California Congressman Urges Education Secretary to Adopt State Dept Definition of Antisemitism, in Face of ‘Undeniable’ Increase in Jew-Hatred on Campus
A California congressman appealed to the Department of Education this week to adopt the State Department’s definition of antisemitism, in order to combat an “undeniable” increase in Jew-hatred on campus.
In a letter to Secretary of Education John King Jr. on Wednesday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D) urged him to formally expand its definition to include certain forms of anti-Israel behavior, rather than merely continuing to view Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as sufficient.
“[T]he phenomenon of campus-based antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism has gained more traction,” Sherman wrote. “This trend has formed a hostile academic environment on many college campuses. Unless you have a proper definition of what antisemitism is, you will not be able to appropriately assess whether a hostile environment for Jewish students is based on antisemitic harassment.”
According to Sherman, the State Department’s definition protects the constitutional free-speech rights of both critics and supporters of the Jewish state by making a “clear distinction between legitimate criticisms of Israel and antisemitism,” based on “three main points: demonization, double standards and delegitimization.”
Utilizing this as a guideline within the Department of Education would “indicate a more consistent policy within government agencies.”
“There is no reason why the United States domestic agencies should not understand antisemitism in the same way that the State Department does when monitoring antisemitism globally,” Sherman wrote. “If an incident abroad can be identified as an antisemitic act by the US government, it must be considered antisemitic within our own borders.”
The Department of Education has a responsibility to “ensure that there is a standing policy on antisemitism and antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism” prior to the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, Sherman wrote. “We cannot protect our students in academic institutions from antisemitism if we cannot identify it.”
Sherman’s plea comes after a House of Representatives bill proposing a similar move for the Department of Education was stalled last week, following an outcry from major anti-Israel activists that the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2016 would infringe on their First Amendment rights. Lawmakers hope to revisit the issue in 2017.
As The Algemeiner reported, an identical motion passed in the Senate immediately before the House was to vote on the bill, sowing hope in the Jewish community that meaningful change may occur in the treatment of Jewish and pro-Israel students on US campuses.