Harvard University’s Free Palestine Camp, organized in April-May 2024 in support of Palestine. Photograph; Dariusz Jemielniak (Wikimedia Commons)

The United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a bill that seeks to expand the federal definition of anti-Semitism, despite concerns raised by civil liberties groups. Republican Congressman Mike Lawler of New York’s idea of ​​codifying a definition of anti-Semitism raises concerns about possible restrictions on criticism of the State of Israel in American schools and universities. The text, which now goes to the Senate, received a vote of 320 in favor and 91 against, with support from the Republican Party and some Democrats.

This measure comes in response to university protests in several US educational institutions against Washington’s support for Tel Aviv in the war in the Gaza Strip.

Since the beginning of the conflict, with the Palestinian resistance attack on October 7, 2023, the number of Palestinian victims has increased significantly, with 34,568 dead and 77,765 injured in Israel’s attacks on the territory. In response, students at American universities organized protests, calling for, among other things, divestment from Israeli companies. Some of these acts have been criticized as anti-Semitic, especially by members of the Republican Party. The Biden administration and other Washington officials pledge support for Israel despite growing humanitarian concerns.

Read also: Pro-Palestinian protests at US universities lead to clashes and arrests

Pressure on universities to crack down on the protests has also increased, with some leaders portraying them as inherently anti-Semitic. Protesters, in turn, reject this characterization, accusing administrators of confusing support for Palestinians with anti-Semitism and violating their rights.

Genocidal experiment

Ualid Rabah, president of the Palestinian Arab Federation of Brazil (Fepal)

In a statement to Red Portal, Ualid Rabah, president of the Palestinian Arab Federation of Brazil (Fepal) notes that almost 25% of voters in the Chamber were against the bill, a significant number that cannot be ignored. He also highlights that almost 45% of Democrats, President Biden’s party, voted against, suggesting a change in US policy regarding the Palestinian issue and support for Israel.

“If it’s like this at the top of power in the US, imagine what it’s like at the bottom, especially among the youth,” says Rabah. He believes that this shift in American public opinion could indicate a turning point in relation to the occupation of Palestine and what he describes as the “genocidal experiment” of the Israeli colonial project.

The Fepal president also expresses concerns about the US becoming a model of totalitarianism, with Israel being used as an example. He characterizes the Israeli regime as an example of totalitarianism, where religion is used to assert supremacy and justify the extermination of entire populations.

Read also: Columbia University goes on strike against police repression in pro-Palestine protests

Rabah argues that the proposed US law aims to prevent social uprising from harming the “genocidal experiment” underway in Palestine. He sees this legislation as a way to stifle challenge to genocide and totalitarianism, especially if that challenge is occurring in the United States itself.

For Rabah, it is important that all forces against the genocide in Palestine and the proposed totalitarian model are alert. He highlights support for the law not only from Zionist groups, but also from open racists in Europe, including political parties inherited from Nazism in Germany.

The crime of solidarity

Emir Mouad, secretary general of the Palestinian Latin American and Caribbean Confederation (Coplac)

Emir Mourad, secretary general of the Palestinian Latin American and Caribbean Confederation (Coplac), expressed to Red their concerns about possible implications for freedom of expression and the Palestine solidarity movement.

Mourad describes the law as a form of “blatant censorship” designed to criminalize any expression of support for the Palestinian people. He argues that the broad definition of anti-Semitism contained in the legislation can be interpreted in several ways, including prohibiting raising Palestinian flags or expressing support for Palestinian self-determination.

“I understood that it leaves room for a wide range of interpretations,” says Mourad. “For example, raising a Palestinian flag is anti-Semitism. Saying that you are in favor of the self-determination of the Palestinian people is anti-Semitism.”

Read also: Wave of anti-Israel occupations already resembles protests against the war in Vietnam

The secretary general of Coplac expresses concern about the level of repression this legislation could trigger, especially on US university campuses. He points to the influence of the Zionist lobby in the US Congress as a significant factor behind this measure.

“It is clear that this law is intended to crush and repress with all its might the free expression of the pro-Palestinian student movement,” says Mourad.

Trivialization of evil

Reda Soueid, specialist in International Relations

Reda Soueid, specialist in International Relations, highlights Red the political and social context behind the legislation and its potential impact on expressions of solidarity with Palestine.

“This vote aims to directly affect the current demonstrations that are taking place in universities and, apparently, tend to spread outside of them”, says Soueid. He points to the growing support for and support for pro-Palestinian demonstrations as the factor that may have motivated the approval of this legislation.

Read also: Accusation of anti-Semitism is a smokescreen to cover up apartheid and “Israel” crimes

However, Soueid notes that the use of the term anti-Semitism has been trivialized and instrumentalized to repress any anti-Israel or anti-Zionist manifestation, both in Europe and the United States. He highlights that this approach is particularly clear in proposed US legislation.

One of Soueid’s most interesting observations is the increased participation of American Jews in the demonstrations, which he interprets as a sign that anti-Zionist Jewish voices, which have been silenced for decades, are speaking out. He mentions the case of Brazil, where anti-Zionist Jews were represented by Breno Altman and labeled anti-Semitic.

“The number of Jews in Brazil is very small compared to the number of Jews in the United States, which exceeds 5 million”, highlights Soueid. “These 5 million, who refused to go and live in the Zionist State, are effectively participating in the demonstrations. This directly affects all the propaganda that has been built over decades in relation to Zionism, the State of Israel, all that positive propaganda of the democratic state.”

He also notes that the bipartisan vote on the bill reflects an alignment between Democrats and Republicans that is unusual on such important issues. This suggests, according to Soueid, that the interest of the American establishment is above any internal disagreements, especially when it comes to supporting Zionism as its instrument.

Read also: “Conflict in Palestine shows that the Zionist project has failed”

“American Jews do not want to be accused of committing genocide. And they know very well that Zionism is a neocolonial instrument, whether in the United States or in European countries, that they have been using throughout this entire period. So, we are witnessing the end of a cycle of misleading propaganda that tends to lose its strength, its viability”, concludes Soueid, highlighting a possible turning point in public perception regarding Zionism and the State of Israel.

An unassailable state and government

The legislation adopts the definition of anti-Semitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) as official and mandates that it be used by the federal government in enforcing laws against discrimination in the American educational system.

If passed, the bill would include a definition of anti-Semitism created by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This federal anti-discrimination law prohibits discrimination based on ancestry, ethnic characteristics, or national origin. Incorporating the IHRA definition into law would allow the federal Department of Education to restrict funding and other resources to college campuses deemed tolerant of anti-Semitism.

The definition of anti-Semitism adopted in the law includes a number of examples that, for critics, may impede criticism of Israel. Among these examples, the IHRA considers it anti-Semitic to deny Jews their right to self-determination and to compare Israel’s actions with Nazi policies in Germany. Some of the greatest American and European intellectuals, including Jews, have already made this comparison. These are the cases of historian Arnold J. Toynbee, scholar David Feldman, political scientist Ian Lustick, British army politician Edward Spears, musician Roger Waters, philosopher Hannah Arendt, Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, historian Omer Bartov, linguist Noam Chomsky and even Yair Golan, the Israeli general and deputy chief of staff.

The Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) is even more explicit about expanding the term. “In recent years there has been an energetic effort to redefine the term to mean something else. This new definition – known today as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s ‘working definition of antisemitism’, is explicitly politicized, reorienting the term to encompass not only hatred of Jews but also hostility to and criticism of the modern State of Israel. Israel.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a traditional civil rights organization in the US, criticized the legislation, saying it is unnecessary and could freeze freedom of expression on universities by equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

Other human rights organizations, such as the ACLU, have expressed concerns that this definition may confuse criticism of the State of Israel and Zionism with anti-Semitism. In a letter to lawmakers, the ACLU urged them to vote against the legislation, arguing that federal law already prohibits anti-Semitic discrimination.

These fears were echoed in the House of Representatives itself. During a hearing, Rep. Jerry Nadler highlighted that the scope of the definition was too broad, and Rep. Thomas Massie criticized the bill for not providing clarity on which parts of the IHRA definition would be enshrined in law.

Furthermore, in another response to the university protests, Republican deputies opened an inquiry to investigate the federal funds transferred to the institutions where the demonstrations have taken place. This movement raises additional concerns about possible repercussions for institutions involved in the protests.

Illinois Republican Mary E Miller was not chosen for debate rapporteur by chance. She is the author of the sentence that led her to apologize: “Hitler was right about one thing. He said: ‘He who has the youth has the future’. Our children are being propagandized.”

Thomas Massie, a right-wing Republican from Kentucky, said the bill was “a political trap” designed to divide the Democratic Party and trap it on an issue over which the party is divided. Democrats, Lawler said, were “stumbling because of electoral politics” in states with large Muslim populations that traditionally vote Democratic.

Source: vermelho.org.br

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