So-called antisemitism bill passes House

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a controversial, bipartisan bill through a 320-91 vote on May 1. Known as the “Antisemitism Awareness Act,” H.R. 6090 was written in response to the courageous encampments that have sprung up on college campuses throughout the U.S.and across the globe.

The encampment protesters are demanding that colleges and universities divest from doing business with the racist, apartheid state of Israel. The Act codifies a broad definition of “antisemitism” into federal civil rights law and targets vocal defenders of Palestine in particular.

Democrat Ritchie Torres and Republican Mike Lawler are sponsors of H.R. 6090. They had introduced another pro-Zionist bill a few weeks prior, known as the College Oversight and Legal Updates Mandating Bias Investigations and Accountability (COLUMBIA) Act. The COLUMBIA Act would empower the federal Department of Education to impose a third-party antisemitism monitor on any college or university receiving federal funding and helped pave the way for the “Antisemitism Awareness Act.”

Not surprising, right-wing House Speaker Mike Johnson is an enthusiastic supporter of H.R. 6090. He and other advocates of the bill mocked pro-Palestinian activists and students at Columbia University on April 24, just one week before the “Antisemitism Awareness Act” passed through the House. Johnson and the other pro-Zionist Congress members were met with boos and jeers, along with chants of “Free Palestine!” of which Johnson snidely commented, “Enjoy your free speech.” (CNBC, 4/24/24)

Most of the bipartisan House supporters of H.R. 6090 are the same representatives, including Speaker Johnson, who recently passed a $95 billion military aid package intended for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

There are several House members who have serious reservations about H.R. 6090, especially some progressive Democrats. Jerry Nadler is one of the most outspoken critics of the new bill. Nadler, who is Jewish and represents a district in New York City with one of the largest Jewish populations in the U.S., called out the hypocrisy of the bill and its supporters.

Nadler publicly commented: “If my  Republican colleagues were serious about antisemitism, they would have spoken up after neo-Nazis in Charlottesville chanted: ‘Jews will not replace us,’ If my Republican colleagues were serious about antisemitism, they would have spoken up when President Trump declared that there were ‘very fine people on both sides’ of that rally.” (The Nation, May 3)

Jewish activists solidarize with Palestinian resistance

Pro-Zionist politicians and corporate media pundits are deliberately pushing a false narrative that the courageous activists who have participated in pro-Palestinian encampments are “against Judaism.” Nothing could be farther from the truth! This is another attempt to divide the working class and oppressed communities on national and religious lines. Pro-Israel politicians refuse to make a distinction between Zionism and Judaism, because that would contradict their fabricated narrative.

Many activists at the encampments, including many among the thousands who have been arrested, are Jewish. One of the leading organizations to participate in the encampments is Jewish Voice for Peace. Passover was celebrated at many, if not all, of the pro-Palestinian encampments, and Seder dinners were also prepared. Seder dinners at encampments featured grape juice in lieu of wine, to respectfully honor the demand that the encampments remain alcohol-free. Jewish students at Columbia and other encampments invited non-Jewish participants to join them.

As an expression of solidarity with their Palestinian siblings, many Jewish activists have sported keffiyehs, while images on social media have shown Jewish activists wearing kippahs (skull caps, also called yarmulkes) with watermelon designs. Watermelons are symbolic of Palestinian solidarity, because they feature the colors of the Palestinian flag.

During a Seder dinner at Yale University, one of the event organizers, 22-year-old Yale student Miriam Levine, proudly told the crowd:  “Tonight, we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, not in spite of our Judaism but because of it. Tonight we proclaim that our liberation is intertwined.” (New York Times, April 22)

The bourgeois media have been silent about the presence of Jewish activists at the encampments. Instead, they falsely claim that pro-Palestinian protesters at the encampments are “attacking” Jewish students. There have been reports of pro-Israeli provocateurs making racist and anti-Jewish statements, but once again, the corporate press does not find those stories to be newsworthy.

The bourgeois media love to blindly repeat baseless allegations, but they have a habit of not reporting when incidents are debunked. Their disingenuous treatment of the encampments are indicative of that.

Actual anti-Jewish bigots support “antisemitism” bill

White evangelical Christians, such as Speaker Johnson, are some of the biggest supporters of the racist, apartheid state of Israel. Also known as “Christian Zionists,” many white evangelicals have an end times vision of Armageddon, during which they believe all Jewish people will either convert to Christianity or suffer horrendous punishment. Christian Zionists’ theological ideology is harmful to Jewish people.

H.R. 6090 will still have to pass the Senate to become law. The bill is a dangerous and desperate attempt to silence people who are standing up for justice and on the correct side of history. There is no mention in the bill of anti-Muslim bigotry on campuses by Zionists and other right-wingers.

As long as the U.S.continues to fund a genocide and as long as Israel is complicit in carrying out a genocide, people will not stop speaking truth to power.

It is hypocritical for H.R. 6090 proponents to call Palestinian rights activists “antisemitic” while using historically antisemitic and redbaiting tropes, such as labeling non-student activists at the encampments “outside agitators.” Actual antisemites, such as Christian Zionists like Speaker Johnson, should be banned from college campuses. In fact, people with fascist and Nazi sympathies are unwelcome at any of the encampments. People who are fighting against human suffering and oppression — regardless of student status — have every right to participate in actions on college campuses.


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