Watch: What is the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act?

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.

The bill instructs the Department of Education to consider the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism when investigating schools for discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

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.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Jewish Federations of North America, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center all support the bill.

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.




Is very disconcerting that in this age and time, the word antisemitism still be used. The nazis are gone and people and countries want what is best for them. The main problem resides on the few that control politics, the Greed, and putting people in a sub human category. it is sad the Palestinian Situation, and how they been systematically eradicated. People are not blind anymore. BDS, I admire the efforts against powerful odds, and i think in the end, the Palestinian People will get Fair Justice. Inshallah


So if the bill passes, the next time I criticize Israel's governmental policies on anything, it will be considered antisemetic? That is equivalent to saying criticism of the US government's policies regarding any given subject is un American or worse, traitorous.
Also, 20 percent of Israeli citizens are Palestinian. I would like to think that my criticism of their status in Israel which is blatantly as a second and undermined class in Israeli society is not considered anti Semitic but rather pro human rights.

Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.