New California legislation targets BDS movement as “anti-Semitic”
September 26, 2012
The California State Assembly has passed a resolution declaring criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic—in a clear attack on the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement.
Passed by a bipartisan majority of Democrats and Republicans, the resolution—known as HR 35—specifically defines as anti-Semitic any speaker, film and event that describes Israel as “guilty of heinous crimes against humanity such as ethnic cleansing and genocide,” as well as “student- and faculty-sponsored boycott, divestment, and sanction campaigns against Israel.”
HR 35 smears the BDS movement as anti-Semitic by mixing it in among genuinely anti-Semitic phenomena, like campus vandalism involving swastikas—actual hate crimes which have been perpetrated with disturbing frequency in recent years on California campuses.
But the reality is that in opposing racist and genocidal policies of the Israeli state, BDS is an anti-racist movement, and it is supported by people of all races and faiths around the world, including many prominent Jewish voices, such as Israeli historian Ilan Pappé,Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, South African anti-apartheid fighter Ronnie Kasrils, and the organizations Jewish Voice for Peace and International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.
The California resolution is the latest in a series of attacks on an increasingly effective BDS movement. Last year, members of pro-Israel groups filed lawsuits attempting to force campuses to put a halt to such activism, but were rebuffed when the court dismissed the suit.
These attacks come after several years of highly visible and successful actions in support of Palestine on University of California (UC) campuses and throughout the state—such as the protest of Israeli ambassador Michael Oren in 2010 at UC-Irvine and the successful blockade of an Israeli cargo ship in 2008.
It is because of these successes that supporters of Israel are employing more aggressive methods of intimidation against activists in an attempt to slow the movement’s progress in delegitimizing Israel’s colonial project.
The intent of HR 35, which is a non-binding resolution, is to intimidate the BDS movement in order to create a political climate on campuses that is more favorable to Zionists and the right wing. Already, UC administrators have reacted with severe repression against students who dare to speak out against Israel’s crimes and challenge the UC’s complicity with them.
For example, UC administrators and the Orange County District Attorney (DA) cracked down on the 11 students who interrupted a speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Orenat UC Irvine in 2010. Oren was speaking in defense of Israel’s crimes during Operation Cast Lead, in which 1,417 Palestinians in Gaza were killed, and the Israeli military targeted major components of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, including schools, governmental and administrative offices, and water-treatment and energy facilities.
Not only did the DA level criminal charges against the students, but UC administrators violated the students’ right to privacy when they voluntarily turned over their personal e-mail accounts to prosecutors, who then published them in an act of brazen public intimidation. The 11 were ultimately convicted of misdemeanor charges and sentenced to community service time as well as academic sanctions at school.
The persecution of the Irvine 11 illustrates the close relationship between university administrators and elected officials—and how the two work together to stymie protest and dissent, especially when it comes to solidarity with Palestine.
By officially declaring protests like those of the Irvine 11 to be anti-Semitic, California political representatives want to embolden administrators to stifle opposition to Israel’s crimes and the UC system’s complicity with them. HR 35 will be a handy statement for administrators to reference and employ in order to justify repression of Palestine solidarity activism.
This comes out on the day I begin to read Omar Barghouti’s “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.” A full review will come soon after I finish it.
California is attempting to stifle a human rights movement centered around ending the Israeli apartheid & allowing Palestinians the right to a safe existence, clean resources, education, healthcare, etc. without being terrorized by Zionist soldiers.
The BDS movement will not back down. Zionism is racism. Free Palestine.