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Republicans’ ‘Antisemitism’ Bill Merely Gives Feds More Power To Trample Free Speech

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Republicans in Congress are pushing legislation that would formally adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as a basis for prosecuting federal antidiscrimination statutes — a move that critics such as Wyoming Rep. Harriet Hageman say “provides no actual relief for terrorized Jewish students and infringes on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Islamists and radical leftists have been rioting on college campuses in support of the terrorist organization Hamas and its sympathizers just months after Hamas brutally slaughtered innocent Jews and others in October.

New York Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, alongside other colleagues, originally introduced the Antisemitism Awareness Act weeks after the barbaric attack. The House passed the legislation Wednesday. The legislation would formally adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and direct the Department of Education to “take [it] into consideration” when “reviewing, investigating, or deciding whether there has been a violation of title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”

The IHRA defines antisemitism as “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.” This definition was already formally adopted by the State Department in 2016 and includes several examples of “manifestations” that “might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.”

“Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion” or “Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective” are two of multiple examples listed by the State Department.

“However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” the State Department noted. 

The bill, as The Washington Post explained, would enable the Education Department to “cut off funding to academic institutions found to tolerate such behaviors.” But you don’t have to defend antisemitism to recognize the First Amendment dangers inherent in empowering federal agencies to crack down on campus speech. Republicans may be supporting the bill now, but it’s generally conservative speech that gets throttled at universities.

Besides, the current chaos on campuses — vandalizing property, for example — is already illegal. Illegal activity and actions that prevent students from attending class deserve punishment from universities and local law enforcement, not Congress.

“By using the definition of antisemitism from a foreign non-governmental organization, the bill attempts to criminalize what someone’s ‘perception’ of another person might be, which is a clear violation of the First Amendment,” Hageman said. “The bill also incorporates some of that organization’s examples of expressions of objectionable antisemitic opinions, which again, while I find them offensive, would obviously be considered Constitutionally protected speech.”

“In the end, the bill effectively invalidates itself because it says it can’t be construed to infringe upon anyone’s rights, but the whole thing is a First Amendment violation on its face,” Hageman added.

The FIRE Organization, a nonprofit group focusing on First Amendment rights, explains the legislation “would adopt an unconstitutionally vague and overbroad definition of anti-Semitism, which colleges would be required to use on campus.”

“For example, the proposed bill would pressure colleges to censor speech critical of Israel unless the speaker engages in criticism of Israel ‘similar to that leveled against any other country.’ That’s impossibly subjective and will only make students and faculty think twice before engaging in constitutionally protected speech,” FIRE continued in a statement posted on X.

FIRE points to the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Broadrick v. Oklahoma that says any statute or regulation is void when citizens “must necessarily guess at its meaning.”


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