By Richard Edmondson
The latest assault on BDS and the Palestine solidarity movement seems to have arrived in the form of S.10, known as the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016,” a bill that was introduced into–and adopted by–the US Senate all in one day and without discussion, on December 1.
You can track the bill here. It’s aim is to provide a “definition of anti-Semitism” for purpose of enforcing anti-discrimination in education programs and activities. Basically it seeks to codify, or put into law, a definition of anti-Semitism that was put forth by the State Department in 2010, one which cites efforts to “delegitimize” Israel as an example of “contemporary” anti-Semitism.
The definition was coined by the State Department’s “Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism”–yes, there really is such an office within the State Department, the head of which is given the royal title, no less, of “Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism” or SEAS.
The current SEAS is Ira Forman, former Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. The SEAS in power in 2010, when the “Defining Anti-Semitism” paper was published, was Hannah Rosenthal. You can go here to see the full definition, although I am also reproducing it below.
The bill has been pushed by the Anti-Defamation League. Specifically it seeks to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with special focus on the the Act’s Title VI, described in the text of S.10 as “one of the principle antidiscrimination (sic) statutes enforced by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.”
Under the bill, any attempts to “demonize Israel,” which could include “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” would be defined as anti-Semitism. Universities which tolerate speech of this type on campus would be in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and presumably could be denied federal funding.
Well, if you’re going to attempt to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, who better to lead the charge for you than an African-American member of Congress? S.10 was introduced by Sen. Tim Scott, one of only two African-American Republicans in the Senate.
Another backer of the bill is Sen. Robert Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, who is listed as a co-sponsor. Both Scott and Casey are cited in an ADL press release put out on December 2 hailing the Senate’s passage of the measure.
“ADL played a central role in working with U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Bob Casey (D-PA) in crafting and promoting the legislation,” the press release states.
Also classified as anti-Semitism under the measure would be applying any kind of “double standard” to Israel. This would include requiring of the Jewish state “a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,” and could also include “multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations.”
Also telling the obvious truth about who owns or controls the vast majority of the major media would be anti-Semitic as well, or specifically, as the bill would have it–spreading “the myth” about “Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”
Accusing Jews of being “more loyal to Israel” than their own nations would equally be anti-Semitic, as would of course (it goes without saying) questioning the holocaust.
“We welcome the Senate passage of this important legislation, which will help the Department of Education and Department of Justice to effectively determine whether an investigation of an incident of anti-Semitism is warranted under federal education anti-discrimination laws,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
The fact that this bill was introduced into the Senate and passed unanimously and without discussion all in one day provides glaring testimony in its own right about Jews “controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions”–or at least Congress at any rate.
Perhaps aware of the potential public relations blowback, a few Jewish writers have come out in opposition. One of these is Rachel Roberts, whose political correctness and angst-imbued manifesto in The Forward includes references to “stories my father told me about being young and Jewish in the 1950s” and likely will leave you rolling your eyes in places. A considerably more readable commentary is provided by Jacob Sullum in the New York Post, and there is also an article in the Jewish Business News allowing for the fact that “many” see the measure as “an attack on free speech,” an analysis that also questions whether the bill might in reality be “a bad idea.” Aside from this, however, Jewish opposition to the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016 seems overall kind of sparse.
Below is the text of the definition adopted by the State Department in 2010. Should it become institutionalized as the law of the land by being incorporated into the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it will not merely be “an attack on free speech” or a “bad idea.” It will, if viewed from an incremental standpoint and with the surety that more such legislation will come down the pike in the future, likely be a step toward criminalization of any criticism of Israel and a further eroding of the First Amendment.
SPECIAL ENVOY TO MONITOR AND COMBAT ANTI-SEMITISM
June 8, 2010
Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.Working Definition of Anti-Semitism by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia
Contemporary Examples of Anti-Semitism
- Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews (often in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion).
- Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective—especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
- Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, the state of Israel, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
- Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
- Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.
What is Anti-Semitism Relative to Israel?
EXAMPLES of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel, taking into account the overall context could include:
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
- Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions
DOUBLE STANDARD FOR ISRAEL:
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
- Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist
However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.