House Approves 'Antisemitism Awareness Act' Aimed At Cracking Down On Campus Protests

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, May 01, 2024 - 10:45 PM

Late in the afternoon Wednesday the House approved a bill which seeks to crack down on antisemitism on college and university campuses following days of protests and unrest driven by pro-Palestinian activists.

The Antisemitism Awareness Act has been approved in a 320-91 vote and will now head to the Senate. But the central question is: how and by what measure will federal authorities crack down on speech deemed "antisemitic"?

Will criticism of the government of Israel be deemed antisemitic? Will highlighting alleged war crimes or human rights abuses by the IDF be considered so? Will involvement in the BDS movement be deemed anti-Jewish? Will slogans such as "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" be illegal according to federal law? Will criticizing the US $3+ billion in annual foreign aid be considered anti-Jewish? 

And what of the many Jewish protesters who are engaged in speech condemning the nation-state of Israel? 

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters who define themselves as anti-Zionist have become a common scene at major rallies in places like New York City or London. via AFP

Already, active participation in causes boycotting Israel is 'illegal' in a number of US states (typically taking the form of prohibiting state agencies from engaging with companies involved in BDS).

According to an explanation of the definition of antisemitism outlined by the new House-passed bill

The bill would require the Department of Education to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism when enforcing antidiscrimination laws.

The group defines antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews” and says “Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The organization provides a number of examples for what qualifies as antisemitism, including calling for the harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion, and accusing Jewish individuals as inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

By this measure, even theoretical historical discussions or interpretation could be considered illegal (such has long been the case in some European countries).

Like with any attempt to legislate limits related to the 1st Amendment, this is certainly going to prove very slippery — especially if it gets signed into law and then comes the question of actual enforcement on the ground.

A tiny minority of Republicans are voicing fierce opposition to the bill...

Currently and historically, pro-Israel hawks who advocate for sending billions in American taxpayer dollars to Israel each year tend to accuse any and all opponents of such policies of being antisemitic. Some independent journalists say they've struggled to find blatant examples of people being targeted in antisemitic attacks on campuses for the sole reason of being Jewish

So if the federal government gets involved in these polemical and semantic games, where will it end?