Friday, May 3, 2024

The Antisemitism Awareness Act - Criminalizing and Punishing Antisemitism in the American Education System

The House of Representatives in the United States recently passed House Resolution H.R. 6090, an act...


"To provide for the consideration of a definition of antisemitism set forth by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance for the enforcement of Federal antidiscrimination laws concerning education programs or activities, and for other purposes."


H.R. 6090 is also known as the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023.


Here is the entire text of the bill:


On May 1, 2024 the bill was passed by the House in a vote of 320 yeas to 91 nays which broke down by Party as follows:


If you follow this link, my American readers can see how their Representative voted.

The definition of antisemitism used in the bill was that definition created and used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and, if the bill becomes law, it will be codified in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which bars discrimination based on shared ancestry, national origin or ethnic characteristics.  


For those of you that aren't aware of the IHRA, it is an intergovernmental organization with 35 member nations which was founded in 1998 to address challenges related to the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma.   Here are the member nations:

Here are the observer nations:



Now, let's get to the important stuff.  Here is IHRA's adopted non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism which was adopted on May 26, 2016:


"Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”


The IHRA goes on to give contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, schools, the media, the workplace and the religious sphere:


1.) Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

2.) Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

3.) Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

4.) Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

5.) Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

6.) Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

7.) Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

8.) Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

9.) Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

10.) Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

11.) Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

The IHRA states that antisemitism is NOT limited to the aforementioned list of forbidden actions or beliefs.

So, given that H.R. 6090 clearly states that it adopted the IRHA's definition of antisemitism as the foundation of the bill, does that mean that all of these actions could potentially be part of the new addition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

As you can see, particularly given the recent actions of Israel in the Gaza, it's pretty easy to be accused of antisemitism when you compare this photo of Gaza which appears on the United Nations website: this photo of Warsaw in 1945 after the German Army destroyed the city:

...or, under the IHRA's definition, is that considered antisemitism?

Interestingly, the IHRA claims that their ultimate goal is a world without genocide, rather ironic given current actions in the Middle East.


The focus of the bill is on the supposed rise in antisemitism in the United States and how it is impacting Jewish students in K-12 schools, colleges and universities.  This bill will make it easier for the Department of Education to determine if antisemitism is present and:


"In reviewing, investigating, or deciding whether there has been a violation of title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the basis of race, color, or national origin, based on an individual’s actual or perceived shared Jewish ancestry or Jewish ethnic characteristics, the Department of Education shall take into consideration the definition of antisemitism as part of the Department’s assessment of whether the practice was motivated by antisemitic intent."


This bill, if passed into law, has the potential to allow the Department of Education to restrict federal funding and other resources to post-secondary institutions that appear to be allowing anti-Semitic activities on their campuses.  Does this mean that administrators will now take actions against any perception that antisemitic activities are taking place under their watch for fear of losing funding?


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has weighed in with this:


"The American Civil Liberties Union strongly condemns the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 6090, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which threatens to censor political speech critical of Israel on college campuses under the guise of addressing antisemitism.


The House’s approval of this misguided and harmful bill is a direct attack on the First Amendment,” said Christopher Anders, director of ACLU’s Democracy and Technology Policy Division. “Addressing rising antisemitism is critically important, but sacrificing American’s free speech rights is not the way to solve that problem. This bill would throw the full weight of the federal government behind an effort to stifle criticism of Israel and risks politicizing the enforcement of federal civil rights statutes precisely when their robust protections are most needed. The Senate must block this bill that undermines First Amendment protections before it’s too late.”

The bill directs the Department of Education to consider an overbroad definition of antisemitism that encompasses protected political speech when investigating allegations of discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The ACLU has warned this could pressure colleges and universities to restrict student and faculty speech critical of the Israeli government and its military operations out of fear of the college losing federal funding."

Isn't it interesting to see the influence that Israel has had on American politics particularly given Israel's ongoing war against Hamas and Congressional support for its best friend in the Middle East?

Let's close with this from AIPAC, the one of the most powerful lobby groups in Washington that just happens to be pro-Israel:

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