The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled “Examining Anti-Semitism on College Campuses,” but which effectively ended up being a 3 hour debate on the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which conflates the very real problem of anti-Semitism with criticism of the state of Israel, with the objective of stifling debate and advocacy of Palestinian justice. The legislation seeks to have the Department of Education adopt the deeply problematic State Department definition of anti-Semitism, which includes negative attitudes towards Israel, when making decisions about possible violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on college campuses. There was a lot of nonsense during the hearing. But among the many voices of reason was none other than the lead author of the State Department definition of anti-Semitism himself, Ken Stern. Stern explained that the definition should not be used beyond what it was intended for (read foreign consumption) and should not be adopted by the Department of Education because it was not drafted to chill speech around Israel on campus. Stern went as far as stating that it would be an “atrocity” against free expression on campus if it were adopted. It was disappointing to hear things like, “all the major Jewish organizations” support adopting the State Department definition repeated throughout the hearing, including from the Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathon Greenblatt. This is especially troubling since some of these organization work under the mantle of civil rights and combatting real anti-Semitism, but have chosen here instead to advocate for stifling free speech for the sake of pro-Israel advocacy. We’ll have more to say about that later, but it was nice to see Congressman Jerrold Nadler point out that the alleged Jewish American consensus around this law wasn’t actually accurate, as J Street U and other major Jewish organizations prefer a real definition of anti-Semitism; you know, like the one used by, say, the ADL as opposed to the one they want to impose on college campuses.

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