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Debating the line between anti-Semitism and free speech

Tel Aviv university students show support for Israel on June 2, 2010.
Tel Aviv university students show support for Israel on June 2, 2010.
Lilach Daniel/Flickr

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UC faculty and rabbis from across the state are calling on UC president Janet Napolitano to crack down on anti-Semitic statements made during campus protests.

The letter, sent yesterday, comes after a series of demonstrations over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the letter, members of the Jewish community urge UCs to adopt the State Department definition of anti-Semitism, and punish students accordingly. It’s a demand that not all Jewish groups are on board with, and they’re speaking out.

In a recent open letter to the State Department, the Jewish Voice for Peace Advisory Council calls for the revision of anti-Semitic definitions that have been on the books for years. They claim that, as currently written, the rules could be used to silence critics of Israel. In addition, they say  that the Department’s guidelines create a double standard, mandating that Israel be treated differently than any other country in the world.

The recent disagreement between Jewish groups raises an important question: where is the line between anti-Semitic speech and free speech?


Sydney Levy, advocacy director at Jewish Voice for Peace, a national Jewish organization that provides a voice for Jews and allies who believe that peace in the Middle East will be achieved through justice and full equality for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Aron Hier, director of campus outreach at the Simon Wiesenthal Center