Statements & Analyses Opposing Federal IHRA legislation (2024)

Resource

Free Speech – general (right & left)

  • The Hill/Emily Kao (Alliance Defending Freedom) 5/18/24: Congress can help colleges counter antisemitism through free speech [“The bill puts a thumb on the scale against certain statements by incorporating a definition of antisemitism that expressly includes the content and viewpoint of speech. This opens the door to government censorship and punishment of speech. It’s easy to envision how the government could wield this power against other viewpoints, including pro-Israel and philosemitic views.”]
  • The Progressive/Stephen Zunes 5/18/24: The Chilling Effect of Equating Criticism of Israel to Antisemitism [“…the bill would require the Department of Education to consider the failure of a college or university to suppress protected speech as actionable harassment under Title VI. If this measure becomes law, pro-Israel Jewish students could claim that being exposed to anti-Israel speech or activism creates a ‘hostile environment’ for them as Jews. Their institution would then be responsible for suppressing said speech in order to avoid being sued by the federal government for allowing activities supposedly motivated by antisemitism.“]
  • The Hill/Benjamin Balthazar 5/16/24: The Antisemitism Awareness Act bars the teaching of modern Jewish history [“…There is no other definition of bigotry in the world that equates criticism of a state, even harsh and unfair criticism, with discrimination or bigotry against the state’s people. If one claimed that denunciations of the violent foundations of the Russian empire are ‘anti-Slavic’ or ‘racist against Russians,’ we would immediately see through that as just an instrumentalist defense of Russian state interests. Perhaps the strangest part of the push for the government to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism as part of federal civil rights law is just how much Jewish history and culture would be banned from university classrooms and student organizations. Hannah Arendt, one of the most important Jewish philosophers of the 20th century and herself a Holocaust refugee, abandoned her youthful Zionism by the mid-1940s to become one of Zionism’s most scathing critics when it became clear that Israel would become not a state for all its people but only for Jews.”]
  • Los Angeles Times (editorial board) 5/14/24: House antisemitism bill would stymie speech, wouldn’t help students [“The problem with the Antisemitism Awareness Act is that it directs the Education Department to “take into consideration” the working definition of antisemitism promulgated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance when determining whether there has been a Title VI violation. That definition offers examples of what everyone would regard as antisemitism. But it also gives as examples of antisemitism criticisms of Israel that, even if they are unfair, are protected speech…Protecting all students from harassment and intimidation on the basis of their identity is a vital objective. But it can and must be accomplished without infringing on freedom of speech.“]
  • Ryan Bangert/Daily Signal 5/14/24: Common Sense vs. Antisemitism [“The House recently passed a bill called the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which requires the Department of Education to use a definition of antisemitism developed by an international organization when assessing Title VI violations. However, the definition covers several examples of vile, but legally protected, speech—a highly concerning precedent. The campus protests arrive at a time when basic respect for, and understanding of, freedom of speech is receding. Large percentages of students express a willingness to ban controversial speakers from campus, and equally large percentages of adults are willing to use the government to restrict what they deem misinformation. This moment of confusion creates a generational opportunity to reinvigorate a robust national understanding of the First Amendment and respect for our rich heritage of freedom of speech within a context of ordered liberty. But for that to happen, we must clearly articulate and explain, in plain terms, how that heritage applies to our current challenges. First, the government should not prohibit speech unless it falls within narrowly defined, and well-accepted, categories of unprotected speech. That includes even speech that most civilized people would consider reprehensible, but that protection stops short at statements intended and likely to incite imminent violence or statements conveying a serious intent to physically harm a person or group. Most, but certainly not all, of the protesters’ speech is protected under that framework.”]
  • Thomas Knapp/Counterpunch 5/14/24: We’ve Already Got an “Antisemitism Awareness Act.” It’s Called the First Amendment. [“We already have laws against violence and harrassment, which apply whether the victims are Jewish or not. We also have a First Amendment which protects the right to free speech, even if that speech criticizes Israel — and even if that speech is ACTUALLY antisemitic — whether the speakers are Jews or non-Jews. ‘If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education,’ the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, ‘the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.’”
  • Jonathan Zimmerman/Chicago Tribune 5/13/24: Don’t shut down debate about Israel and antisemitism [“Everything — and I do mean everything — is about Israel, which is held to a different standard. Is that antisemitic? As a historian — and as a Jew — I think it is. But I don’t want Congress to prohibit it. That’s what could happen under the Antisemitism Awareness Act passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month, which encodes the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism into federal anti-discrimination law. The IHRA says that ‘applying double standards’ is an example of hatred against Jews…So what? Why should a school allowing antisemitism get any taxpayer dollars at all? Here’s why: Put simply, we disagree about what constitutes anti-Jewish hatred. And if we enshrine one definition, we’ll preclude debate over it. That’s what advocates for the bill want, of course. But our entire university system is premised upon dialogue, discussion and the free exchange of ideas. And this measure is a dagger at the heart of that ideal. If my colleagues or students think that academic programs in Israel should be shut down, I want to hear why. I also want to know why they think Zionism is racism, Israel is a colonial state and Jews exert too much power in national and international politics.  All of those claims would arguably become illegal under the new law…” He also describes the AAA as “this awful bill“]
  • Bret Stephens/New York Times 5/13/24: Hold On to Your Hats, America [“…Did I mention that I’m not a fan of the Antisemitism Awareness Act that passed the House the other week? It might surprise a few of our readers…It embraces an expansive definition of antisemitism, known as the I.H.R.A. definition, after the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and effectively criminalizes a wide range of speech that is generally abhorrent but shouldn’t be criminalized. Much as I hate antisemitism, I also don’t think laws against “hate speech,” including against my own group, should be in federal legislation. And I don’t think conservatives who complain about campus speech codes should be in the business of writing those codes themselves…The best way to defeat antisemitism is first to understand what it is, to teach people why it’s evil and to call it out when it happens. That’s a job for civil society, not the government.”]
  • Conor Friedersdorf/The Atlantic 5/11/24: The Wrong Way to Fight Anti-Semitism on Campus [“…Interpreting Title VI has always been difficult and contested, particularly when speech that is protected by the First Amendment is alleged to be discriminatory as well. The act should be rejected by the Senate. Its definition of anti-Semitism is too expansive to serve as a unifying standard in academia, and it doubles down on an approach to antidiscrimination that chills free speech while failing to reduce hate.“]
  • Common Dreams/Ellen Cantarow & Jennifer Loewenstein 5/10/24: Weaponizing Antisemitism — Why we must maintain our focus on the agonies of Gaza and the West Bank, denouncing them and calling for an end to Israel’s assaults.
  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)/Washington Post 5/8/24: I’m Jewish. Here’s why I voted against the Antisemitism Awareness Act. — Combating antisemitism is vital. The bill the House just passed is the wrong way to do it. [“While I support the sentiment expressed by its sponsors, this bill does nothing to fight antisemitism in any meaningful way. Instead, it merely tinkers with definitions and could ultimately make investigating antisemitism on campuses more difficult in the future. In addition to trampling the free-speech rights of students and professors, this bill was disingenuously designed to split the Democratic caucus and score cheap political points. Specifically, the billwould require the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to use the definition of antisemitism put forth by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and only this definition, when investigating claims of antisemitism on campus. This might not seem like a big deal, but the IHRA definition includes examples of antisemitism that might sweep in perfectly valid criticism of the state of Israel that, alone, does not necessarily constitute unlawful harassment or antisemitism. To be clear, I strongly disagree with the anti-Israel sentiments being expressed at certain campus protests. I do not believe Israel is a racist endeavor, nor do I think it’s appropriate to draw comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis. But categorically banning this kind of speech, as the Antisemitism Awareness Act threatens to do, is antithetical to our values as Americans — which, as a member of Congress and a lawyer who has fought in Congress to protect the right to free speech, I am bound to defend,even if I strongly disagree.As written, this bill could strip students and professors of their right to engage with others and with their college administrations on a critical matter of national importance. I want my Jewish community to feel safe on campus, but I do not need it shielded from controversial views simply because those views are unpopular…”]
  • Murtaza Hussein/The Intercept 5/8/24: They Used to Say Arabs Can’t Have Democracy Because It’d Be Bad for Israel. Now the U.S. Can’t Have It Either. [“Last week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill called the Antisemitism Awareness Act. While on its face the bill simply seeks to express Congress’s view in favor of tackling anti-Jewish bigotry, in reality its provisions would encode a controversial definition of antisemitism geared at inoculating Israel from criticism.“]
  • Connecticut Public Radio 5/7/24: Former ACLU leader explains opposition to federal antisemitism bill
  • Religion Dispatches 5/7/24: The Antisemitism Awareness Act Just Passed by the House Would Actually Increase Anti-Jewish Violence [“When powerful public institutions like Congress take the formal, legal position that Israel (and its policies) equals Jews (everywhere)—such that criticizing one is attacking the other—it actively works against raising public awareness of the very real problems of anti-Jewishness and antisemitism. Rather than teach people the difference (that anti-Israel protests cannot be directed against Jews in general), it tells those engaging in anti-Jewish or antisemitic attacks as part of their opposition to Israel’s actions that they are in fact correct in equating Jews everywhere with Israeli actions—but that it’s criminally wrong to disagree with Israel’s actions. Such a message not only promotes the same categorical mistakes that have been fostering anti-Jewish and antisemitic attacks, but it also legally dictates which political views people are permitted to hold.“]
  • Michelle Goldberg/New York Times 5/6/24: Senators Need to Stop the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act [“…Should the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act become law, there’s no reason to believe that only those views that liberals find most objectionable will be targeted. Stefanik and her allies, after all, are currently attacking Harvard for having the heroic Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, as a commencement speaker, because Ressa’s publication called for a cease-fire in Gaza and because she signed an open letter about the killing of Gazan journalists. As the war in Israel moves into a brutal new phase, so do efforts to stifle those speaking out against it. The Republican Party and the radical edge of the pro-Palestinian left both share an interest in discrediting the modern liberal university by making it look at once hypocritical and ineffectual. Liberals shouldn’t help them….“]
  • The Bulwark 5/6/24: Fighting Antisemitism or Chilling Speech? — The Antisemitism Awareness Act—which the House passed last week—has provoked cross-ideological opposition.
  • Philadelphia Tribune 5/5/24 (editorial): House bill is a threat to freedom of speech
  • Politico 5/4/24: ‘The Republicans Are Being Total Hypocrites’ – Rep. Jerry Nadler hits back against GOP efforts to weaponize antisemitism. [“…there are three extant definitions. One is by IHRA. One is the Nexus definition and the other is the Jerusalem definition. They’re all equally valid. They all give different examples for perceptions of antisemitism, and none of them should be enshrined into law. The chief author of the IHRA definition, Kenneth Stern, said don’t codify this. Don’t make it part of any law because these are examples that may indicate antisemitism but don’t necessarily in every case, and to enshrine it into law — he thought and a lot of other people think — would be destructive of free speech. It could make criticism, under certain circumstances, of Israeli government policy antisemitic, which it clearly isn’t.“]
  • The Free Press/Christopher Rufo & Jenin Younes 5/3/24: Don’t Expand DEI. Dismantle It. —  We come from two sides of the political spectrum, write Christopher F. Rufo and Jenin Younes. But both of us agree that the Antisemitism Awareness Act is profoundly misguided. [“‘Hate speech’ provisions…are unnecessary, ill-defined, and often in conflict with fundamental First Amendment rights. Contrary to popular belief, the First Amendment protects ‘hate speech,’ in part precisely because of the difficulty defining the term, and also because such determinations are subjective. Under this new legislation, certain phrases and arguments, some of which are subject to reasonable contestation, could be treated as de facto evidence of discriminatory intent. (For example, arguing in favor of a one-state solution to the Israeli-Hamas conflict could be deemed violative on the grounds it denies the Jewish people a right to a state.)…The second problem with the Antisemitism Awareness Act, especially for conservatives and civil libertarians, is that it operates using the same coercive and corrosive principles as DEI. The legislation codifies an ideologically charged definition of antisemitism into law, provides special protections based on group identity, and expands anti-discrimination enforcement to include constitutionally protected speech.  This is precisely how existing DEI bureaucracies operate on campus, with disastrous results.  From a political perspective, this legislation is also a failure. While the left has embraced special protections for their favored minorities, it now appears to many that the political right is doing the same, only now for Jewish Americans. Similar bills are passing through numerous state legislatures from New York to Georgia. Anyone who worries about pitting identity groups against one another, or is repelled at the idea that some Americans deserve more protections than others, should oppose all of this proposed legislation. It violates our country’s most fundamental principles, including the letter and spirit of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, which guarantee Americans the rights to free speech and equal treatment under the law, regardless of their racial, ethnic, or religious identity.”]
  • Hayes Brown, MSNBC 5/3/24: Why the House’s latest antisemitism bill is an attack on free speech — The Antisemitism Awareness Act would do little to protect Jewish students but plenty to stifle criticism of Israel. [“...it would likely have a chilling effect in classrooms and on college campuses. There likely would be an even higher surge in conflation between antisemitism, which targets Jews for who they are, and criticism of Israeli politics and policies than we’ve already seen. That was the main point the American Civil Liberties Union made in a letter to lawmakers last week encouraging them to vote against the bill.“]
  • Patriot Post/Nate Jackson 5/3/24: Suppressing Free Speech Is Not the Anti-Semitism Solution — Combatting bigotry is a great idea, but the best way to do that is with more, not less, free speech. [“Leftists have been relentlessly assaulting free speech for several years now. In fact, the attack on the First Amendment might be the gravest threat to American Liberty today. So, what did House Republicans do? Pass a bill that stands on shaky ground when it comes to the First Amendment…“]
  • CATO 5/3/24: Feds Should Leave Campus Unrest to Others [“On Wednesday, the House of Representatives took its most concrete action to date, largely spurred by the scenes on college campuses across the country. It passed the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which would require the US Department of Education to “take into consideration” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) “working definition of antisemitism” when investigating schools for civil rights violations. Essentially, the department would judge if an incident was driven by antisemitism, and presumably if a college were allowing antisemitism to exist on campus. The problem is that the definition includes all kinds of speech, most of which is not inherently threatening. Government punishment for such speech would be a fundamental violation of First Amendment rights.”]
  • Eugene Volokh, Reason Magazine 5/3/24: “Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023” (Which Just Passed the House) Could Suppress First-Amendment-Protected Criticism of Israel [“...one problem with HR6090 (as well as the hypothetical proposed statute related to speech about Palestinians) is that speech has in recent years often been labeled discrimination, on the theory that certain statements create a ‘hostile environment’ and therefore violate antidiscrimination rules. Under this theory, a rule that ‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’ is evidence of a Title VI violation means that a university could be punished under Title VI for allowing speech drawing such comparisons. Likewise, drawing such comparisons would violate campus speech codes that ban ‘discrimination’ and ‘harassment.’  As David Bernstein has pointed out, the problem here partly stems from the view that public comments by students, professors, and others can violate antidiscrimination law if they create a ‘hostile educational environment’ based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, and the like. Many courts have struck down campus speech codes framed in such terms, but the government and various universities have continued to assert that such speech restrictions are constitutional. But HR6090, it seems to me, would exacerbate the problem by sweeping in anti-Israel speech (and not just overtly anti-Jewish speech) as potentially punishable ‘discrimination.’ Both anti-Israel speech and anti-Jewish speech are protected by the First Amendment (unless they fall within one of the narrow exception to First Amendment protection, such as for true threats). But broadening the unconstitutional restrictions is surely not a step forward. Nor do I think that the provision that, ‘Nothing in this Act shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,’ helps much. The problem is that government officials often tend not to recognize that various speech, especially speech that is viewed as bigoted or ‘discriminatory,’ is protected by the First Amendment. HR6090, notwithstanding this proviso, tends to reinforce this attitude.“]
  • David Horovitz/The Blaze 5/3/24:  A better way to fight Jew hatred on college campuses
  • The Federalist 5/2/24: Republicans’ ‘Antisemitism’ Bill Merely Gives Feds More Power To Trample Free Speech [“Republicans in Congress are pushing legislation that would formally adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as a basis for prosecuting federal antidiscrimination statutes — a move that critics such as Wyoming Rep. Harriet Hageman say ‘provides no actual relief for terrorized Jewish students and infringes on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.‘”]
  • Matt Walsh 5/2/24: X-post — “Why the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” is one of the worst pieces of legislation ever conceived” [with video from the Matt Walsh Show”]
    • Elon Musk 5/2/24: X-post, commenting on Matt Walsh post – “This bill might have the opposite effect of its objective
  • Huffington Post 5/2/24: The House Passed A Bill To Fight Antisemitism. Here’s Why Critics Call It Misleading. [“A bill expanding the definition of antisemitism was passed on Wednesday by a bipartisan vote in the House — but despite the legislation on its face claiming to help federal officials better protect Jewish students on school campuses, critics say it is misleading and will only serve to crack down on the free speech rights of students currently protesting Israel’s ongoing military offensive in Gaza and the U.S. government’s continued support.”]
  • Jason Willick/Washington Post 5/2/24: How civil rights law distorts the anti-Zionism vs. antisemitism debate [“Many of the acts at anti-Israel campus protests have been unlawful on their face, and local police should handle lawbreaking. But the IHRA definition would widen the net. More anti-Zionist or anti-Israel speech could face federal scrutiny for violating civil rights law. The First Amendment concerns about this legislation are serious, but put them to one side for a second. The entire civil-rights-based system for regulating the Israel debate is flawed. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the legislation would imply that the reason the federal government should crack down on anti-Zionist campus advocacy is because it is antisemitic. That misstates the problem in American society that the protests represent.“]
  • Batya Ungar-Sargon (Newsweek) 5/1/24: X-thread — “It’s nice to see bipartisan support for Jews but this congressional bill to expand the definition of antisemitism is bad for the U.S. and bad for Jews. This country was literally founded on the idea that there should be no government reprisals for speech, including hate speech. Add to that the fact that the IHRA definition of antisemitism is awful—vague, overly broad, and reliant on examples. It’s useless. Universities already have laws protecting Jewish students from discrimination. They didn’t enforce them, and they are going to pay for that in court. We don’t protect American Jews from hate by turning on the values this great nation was founded on. We do so by embracing a country that has always protected us, by embracing what makes this country unique, a big part of which is the First Amendment! t’s true that a bunch of LARPers in midriff kefiyas with oppression envy intimidated universities into discriminating against Jews. But that problem is a symptom of what truly ails us. The real problem is that the system is set up to reward these nincompoops with a lock on political and economic power, while the Americans who have our backs and who would never allow antisemitism to take hold in this country are struggling to survive and have no voice. I know this view isn’t going to be popular, but to be an American is to believe that if you can’t win by convincing enough people, you don’t deserve to win. And what can I say? I’m very, very American!
    • Bill Ackman 5/2/24: X-post responding to BatyaI agree. The problem is not hate speech. The problem is the actions taken by protesters and others that are in violation of existing Federal or State laws or university codes of conduct that are not enforced. We should not impair free speech. We should simply enforce the law.
  • Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) 5/1/24: X-thread opposing HR 6090 [“Today, Congress will vote on legislation that will stifle free speech on campus and unconstitutionally restrict expression protected by the First Amendment. Members should vote no. 2/ The bill would adopt an unconstitutionally vague and overbroad definition of anti-Semitism, which colleges would be required to use on campus. 3/ For example, the proposed bill would pressure colleges to censor speech critical of Israel unless the speaker engages in criticism of Israel “similar to that leveled against any other country.” That’s impossibly subjective and will only make students and faculty think twice before engaging in constitutionally protected speech. 4/ If enacted, the Antisemitism Awareness Act will chill core political speech about the Israel/Palestine conflict on our nation’s campuses — the places where difficult conversations and debates are supposed to flourish. 5/ FIRE has been leading the fight against this unconstitutional legislation since 2016. We’ll continue to oppose this unconstitutional bill in the halls of Congress — or in the courts if necessary...”]
  • SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) 5/1/24: Letter to House members opposing HR 6090 [“On behalf of the SPLC Action Fund, we write to urge you to oppose H.R. 6090, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, when it comes to the House floor later this week. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 currently prohibits antisemitic discrimination and harassment by institutions receiving federal funding. At a time of escalating concerns about antisemitism, adoption of this harmful and unnecessary legislation would increase division and polarization – and do nothing to meaningfully counter antisemitism. The Antisemitism Awareness Act would mandate that the Department of Education consider the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including its “contemporary examples,” in Title VI anti-discrimination investigations. Although not legally binding, this definition includes examples that overlap with First Amendment-protected speech, thereby blurring the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies or government and antisemitism. This conflation raises serious concerns about potential restrictions on free speech and the broad application of antisemitism to political discourse.“]
  • Massie (R-KY) 5/1/24: X-threadToday the House will vote on a bill to define antisemitism with the intent to increase prosecutions of activity on campuses. The bill has a problem beyond violating the 1st Amdt: The definition of antisemitism appears no where in the bill! Why? To find the legally adopted definition of antisemitism, one must go to this website below. Not only is the definition listed there, but one also finds specific examples of antisemitic speech. Are those examples made part of the law as well? Do you agree with all of these examples of antisemitism? Should people in America be prosecuted for saying these things in all contexts? I think not. This is a poorly conceived unconstitutional bill and I will vote no.
  • PEN America 5/1/24: Bill Intended to Combat Antisemitism Could Also Undermine Free Speech, Academic Freedom and Legitimate Political Discourse [“PEN America said it was gravely concerned over adoption by the House of Representatives on Wednesday of H.R.6090, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which it characterized as an overbroad bill that could harm academic freedom, free speech, and legitimate political speech. Combating antisemitic speech and bigotry is an urgent imperative and one that PEN America seeks. In light of the significant rise in antisemitic incidents around the country, the goal is more important than ever, the free speech and free expression organization said. However, the bill would adopt the definition of antisemitism set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) for the enforcement of federal anti-discrimination laws in education programs or activities.  This definition, and its illustrative examples, is overbroad; its enshrinement into law could lead  to significant impairment of academic freedom, free speech and legitimate political expression. Codifying the IHRA definition, which was never intended to be legally binding or otherwise codified into law, is not the right way to attack antisemitic speech and bigotry. Its vague nature is ill-suited to serve as a legal standard, much less form a basis for punitive action. ‘We urge the Senate to reject the companion bill (S.3141) and instead focus on efforts that will both address antisemitism and protect free expression,’ PEN America stated.”]
  • ACLU 4/26/24: Letter to Congress – ACLU Urges House of Representatives to Oppose Anti-semitism Awareness Act [“The American Civil Liberties Union strongly urges you to oppose H.R.6090, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.Federal law already prohibits antisemitic discrimination and harassment by federally funded entities. H.R. 6090 is therefore not needed to protect against antisemitic discrimination; instead, it would likely chill free speech of students on college campuses by incorrectly equating criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism. The ACLU will score this vote.” [emphasis in the original]
  • Fox News 5/3/24: House-passed antisemitism bill may violate First Amendment warn critics: ‘Misguided and harmful’

Free Speech – Jewish (Left & Right)

  • Miko Zeldes-Roth/The Hill 5/12/24: The Antisemitism Awareness Act is bad for American Jews — here’s why [“…Collapsing Jewishness into Zionism implicitly accepts the precept that Jewishness is a nationality — and, by extension, that Israel is the state of the Jewish people (as codified by the 2018 Israeli nation-state law). In presuming that all Jews are either Israeli nationals or Israeli nationals in-waiting, efforts to synonymize Jewishness and Zionism risk provoking questions of dual loyalty in the U.S. — the idea that Jews aren’t really loyal to the country in which they reside. Given the long history of antisemitism, the Jewish community should be extraordinarily wary of supporting any kind of legislation that intimates, however remotely, the notion that Jews are not true Americans.“]
  • Oren Schweitzer/Jacobin 5/5/24: Congress’s Antisemitism Bill Is an Insult to Jewish History [“…Jewish anti-Zionism not only has a rich history, but until the Holocaust was the dominant politics of international Judaism. While many survivors were convinced that their earlier ideas were naive, internalizing the fascist premise that Jews will never have a place in broader society, and many more were won over to Zionism in the years following the establishment of Israel, Zionism’s rise to dominance within institutional Judaism must be understood in the context of the extermination of millions of anti-Zionist and non-Zionist Jews in concentration camps. Congress is currently seeking to pass a bill that would cast the views of millions of Jewish Holocaust victims as anti-Jewish and beyond the pale and would suppress those at schools throughout the country from freely discussing their ideas. In doing so, they are spitting on the graves of our ancestors.”]
  • The Forward/Alan Solow 5/3/24: The GOP antisemitism bill harms more than it helps [“Distinctions and nuances are vital for developing strategies to fight this prejudice. If those with whom we disagree about Israel — sometimes vehemently — are labeled antisemitic without regard to nuance or context, they will not join us in coalition against anti-Jewish bigotry.”]
  • Tablet Magazine (editorial board) 5/3/24: Not in Our Name — Politicians are using the rise in antisemitism as an excuse to curtail free speech and expand their own power. Jews must not let them. [“…The freedom and successes that Jews have enjoyed in America have been due to the protections afforded by our Constitution, and the respect for individual rights that became part of our culture. The most legitimate tax we owe—to each other, to our fellow citizens, and to those who fought for our right as Americans to say whatever the fuck we want—is the work we are asked to put in, day in and day out, to protect that freedom.“]
  • T’ruah 5/2/24: X-thread — “We are in touch daily with rabbis and community members facing bomb threats, violence, and harassment. We need bold and decisive action to confront the rise in antisemitic incidents. This bill is NOT IT. This ill-conceived bill would enshrine a divisive definition of antisemitism into federal law and threaten free speech. The Senate must not pass this bill.
  • Salon 5/2/24: Jewish groups decry House passage of bill defining criticism of Israel as “antisemitism”
  • Omer Bartov/Moment Magazine 5/2/24: Silencing Criticism in the Name of Antisemitism Awareness [“…defining criticism of Israel as antisemitic is the best way to help the current Israeli leadership practice unchallenged extremist, racist policies. But it is also a convenient way to make extremist, bigoted, racist and, yes, also antisemitic American and European leaders look squeaky clean. Describing liberal and tolerant opinion, concern with human rights and equality, and opposition to oppression and displacement as antisemitic legitimizes those who would like to practice precisely those very same policies against their own minorities, opponents and critics. This is what the weaponization of antisemitism means—using allegations of antisemitism to practice intolerance and authoritarianism.“]
  • Bend the Arc 5/1/24: X-thread (with video) — “Today the House votes on the gag legislation they’re calling the “Antisemitism Awareness Act”. Antisemitism is a serious problem, but codifying a legal definition could have dangerous implications for free speech.  Currently, there push for Congress to codify the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. With its its broad and problematic characterization of antisemitism, the IHRA definition poses a particular threat to open discourse. The IHRA definition can be easily be misappropriated to suppress and stifle legitimate criticism and dissent. Even the lead drafter of the IHRA definition has spoken out against it being adopted a legal framework. We oppose adopting any legal definition of antisemitism that poses a threat to free speech and legitimate criticism.  No other oppression is singularly defined in the law this way. Antisemitism should not be exceptionalized, especially in a way that locks its definition into just one framework and understanding. We must dismantle antisemitism, in solidarity with all who are threatened by white supremacy, but a legal definition can be used to divide us — from other Jews & from our allies. Visit bendthearc.us/ihra to sign a petition rejecting codification of the IHRA.
  • Kenneth Stern, lead author of the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism, on Amanpour and Company 5/1/24: He Helped Define “Antisemitism”; Now He Says the Term Is Being Weaponized (video)
  • Jewish Voice for Peace 5/1/24: X-threadToday, the House will vote on the so-called “Antisemtism Awareness Act”. This legislation would do nothing to fight antisemitism. Instead, it would enable repression of students and faculty advocating for Palestinian rights. Tell your rep to vote NO. Last night, as NYPD stormed Columbia’s campus, we saw how far some university administrations are willing to go to stop students from speaking out for Palestinian rights. At the core of these attacks is the false conflation of criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism. HR 6090 would direct the Dept of Education to use the IHRA working group definition of antisemitism, a controversial and dangerous mis-definition that does not help fight real antisemitism and is only a tool for silencing the movement for Palestinian rights.The Israeli government’s bombardment and siege of Gaza has killed over 34,000 people in six months. Congress must stop attacking the students and faculty members who are trying to stop this genocide, and instead focus on ending US complicity in Israel’s attacks.
  • Americans for Peace Now 4/29/24: X-threadWe strongly oppose HR 6090, the Antisemitism Awareness Act. This misguided bill would codify the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and its examples. The IHRA definition is used as a cudgel against free speech and to quash legitimate criticism of the Israeli government. We are deeply concerned about the escalating antisemitism in the United States and globally. It is a serious and growing problem, and the need for a robust response to combat genuine instances of antisemitism is unquestionable. However, the IHRA definition, with its broad characterization of criticism of Israel, undermines the fight against antisemitism and poses a significant threat to free speech and open discourse. Equating criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism is a tactic used to stifle important discussions on Israeli policies and actions, thereby hindering the broader effort to combat true instances of hatred and discrimination against Jewish communities. So, just to be 100% clear, Americans for Peace Now urges all Members to vote NO on the Antisemitism Awareness Act (H.R. 6090). PS, everyone who said they support IHRA but are not looking to see it codified into law lied. They wanted it then and they are supporting it now.

Free Speech – Palestinian

  • Institute for Middle East Understanding 5/1/24: X-thread — “Now Congress is attacking them too. H.R.6090 is a shameful, GOP-led effort to stifle protected speech supporting Palestinian equality. H.R.6090 cherry-picks an inaccurate definition of antisemitism that conflates criticism of the Israeli government with bigotry. The purpose is simple and clear: to suppress the protected speech of people rightly protesting against US support for Israel’s war crimes. Jewish Voice for Peace, and over 350 scholars of Holocaust history, Jewish history & Middle East studies have criticized the inaccurate definition H.R. 6090 would require the Dept. of Education to use when determining if a Title VI violation of the Civil Rights Act has occurred. The diverse group of Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, Jewish, Black, and other students engaging in legitimate, peaceful protest speaks for millions of us who are horrified by what we are seeing in Gaza. Congress should be supporting these students, not repressing and attacking them.

Academia

  • Jewish Faculty (1162 signers as of 1:26pm ET, 5/14/24): Statement from Concerned Jewish Faculty Against Antisemitism [“Criticism of the state of Israel, the Israeli government, policies of the Israeli government, or Zionist ideology is not – in and of itself – antisemitic.  We accordingly urge our political leaders to reject any effort to codify into federal law a definition of antisemitism that conflates antisemitism with criticism of the state of Israel. This includes ongoing efforts to codify the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which has been internationally criticized for conflating antisemitism with legitimate criticism of Israel.  We hold varied opinions on Israel. Whatever our differences, we oppose the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism. If imported into federal law, the IHRA definition will delegitimize and silence Jewish Americans–among others–who advocate for Palestinian human rights or otherwise criticize Israeli policies. By stifling criticism of Israel, the IHRA definition hardens the dangerous notion that Jewish identity is inextricably linked to every decision of Israel’s government. Far from combating antisemitism, this dynamic promises to amplify the real threats Jewish Americans already face.  If our leaders are earnestly concerned with antisemitism, they should join hundreds of Jewish scholars from across the globe who have endorsed alternative definitions of antisemitism–such as those contained in the Nexus Document or Jerusalem Declaration. Unlike the IHRA definition, these documents offer meaningful tools to combat antisemitism without undermining Jewish safety and civil rights by insulating Israel from legitimate criticism.”]
  • Institute of Higher Education 5/3/24: What the ‘Antisemitism Awareness’ Bill Could Mean for Higher Ed [“
  • Middle East Studies Association/Committee on Academic Freedom 5/3/24: Letter to Senators Schumer and Sanders urging them to oppose H.R. 6090 which codifies the flawed IHRA definition of antisemitism [“We are fully aware of, and deeply troubled by, the rising tide of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and Islamophobia across the United States, and combatting antisemitism and all other forms of racism, bigotry and discrimination is an essential duty of our colleges and universities. However, by explicitly adopting the flawed IHRA definition of antisemitism and its accompanying examples as the only definition of antisemitism to be used by the federal government, including the Department of Education in its investigations of discrimination complaints under Title VI, this bill would actually hinder the struggle against antisemitism and gravely threaten both free speech and academic freedom…“]
  • American Association of University Professors 5/1/24: X-threadHere’s a quick thread clarifying the AAUP’s stance on antisemitism. The AAUP views the growth of antisemitism as a severe threat which can & should be addressed under existing civil rights laws as religious or race discrimination.We object, however, to the use of the IHRA definition, which expands the definition of antisemitism to encompass political criticisms of the state of Israel, which is speech protected by the First Amendment & #academicfreedom.  Such overly broad statutory restrictions create a chilling effect on teachers & students, who may avoid assigning reading materials or engaging in classroom discussions about controversial issues concerning the state of Israel or Zionism. As our Statement on Legislation Restricting Teaching about Race observes: ‘When politicians mandate academic content that faculty can & cannot teach or the scholarly areas they can or cannot research/study, they prevent colleges & universities from fulfilling their missions.” Such actions severely violate both academic freedom, the cornerstone of American higher education, & the faculty’s primary role in institutional decision-making.'”

Christian/Faith Groups/MAGA

  • Times Free Press/Bo Wagner 5/18/24: Pastor Bo: What Congress is missing about antisemitism and free speech [“As a devout Christian, complete Bible believer and rock-solid conservative, it is rare that I ever find myself on the same side of an issue as the ACLU. And yet, their news release of May 2, 2024, which says, ‘The American Civil Liberties Union strongly condemns the House of Representatives for passing HR 6090, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which threatens to censor political speech critical of Israel on college campuses under the guise of addressing antisemitism,’ puts me on the same side as the ACLU on this one.“]
  • OnePeterFive/Carina Benton 5/17/24: The House-Endorsed Definition of Antisemitism Provokes a Rift with Christianity [“The bill falls short on three fronts. Firstly, outsourcing definitions to third party NGOs for the purposes of investigating civil rights violations is an abrogation of the legislative responsibility vested in the U.S. Congress. Secondly, all but one of the examples of antisemitism provided by the IHRA amount to thought crime or speech-I-don’t-like, thereby imposing Soviet-style speech control.Yet by far the most problematic aspect of the bill is that it embraces the IHRA’s statement about ‘classic antisemitism,’ which lumps ‘symbols and images’ about ‘claims of Jews killing Jesus’ with ‘blood libel.’ There is no distinction between the historical claims of the New Testament with any other claim about Jews and the death of Christ.”]
  • Crisis Magazine/Fr Mario Alexis Portella 5/6/24: The Danger of Expanding the Definition of Anti-Semitism — In the rush to condemn anti-Semitism, lawmakers may end up making basic Christian truths illegal to proclaim.
  • World (Christian media outlet) 5/6/24: The Antisemitism Awareness Act is a big problem — Good intentions can produce bad legislation [“…despite good intentions, the actual language of this legislation is dangerous. It’s borrowed definition of anti-Semitism is deeply flawed. I fear that this bill, put in the hands of liberal academic administrators and progressivist judges, will escape the good intentions of its authors. At that point, those good intentions won’t be enough.“]
  • Newsweek 5/2/24: Republicans Voting for Bill That Could Make ‘Bible Illegal’ Outrages MAGA
  • Matt Gaetz (R-FL) 5/2/24 – Fox News: Matt Gaetz blasts House antisemitism legislation as ‘ridiculous hate speech bill’
  • Tim Pool 5/2/24: X-post – “Speaking from the Hadith and Quran is illegal under the antisemitism bill lol”
  • Charlie Kirk 5/1/24: X-post – “Did the House of Representatives just make parts of the Bible illegal?
    • Tucker Carlson responding to Charlie Kirk 5/2/24: X-post – “Yes. The New Testament.
    • Rep. Massie (R-KY) responding to Carlson 5/2/24: X-post – “Speaker Mike Johnson was so eager to please AIPAC that he didn’t read the bill he rushed to the floor.
  • Matt Gaetz (R-FL) 5/1/24: X-post – “This evening, I will vote AGAINST the ridiculous hate speech bill called the ‘Antisemitism Awareness Act.’ Antisemitism is wrong, but this legislation is written without regard for the Constitution, common sense, or even the common understanding of the meaning of words. The Gospel itself would meet the definition of antisemitism under the terms of this bill! The bill says the definition of antisemitism includes “contemporary examples of antisemitism” identified by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). One of those examples includes: ‘…claims of Jews killing Jesus…’ The Bible is clear. There is no myth or controversy on this. Therefore, I will not support this bill…To be clear – I take no view on who killed Jesus in how I voted on this measure. It was a matter of the Constitution. The Bible is clear in that its words plainly, textually,would violate this law. That is nuts – and in deep conflict with the First Amendment.”
  • Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) 5/1/24: X-post – “Antisemitism is wrong, but I will not be voting for the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023 (H.R. 6090) today that could convict Christians of antisemitism for believing the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews…