US House votes to expand definition of anti-Semitism

US House votes to expand definition of anti-Semitism
US House votes to expand definition of anti-Semitism

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - US lawmakers voted Wednesday to expand the legal definition of anti-Semitism used to enforce laws against discrimination, amid pro-Palestinian protests that have roiled college campuses nationwide. — AFP pic

WASHINGTON, May 2 — US lawmakers voted Wednesday to expand the legal definition of anti-Semitism used to enforce laws against discrimination, amid pro-Palestinian protests that have roiled college campuses nationwide.

The cross-party Anti-Semitism Awareness Act requires the Department of Education to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism when tackling discrimination.

The IHRA states that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” by, for example, “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is a form of anti-Semitism.

Critics of the US House bill — including the American Civil Liberties Union — describe it as government overreach that will chill free speech, while supporters say it will help combat hate on college campuses.

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The measure will need to be taken up by the Senate before it can become law.

Protests against the Gaza war, with its high Palestinian civilian death toll, have posed a challenge to university administrators trying to balance free speech rights with complaints that the rallies have veered into anti-Semitism.

The unrest has swept through higher education institutions like wildfire, with protesters installing tent encampments on campus grounds from coast to coast after around 100 protesters were first arrested at Columbia University in New York on April 18.

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“I’m thankful for the bipartisan support of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act and for the support from a wide range of Jewish organizations that are standing up, endorsing this legislation, and saying enough is enough,” New York Republican Mike Lawler said in a statement.

But the ACLU said in a letter to lawmakers that the new bill would “likely chill free speech of students on college campuses by incorrectly equating criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism.”

New York Democrat Jerry Nadler echoed the concerns, telling colleagues on the House floor: “Speech that is critical of Israel alone does not constitute unlawful discrimination. The bill sweeps too broadly.” — AFP

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