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UC System Considers Forbidding 'Anti-Zionism' On Campuses

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Here's a good one for you. On Tuesday, the L.A. Times broke a story describing how the UC Regents, those in charge of the University of California system, are proposing to denote "anti-Zionism" as an unacceptable form of discrimination on its campuses.

As you would probably expect, the proposed amendment has incited an absurd amount of strong opinions from every direction. Supporters of the amendment argue that classifying anti-Zionism as discrimination is absolutely needed to protect Jewish students at public university campuses. Broadly, Zionism is the title applied to the movement that pushed for the establishment of a Jewish state, and the continued defense of that state.

On the flip side, the amendment has triggered a large constituency of the student and faculty body to argue against the proposed change, saying it is a blatant attempt to censor criticism directed towards Israel.

There's not too much else to say about this, other than to expand a bit more on the gravitas of the rift currently spreading apart the UC system. As the L.A. Times reports, a letter signed by 130 UC faculty members supported naming anti-Zionism as an expression of anti-Semitism. That letter reads that the university system must distinguish "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."

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"We're very, very pleased that the working group really indicated very clearly what Jewish students have been feeling and all of us have known for a long time, which is that anti-Zionism is the most common face of anti-Semitism in college campuses," said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a professor at UC Santa Cruz, to ABC News.

Yet another letter, signed by 250 UC faculty members, says basically the opposite, that the proposed amendment would curtail free speech the ability to teach and research Israel and the Zionist movement.

Intellectual heavyweight Judith Butler, a Berkeley professor of comparative literature, explained to the Times how including "anti-Zionism as an instance of intolerance and bigotry is actually to suppress a set of political beliefs that we actually need to hear. It saddens me and strikes at the heart of the task of the university."

The question comes down to whether or not anti-Zionism is or isn't the same thing as anti-Semitism. While I'm hardly a constitutional scholar, I can already imagine a divisive First Amendment Supreme Court case should the UC Regents approve the new language.