I cannot speak on behalf of the entire Jewish population at UC Berkeley because it is not monolithic, so I speak from my own perspective. That being said, the UC Board of Regents’ proposed statement of principles concerning intolerance and anti-Semitism is too broad and does not effectively protect Jews from hate speech and other forms of anti-Semitism. The definition should be rewritten in order to more accurately reflect how Israel has been inequitably and systematically singled out among nations and thus warranting special consideration.
The U.S. Department of State’s definition of anti-Semitism, which characterizes the demonization and delegitimization of Israel as anti-Semitism, comes into play only when Israel is treated differently from any other country. If other countries or groups of individuals are not subject to comparable criticism and rhetoric, then under this definition of intolerance, Israel and its supporters should be protected from hostile speech and actions. Historically, Jews and Israel’s supporters have been habitually targeted — so much so that they feel the need for the University of California to include a clause specifically protecting the Jewish community. That the pervasive sense of hostility still exists in 2015 speaks volumes. It is time that our grievances be heard and addressed.
I strongly believe that those who oppose Israel — or any country, ideology, government, etc. — have the constitutional right to voice their opinions. If, however, that opinion is encoded with the purpose of instilling fear, then the university has an obligation to step in and protect the targeted population.
As for the group making the ultimate decision concerning the regents’ redefinition of intolerance, I hope it recognizes that all countries should be held to the same standard when it comes to their condemnation. Any group, not just Jews and Israel’s supporters, should have the right to voice and defend its beliefs and ideology should it feel unsafe and fearful.
Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge that there is a difference between politics and people. Without taking note of this difference, the line between anti-Israel and anti-Semitism becomes blurred. If the regents decide to adopt the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, it will allow for more respectful, productive and progressive political discourse among groups on campus.
Shauna Satnick is a freshman fellow with Berkeley Hillel and a UC Berkeley sophomore.