We need your urgent help.
Tomorrow, January 19, a subcommittee of the General Laws Committee of the Virginia House of Delegates will consider a new bill, HB 2261, which seeks to tar protected political speech about Israel as a form of bigotry. This bill, which amends sections of the Virginia Human Rights Act, inserts the controversial US State Department definition of anti-Semitism when investigating alleged anti-Jewish incidents. This definition includes wording regarding the “demonizing” of Israel, which experts say can be interpreted to squash legitimate criticism of Israel’s record of human rights violations.
Under HB 2261, virtually all criticism of Israel could be interpreted as “demonizing” Israel, and therefore prohibited in employment, housing, and in higher educational institutions. This is an incredibly dangerous bill, so make sure to tell the subcommittee to vote NO on this bill when they meet tomorrow.
In its last session, Congress tried unsuccessfully to pass a similar bill, which would have facilitated a clampdown of activism in support of Palestinian human rights on campuses. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) concurred, stating that “the bill poses a serious threat to the First Amendment free speech rights of those on campus who may hold certain political views.”
We abhor all forms of racism and bigotry, but this bill is not about combating anti-Semitism. Instead, this bill seeks to silence Virginians who criticize Israel, and to intimidate university administrators into cracking down on constitutionally-protected pro-Palestine political speech on college campuses in an effort to quash the successful student organizing for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) for Palestinian human rights.
The Free Speech Coalition of Virginia did incredible work last year in watering down an anti-BDS resolution, and tabling another anti-BDS bill, so let’s carry that success over to this bill and defeat it before it reaches the House floor. Take action now!