TEL AVIV – An anti-Semitism bill unanimously approved by the Senate earlier this month aimed at combating harassment of Jewish students on college campuses failed to pass the House of Representatives.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, was reportedly wary of “rushing” the bill through without adequate study, a congressional staffer told Jewish Insider.
The legislation, called the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016,” aims at helping “the Department of Education investigate incidents of discrimination motivated by anti-Semitism” in American schools, Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), sponsors of the Senate version, explained.
The bill’s draft says it seeks “to help identify contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism, and includes useful examples of discriminatory anti-Israel conduct that crosses the line into anti-Semitism.”
It draws its expanded definition of anti-Semitism from the “three D’s” formulated by Israeli politician and human rights activist Natan Sharansky, to include any criticism of Israel in which demonization, delegitimization or double standards are applied to the Jewish state.
The Anti-Defamation League supported the measure, saying the bill should become law since it “addresses a core concern of Jewish and pro-Israel students and parents: When does the expression of anti-Semitism, anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Zionist beliefs cross the line from First Amendment-protected free expression to unlawful discriminatory conduct?”
However, the bill has been slammed by civil libertarians as encroaching on free speech.
Michael Macleod-Ball, chief of staff of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office in Washington, said the act “opens the door to considering anti-Israel political statements and activities as possible grounds for civil rights investigations.”
Kenneth Stern, formerly the American Jewish Committee’s specialist on anti-Semitism and extremism, told the Forward that the congressional version is “both unconstitutional and unwise.”
The legislation also prompted outrage among several left-wing and pro-Palestinian groups.
The bill’s sponsors are likely to reintroduce a new version in 2017, JTA reported.