House passes bipartisan antisemitism bill

by ian

The House officially passed the Antisemitism Awareness Act on Tuesday, in what was hailed as a bipartisan win. But it was also heavily criticized by Republican hardliners for what they say is a First Amendment infringement.

The bill aims to address the rise of antisemitic behavior in the United States, mostly seen in protests across college campuses. It cites various protections for people who are victims of antisemitism under the Civil Rights Act.

But, as the bill states, multiple “definitions of antisemitism” have gummed up the system and could fail in identifying newer “manifestations” of the crime.

With that in mind, the act moves to create a singular definition of the term to clear up any confusion. This definition of antisemitism is provided by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance which reads as follows:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. 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.

But the bill goes further in adopting the more “contemporary examples of antisemitism” as provided by the IHRA. These include things like pushing the idea that Jewish people control the media or that they invented or exaggerated the Holocaust – examples explicitly given by the IHRA,  among others.

While the bill was praised for a widely bipartisan effort, not everyone in Congress was on board. In fact, 70 Democrats and 21 Republicans voted against the bill when it was brought to the floor. Dissenters on each side of the aisle disagreed with the bill’s wording.

Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.) said from the House floor that the bill “sweeps too broadly” in how it prosecutes antisemitism. He argues that the bill criminalizes any kind of speech that is “critical of Israel alone.”

Republican dissenters were a bit more forceful in their language. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) called the measure a “ridiculous hate speech bill.” He cited a contemporary example provided by the IHRA which says that any claims of Jews killing Jesus would be considered antisemitic – then proceeded to quote various Scripture verses that say that Jesus was crucified by a Jewish crowd saying “there is no myth or controversy on this.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) also voted against the bill for similar reasons and blasted his Republican colleagues who supported the measure.

Roy still assured his Jewish constituents that he was on the side of Israel when it came to the Gaza War, but not when it came to prosecution under this bill.

The Senate will take up the bill next, where it is expected to be introduced by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.).