Posted by Arab American Institute on May 25, 2018 in Blog
The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018 (H.R.5924/S.2940), which was introduced in both the House and Senate on May 23, claims to address anti-Semitism on college and university campuses by including criticisms of Israel as examples of anti-Semitism. If passed, the bill would allow the Department of Education to suppress criticism of Israel in higher education, unconstitutionally proscribing legitimate political expression while doing nothing to combat actual hate on college campuses.
While dangerous on its own, this bill would be exacerbated by the confirmation of Ken Marcus. As you may know, Marcus has been nominated by President Trump to lead the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and could be confirmed at any time. As founder of the Brandeis Center, Marcus has used the same working definition of anti-Semitism in this bill to file frivolous discrimination lawsuits against critics of Israel. This bill, and the confirmation of Ken Marcus, would give the federal government both the authority and will to stifle the speech of professors and students across the country. The impact this would have on protected First Amendment rights and pro-Palestinian advocacy on our campuses is profound.
A similar version of this bill was introduced in 2016. We spoke out about that bill, followed it through committee, and expressed our concerns. The bill passed the Senate in a single day without a voice vote or debate, but failed to clear the House amid free speech concerns. The new version of the bill does not sufficiently address those concerns.
It is far easier to persuade a member of Congress to never support or cosponsor a bill than it is to get a member to change their support or remove their name from a bill. This is why we need you to act quickly.
Please use the resources below to inform your advocacy on this important free speech issue.
- Action Alert: Please call and e-mail your member of Congress and urge them to oppose the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act and support free speech
- Bill Analysis
- Letter to Congress
- Statement of the ACLU opposing the bill
- Letter to Congress from the ACLU opposing the bill
- Statement of Defending Rights and Dissent opposing the bill
- Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Statement
- Palestine Legal Statement
- Statement from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
- Americans for Peace Now (APN) statement opposing the bill
- Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) backgrounder
- Letter from Kenneth Stern, original author of the working anti-Semitism definition used in the legislation, opposing the bill in 2016
- Los Angeles Times editorial, "Enough already. Not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism."
- The Alliance for Academic Freedom released a statement, "What’s Wrong With the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act"