Posted on May 23, 2018 in Action Alerts

A bicameral bill was introduced in the House and Senate that seeks to restrict criticism of Israel at the expense of our First Amendment protected right to free speech. Introduced in the House as H.R.5924 by Representatives Peter J. Roskam (R-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Doug Collins (R-GA), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and in the Senate as S.2940 by Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the legislation includes an overly broad, political definition of anti-Semitism, which includes criticism of the state of Israel.  

Entitled the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018, the bill does not actually counteract the real, disturbing rise in anti-Semitism but rather focuses on suppressing speech critical of Israel. In relying on a State Department working definition of anti-Semitism that was written for data collection in Europe and never intended for domestic application, the Act conflates political opposition with instances of hate. In misusing this working definition by applying it to the domestic setting of schools and college campuses, the Act seeks to expand the protections afforded by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include criticism of Israel and in so doing, equating criticism of a country with anti-Semitism. The author of the working definition utilized in this legislation went on record in 2016 explaining that he believed this approach to be an “affront to academic freedom,” and “unconstitutional and unwise.” 

In addition to not actually addressing anti-Semitism, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018 should be opposed because it is unconstitutional, amounts to viewpoint discrimination, and misappropriates a non-legally binding definition for the basis of legal prohibitions. At a time when hate crimes against targeted and vulnerable communities have increased, including against the American Jewish community, it is imperative that our elected officials do not conflate criticisms of policies and political opposition with instances of hate. 

Please call and e-mail your member of Congress and urge them to oppose the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act and support free speech.