The United States Congress is trying to reduce anti-Semitism on college campuses, while the LA Times is trying to defend it.
Yes that’s right, the LA Times is defending anti-Semitism.
What specifically, does the LA Times have a problem with?
Congress was working to pass a bill called HR 6421, also known as the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.” Should it become law, this bill will help make Jewish students safer from the rampant and growing anti-Semitism in American schools and universities.
How will this bill help?
Intimidating, threatening and harassing students based on their ethnicity (in the manner currently being done to Jewish students) violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a US Federal law. Yet the law is not adequately enforced by schools or even by some courts, because the United States does not have a clear and legal understanding of the concept of “anti-Semitism.”
In order to create the clarity necessary to enforce the law and properly protect Jewish students, Congress decided to create an official definition of anti-Semitism for use in schools and universities.
Why is this law necessary?
The bill notes that according to the U.S. Department of Education:
Jewish students are being threatened, harassed, or intimidated in their schools (including on their campuses) on the basis of their shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics including through harassing conduct that creates a hostile environment so severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to interfere with or limit some students’ ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by schools.
What do the critics say?
The LA Times took the unusual step of publishing not one, but two opinion pieces in the same day, both opposing the bill, with no counter-balancing opinion anywhere in the newspaper. (One can only hope they will do the ethical thing and publish an alternative voice in the coming days.)
So what did LA Times readers see when they opened their newspapers and web sites today? A staff-editorial by the LA Times Editorial Board, and an accompanying op-ed by Liz Jackson, attorney for the Palestine Legal Organization, both claiming that the bill violates free speech.
Does the bill prevent legitimate criticism of Israel?
The LA Times and Ms. Jackson go on to claim that HR 6421 limits legitimate criticism of Israel.
It does not.
To the contrary, HR 6421 (by reference to the US State Department Fact Sheet of June 8, 2010) states that the legal definition of anti-Semitism includes, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist” but does not include, “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country…”
Which is why when the LA Times poses the question, “… is it necessarily anti-Semitic to harshly criticize the Jewish state or to argue that it should be replaced by something else…?” the answer is quite simply: yes. Yes it is.
The international definition of anti-Semitism, adopted by almost the entire Western world, is clear: opposing Jewish self determination is, indeed, anti-Semitism.
Singling out the world’s only Jewish nation for different treatment than the rest of the world is, indeed, anti-Semtism.
The bill concludes with the words, “Nothing in this Act, or an amendment made by this Act, shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” Indeed, nothing in the bill does.
Harassment, intimidation and threats are not “free speech.”
The only kind of “speech” actually prohibited by HR 6421 is the kind that involves threats, intimidation and harassment.
Let’s be absolutely clear about something: the United States Constitution does not guarantee a right to harass, intimidate or threaten anyone, not even if you do so with words. That is simply not “free speech” under any definition. One doesn’t need a law degree to understand this: common sense and basic human decency should suffice. But just in case that isn’t enough, there is also the resoundingly strong opinion from the United States Supreme Court in the case of Virginia v. Black.
This is why opposing HR 6421 is nothing other than defending harassment, intimidation and threats: because these are the only activities that the bill would actually prevent.
Does the LA Times seriously believe that “free speech” includes the right to harass, intimidate and threaten Jewish students on the basis of their ethnicity? One might expect such misguided ideas from Ms. Jackson, who works for an organization that supports BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel), and accuses Israel of apartheid, genocide and a laundry list of other factually preposterous and innately hateful accusations. But the LA Times should know better.
This is not the first time the LA Times has misread the U.S. Constitution: we previously critiqued a staff-ed in which the LA Times claimed that boycotting Israel is “free speech.” We reviewed the U.S. Constitution and relevant Supreme Court cases to demonstrate, unequivocally, that this idea is simply not true, and the LA Times was simply wrong: both on the facts and on the law.
— Palestine Legal (@pal_legal) November 24, 2016
When Western civilization disagrees with you, your readers should know.
The LA Times and Ms. Jackson are certainly entitled to their opinions in defense of anti-Semitism, harassment, threats and intimidation. They are even entitled to hold a completely mistaken understanding of U.S. law and the meaning of what anti-Semitism actually is. At the same time, readers are entitled to know that the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. Constitution, and almost the entirety of Western civilization, disagree.