the definition of anti-Semitism broadened in a first vote in Congress

the definition of anti-Semitism broadened in a first vote in Congress
the definition of anti-Semitism broadened in a first vote in Congress

Democratic and Republican representatives voted this Wednesday, May 1, to broaden the definition of anti-Semitism, against a backdrop of student mobilization for Gaza. The measure must now pass into the hands of senators.

The US House of Representatives voted Wednesday (May 1) to expand the Department of Education’s definition of anti-Semitism, a measure proposed in response to pro-Palestinian protests rocking campuses across the country.

Part of the American political class accuses the demonstrators in universities of “anti-Semitism”, evoking, among other things, slogans hostile to Israel, a great ally of the United States in the Middle East.

A definition that is debated

The bill, adopted in the afternoon by elected officials from both sides, uses the definition of anti-Semitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

According to it, “anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews which can manifest itself in hatred towards them. The rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism target Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, community institutions. and places of worship.

The definition also includes “targeting the State of Israel, seen as a Jewish community.” “However, criticism of Israel similar to that made against any other country cannot be considered anti-Semitic,” it is clarified.

This definition will be integrated into the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an anti-discrimination law adopted at the end of racial segregation, specifies the AP agency.

“It is high time that Congress acted to protect Jewish Americans from the scourge of anti-Semitism on campuses across the country,” Republican Representative Russell Fry of South Carolina responded Tuesday.

Freedom of expression

Critics of the proposed law, however, believe that this definition prevents certain criticism of the State of Israel, which the IHRA defends. They accuse parliamentarians of pushing for its adoption in order to curb freedom of expression on American campuses.

“Remarks critical of Israel do not in themselves constitute illegal discrimination,” warned elected Democrat Jerry Nadler, opposing the text.

“I do not believe that anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic. I support Israel’s right to exist, but I also know many people who question Israel’s existence as a Jewish state and who are deeply attached to their Judaism,” added Sara Jacobs, a Democratic representative of Jewish faith, on X.

The law “risks limiting the freedom of expression of students on university campuses by wrongly equating criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism”, also alerted the American Civil Liberties Union, in a letter sent to the parliamentarians cited by AP.

To take effect, the measure must still be passed in the Senate, where its future is still uncertain, and then signed into law by President Biden.

François Blanchard with AFP

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