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House Passes Antisemitism Bill Amid Free Speech Fears

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In response to the ongoing tensions concerning Israel and Hamas, coupled with a wave of pro-Palestinian protests at colleges across the United States, the US House of Representatives, led by a New York Republican, voted in favor of a divisive antisemitism awareness bill. Despite engendering controversy, the bill was successful with 320 votes for and 91 against, manifesting some level of bipartisan support.

The legislation, fronted by Mike Lawler, aims to “provide for the consideration of a definition of antisemitism set forth by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance for the enforcement of federal anti-discrimination laws concerning education programs or activities, and for other purposes.”

The legislation mandates that the Department of Education adopt the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism to enforce anti-discrimination laws.

The bill faced opposition beyond political disagreements. The American Civil Liberties Union also disapproved of the legislation, pointing out that antisemitic discrimination and harassment by federally funded bodies were already legally prohibited. The Union contended that the bill’s presence is unnecessary for combating antisemitism and instead, it may curb free speech among college students by misinterpreting criticism of the Israeli government as antisemitism.

Critics of the bill, however, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, argue it infringes on free speech. Gaetz notably derided the measure as a “ridiculous hate speech bill” and voiced his concerns that it could potentially label biblical passages as antisemitic.

Expressing his stance on the social platform X, Gaetz announced, “This evening, I will vote AGAINST the ridiculous hate speech bill called the ‘Antisemitism Awareness Act.’”

He elaborated, stating, “Antisemitism is wrong, but this legislation is written without regard for the Constitution, common sense, or even the common understanding of the meaning of words. The Gospel itself would meet the definition of antisemitism under the terms of this bill!” According to Gaetz, the bill’s definition of antisemitism, as per the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), would include biblical assertions such as “claims of Jews killing Jesus.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene also opposed the bill for similar reasons. She argued that it could unjustly accuse Christians of antisemitism simply for adhering to Gospel narratives. “The bill could convict Christians of antisemitism for believing the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews,” she stated on social media.

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