WASHINGTON (JTA) — South Carolina is set to become the first state to legislate a definition of anti-Semitism, with one controversial passage defining as anti-Semitic certain anti-Israel expressions.
The language is not permanent, the Charleston Post and Courier reported. It was included in an $8 billion budget bill the state Senate passed late Thursday, which means that it stands only until the next budget is passed next year.
The language is seen as likely to survive the reconciliation of the bill by Senate and House committees. Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican who has championed the language, is expected to sign the budget bill.
Efforts earlier this year to pass a permanent version of the law were frustrated when concerns about an impingement on free speech hindered its advance in the Senate.
Under the measure, universities must take the definition into account when reviewing charges of discrimination or bias.
The bill uses as its template the State Department definition of anti-Semitism, which includes as anti-Semitic calls for violence against Jews, advancing conspiracy theories about Jewish control and Holocaust denial. More controversially, it also includes “applying double standards” to Israel “by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
Critics of the effort to advance that language in Congress and in a number of other state legislatures say it is too broad and could encompass conventional criticism of Israel. The State Department language was never intended as an enforcement tool and was drafted as a means of advising diplomats how to assess whether anti-Semitism is prevalent in countries where they serve.
Rep. Alan Clemmons, a Republican state House member who has led the effort to pass the bill, has argued that reports of the intensification of anti-Semitism on campuses in recent years required legislative means to combat it.
Clemmons late Thursday posted on Twitter a photo of himself and state Sen. Larry Groom, a Republican who led the effort to pass the bill in the upper house, giving a thumbs up. Clemmons noted that the language was approved on Holocaust Remembrance Day.