Supporters Argue for Clearer Definition
Lawmakers in multiple U.S. states are advocating for laws to define antisemitism, sparking debates on free speech and bringing global politics into state legislatures. Supporters argue that defining antisemitism is crucial to discerning when criticism of Israel crosses into hatred of Jewish people.
Debate Over Free Speech
However, critics caution against enshrining such language into law, fearing it could stifle legitimate discourse. Critics fear that defining antisemitism in law would limit free speech and hinder the ability to criticize Israel or express anti-Zionist sentiments.
International Definition of Antisemitism
Defined in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), antisemitism is “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Concerns over State Intervention
But Kenneth Stern, the author of IHRA’s definition, said using such language in law is problematic. He argues that allowing the state to decide what constitutes antisemitism could infringe upon the rights of those with anti-Zionist views.
Rise in Protests and Critiques of the Legislation
Over the past three months, there has been a rise in protests around the country calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and the release of Israeli hostages. Critics argue that the legislation falsely equates critiques of Israel and Zionism with discrimination against Jewish people.
Legislation in Multiple States
Measures using the same definition of antisemitism have advanced in legislative chambers in Indiana and South Dakota. Other legislation with the definition is pending in at least five other states this year.
Supporters and Opponents
Bill supporters say that more than 30 states have adopted the definition in some way over the years. However, the U.S. Congress and American Bar Association have declined to do so. Among those urging lawmakers to vote no are chapters of the ACLU.
Impact on Colleges and Universities
How colleges are acting to prevent or stop antisemitism on campus has become a hot-button issue across the country. The adoption of the definition by colleges has led to concerns about the potential stifling of free speech and the cancellation of events related to Palestinian culture.
The debate surrounding the definition of antisemitism continues to intensify, with lawmakers pushing for clear guidelines while critics fear the erosion of free speech. As the legislation progresses, the impact on public discourse and the ability to criticize Israel remains a subject of concern.