Raising Antisemitism Awareness

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(Adone stock / strigana)

We are living the nightmare of rising antisemitism. We talk about it a lot. We worry about it even more. And we have been inundated with reports of the explosion of antisemitism and targeted Jew hatred on college campuses.

We cringe when we hear the hateful words, chants and threats recorded at numerous student demonstrations across the country. And we worry about the safety of our children. Things have gotten so bad that even universities that denied the existence of antisemitic concerns on their campus or were reluctant to acknowledge it are now taking public steps to address antisemitism.

With increased vigilance on campuses and more universities promising to address antisemitism, one may wonder why it is necessary for Congress to pass H.R. 6090, the Antisemitism Awareness Act. Aren’t existing laws sufficient to protect Jewish students and everyone else from harassment, intimidation, discrimination and violence?

The bill’s name, Antisemitism Awareness Act, is a bit of a misnomer. While the legislation is all about antisemitism, it is less about awareness. Rather, the law is designed to assist the Department of Education in determining whether to pursue and investigate acts of alleged antisemitism under existing DOE antidiscrimination enforcement authority and it provides a common definition of antisemitism for that purpose.

The bill codifies a Trump administration executive order from 2019, which instructed the DOE to treat antisemitism on college campuses as a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism to assess cases of antisemitism. The Biden administration has continued to enforce the Trump order. And now, with H.R. 6090, and its passage in the House last week, it can soon become the law. We urge prompt passage in the Senate.

Under the act, Jewish students who face discrimination at their college or university based on perceived racial, national or ethnic characteristics would be protected. And the act uses the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism to determine whether the challenged activity is motivated by anti-Jewish animus. The IHRA definition lists examples of antisemitic behavior that include traditional Jewish hatred and Holocaust denial along with examples of antisemitic activity that target Jewish Americans for association with or connection to Israel.

The IHRA definition makes anti-Zionists and Israel haters nervous. They claim not to hate Jews. They only hate Zionists and the state of Israel. These pro-Hamas, college-based, demonstration warriors claim not to promote the elimination of Jews. They only promote the elimination of colonialist Israelis and Zionists. And, of course, they are concerned that limitations on what they may say about Jews, Zionists and Israelis under the IHRA definition may impinge on their right to free expression under the First Amendment.

We have had enough of the silly wordplay. And so have most members of Congress. Once the Senate passes the act, those targeting Jews, Israelis or Zionists on campus are going to have to be a little more careful in how they go about vilifying their targets. They will need to choose their words and how they act more carefully. While they will be free to voice their views peacefully, they will have to respect the rights of their targets to be free of harassment, intimidation, discrimination and violence.

What’s wrong with that?

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