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January 15, 2017 8:23 am

Expert: ‘Paralyzed’ Education Department Unable to Protect Jews on Campus Due to System’s Lack of Antisemitism Definition

avatar by Lea Speyer

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Antisemitic graffiti at the University of New Mexico. Photo: UNM Hillel.

Antisemitic graffiti at the University of New Mexico. Photo: UNM Hillel.

A legal expert last week called the US Department of Education (DoED) “paralyzed” when it comes to protecting Jewish students, due to the absence of a system-wide definition of antisemitism.

In an op-ed in Politico on Wednesday, Kenneth Marcus — president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and the author of The Definition of Antisemitism — wrote that DoEd’s department charged with combating hate crimes on campus is “stymied by antisemitism cases,” even though the phenomenon has reached “tipping point around the country.”

To rectify the situation, argued Marcus — former head of the DoEd’s Office for Civil Rights — called on the body to adopt the State Department’s definition, which “addresses a core concern on campus, exactly where anti-Israel activities cross the line into antisemitism.”

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Marcus’ comments echo the demands of a stalled bipartisan Congressional bill, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, whose opponents claim will infringe on free-speech rights. House representatives and legal experts rejected this on the grounds that the bill was carefully worded to uphold constitutional freedoms.

Marcus called the bill “encouraging,” but urged lawmakers to prioritize its passage now that Congress is back in session.

We must “give the new secretary of education the tools necessary to stamp out this ugly blight of campus antisemitism,” he wrote.

The Antisemitism Awareness Act was first brought to the Senate in early December, where it passed unanimously. An identical motion in the House failed to pass due to scheduling issues.

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