United States (QNN)- The Guardian has revealed attempts by right-wing activists to spread new laws across Republican-controlled states, which would ban criticism on public university campuses of ‘Israel’ and its occupation of Palestine under the guise of fighting anti-Semitism.
Concerns about the legislation relate to its wide definition of anti-Semitism that goes beyond protecting Jewish people from hate speech, according to the paper.
Among the activities that would be prohibited by the new laws are human rights investigations focusing specifically on the occupation state. Also banned would be any speech “demonizing Israel by … blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions” or “delegitimizing Israel by … questioning Israel’s right to exist.”
The push began at a conference in August held by the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, a conservative network which has a long history of propagating right-wing policies at state level through model bills. Emails, which lay out details of the conference, were obtained by the Centre for Media and Democracy (CMD).
The Alec-convened gathering saw “several Republican state lawmakers” and “pro-Israeli lobbyists” discuss ways of “disseminating new restrictions on speech relating to Israel on campuses across the heartlands”. The meeting was reportedly led by Randy Fine, “a Republican from Florida who was instrumental in passing in May the first state law outlawing antisemitism in public education”.
As described by the Guardian, “pro-Israel and conservative lobbyists are encouraging state lawmakers to outlaw antisemitism in public education, from kindergarten through to graduate universities”, using a definition of anti-Semitism “so wide” that it would “prohibit debate about the human rights violations of the Israeli government”.
The emails obtained by CMD “give a clear indication of the motive behind the push for antisemitism bills – countering criticism of Israel on campuses.”
Fine, for example, wrote that under the new laws “antisemitism (whether acts by students, administrators or faculty, policies and procedures, club organizations etc) [will] be treated identically as how racism is treated. Students for Justice in Palestine is now treated the same way as the Ku Klux Klan – as they should be.”
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is the leading Palestine solidarity network on US campuses, with chapters at more than 80 universities. It has been at the forefront of promoting the Palestinian-led campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).
First amendment advocates see the potential spread of such laws as a major threat to free speech on campuses.