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South Carolina is First State to Pass Law Defining Anti-Semitism, Countering On Campus Hate

A law designed to fight on campus anti-Semitism passed as part of South Carolina’s state budget late Thursday, The Post and Courier reported.

The law was inserted into the budget by Sen. Larry Grooms. Gov. Henry McMaster, who supported the law, is expected to sign the budget.

Last year, a bill defining anti-Semitism was introduced by Rep. Alan Clemmons and overwhelmingly passed the state’s House of Representatives, but passage was blocked by a single senator who opposed the law.

In a statement hailing the passage of the law, the Louis D. Brandeis Center credited South Carolina with being the first state to pass a law “that will help tackle the rising anti-Semitism plaguing U.S. college campuses.”

The budget, including the language defining anti-Semitism, overwhelmingly passed South Carolina’s Senate 37 – 4 on Thursday and its House of Representatives by a margin of 116 – 2 last month.

“There has been an alarming increase in anti-Semitism nationwide, and particularly on our nation’s college campuses,” the Brandeis Center’s Director of Legal Initiatives Aviva Vogelstein explained. “This bill gives South Carolina the tools to protect Jewish students’ and all South Carolina students’ right to a learning environment free of unlawful discrimination.”

Joseph Sabag of the Israel Allies Foundation provided further context for the law, “This bill gives educators a uniform tool for ascertaining intent, similar to the use of confessions in criminal proceedings. It will ensure authorities consider the federal government’s definition of anti-Semitism in instances when it is necessary to determine the intent of constitutionally unprotected activities, including assault, battery, harassment, intimidation and vandalism. And it will protect against unlawful suppression of speech to ensure that all views can be fully expressed.”

The annual FBI hate crime report shows that anti-Semitic hate crimes outnumber all other religious based hate crimes combined. The problem appears to be more acute in academia. A 2014 study showed that 54% of college students witnessed anti-Semitism on campus. A study the following year indicated that the number of Jewish students on campus experiencing anti-Semitism had increased 75%. Meanwhile, the ADL reported that in 2017 anti-Semitic incidents had increased by 89% on college campuses in the United States.

“Anti-Semitism, and the forces that have led to its resurgence, are not representative of the values of South Carolina,” Clemmons, one of the leaders of the legislative effort said. “Yesterday, Holocaust Memorial Day, is the culmination of a two-year legislative effort to respond to the FBI’s findings that Jewish students are the mostly likely of all minority groups to suffer hate crimes on campus. Thanks to Sen. Larry Grooms’ leadership in the Senate, South Carolina has taken the ultimate legislative step in codifying a uniform definition of anti-Semitism for state supported institutions of higher education that must be applied to illegal acts and breaches of university policy to determine anti-Semitic intent. This measure is an important step forward in protecting the civil rights of Jewish students. As we remember the millions of Jewish lives taken in the Holocaust and the dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents we see happening in the U.S. and around the world, I’m hopeful that South Carolina will be the first of many states to take such action to discourage anti-Semitism on campus and to appropriately discipline those who engage in such hateful activity.”

Grooms added, “South Carolina legislators are incredibly disturbed by the increase of anti-Semitism around our nation and particularly the threats our young people face daily on campus.  We all agree this must stop.  All students deserve the same protections of their rights, and our colleges must address all discriminatory conduct, including anti-Semitism, with equal rigor and condemnation.  My colleague Alan Clemmons introduced a bill to provide our state’s colleges with the crucial tools to fight discrimination of Jewish students, and I am pleased my Senate colleagues approved it with overwhelming bipartisan support.”

“Once again South Carolina has proven itself to be a national leader in the ongoing fight against anti-Semitism,” said Josh Block, CEO and President of The Israel Project. “South Carolina was the first state to pass anti-BDS legislation and now has become the first state in the nation to pass uniform definition of anti-Semitism legislation. By passing this bill, South Carolina is correctly recognizing and addressing the unique threats Jews and Jewish students in particular face. Now illegal acts and breaches of university policy, that occur at state institutions of higher education, that exhibit anti-Semitic intent will be treated and punished as such. This represents a significant step in the protection of the civil rights of Jewish students.”

“We have been dismayed by the rise of anti-Semitism, including harassment, intimidation and vandalism against Jewish students,” Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, one of the organizations along with The Israel Project, that supported the legislation,  said. “This bill adopts the State Department definition of anti-Semitism, and gives law enforcement an important tool for protecting students against unlawful acts motivated by prejudice. With a clear definition of anti-Jewish bigotry, law enforcement and administrators will be better equipped to prosecute and prevent hate crimes.”

In 2015, South Carolina became the first state to prohibit doing business with any business or person that boycotts Israel when then-Gov. Nikki Haley, now the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, signed bill H 3583 into law.

24 states have followed South Carolina’s lead and adopted laws to fight illegal anti-Israel boycotts.

[Photo: SC State House Tours / YouTube ]