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Overview

South Carolina has an anti-boycott law and an antisemitism redefinition law in effect. Since 2018, lawmakers have included in the annual appropriations bill a rider that requires state colleges and universities to consider a distorted definition of antisemitism to determine whether there has been a violation of anti-discrimination policies. Standalone antisemitism redefinition bills have failed to pass.

In 2015, South Carolina enacted an anti-boycott law that requires state contractors to provide a written certification that they do not and will not engage in prohibited boycotts. Though clearly the target of the bill’s sponsors, boycotts for Palestinian rights fall outside the scope of the law’s definition of boycotts, which excludes non-discriminatory boycotts and those that target specific conduct.

South Carolina lawmakers also have passed several resolutions targeting advocacy for Palestinian rights.

State Legislation

Legislation
H 5201
Status
Pending
Introduced
March 2020
Type(s)
Antisemitism Redefinition
Full Text
Read H 5201 

This antisemitism redefinition provision requires South Carolina public colleges and universities to consider a distorted definition of antisemitism to determine whether there has been a violation of policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion. The bill includes some contemporary examples related to Israel, such as: “applying double standards,” “multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations,”  and “denying Israel the right to exist.” The definition is so broad and vague that it could encompass any and all criticism of Israel, circumscribing political speech in support of Palestinian rights, potentially in violation of the First Amendment.

The provisions were attached as a rider to the 2020-2021 appropriations bill. Similar provisions were passed in the 2018-2019 (H4950) and 2019-2020 (H4000) budgets, which expire at the end of the fiscal year. Standalone bills attempting to codify the distorted definition have failed (H3643, H5287).

Legislation
H 4000
Status
In Effect
In Effect Since
May 2019
Type(s)
Antisemitism Redefinition
Full Text
Read H 4000 

This antisemitism redefinition provision requires South Carolina public colleges and universities to consider a distorted definition of antisemitism to determine whether there has been a violation of policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion. The definition includes some contemporary examples related to Israel, such as “applying double standards,” “multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations,” and “denying Israel the right to exist. The definition is so broad and vague that it could encompass any and all criticism of Israel, circumscribing political speech in support of Palestinian rights, potentially in violation of the First Amendment.

The provisions were attached as a rider to the 2019-2020 appropriations bill, which expires at the end of the fiscal year. Similar provisions were passed in the 2018-2019 budget (H4950) and are included in the 2020-2021 bill (H5201).

Legislation
H 4950
Status
In Effect
In Effect Since
June 2018
Type(s)
Antisemitism Redefinition
Full Text
Read H 4950 

This antisemitism redefinition provision requires South Carolina public colleges and universities to consider a distorted definition of antisemitism to determine whether there has been a violation of policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion. The definition includes some contemporary examples related to Israel, such as “applying double standards,” “multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations,” and “denying Israel the right to exist. The definition is so broad and vague that it could encompass any and all criticism of Israel, circumscribing political speech in support of Palestinian rights, potentially in violation of the First Amendment.

The provisions were attached as a rider to the 2018-2019 appropriations bill, which expires at the end of the fiscal year, after a standalone version of the bill (H3643) failed to pass the Senate in 2017. The provision was renewed in the 2019-2020 budget (H4000).

Legislation
H 3583
Status
In Effect
In Effect Since
June 2015
Type(s)
Anti-boycott, State Contracts
Full Text
Read H 3583 

This anti-boycott bill prohibits state contracts with businesses unless they provide a written certification that they are not and will not engage in a boycott of “a person or an entity based in or doing business with a jurisdiction with whom South Carolina can enjoy open trade.” The bill provides exceptions for bids at least 20% less than other bids and excludes contracts worth less than $10,000. Because H3583 excludes boycotts based on the specific conduct of a targeted entity and those applied in a nondiscriminatory manner, boycotts for justice fall outside its scope. 

Defeated Legislation

Legislation
H 5287
Status
Defeated
Defeated On
May 2020
Type(s)
Antisemitism Redefinition
Full Text
Read H 5287 

This antisemitism redefinition bill requires the state, including state and local agencies, to consider a distorted definition of antisemitism to determine whether there has been a violation of state anti-discrimination laws. The bill defines antisemitism to include IHRA definition and its contemporary examples related to Israel, which include: “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “applying double standards” to Israel. The definition conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish hatred, circumscribing political speech in support of Palestinian rights potentially in violation of the First Amendment.

South Carolina has passed similar provisions that apply to discrimination in the public education system as part of its annual budget bills since 2018 (H4950, H4000). HB 5287 would codify this problematic definition and expand its use beyond the education context to all state agencies. 

The lead sponsor of HB 5287, Rep. Alan Clemmons, has advocated for legislation aimed at silencing advocates for Palestinian rights as a board member and former chairman of ALEC, the rightwing bill mill that has pushed numerous racist policies, including Stand Your Ground laws and anti-pipeline protest laws. 

Defeated Legislation

Legislation
H 3643
Status
Defeated
Defeated On
May 2018
Type(s)
Antisemitism Redefinition
Full Text
Read H 3643 

This antisemitism redefinition bill requires South Carolina public colleges and universities to consider a distorted definition of antisemitism to determine whether there has been a violation of policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion. The bill adopts the 2010 US State Department fact sheet definition of antisemitism, including its contemporary examples related to Israel of “demoniz[ing] Israel,” applying a “double standard for Israel,” including by “[m]ultilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations,”  and “delegitimiz[ing] Israel.” The bill was defeated after activists and legal organizations raised concerns that it would require public colleges and universities to censor and suppress Palestine advocacy in violation of the First Amendment. Related legislation: H4950.

Resolutions

Legislation
H 3678
Status
Passed
Date Passed
January 2019
Full Text
Read H 3678 

H3678 is a non-binding resolution that attacks the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for a series of resolutions referring to Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and its obligations to protect cultural sites within the city. The resolution’s preambular language also attacks boycotts for Palestinian rights, suggests it is antisemitic to call Israel an occupying force, and asserts that Israel has “God-given” rights to the land and to all of Jerusalem. 

Legislation
H 4635
Status
Passed
Date Passed
February 2014
Full Text
Read H 4635 

H4635 is a non-binding resolution that condemns the American Studies Association’s 2013 resolution endorsing the boycott of Israeli academic institutions complicit in Israel’s violations of international law. The resolution notably and falsely labels the ASA’s boycott “an intolerable, anti-Semitic, base form of bigotry and hatred” and calls on all of South Carolina’s colleges and universities not to participate in academic boycotts. 

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