The Huffington Post is really, really trying to get some outrage going over the recent legislation on anti-Semitism in college campuses. They've published not one but two news articles about it, and have now called up veteran Huffington Post blogger Stephen Zunes to denounce it.
I admit that I wasn't the biggest fan of the legislation based on what I had known about it, because it does prohibit some forms of attacks on Israel which comes close to "criticism." Fortunately Mr. Zunes is here to "interpret" the legislation for us, while giving the usual half truth about the situation. Before we begin, by way of introduction, you should peruse this short book by Daniel Greenfield to know about the history of anti-Semitism at California colleges. Long story short it is not an unkind word here and a questionable speaker there. It's a pattern, last for more than twenty years, of intimidation and hatred toward Jewish students across many universities in the California area. I tell you this because Mr. Zunes will not.
After pointing out which groups are opposed to it (half of which were radically anti-Israel groups like JVP and CAIR) Mr. Zunes gets down to the meat of the article, explaining what's the problem with the legislation:
"• Accusations that the Israeli government is guilty of "crimes against humanity"This would mean that a speaker from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other reputable human rights groups which have documented such violations of international humanitarian law by the Israeli Defense Forces could not be provided space or honoraria to talk about their research."
Considering groups like SJP and the MSA have never brought in anyone from a reputable human rights group (not that AI and HRW actually fit those definitions) this, like all of Zunes' examples, are purely hypothetical. That being said, as close as I can find Human Rights Watch has never accused Israel of crimes against humanity, and neither has Amnesty International.
Mr. Zunes seem to be skating with the truth here, seeing as how what the report says and what he says are very different. There's a big difference between "violations of international law" and "crimes against humanity," which he ought to know being a political scientist. The law was intended to stop a giant sign that says "Israel is guilty of etc etc," not to keep AI from presenting, nor do I think that it could be used that way. What's far more likely is that Mr. Zunes just doesn't like the law so is trying to "spin" it. He tries again with "ethnic cleansing" before moving on to something potentially stickier:
"• "Student and faculty-sponsored boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel"This would prohibit efforts to boycott goods made in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, support international sanctions on Israel over its ongoing violations of a series of UN Security Council resolution, or have the university divest from its endowment stock in companies supporting the Israeli occupation."
First of all, would it? Seems to me you're assuming that it covers the settlements, and we all know what happens when you assume things. Secondly, there are no international sanctions on Israel (unless Mr. Zunes' imagination is even more colorful than I had previously thought), nor is it the responsibility of universities to comply with them. After all, you don't see universities holding votes on whether or not to boycott Iran and Cuba, and we have been sanctioning them for years.
Finally, if the university divests from Israel that's up to the university administrators, not the students. And that's how it has always been.
Mr. Zunes is trying to make this about free speech, but that ship has sailed. I have a feeling that what this really is about is that the California state legislature took a look around, saw that every single time this "BDS" question shows up in a California college it leads to anger, hatred, occasional violence, tears, and overall general negativity. And so they decided, "we're not dealing with this anymore. If you want to criticize Israel than fine, but do it in an academic way. This BDS thing is no longer acceptable in our state schools." They are allowed to do that.
After a couple more vague criticisms, he attempts to parse words:
"There's no question that some pro-Palestinian activists do sometimes cross the line into what could reasonably be called anti-Semitism, which should indeed be categorically condemned, as should all manifestation of prejudice. Unfortunately, this resolution makes no distinction between this tiny bigoted minority and the majority of activists who oppose the Israeli occupation and other policies of that country's right-wing government on legitimate human rights grounds."
If you find this convincing please read the Greenfield document above and then this piece by Khaled Abu Toameh. The "tiny minority" bullshit isn't going to work anymore, not in the California school system. It wasn't a "tiny minority" that mobbed a Hillel house at Berkely or shouted down Michael Oren. No SJP or MSU member will ever criticize the extremist elements among their groups, and so they all deserve to be treated the same way.
I have not seen any evidence that SJP, MSU or any other group is "merely" opposed to the occupation or other policies of Israel. I have seen plenty of evidence that they are against any form of Jewish sovereignty existing anywhere in the world. Their behavior speaks far far louder than any weasel words Stephen Zunes can utter to defend them. If Khaled Abu Toameh came to the same conclusion, that is more than good enough for me.
After a couple more complaints about freedom of speech, Mr. Zunes signs off. It comes off weaker than ever. Maybe if he had been standing up for the freedom of Jewish students to express themselves without fear of intimidation or violence, we would be more likely to listen to him now. But as it stands, the SJPers in California reap what they sow, and have sown for years.