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House to Vote on Official Definition of Anti-Semitism Despite Opposition

The U.S.⁤ House may vote to codify an official ‌anti-Semitism definition, with some Democrats opposing the bill in ‍favor of a narrower version by progressive critics of Israel. The IHRA definition is backed by Jewish community leaders, aiming to combat anti-Semitism on college​ campuses. On the contrary, the Nexus definition, supported by progressive activists, raises concerns over stifling⁤ free speech.


Bill faces opposition from Dems who prefer definition crafted by progressive activists

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The U.S. House could vote to codify an official and widely accepted definition of anti-Semitism as early as Wednesday, but some Democratic lawmakers are objecting. They prefer a far narrower definition crafted by progressive critics of Israel.

The Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023 passed the House Rules Committee on Monday and could head to the floor this week.

The legislation would adopt the “definition of antisemitism set forth by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance” to be used “for the enforcement of Federal antidiscrimination laws concerning education programs or activities.”

The bill is facing opposition from Democrats such as Rep. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, who claims it “threatens to chill constitutionally protected speech” and “sweeps too broadly,” Politico reported on Tuesday.

But Jewish community leaders are vocal supporters of the bill, saying it is necessary to combat the anti-Semitism sweeping college campuses. Jewish students have been assaulted and threatened by anti-Israel activists at universities across the country.

“Shame on Jerry Nadler,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the director of global social action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Washington Free Beacon. “The IHRA definition passes the smell test in so many different countries, in so many different settings.”

Cooper said the anti-Jewish attacks on college campuses are “not going to stop unless there’s going to be accountability.”

Some Democrats have criticized the IHRA working definition, which labels certain language against Israel—such as opposing the existence of the Jewish state or comparing it to Nazi Germany—as anti-Semitic. They instead support the “Nexus definition,” which does not consider such language to be anti-Semitic.

The IHRA definition was created by an intergovernmental body representing 34 member countries, including the United States. The definition has been endorsed by over 40 countries and at least 33 U.S. states.

The Nexus definition, by contrast, was drafted by a coalition of progressive political consultants and academics—including numerous anti-Israel activists who support boycotts of the Jewish state and have accused Israel of “genocide.”

The Nexus Task Force, in its words, opposes a “single ‘all-purpose’ definition” of anti-Semitism, arguing that doing so “stifles debate about US policy in Israel and the Middle East” and encourages “false accusations of antisemitism.”

Rabbi Eric Fusfield, the director of legislative affairs at B’nai B’rith, said the notion that the IHRA definition could chill free speech is “an unfair criticism because the IHRA working definition explicitly says that criticism of Israel is not, per se, antisemitic. What is antisemitic is hatred of Israel, the vilification of Israel, the delegitimization and double standards imposed on Israel.”

“The Nexus definition is terrible,” Fusfield told the Free Beacon. “It endorses the use of double-standards against Israel. It’s not just a permission slip for hatred of Israel. It is a shockingly specific permission statement.”

The Nexus Task Force is led by Jonathan Jacoby, a progressive activist and longtime critic of Israel. Jacoby has accused Israel of enacting “laws enshrining Jewish dominance over Palestinian citizens of Israel” and denying “fundamental human rights to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza for 56 years.” He has also defended activists who call Israel an “apartheid” state, arguing that “apartheid” in this context is “an inflammatory term, but it is not antisemitic.”

The task force includes numerous anti-Israel activists. David Biale, a Jewish history professor at the University of California, Davis, has said he supports a boycott against Israel. Mira Sucharov, a political science professor at Carleton University, has also backed anti-Israel boycotts, writing in a 2018 Haaretz column that “Now Might Be the Time for Jews To Boycott Israel.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami, a member of the Nexus advisory committee, is the founder and president of J Street. The group has sought to diminish the Democratic Party’s support for Israel and weaken the influence of the main pro-Israel lobbying organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Raja Khouri, another member of the Nexus advisory committee, in November accused Israel of committing “genocide,” saying, “You have to call it what it is. When civilians—children, babies—are being killed in the thousands, what else would you call it?”



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