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House members are again pushing a bill that would censor Palestine advocacy on college campuses

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On July 25, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that he was reintroducing The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act. While supporters claim that the legislation will allow the Department of Education to more effectively investigate charges of anti-Semitism on college campuses, critics point out that the bill adopts a broad definition of anti-Semitism that will inevitably lead to the censoring of pro-Palestinian students. Similar versions of the bill were introduced in 2016 and 2018, but failed.

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act directs the Department of Education to use a definition anti-Semitism developed in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Under that definition some criticisms of Israel can be considered anti-Semitic, including applying “double standards” to the country and claiming that the state is a racist endeavor.

The bill is being reintroduced amidst a seemingly reinvigorated crackdown on students advocating for Palestinian rights. In June, the Department of Education began investigating a campus conference on Palestine that was held at Duke University in March and co-sponsored by Duke and the University of North Carolina. The announcement came in response to GOP Rep. George Holding asking for federal action over the conference’s “severe anti-Israeli bias.” Recently, three anonymous UMass Amherst students also tried to sue their school over panel on Palestine that featured speakers like Marc Lamont Hill and Roger Waters.

“Supporters of Israel have become more brazen in painting almost any critique of Israel as anti-semitic while discarding free speech and academic freedom,” Aman Aberra, a PhD candidate at Duke University, told Mondoweiss’ Yumna Patel in June. “This produces a chilling effect, where students are less willing to wade into this issue, since it’s perceived as dangerous to their reputations or careers.”

The legislation is backed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) ,and when the bill was first introduced in 2016, the organization declared that it had “played a central role” in drafting it. It’s also regarded as a legislative priority by Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the Christian-Zionist organization founded by infamous megachurch pastor John Hagee. At the three-day CUFI summit last month, multiple speakers called on the assembled activists to lobby Washington in support of the bill. The bill is also being pushed by the Brandeis Center, the human rights group that Kenneth Marcus ran before becoming the Trump administration’s Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights. In 2018, the State Department’s website was updated to reflect the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism.

“[The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act] would codify Marcus’ strategy and enable his agenda at the DOE by requiring the agency to equate campus advocacy on Palestine with antisemitism,” reads a 2018 statement on the legislation from Palestine Legal. “It will lead to increased scrutiny, investigation, censorship, and possible punishment for students and academics who promote Palestinian rights. Such actions would violate the First Amendment and free speech principles.”

The previous attempts to pass the act fell apart as a result of First Amendment concerns. The Senate version of the legislation actually passed at the end of 2016, but it’s also repeatedly died in Congress as it’s yet to clear the House. Collins’ new version of the bill currently has nine co-sponsors, all of them are Republicans. There have also been various attempts to pass similar bills on a state level. In 2018, South Carolina became the first state to adopt a broad definition of anti-Semitism that includes criticism of Israel. New Jersey lawmakers are also trying to enact such a bill.

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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17 Responses

  1. annie on August 6, 2019, 4:17 pm

    Today, Palestine Legal and Center for Constitutional Rights won a 2 year court battle against Fordam University who sought to silence Palestinian activism on campus by banning Students for Justice in Palestine. the judge ordered the university to recognize SJP! this is a landmark decision.

    let congress try to ban pro palestine activism on campus, this will be dragged through the courts again and again, it won’t matter. truth and justice will prevail.

    • JWalters on August 6, 2019, 4:31 pm

      Thank you, very good news! Great work by Palestine Legal and Center for Constitutional Rights!

    • gamal on August 6, 2019, 4:46 pm

      “truth and justice will prevail”

      yes my dear as Ras Batch ( you know I want to link abdul basit baladi “by this city” but Ras is the appropriate link) Lie From Truth, militant tune Annie..we don’t fear.

    • RoHa on August 6, 2019, 8:10 pm

      ” truth and justice will prevail.”


      • annie on August 7, 2019, 9:22 pm

        eventually, that’s the plan RoHa.

      • RoHa on August 7, 2019, 10:53 pm

        Remember what the Rabbi Burns said about plans.

  2. JWalters on August 7, 2019, 4:26 am

    I suggest we also need an Anti-Semitic Hoax Awareness Act. This would promote awareness of the hoax accusations of anti-Semitism being used to silence criticism of Israel today. For example, the current great upsurge of anti-Semitism is actually an upsurge in anti-Israelism. This is happening because people are learning the real facts about Israel over the internet.

    As another example, the Anti-Semitic Awareness Act itself is a hoax, because it is part of the pretense that there is some big surge in anti-Semitism. Look over there! Don’t look at Israel’s crimes. Whatever you do, don’t look at Israel’s crimes. That’s illegal. Or will soon be illegal, if Israel’s financial backers have their way with enough members of Congress. And many members are cooperative because they like to feel their donors are behind them.

    • CigarGod on August 7, 2019, 10:13 am

      Exactly correct.
      It would be nice if a certain site would allow some perspective on the numbers of “anti” attacks on other groups. That information would bolster the point of your post.

  3. RayJosephCormier on August 7, 2019, 8:44 am

    This is a problem for all Americans when their Political Leaders can pass Laws that effectively kill the US Democratic Right of Freedom of Speech for Americans, to shield a foreign Nation from criticism for their anti-Democratic Domestic policies.

    If that’s not bad enough, there is much evidence Israel is dictating US Foreign Policy to conform with Israeli policy.

    Americans should question the enthusiastic Republican-Democratic bi-partisanship for any issue concerning Israel, but that bi-partisanship is almost non-existent for the many serious issues facing America?
    Representative Omar questioned it and look what happened to her.

    Netanyahu to US Congress, September 12, 2002 ” If YOU take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I GUARANTEE YOU that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region, The reverberations of what will happen with the collapse of Saddam’s regime, could very well cause an implosion in a neighbor regime like Iran”

    Americans and Iraqis lost many lives and treasure with the destruction of Netanyahu’s WAR against Saddam a year later, and cannot make a claim on his GUARANTEE. Proved dead wrong the dead number over a MILLION PEOPLE, the consequences still unfolding in the World.

    Iran didn’t implode. It increased influence in it’s own part of the World with the illegal 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
    God didn’t listen to Netanyahu but Americans do.

    Netanyahu spoke to a Joint Session of the US Congress in 2015, getting standing ovations by delirious, non-partisan, Republicans and Democrats, calling for the US to reject the Iran Nuclear deal.
    Trump withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal on May 8 last year.

    What will be the consequences for the US Economic War Trump announced against Iran designed to destroy the Iranian Economy supporting it’s 80 MILLION people before having to resort to bombs? Designating Iran’s Military as a terrorist Organization at Netanyahu’s request brings dropping the bombs closer

    Netanyahu is meddling in US Political affairs in Public, that can be seen.
    Netanyahu was the only head of government to attend the US organized anti-Iran Foreign Ministers meeting in Warsaw, leading the charge for War with Iran.

    Wasn’t Iraq enough? Will Americans be stupid enough to be fooled by Netanyahu a 2nd Time, leading the US to War with Iran?

    Watching from CanaDa, in my opinion, the final nail was put in the coffin of US Democracy with the passage of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) President Obama did not have the courage to VETO in the face of overwhelming VETO proof majorities in both Houses of Congress.

    January 11, 2012

    • Misterioso on August 7, 2019, 10:23 am


      Yes, racist/fascistic, expansionist “Israel” and its Zionist puppet masters are pulling American politicians’ strings and have been doing so for decades. However, in the long run, as its influence and international standing inevitably wane (thanks in large measure to Trump, et al), and its accelerating rot within, America will have no option other than to set parasitic** “Israel” adrift.

      Henry Morgenthau Sr., former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, 1919: “Zionism is the most stupendous fallacy in Jewish history…. The very fervour of my feeling for the oppressed of every race and every land, especially for the Jews, those of my own blood and faith, to whom I am bound by every tender tie, impels me to fight with all the greater force against this scheme, which my intelligence tells me can only lead them deeper into the mire of the past, while it professes to be leading them to the heights. Zionism is… a retrogression into the blackest error, and not progress toward the light.” (Quoted by Frank Epp, Whose Land is Palestine? p. 261)

      **A reminder:
      “Congressional Research Service, U.S. Foreign aid to Israel, Jeremy M. Sharpe, Specialist in Middle East Affairs, April 10, 2018.”

      “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion (current, or non inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance. At a signing ceremony at the State Department on September 14, 2016, representatives of the U.S. and Israeli governments signed a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid covering FY2019 to FY2028. Under the terms of the MOU, the United States pledges to provide $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel. This MOU replaces a previous $30 billion 10-year agreement, which runs through FY2018.”

      BTW, although I may well be proven wrong, I do not believe that the U.S. will launch a war against Iran. The consequences would be horrendous for the Middle East, the world and as its military leaders have predicted, the U.S. would be bogged down in the region for years.

      • RayJosephCormier on August 7, 2019, 11:09 am

        Misterioso , co-incidentally, I was reading thoughts similar to the 1st part of your comment just before I saw yours. They were written 800 years after Israel disappeared from the kingdoms of THIS World before this latest re-incarnation in 1948.

        For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
        Who are Israelites; to whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

        Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
        Not as though the word of God has taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
        Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall your seed be called.
        That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
        Romans 9:3-8

      • genesto on August 7, 2019, 4:52 pm

        The US will not launch a war against Iran as long as cooler heads continue to prevail within our military leadership. However, if the Zionist menace manages to infiltrate our military to the extent that it starts taking its orders from Tel Aviv, all bets are off!!

  4. Misterioso on August 7, 2019, 9:29 am

    Food for thought:

    “Feeding the Israel Lobby: Congress Gives the Jewish State Whatever It Wants”

    American Herald Tribune, August 6/19, by Philip Giraldi

    “If you have been wondering when the twenty Democratic aspirants for the presidency will begin a serious discussion of American foreign policy in the Middle East, where Washington has been bogged down in both current and impending wars, you are not alone. With the honorable exception of Tulsi Gabbard, no one seems keen to touch that particular live wire.

    “Part of the problem is the journalists who are asking the questions in the debates. To be sure, the publication of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt back in 2007 opened the door to a frank discussion of why the United States is involved in unresolvable conflicts on behalf of a tiny client state. But unfortunately, while it is now possible to find in the mainstream media some honest analysis of Israel’s ability to corrupt policy formulation in Washington, in general the Jewish state continues to get a pass from both the press and politicians on all issues that matter.

    “And then there is the problem of Congress itself, which is precisely the institution that has been most corrupted by Israel and Jewish money. Almost thirty years ago, American politician Pat Buchanan described Congress as ‘Israeli occupied territory.’ As a result, he was viciously attacked by the mainstream media and the political leadership of both parties, demonstrating beyond all doubt that he was correct in his observation. Today the Israel Lobby in the United States is far more powerful than it was in 1990, so much so that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu actually boasts to his voters that he directs U.S. policy.

    “The hypocrisy inherent in the Israel-philia of America’s political leadership is such that it sometimes produces comic results. The whiney head of the House Intelligence Committee Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, was beside himself prior to the Robert Mueller testimony before Congress on July 24th, denouncing Russia and President Donald Trump, saying that the president’s actions amounted to ‘Disloyalty to country… Those are strong words… But disloyalty to country violates the very obligation of citizenship, our devotion to a core principle on which our nation was founded, that we, the people, not some foreign power that wishes us ill, we decide, who shall govern, us.’

    “Strong words indeed, but Adam Schiff knows perfectly well that Moscow’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election, which was relatively insignificant, had no measurable impact on the result. And both he and Mueller have been coy about presenting any real evidence that Russia is gearing up to do major damage in 2020, which is what they claim to be the case. By way of contrast, everyone in Washington knows very clearly but will never admit that Israel has seriously corrupted the United States government and its elected officials at all levels. But Schiff did not mention Israel, nor did he express concern that Israel’s clearly unsavory involvement with Trump transition team members General Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner was never thoroughly investigated or included in the final Mueller report. One might assume that a deliberate decision was made by some parties in power to avoid embarrassing Israel. Those parties almost certainly included Schiff.

    “Schiff, who is Jewish, frequently tells audiences about his love for Israel, sometimes complaining that it is treated unfairly. It might be suggested that if anyone in the government is partial to a foreign power it is Schiff, and that foreign power is Israel, not Russia.

    “Unfortunately, Schiff is far from unique. Perhaps he and a number of other Congressmen should register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as required by law. Congressmen are not exempt when they work to benefit a foreign nation, though they frequently believe themselves to be not subject to the very laws that they pass. In May a letter was sent to the White House with the signatures of 400 congressmen, purely to express America’s legislature’s solidarity with Israel and to give it a green light to do whatever it wishes vis-à-vis its neighbors. The letter cites some questionable American interests relating to Syria, but it also mentions Israel no less than 13 times.

    “If that does not convince one that Congress has always been and continues to be Israeli occupied territory, check out some bills that have been working their way through the legislature. The House voted overwhelmingly on July 23rd to formally oppose the Palestinian-backed nonviolent movement to boycott Israel.The measure, H.Res.246 opposes ‘efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement [BDS] targeting Israel.’ The bill had 349 co-sponsors and passed by a 398–17 vote. Sixteen Democrats and only one Republican opposed the bill. The bill is not a law but is rather intended to express the will of congress, which is perhaps the only good thing to say about it.

    “Other bills have not yet been voted on, presumably because friends of the Jewish state are looking for more goodies to add in. The pending legislative action includes the aid to Israel bill H.R.1837 the ‘United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act,’ which has 279 cosponsors. When the bill is approved, which it will be, it will increase the amount of aid given to Israel over ten years to $38 billion, though this is now regarded as a minimum figure which will be supplemented to meet the Jewish state’s expressed needs. And the aid is now unconditional, meaning that Israel will receive the money no matter how it behaves, while the Jewish state will also be able to use the U.S. taxpayer-provided money to buy weapons from its own arms industry, cutting American defense contractors out of the loop and costing jobs in the United States.

    “Another bill to benefit Israel is also pending: H.R. 1850, the ‘Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act of 2019,’ a law that would authorize and encourage financially sanctioning any foreign organization or individual that provides ‘support’ to any group, organization or individual considered to be part of the Palestinian resistance. Interestingly, the bill does not even pretend to be based on U.S. national security: it is all about and for Israel. It could mean that foreign supporters of BDS, which is now considered a hostile entity by ‘the will of’ Congress, could be subject to sanctions even though they are non-violent and threaten no one.

    “One final bit of bipartisan legislation best described as a pander to both Israel and the Jewish community is a bill that has appeared recently in the Senate that will prioritize and pay for health care and nutrition services for those who claim to be holocaust survivors. The bill is entitled the ‘Trauma-Informed Modernization of Eldercare for Holocaust Survivors Act’ or ‘TIME for Holocaust Survivors Act.’ It is intended to ‘increase the chances that survivors could age in their own homes’ and also ‘to ensure that Holocaust survivors have care and services tailored to their needs.’

    “Sponsor Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, who is, of course, Jewish, elaborated: ‘Holocaust survivors came to the United States seeking refuge from unimaginable horrors. They have lived their lives here and enriched our nation. With an average age of 85, we have an obligation to provide Holocaust survivors the community support and special services they need to live out their final days,’

    “WE have an obligation? How about you and your co-religionists Ben as you seem to have a lot of money to spend on lobbying for Israel and corrupting our government? Special services? Why do they need help? Because, the bill states, ‘institutionalized settings, with confined spaces or restrictions on food, can induce panic, anxiety, and re-traumatization due to their holocaust experiences.’

    “What about other elderly American who have problems with ‘institutionalized settings’ or ‘confined spaces’ or ‘restrictions on food?’ How the Senate will justify special benefits for a small group of self-described victims drawn from the wealthiest demographic in the U.S. remains to be seen. If there is anyone who actually needs help, it is the U.S. taxpayer, who has to bear the burden of this utter nonsense, which sets up Jews as a special privileged group within our social services network. So-called holocaust survivors are identified in the bill’s ‘Findings’ as ‘(2) More than 200,000 Jews fleeing from Nazi-occupied territory found refuge in the United States from 1933 through 1945, and approximately 137,000 additional Jewish refugees settled in the United States from 1945 through 1952. (3) Hundreds of thousands of additional Jewish refugees continued to immigrate to the United States from Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union during the subsequent decades. (4) The number of Holocaust survivors living in the United States at the end of 2018 was approximately 80,000 individuals, down from an estimated 127,000 in 2010.’

    “Thus, Holocaust survivors who will benefit from the bill are inevitably and by intention only Jews – no Christians who went through 1933-1945 in Europe need apply. That one highly privileged group should deserve special benefits from government that other retirees cannot have is a disgrace. So, is the United States Congress Israeli and also, by extension, Jewish occupied territory? I think the question answers itself.”

  5. Steve Macklevore on August 7, 2019, 12:43 pm

    The truth really frightens them doesn’t it?

  6. Talkback on August 7, 2019, 1:44 pm

    What could be a good outcome of all of the attempt to criminalize free speech more and more in countries all over the world solely in the interests of Jews? Do they think that it won’t lead to more antisemitism and that it couldn’t flip on day into an uncontrollable scenario?

    • JWalters on August 7, 2019, 8:06 pm

      That would be anti-oppression, not anti-Semitism. Obviously those are not the same, despite the enormous amount of time and money some people spend trying to EQUATE them in the public mind.

  7. James Canning on August 7, 2019, 6:17 pm

    Yet more efforts to suppress free speech in the US, to benefit Israel. Dangerously stupid.

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