Synagogue holds rally for peace

A S.C. Statehouse bill that defines anti-Semitism on South Carolina college campuses has stalled for the year. File/Staff

COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Senate on Thursday put the brakes on a bill that would spell out a specific definition for anti-Semitism on state college campuses.

Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, earlier this week said he wanted the bill to include actual language defining anti-Semitism within the text of the proposed law.

That insertion would be instead of referring schools to a federal fact sheet published by the U.S. State Department for guidance.

On the last day of the 2017 legislative session, Hutto said he planned to work on drafting an appropriate amendment during the summer.

Senators had given the bill its second reading on Tuesday without much debate to allow Hutto time to create an amendment this week while planning to debate the bill on third and final reading.

On Thursday, senators agreed to withdraw their second-reading approval, moving the legislation back a step in the legislative process. Lawmakers can pick the measure up again when the 2018 session convenes in January.

The proposal quickly and easily passed the House earlier this year, receiving a vote of 103-3 and having about 115 of the 124 state representatives co-sponsoring it.

Main sponsor Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, has made a name for himself in pro-Israeli circles for drafting and sponsoring pro-Israel legislation, including those that seek to undermine public campaigns calling for economic boycotts of Israel because of the country's continued expansion of settlements in West Bank.

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Clemmons said rising instances of anti-Semitic crime across the country — including the thwarted planned attack at a synagogue in Myrtle Beach — intensify the need for the legislation's protections.

Clemmons on Thursday afternoon decried Hutto's stalling of the bill.

"By doing so he is refusing South Carolina an opportunity to push back against the noxious bigotry," Clemmons said. "It empowers forces of Jew hatred to go unchecked on South Carolina campuses."

The proposed definition in the bill is pulled from an example provided on the State Department's website that defines anti-Semitism as justifying the killing or harming of Jews, making dehumanizing allegations about Jews or accusing Jews of being responsible for "real or imagined" wrong-doing committed by Israel.

But college students and professors argued the proposed definition in the bill, speaking during hearings in both the House and Senate, was overly broad and could limit academic discussion and debate over the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.

Maya T. Prabhu covers the Statehouse from Columbia. She previously covered city government and other topics in South Carolina and Maryland. Maya has a bachelors in English from Spelman College and a masters in journalism from the University of Maryland.