ASCMC Will Not Adopt IHRA Definition of Antisemitism
Image via Ahmad Gharabli
Debate between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine students raged on at Associated Students of Claremont McKenna Executive Board meetings in recent weeks. The conflict began when two Jewish students proposed that the body officially adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism. The IHRA holds that denying Israel's right to exist is antisemitic. Many rallied around their definition. Others opposed it, fearing it would chill open discourse relating to the right of the state of Israel to exist and thwart Palestinian organizing.
On February 26, supporters of Israel and Palestine attended the Board's meeting to discuss its adoption of the definition. The two sides went back and forth. While tensions were high, the discussion remained largely civil. In the end, the Board did not reach a consensus and postponed its vote until the next meeting.
When the Board reconvened on March 5, it faced an equally large and agitated audience. The Board was set to vote on two new measures: one to create a group of Jewish students to define antisemitism for ASCMC, and the other to create an interfaith committee to address the needs of students of all religions on campus.
After hours of arguments and procedural technicalities, the voting began. A Jewish student proposed to create a committee to define antisemitism composed of student government members and representatives from Jewish life organizations such as Hillel, Chabad, and Nishmat. The Executive Board voted down his proposal by a 6-5 vote.
Students for Justice in Palestine modified the proposal, advocating the creation of an interfaith working group to define antisemitism. Many Jewish campus leaders were not fond of their new proposal, many of them hold that SJP is antisemitic. The Jewish student who made the initial proposals commented, “Any group but Jewish groups defining antisemitism is absurd.”
The Executive Board turns over every year when students take spring break. On March 19, the Executive Board re-convened with newly elected officers. Student Body President Zane Yamamoto proposed and unanimously passed a resolution for the creation of a Special Committee on Antisemitism and the Jewish Community. The Special Committee is charged with writing a report about campus antisemitism that can include policy recommendations for CMC's student government. The group will dissolve once the report is finalized unless otherwise stipulated.
The Special Committee will be composed of one non-voting chairperson, eight CMC student representatives chosen by the four primary Jewish life groups on campus (Chabad, Hillel, Nishmat, and Haverim), and four officers and staff from the student government. Guests can be invited at the discretion of the committee. There was no mention of the IHRA definition of antisemitism in this proposal.
The Executive Board also unanimously passed a separate resolution to form the Committee to Consider an Interfaith Working Group. The group will reach out to other student governments, campus religious organizations, and college administrators to address the needs of religious students of all faiths.
Lastly, the Executive Board approved a statement condemning antisemitism. A statement is simply the opinion of the Board — it is not policy unto itself. Past statements expressed the Board’s preference for a “universal pass” policy during the pandemic and condemnation of anti-black racism. The statement has not yet been released.
Correction (March 28): A past version of this article characterized the email sent out by the ASCMC executive board on Aug. 9 regarding the Racial-Ethnic Studies GE as a statement expressing support for the GE. This is incorrect. The board was only passing along the opinion of the two professors who proposed the GE.
Disclosure: One of the Jewish students who introduced the initial resolution has contributed to the Independent in the past and is a member of the staff. He was not involved in the writing of this article.