What is the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act?
Charlotte Silver, Electronic Intifada, Dec 9 2016
On Thursday I spoke to Sharmine Peries of The Real News about the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act,” a bill being pushed through Congress that aims to broaden the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel. Watch the video above. The bill instructs the Department of Education to consider the State Department’s definitionof anti-semitism when investigating schools for discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. That definition broadly defines anti-Semitism to include “demonizing,” “delegitimizing” or applying a “double standard” to Israel. It has especially been used to target and smear BDS activists seeking to pressure Israel to end abuses of Palestinian rights. The Senate unanimously passed the bill, introduced by a bipartisan team, and it is currently awaiting consideration by the House of Representatives. Civil rights groups warn that if it becomes law, the measure would have have a chilling effect on Palestinian rights activism on college campuses in Pindostan. AIPAC, the Jewish Federations of North America, the ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Center all support the bill. But notably, the lead author of the anti-Semitism definition used by the State Dept, Kenneth Stern, is urging Pindo Congress critturs not to advance the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act. In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, Stern warns that incorporating the definition of anti-Semitism into law would be “unconstitutional and unwise” and would “actually harm Jewish students and have a toxic effect on the academy.” Stern writes:
I disagree with BDS, but it is wrong to say that BDS is inherently a form of anti-Semitism, and even if it were it would be improper to try and censor pro-BDS campus activity, which is political speech and should be answered by more speech and education, not suppression.
In the video, we speak about the history of Israel advocacy groups’ attempts to move the Dept of Education to classify Palestinian rights activism as a form of discrimination and their increasing reliance on undemocratic measures to suppress the growing BDS movement. I also wrote about the bill.