Anti-Semitism Bill Passes House In The Midst Of Student Unrest

  • Protests at college campuses have drawn condemnation from lawmakers across the US.
  • College students have been suspended and expelled for their participation in the demonstrations.
  • Lawmakers in the House recently passed a measure to tackle the problem.
  • First Amendment advocacy organizations are crying foul.

( – Protests against universities’ connections to Israel have rocked schools across the country. Students have broken into buildings and occupied encampments on the school grounds. The University of Columbia and others have suspended and even expelled students involved in the demonstrations.

Lawmakers recently brought a bill to the floor that addresses the issue.

Antisemitism Awareness Act

On May 1, the House of Representatives passed the Antisemitism Awareness Act, to allow authorities to crack down on protests at colleges across the country. The legislation would adopt the definition of antisemitism put forth by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The organization defines antisemitism as not just including hate for Jewish people but also criticism of the Israeli government. According to the legislation, the law would ban speech that includes “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and applying standards to the Israeli government that aren’t “expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” Additionally, it would prohibit speech that compares the current Israeli government’s policies to Nazi Germany.

The law would allow the Department of Education to revoke funding, including federal research grants, from schools if they don’t take punitive action against students protesting the foreign government. The Washington Post reported Rep. Marcus J. Molinaro (R-NY) said protesters who erect encampments aren’t exercising their First Amendment rights, they’re directly threatening Jewish students.

The House passed the legislation by a margin of 320 to 91. Twenty-one Republicans and 70 Democrats voted against the bill.

Civil Rights Groups Protest

Tyler Coward, with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a First Amendment advocacy group, told The WaPo that the Constitution does not “say that you can criticize a certain country up to a certain limit” or worry about violating anti-discrimination laws. He said the freedom of speech allows people to “criticize every country in the world,” including America.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a statement condemning the passage of the bill, saying it “threatens to censor political speech critical of Israel” and is against the First Amendment.

The ACLU’s Christopher Anders said it’s important to address the “rising antisemitism” across the country, but the legislation would use the full weight of the government to “stifle criticism of Israel.” He called on the Senate to block the bill.

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