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Senate Bill: Blaming Israel for Political Conflict is “Anti-Semitism”

posted on: Dec 3, 2016

Political Cartoon by Katie Miranda

BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer

Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced and fast-tracked a bill, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, on Thursday, which applies the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism to the Department of Education.

The State Department defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

It is already illegal for anyone to discriminate or act violently towards any person based on their race, sex, gender, national origin, religion, age, etc. However, the bill includes three more definitions of anti-Semitism that have civil rights groups, like Palestine Legal, concerned.

Senator Casey listed the following examples of anti-Semitism for the bill:

  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust
  • Demonizing Israel by blaming it for all inter-religious or political tensions
  • Judge Israel by a double standard that one would not apply to any other democratic nation

The act is seen as another blow to free speech advocates on college campuses, who have been targeted by anti-BDS bills from numerous states. Criticism of Israel or blaming Israel for political and inter-religious conflicts would be considered “anti-Semitic” if the bill gets made into a law.

The Senators are hailing the bill as a bi-partisan effort to combat increasing anti-Semitism in the U.S., particularly in public schools and on college campuses. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Jewish Federations of North America, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center support the bill.

According to a statement on Casey’s website, the bill is meant to “ensure the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has the necessary statutory tools at their disposal to investigate anti-Jewish incidents” on college campuses. Casey then cited the FBI’s 2015 Hate Crimes Report as evidence of the need to further protect Jewish people.

Senator Casey then declared the “act is not meant to infringe on any individual right protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.” But it’s clear that these Senators don’t want anyone criticizing Israel on college campuses anymore, thus affecting First Amendment rights.

The bill is even more concerning because it inadvertently aligns all Jewish people with the state of Israel, despite the fact that many Jews do not identify with Israel or its policies. The bill even goes one step further to ignore the fact that 20% of Israel’s population is not Jewish – it’s Palestinian. If a Jewish student on an American campus blames a Palestinian citizen of Israel for political tensions, is he/she anti-Semitic?

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act is just another way for Congressmen to punish those who want to hold Israel accountable for its actions that are deemed illegal under international law. Just as a pro-Israel speaker can blame all Arabs or Muslims for problems in the Middle East, it should not be illegal to blame Israel for Palestinian suffering.