propaganda of these Zionist hoodlums. 


I have nothing against the's the arrogant, two-faced, reflexively sensitive people I just can't stand. 


U can't stop criticism of Israel no matter how hard ZIOideologues corrupt assembly @LindaHalderman @jncatron @OCWeekly


@jncatron @ocweekly Criticizing Judaism and/or Jewish pple in ignorant, bigoted way is antisemitic.


@jncatron @ocweekly Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic. Don't take the bait.


I completely agree with this blog.  I am Jewish and none of those 5 acts of protests are NOT anti-Semitic. In fact most people should look up what a Semite is...


Everyone wishing me a Merry Christmas is anti Jewish and Muslim.  Everyone NOT wishing me a Happy New Year during Roshashana is anti Jewish.  Everyone wishing me a happy new year on Jan. 1st is not that bad, but it is incorrect per a strictly Jewish calendar. 


A Semite is a member of any of various ancient and modern peoples originating in southwestern Asia, including the Akkadians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs (the first definition on


I think you're confusing the word "inherently" with "necessarily." All of these things aren't NECESSARILY anti-Semitic, but any of them could be driven by anti-Semitism. I'm not saying they are driven by anti-Semitism more than not, just that your wording erodes the reality that some portion of anti-Zionists are (consciously or not) anti-Semites.


"The key word isnationalist, which unites a community based on nation and race, and not on faith."


Hmmm, seems to me that Irish nationalism was based pretty much, if not exclusively, on religion. The same holds true for Dutch nationalism (the Protestant Republic versus their Catholic Spanish would-be Hapsburg overlords) English nationalism (the protestant monarchy versus, again, Catholic powers), and even Turkish nationalism (even the 'secular' Turkish republic features the Islamic crescent on its flag). 


So 'faith' often aliens with race and nation. With Jews, that is even more the case, as it is an ethno-religion, largely closed to outsiders (the vast majority of Jews are born Jews, conversion isn't exactly encouraged). This is so much the case that Jewish populations in various parts of Europe are actually more closely related to each other than to the gentile populations which surround them.


Does that means Jews should be entitled to a homeland in Israel/Palestine? I dunno. I just know that most peoples want a homeland where they can be ruled by their own, develop their own culture (a state is required for that under modern conditions), and generally just live as they would want. If it is good enough for Tibetans (as all good "progressives" are for Tibetan autonomy as against being swamped by Han Chinese), it should be good enough for Jews. Or white Americans for that matter.

20ftjesus topcommenter

YES!  The End Times are UPON us!  Soon the Flying Spaghetti Monster will return and the Tribulation will BEGIN!


@DianaValerie @jncatron @OCWeekly one can critize Netanyahu


@DianaValerie @jncatron @ocweekly there is certainly plenty to criticise them on they are a disgrace


 @mike3schwartz I think the word "not" is one place too far to the right. "Necessarily not" wouldn't work either. We can all agree that both teetotalism and vegetarianism are "not inherently anti-Semitic," but are they either "inherently not anti-Semitic" or "necessarily not anti-Semitic"? I imagine not; one could probably, with sufficient effort, find admirers of Hitler who adopted one or both attributes of his lifestyle for reasons of anti-Semitism.


 @20ftjesus  Since you'll be left behind, enjoy the front row seat (while it lasts)! 


Beware; however, because the odds are high that you'll become deceived and align yourself with a single figure of concentrated evil who appears as an "angel of light" offering worldly "salvation," "peace," and "safety" sealing your doom for all eternity.


Who says one's choices don't matter. As Jean-Paul Sartre once said, “We are our choices.”


"While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape." -1 Thessalonians 5:3.


"For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence (1) so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness." -2 Thessalonians 2:7-12


(1) This is a common idiom (figure of speech) in sacred literature, by which God is said to actively do that which, in reality, he merely allows in human beings to whom he has granted freedom of will.


@Eddy39 @DianaValerie i find most such articles pretty stupid, but like this one because @OCWeekly includes a handy to-do list.


@jncatron that's a great piece, and from OC, too!

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