We’ve Already Got an ‘Antisemitism Awareness Act.’ It’s Called the First Amendment.

On May 1, the US House of Representatives passed the fraudulently titled “Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023.” It’s not yet law, pending Senate passage and a presidential signature, but the lopsided House vote (320 to 91) should worry all Americans, including the country’s 7.6 million Jews.

In theory, the bill merely clarifies how the US Department of Education should interpret Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of  race, color, religion, sex, and national origin by “federally funded programs,” including most colleges and universities.

In fact, however, the bill – by adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s “working definition of antisemitism” – reveals itself as just another underhanded attempt to suppress freedom of speech by placing new conditions on federal funding.

The bill expressly includes “the ‘[c]ontemporary examples of antisemitism’ identified in the IHRA definition” in its own definition of antisemitism.

Those examples include “[d]enying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” as well as “[d]rawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

“Jews” (who, by the way, are not the only “semites”) and “Israel” are two entirely different things.

Jews are an ethnic group bound together partly by ancestry and partly by ancestral religious beliefs.

Israel is a Middle Eastern nation-state which clearly, unambiguously, and openly bases itself on a supremacist ideology (Zionism) exploiting that ethnic bond. The Israeli regime treats non-Jews as, at best, second-class citizens in Israel and as rightsless non-citizens in large swaths of occupied territory next door. Comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany or apartheid-era South Africa aren’t unreasonable.

Most of the world’s Jews choose – in individual acts of “self-determination” – to live outside Israel. In fact, more Jews live in the United States than live in Israel. Many of those Jews  oppose Zionism on principle, and Israeli policies toward neighboring Arab populations in practice.

Under the “Antisemitism Awareness Act,” a university could lose its federal funding if it allowed Jewish students and faculty to express their political opinions. Not because those opinions are “antisemitic,” but because those opinions don’t toe a pro-Israel line.

We already have laws against violence and harrassment, which apply whether the victims are Jewish or not.

We also have a First Amendment which protects the right to free speech, even if that speech criticizes Israel – and even if that speech is ACTUALLY antisemitic – whether the speakers are Jews or non-Jews.

“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education,” the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

Author: Thomas Knapp

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism, publisher of Rational Review News Digest, and moderator of Antiwar.com’s commenting/discussion community.