The student senate at the University of California, Berkeley tabled a measure last week that would have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
The move came after hours of debate about the bill and drew criticism from pro-Israel supporters.
“Defining and recognizing antisemitism and hate is a critical first step toward our collective goal of making UC Berkeley a safer and more inclusive space for Jewish students and all students,” Hillel at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in a post on social media expressing disappointment with the vote.
It also noted that many students “shared their personal lived experiences with antisemitism and brought their unique perspectives to this very personal issue.”
The Anti-Defamation League tweeted: “Students and communities—inclusive of the Jewish community—that face marginalization, oppression and hate have the right to define for themselves what that looks like.”
Opponents of the measure claimed that if the school were to adopt IHRA’s definition, it would essentially stifle anti-Israel speech and actions.
According to Amcha Initiative, an antisemitism watchdog group that tracks incidents on college campuses, prior to the vote, anti-Israel students, professors and others issued a letter opposing the IHRA, saying, “As Palestinian students, this working definition of antisemitism directly violates our freedom of speech by equating anti-zionism to antisemitism and censoring any criticism of Israel.”
Last week’s vote comes some six months after nine student groups at Berkeley School of Law made headlines after announcing they would not invite any speakers who support “Zionism, the apartheid State of Israel and the occupation of Palestine.”
The move led to accusations that the groups were instituting “Jew-free zones,” a claim denied by the school’s dean, Erwin Chermerinsky.
To date, the IHRA definition has been adopted by more than 1,000 entities.