Oppose Bill to Stifle Campus Free Speech on Palestine
On May 23, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) introduced bills (S.2940/H.R.5924) which, if they became law, would result in the Department of Education stifling free speech about Palestine on campus.
The bill requires the Department of Education to “take into consideration” a discredited Department of State definition of anti-Semitism when reviewing complaints of bigotry and harassment against Jewish students.
This definition includes legitimate, First Amendment-protected political speech critical of the Israeli government and in support of Palestinian freedom, justice, and equality.
Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, stated that “the proposed bill risks chilling constitutionally protected speech by incorrectly equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism…We worry that the law will lead colleges to suppress speech, especially if the Department of Education launches investigations simply because students have engaged in speech critical of Israel.”
Read the ACLU’s statement on the bill here.
The Los Angeles Times editorial board argues that “freedom of speech on college campuses is under enough pressure without the federal government adding to the problem by threatening to withdraw funding to punish people for expressing their political opinions. That would be a real possibility if Congress enacted and President Trump signed a bill called the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018…this proposal would blur the distinction between unacceptable, intimidating expressions of intolerance directed against Jews with criticism of the state of Israel. The latter, even when expressed in intemperate terms, is protected by the 1st Amendment.”
Read the LA Times editorial here.
“Jewish Voice for Peace is deeply concerned that this terrifying rise in anti-Semitism is being cynically exploited to target advocates of Palestinian human rights on college campuses.The bill dangerously diverts attention from real anti-Semitism and instead targets student activists.”
WATCH: Palestine Legal staff attorney Liz Jackson and Rabbi Joseph Berman of Jewish Voice for Peace discuss Kenneth Marcus’ confirmation and the return of the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act”, or the Silencing Students Act.
“The falsely-titled Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018 would only create confusion between what are real and punishable anti-Semitic hate crimes and the protected free speech rights of American students and faculty members,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad added: “It is not anti-Semitic to criticize the Apartheid-like policies of a foreign government or for Americans to engage in the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.”
Dr. James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute, wrote that the bill, “far from being designed to combat anti-Semitism…is a thinly veiled effort to inhibit pro-Palestinian activism on college campuses – something that the pro-Israel organizations who helped write the bill have acknowledged.”