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Bipartisan Members of Congress and Jewish Professors Oppose Anti-Semitism Bill – National

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A coalition of Republican and Democratic lawmakers, nearly 700 Jewish professors and others are opposing an anti-Semitism bill sent to the U.S. Senate, arguing it is unconstitutional and does not adequately address anti-Semitism.

Following the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, pro-Hamas riots and violence against Jewish students erupted on college campuses, prompting U.S. Rep. Michael Lawler, R-NY, to introduce the Antisemitism Awareness Act.

The bill’s summary states that it provides legal authority to require the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to “consider the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism when assessing whether investigating complaints of discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance.” The IHRA definition states: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which can be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed against Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, against Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

It cites examples of anti-Semitism occurring in public life, the media, schools and the workplace, including denying the Holocaust, accusing Jews or the State of Israel of inventing or exaggerating it; “calling for, aiding or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion; make lying, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotyping accusations about Jews… such as… Jews who control the media, the economy, the government, or other social institutions; denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination… by claiming, among other things, that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

The bill passed the U.S. House on May 1 by a vote of 320 to 91, with 70 Democrats and 21 Republicans opposed. So far, the Senate has taken no action on the bill.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-NY, the longest-serving Jewish Democrat in the House of Representatives, strongly opposed the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, saying it “may include protected speech in some contexts, especially with regard to criticism of the state of Israel. … Statements that are merely critical of Israel do not constitute unlawful discrimination.”

Nearly 700 Jewish faculty members from American colleges across the country agreed, arguing: “Criticism of the State of Israel, the Israeli government, the policies of the Israeli government, or Zionist ideology is not in itself anti-Semitic.” They urged Congress to “reject any attempt to codify in federal law a definition of anti-Semitism that confuses anti-Semitism with criticism of the State of Israel,” including codifying the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism, “which is internationally has been criticized for mixing anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism. of Israel.”

Nadler states that the DOE OCR is already investigating discrimination, including claims of anti-Semitism. Center Square first reported that it is currently investigating 100 claims of alleged Title VI violations at colleges and universities.

Some Republicans in the House of Representatives also opposed the bill, claiming it is unconstitutional and would criminalize Christian beliefs.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, said she opposed it because it “could convict Christians of anti-Semitism because they believe the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews.”

She points to an example stating that “the symbols and images associated with classical anti-Semitism (for example, claims that Jews killed Jesus are a blood libel) are used to characterize Israel or Israelis.”

Bible-believing Christians believe that Jesus, a Jew, fulfills Old Testament prophecies as the Messiah and son of God. They also believe the New Testament Gospel accounts, which say that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, ordered Jesus killed after Jewish religious leaders accused him of committing sedition. Christians also point to the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ disciple Peter and the apostle Paul, who said he was murdered by fellow Jews.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, said he voted against the “ridiculous hate speech bill” because it “was written without regard to the Constitution, common sense or even the common understanding of its meaning of words. The Gospel itself would meet the definition of anti-Semitism under the terms of this bill.” Quoting Bible texts, he said, “The Bible is clear in that its words would clearly, textually, violate this law. That is insane – and in major conflict with the First Amendment.”

Last week, President Joe Biden said those who call for Israel’s destruction and support Hamas’s “horrendous use of sexual violence to torture and terrorize Jews” are “absolutely despicable and it must stop.”

Nadler and other Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced a resolution calling for implementation of the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism and increased funding for enforcement of DOE OCR Title VI.