On Thursday I spoke to Sharmine Peries of The Real News about the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act,” a bill being pushed through Congress that aims to broaden the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel.
Watch the video above.
That definition broadly defines anti-Semitism to include “demonizing,” “delegitimizing” or applying a “double standard” to Israel. It has especially been used to target and smear boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists seeking to pressure Israel to end abuses of Palestinian rights.
The Senate unanimously passed the bill, introduced by a bipartisan team, and it is currently awaiting consideration by the House of Representatives.
Civil rights groups warn that if it becomes law, the measure would have have a chilling effect on Palestinian rights activism on college campuses in the United States.
But notably, the lead author of the anti-Semitism definition used by the State Department, Kenneth Stern, is urging US lawmakers not to advance the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.
In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, Stern warns that incorporating the definition of anti-Semitism into law would be “unconstitutional and unwise” and would “actually harm Jewish students and have a toxic effect on the academy.”
“I disagree with BDS,” Stern writes, “but it is wrong to say that BDS is inherently a form of anti-Semitism, and even if it were it would be improper to try and censor pro-BDS campus activity, which is political speech and should be answered by more speech and education, not suppression.”
In the video, we speak about the history of Israel advocacy groups’ attempts to move the Department of Education to classify Palestinian rights activism as a form of discrimination and their increasing reliance on undemocratic measures to suppress the growing BDS movement.
I also wrote about the bill.