Between South Carolina’s new hatespeech law, and North Carolina’s 2017 anti-BDS law, it would seem both the Carolinas have pledged their allegiance to a foreign power. As much as relocating the US Embassy in Israel is a show of strength in the face of Muslim tyranny, the regulation of the First Amendment and placing a price on “free” speech is cowering in the face of yet another Middle East bully.
South Carolina is the first State to legislate free speech, with the SC legislature defining certain criticisms of the Israeli government to be hate speech. The intentionally broad legalese language, which was carefully inserted into the state’s recently passed $8 billion budget, offers a vague definition of anti-Semitism that some suggest specifically targets the presence of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement on state college campuses. The law requires that all state institutions, including state universities, apply the revised definition when deciding whether an act violates anti-discrimination policies.
Once it is reconciled with an appropriations bill previously passed by the state House, the measure will become law and take effect this July. However, the law will last only until the next budget is passed, meaning that the new legal definition of anti-Semitism must be renewed on a yearly basis unless new legislation making the language permanent is passed in the future.
Critics say the definition would discourage student groups from criticizing Israeli policy or participating in pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Such concern is well-founded, in part because the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach), previously called the pro-Israel lobby J-Street “anti-Semitic” for referring to Israel’s presence in Palestine’s West Bank as an “occupation.” Thus, in Clemmons’ view, discussing the military occupation of the West Bank, a reality recognized even by Israel’s Supreme Court, would be considered anti-Semitic under the new South Carolina law.
Clemmons, a Mormon who has previously hosted state delegations to Israel, also considers the non-violent Palestinian rights movement Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) to be motivated by anti-Semitism and has been called “Israel’s biggest supporter in a U.S. state legislature.”
In addition to the views of the bill’s sponsor, Kenneth Stern, the author of the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism upon which the new South Carolina law is based, has vehemently opposed codifying into law the definition he wrote, asserting that applying that definition to colleges “is a direct affront to academic freedom” as well as “unconstitutional and unwise.”
In regards to the South Carolina Law, Stern stated that it “is really an attempt to create a speech code about Israel,” adding that it is also “an unnecessary law that will hurt Jewish students and the academy.” Other groups, such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, have raised similar concerns, stating that “this vague and overbroad re-definition conflates political criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, infringing on constitutionally protected speech.”
In 2015, South Carolina became the first of at least 22 states to prohibit state agencies or institutions from contracting with any vendor participating in a boycott of Israel. A hub of the slaveholding South in the U.S., South Carolina is a deeply conservative state with strong ties to Christian evangelicals, but a relatively small Jewish population of roughly 20,000 — dwarfed by a state like Illinois with more than 300,000 Jews. In 2017, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper passed a law making it the 22nd state to require divestment from, and prohibit state agencies from contracting with, companies that boycott Israel.
“This bill makes it clear that the State of North Carolina stands with Israel, which has long been an important trading partner of North Carolina,” said Carin Savel, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary. Since when do the States of our Great Republic stand with any nation but America?
If this trend continues, soon we’ll have just as much free speech as those poor, culturally-emasculated serfs in the UK. Calling someone a fag, slope, monkey, retard or zipperhead is not a hate crime. It never has been, for millennia. The South Carolina legislature has no more right to define criticism of a foreign state as hate speech than they do to outlaw bacon, and send law enforcement kicking in the door of every American they suspect of harboring bacon.