LA Times - University of California officials are proposing to include "anti-Zionism" as a form of discrimination that is unacceptable on campus, according to a long-awaited draft statement on intolerance.
The inclusion immediately drew sharply divergent reactions, with pro-Israel groups hailing it as a needed step to protect Jewish students from hostility and those supporting Palestinian rights criticizing it as a naked attempt to suppress criticism of the Jewish state.
One letter signed by more than 130 UC faculty members supported naming anti-Zionism as an expression of anti-Semitism, saying students need guidance on "when healthy political debate crosses the line into anti-Jewish hatred, bigotry and discrimination, and when legitimate criticism of Israel devolves into denying Israel's right to exist."
But another letter from more than 250 UC professors expressed fear that the proposed statement would restrict free speech and academic freedom to teach, debate and research about the complex and tumultuous history of Israel and the Zionist movement.
Judith Butler, a Berkeley professor of comparative literature who has written on Zionism, questioned who would define that term or decide what crossed the line into discriminatory speech.
And although the statement provides no sanctions, calling on university leaders to "challenge" bias, Butler wondered whether those singled out as criticizing Zionism would be denied faculty research funds, promotions or other benefits.
"To include anti-Zionism as an instance of intolerance and bigotry is actually to suppress a set of political beliefs that we actually need to hear," she said. "It saddens me and strikes at the heart of the task of the university."