Foundation for Middle East Peace President Lara Friedman points out that a proposed Arizona amendment could potentially trample on free speech and target critics of Israel.
“Folks, they are going to make it a hate crime to meaningfully criticize/protest Israel,” tweeted Friedman.
As Friedman notes, the legislation would revise statutes relating to crime reporting, but the amendment has ramifications that go far beyond data collection. Arizona doesn’t have a specific hate crime law, but the sentencing of individuals can potentially be increased if there is “evidence that the defendant committed the crime out of malice toward a victim because of the victim’s identity.” If passed, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism could be cited as an “aggravating factor” in such sentencing decisions. That definition infamously includes some criticisms of Israel.
“The problem is that the IHRA definition deals obsessively — more than with any other topic — with the degree of antisemitism in criticism of Israel, making it far more difficult to identify real instances of antisemitism, while casting a cloud of suspicion over nearly all criticism of Israel,” wrote Professors Amos Goldberg and Raz Segal in +972 Magazine last year. “Meanwhile, the burden of proof lies with critics of Israel, who are constantly asked to prove that they are not anti-Semites.”
Note: this bill seeks to amend law dealing with tracking of crime stats. But its implications are bigger than that. AZ doesn’t have a specific hate crimes law. What is does have is a law regarding “aggravating factors” to be taken account in sentencing. https://t.co/laIvBpTKgl
— Lara Friedman🔥 (@LaraFriedmanDC) January 22, 2020
Earlier this month, The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a ban on Arizona’s anti-BDS law, as an amendment to the legislation had invalidated a legal challenge on free-speech grounds by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). However, the court did not rule that the law was constitutional and it remains to be seen whether a new lawsuit will emerge.