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Proposed 'Anti-Semitism Awareness Act' is an Unconstitutional Mess

Bipartisan Senate bill would make "judging Israel by a double standard" a hate crime.

Everything's a hate crimeTakver/Flickr/Wikimedia CommonsSen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) have introduced the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act which according to a statement on Casey's website is meant to "to ensure the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has the necessary statutory tools at their disposal to investigate anti-Jewish incidents" on college campuses.

Citing a recent FBI report stating over half of all reported hate crimes in 2015 were of an anti-Semitic nature, the senators claim their bill is necessary to provide the DOE with the "firm guidance" it needs to determine "what constitutes anti-Semitism."

Seemingly shoe-horned into the end of the senators' statement is this line:

This act is not meant to infringe on any individual right protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

That's a relief, because someone reading the details of the bill who possesses a basic understanding of constitutionally protected speech would likely see it differently.

Although prosecuting offensive ideas and retrograde views as "hate crimes" doesn't eradicate bigotry but merely adds a component of vengeance and contributes to identity tribalism, the bill's inclusion of "calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews" is difficult to argue against (although "calling for" and "aiding" the killing or harming of anyone is already illegal).

The bill's definition of "anti-Semitism" is directly culled from a 2010 State Department memo, which The University of California Board of Regents considered adopting as official policy, before ultimately agreeing to a softer condemnation of "Anti-Semitism, anti-semitic forms of anti-Zionism," but not a blanket ban on anti-Zionist expression itself. There was also a push by New York state lawmakers to ban anti-Zionist speech on City University of New York (CUNY) campuses, but the bill died in the legislature before it could be voted on.

Unfortunately, the bill also proposes the following as examples of hate crimes:

  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust
  • Demonizing Israel by blaming it for all inter-religious or political tensions
  • Judge Israel by a double standard that one would not apply to any other democratic nation

While holding such a view is stupid and objectionable, Holocaust denial is legal in the United States. Likewise, politically "demonizing" Israel and unfairly holding Israel to a "double standard" are thankfully legal, just as a pro-Israel speaker expressing an opinion blaming all of the tumult in the Middle East on Arab Muslims would be.

That's how free speech works. The government doesn't get to judge the validity of thought, no matter how offensive it is to certain sensibilities.

NOTE: This post was updated to clarify the University of California's statement.

Photo Credit: Takver/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons

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  • Lee Genes||

    What

    The

    Fuck

  • Libertarian||

    Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)

    It's bipartisan, so by definition this is a good thing.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    See, the thing is the Liberal Progressive Left starts this crap, and then has the gall to be shocked when it comes around to bite them. All Hate Crime laws are pigswill. All of them. Every freaking one.

  • Libertarian||

    *furiously rubbing hands in anticipation of passage of Anti-Libertopia Awareness Act*

  • Hamster of Doom||

    All this nibbling around the edges fails to address both the real underlying cause and the obvious solution. Pass a law banning people from being douchebags and usher in an era of world peace. I mean, duh doi so obvious.

    Pikers, can't ever do anything right.

  • Lee Genes||

    This act is not meant to infringe on any individual right protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

    These morons should be run out of office on a rail.

  • Libertarian||

    Anyone sponsoring or voting for this should be impeached for ignoring their oath to uphold the Constitution.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Ah, but by the same standard, all Democrats and most Republicans should be impeached, for the same reason.

  • Acosmist||

    Since mens rea is dead, what should intent matter? amirite?

  • Pay up, Palin's Buttplug!||

    Next on the agenda: The Anti-Politician Awareness Act.

  • Libertarian||

    Could be worse. They could be in favor of passing a law to give cops hate-crime protection.

  • Lee Genes||

    That's coming

  • Mainer2||

    I believe it's already here.

  • Libertarian||

    It was one of my attempts at sarcasm (Louisiana has already done it).

  • The Dude73||

    It's here already at the state level. Hate crime legislation protects police officers. It's being proposed at the state level in many places - Louisiana was the first to flirt with it.

  • Lee Genes||

    The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act is supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federations of North America, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

    Go fuck yourself guys.

    *oh shit, did i just break the law?*

  • Juice||

    Why?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Demonizing Israel by blaming it for all inter-religious or political tensions

    How do they feel about demonizing Israel by blaming it for some inter-religious or political tensions?

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    Yeah, I mean surely even the most overzealous anti-Israel person wouldn't blame them for, say, the violence between Hindus and Christians in India.

  • KDN||

    You give them too much credit.

  • thrakkorzog||

    Does this mean we can tell the U.N. to pound sand? If so, I can see myself being in favor of a bad law.

  • mashed potatoes||

    ""judging Israel by a double standard" a hate crime."

    so giving them aid even though the are a nuclear power not in compliance with the NPT is a violation of the 1961 foreign aid act AND a hate crime??

  • The Grinch||

    Can you be out of compliance with a treaty if you never signed it?

  • mashed potatoes||

    i guess are worded that wrong.. they are nuclear power not signatories/participants of the NPT

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    Technically yes. By the strict definition of compliance.

  • R C Dean||

    Not sure you can be out of compliance with something unless you are subject to it.

    I live in the US, and don't pay any taxes to Mexico. Am I out of compliance with Mexican tax law?

  • ||

    You pay taxes to Israel & its war against the Palestinians whether you know it or not. And our genius president Obombo just gave them 38 billion over the next ten years. You are in compliance with Talmudic law. Happy day!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    So Casey wakes from his long, Westerosi-length winter hibernation and this is what he decides to put his dick into? At least it isn't Toomey's gun control hogwash, I guess.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    For Trump, politics, family and business merge. We know from Indonesia how that may end up.

    President-elect Donald Trump's transition process has raised questions of personal financial interest and first family business connections that have no precedent in U.S. political history.

    Chelsea who? Hillary huh? UNPRECEDENTED!

  • mashed potatoes||

    yeah, did joe biden's son (not the dead one) get put on the board of a ukranian oil company by parties of the new government in kiev right after we overthrew the old government. yes, yes he did..

  • jeffrey fein||

    But you see, that board position was based entirely on talent, experience, and merit.

  • BYODB||

    Mind boggling. Y'know, I would have at least an iota of respect for the left if they ever called out their side for this type of stuff. I know it's a 'both parties' issue in that they only 'recognize' this type of behavior from the other side, but calling out Trump as being some kind of uniquely bad guy for doing what they are all doing is exposing the hypocrisy better than I would have hoped.


    This is the same government that passed, then gutted the STOCK act and simply refuses the very idea of term limits.

  • Caput Lupinum||

    The most shocking part of this is that Bob Casey actually spent enough time in Washington to propose a bill.

  • John||

    It would have been nice if the author had dug a little deeper into this issue. First, what exactly is being changed here? It appears from the link that DOE already has a policy where it investigates anti Semitic incidents but hasn't yet defined what that means and this bill is going to do it for them. Okay, how does this work? What the hell is DOE doing investigating any of these incidents? What happens when they find one? The entire context of this bill is a complete mystery to me.

    More importantly, if DOE is in the business of investigating incidents of racial or religious bigotry, what are the standards for incidents involving other groups like racial minorities or women? And how are these standards different than the standards for those or are they different? Those would be interesting questions to see answered but are not by the article.

  • Caput Lupinum||

    I haven't unpacked everything yet, but you can start here and here.
    It looks to be similar to how they handle Title IX violations, since they are basing this in part on title IX:

    On this occasion, I would like to address the right of all students, including students of faith, to be free from discrimination in our schools and colleges under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 (Title IX).

    The standards of what they investigate:

    OCR can investigate complaints that students were subjected to ethnic or ancestral slurs; harassed for how they look, dress, or speak in ways linked to ethnicity or ancestry (e.g. skin color, religious attire, language spoken); or stereotyped based on perceived shared ancestral or ethnic characteristics. Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh students are examples of individuals who may be harassed for being viewed as part of a group that exhibits both ethnic and religious characteristics.
  • John||

    Thanks.

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    What's good for the goose step is good for the gander.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Oh, you.

  • prolefeed||

    the bill's inclusion of "calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews" is difficult to argue against

    I think it is really easy to argue against:

    Neo-Nazis have the constitutionally protected right to free speech, to push their odious ideology. The rest of us have the same right to point out that this speech, while protected, is also morally abhorrent.

    And then there's the matter of throwing Reason commenters in jail for making woodchipper comments about odious politicians pushing odious policies, when said politicians also happen to be Jewish, even though that has nothing to do with the woodchippiness of said politicians. I mean, they didn't name this the No One Is Allowed To Criticize Dianne Feinstein Or Barbara Boxer Act, but that is where this could go.

  • John||

    Two things. First, at some point I don't have a right to call upon and encourage others to murder you. There is such a thing as incitement, though it has to be under circumstances where the resulting violence if both imminent and the foreseeable result of my speech. Second, even if you have a right to say it, that doesn't mean you have a right to say it on a federally funded college campus. The federal government has rightfully I think said that if you want its money you can't run a racist school. And part of not running a racist school is not letting your students run around and make it clear racial minorities are not welcome.

  • Lee Genes||

    Second, even if you have a right to say it, that doesn't mean you have a right to say it on a federally funded college campus.

    Taking federal money does not abrogate freedom of speech. The feds are under no obligation to continue to provide money however.

  • John||

    Thanks to the CRA, it does. Once the federal government said "anyone who runs a public accommodation can't do so in a racist manner", they necessarily started restricting speech. That rule couldn't be effective if you allowed people to say racist things and effectively discriminate by making the environment hostile and intolerable to minorities.

    The CRA effectively make being openly racist and with that openly racist speech illegal. Yeah, you can still say racist things, but only if you do it in the privacy of your own home or on the internet maybe now. Do it anywhere in public and the owner of the place you are will be obligated to kick you out or face being sued for discrimination.

    This is why adding gays as a protected class to the CRA is such a grave threat to free speech and religious freedom. If you add gays to the CRA, you made objecting to homosexuality effectively illegal the same way we have made racist speech effectively illegal.

    The CRA sucks. And I don't think it is in anyway consistent with the 1st Amendment. The courts, however, disagree, and I was merely stating the law as it is.

  • Lee Genes||

    I always perceived the CRA as a restriction on freedom of association instead of speech but I'll ponder that for a bit before responding further.

  • John||

    On its face, it is a restriction on the freedom of association. In practice, it is also a restriction on speech. It would have been meaningless to pass a law that banned discrimination but only defined discrimination to mean outright refusal to hire or serve minorities and nothing else. It quickly became apparent that racists even if they were forced to hire or serve minorities would do so in ways that made the service or the employment completely hostile to minorities. So to make the law meaningful and effective, courts necessarily had to regulate speech.

  • The Grinch||

    The feds shouldn't be in the business of policing any speech short of direct incitement. The attitude that it's acceptable in some circumstances leads to bad legislation like we're reading about here.

  • John||

    They are in the business of it and have been in the business of it since 1964. See my post above about the CRA.

  • Mickey Rat||

    I would think being federally funded puts a school more under 1st Amendment protections, not less (if the school is directly receiving federal funding ).

  • John||

    Depends on what kind of speech you are talking about. If it is in regards to anything that could be considered racists or sexists, no it doesn't.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    Please correct me if I am not, but are not all Levantines (including Arabs) Semetic?

    In which case, a linguistic and chromosomal link has nothing to do with a religion, yes?

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    In an age where even stating that some of Israel's policies might not be the greatest things in the world is considered, by some, to be "antisemitism" the word has clearly morphed from its original meaning by a LOT already.

  • ant1sthenes||

    On the other hand, there are quite a few "anti-Zionists" whose ire is not limited to Israelis or people who have taken a stance in support of them.

    If someone feels entitled to criticize a random Jewish American out of a default assumption that they must be pro-Israel without any evidence of that fact, then they don't actually believe in a distinction between the Jewish community and the state of Israel, and are just Jewphobes.

  • ||

    Do you have anything to support the statement made in your first paragraph?

  • ant1sthenes||

    To hand? No. Are you asserting I couldn't dig up, say, ten such people if I took the time and effort to do so?

  • ||

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    Anyone else see the irony in the fact that protecting against anti-Semitism apparently requires the US to become more like...Germany, with regard to free speech?

  • Pay up, Palin's Buttplug!||

    All part of the vast left wing conspiracy.

  • Hank Phillips||

    After the Liberal Party drew up the repeal plank that the Dems stole and used to surf to victory in 1932, the GOP began using "liberal" as an expectorating expletive--just like Hitler. And nobody who has read Mein Kampf can read the 36,000-word platform churned out by the Republican Party and blank out the similarities. "Right wing" once described soldiers on the East flank of an army pointed north. But lately the meaning has shifted to euphemize Christian National Socialists --with broad enough leftover vagueness to spill over and allow lay looters to tarbrush ALL non-communists, libertarians and freetraders in one big smear. The American Liberal Party directly defended all things Jewish and criticized and condemned the prohibitionist sects of ku-klux christianity in its 1931 platform: "But when they go to the State capitals or to Washington and demand the right to dictate the laws of the land, let us fight them to a finish as public enemies. And why not? If we are to have Protestant laws today, we shall have Catholic laws tomorrow, and Jewish laws next week. And where then shall we find tranquillity?"

  • AlmightyJB||

    Conspiracy theorists' best friends right there

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Speaking of idiotic nonsense- this renewed interest in flag burning leads me to ask:

    "Where are the penalties for shitting on the Constitution?"

  • Lee Genes||

    A penaltax?

  • Real American||

    being on the "right side of history"

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Okay how long until we see the "Anti- Saying Mean Things About Anyone Other Than a White Middle Class Christian Male" Act?

    This shit started on the campuses now its creeping into public law. Who didn't see that coming down the pike. Alright, everyone can have their special snowflake protection. Just you lose your vote and right to enter into contracts? If everyone wants to act like spoiled little children, we might as well start treating them like spoiled little children.

  • DJF||

    How about instead we have the "Shut down the Department of Education Act"

  • Lee Genes||

    Something that was on the GOP platform for how many elections?

  • DJF||

    And probably 90% of the establishment Republicans and 110% of the establishment Democrats would call for Trumps impeachment if he tried that. Because they all know that without a Department of Education the country would become a vast wasteland of the illiterate.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    110% of the establishment Democrats

    This is impossible. You can't math. This is a perfect example of why the Department of Education is so very important.

    Sincerely,
    Asshat Prog

  • Mainer2||

    A long time ago, when I was a boy, we used to hear that in America I might not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it. We weren't like other countries where you could get in trouble for expressing your opinion. Oh well.

  • Je suis Woodchipper||

    as John said above, courts allowed public accommodations (title II?) in CRA to decrease 1A protections.

  • Mainer2||

    ,,and far too many people simply acquiesce.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The most underrated aspect of free speech is the leeway it gives to racists, antisemites, and other idiots to expose themselves as idiots.

    One of the reasons that antisemites are largely marginalized in our society is because of the antisemtic things they say.

    In places in the world where saying antisemitic things is prohibited by law, the antisemites hide behind a veneer of artificial social acceptability--because they aren't allowed to expose themselves as idiots through their speech.

    What is the difference in the level of acceptability between Marine Le Pen and her father? The difference is that where Marine Le Pen keeps her mouth shut about antisemitism, her father is on the record saying what he really thinks. Marine Le Pen's father was marginalized for decades because of the awful things he said--Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, is poised to become lead the National Front to taking over the Presidency of France.

    Depriving antisemites of their speech doesn't marginalize antisemites. If you want to see antisemites effectively marginalized, don't violate their free speech rights--give them a microphone! Nothing makes an antisemite look dumber than the stupid things they say.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    I also believe strongly in the "let them reveal themselves to be idiots" maxim. The problem comes when so many people I talk to seem to reveal themselves to be idiots. It can become so overwhelming that I want them to shut the hell up. Granted, I have no intention of invoking the State to shut them up... it merely makes me to want to never speak to anyone again... or kill myself.

  • $park¥ is totally a Swifty||

    IMO, this is the big problem with the CRA. So many people unknowingly support people who hate them because the haters can't put their hate on display.

  • Real American||

    even if one thinks it is a ok for the government to enforce such a silly law, why give it to the Dept. of Education? Shouldn't the DOJ be the one prosecuting "hate crimes"?

  • Mainer2||

    Because education if for the children. Same idea as the oppression of the EPA in the name of the environment.

  • Hank Phillips||

    In our Christian Nation it is the DOD that perpetrates hate crimes and genocide. As in Amritsar by the British, so it was in Vietnam by Nixon's conscripts and is today by victims of government schooling and prohibitionist asset-forfeiture policies. These wreck the economy to drive up unemployment as a form of "synthetic" conscription. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I clearly witnessed the call to armed violence for Operation Desert Shield, and saw mohammedan terrorist violence in These States AFTER that dumb trick. What I do not recall is mohammedan berserker terrorism in These States BEFORE that attack on the old Ottoman Empire.

  • You ARE a Prog (MJG)||

    "to ensure the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has the necessary statutory tools at their disposal to investigate anti-Jewish incidents"

    Vital work of the federal government.

  • Rich||

    This act is not meant to infringe on any individual right protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

    And this statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

    With all due respect, fuck you.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The NSDAP Program and Mein Kampf were both written before DNA was identified, but the myriad National Socialist references to "blood" make clear they refer to Mendelian inheritance of such traits as skin color and altruism. Semitic describes Jews, railed against some 450 times in Hitler's book and program. But the term also Arabs and Turks never mentioned there. Mohammed only turns up in one phrase in Mein Kampf, so carefully neutral as to not give offense. National Socialist doctrine is clearly anti-Judaic rather than anti-Semitic, relying heavily on Christian stereotyping of "Jews" as non-mystical, not sold on afterlife theories, and egoistic rather than altruists. All of these traits are virtues by my lights, but to German National Socialist eugenics and ethical values they are Deadly Sins. Just as Christians today rely on marriage laws backed by armed coercion, that same sentiment went much farther when Positive Christianity wrote German laws. That altruistic sentiment went to Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sorbibor, Belzec and similar death camps.

  • Rat voted NOTA||

    I can still say bad things about individual Jews?

  • Je suis Woodchipper||

    since there's no global anti-apartheid movement targeting Israel, i argue the country is already held to a double standard not applied to other nations.

  • Anomalous||

    What apartheid?

  • Daniel68||

    How about Jews ONLY settlements in the West Bank? The 50 or more laws which privilege Jewishness in Israel, the segregation of education, the Israeli only roads in the West Bank? the fact that Israel does not recognize interfaith marriage between Jews and non Jews?

  • Daniel68||

    In addition, how about the immigration laws that give extreme preference to Jews and extreme disfavor to all non Jews? The illegal wall cutting through occupied land that does not belong to Israel? The housing permits which are denied to non Jews on a regular basis? You are delusional if you don't see apartheid in Israel.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Doesn't the BDS movement consider itself an anti-apartheid movement?

    Though the notion of applying apartheid logic to a state specifically established for a certain people because whenever they lived with other groups, those groups abused them and went as far as campaigns of extermination, is missing the fucking point. It's like arguing that a battered women's shelter is guilty of sex discrimination.

  • Anomalous||

    The proper response to hate speech is a good old-fashioned asskicking.

  • All Seeing Eye||

    How about being strong enough emotionally not to let someone's speech get under your skin and get you all worked up? How about being intellectual enough to argue your counterpoints? Kicking ass is only justified when someone tries to kick yours - self defense.

  • Longtobefree||

    Well, since the DOE is going away under Trump, will this particular form of madness really matter?
    Really, you "investigate" crimes. We have an FBI for that.

  • Bra Ket||

    So Jews are using their disproportionate influence over govt to silence conspiracy theorists who think Jews control the govt?

  • creech||

    Sen. Casey, seeing how the wind was blowing with Sen. Toomey's re-election, is pandering to the considerable number of Jewish voters and contributors who live in Pennsylvania.

  • Underzog||

    "Reason" magazine had a whole issue glorifying holocaust deniers. It is understandable that they would be enraged by such legislation. Also, the antisemitism of so many college students would be appealing to my old rhomite buddies. We should let the antisemitic bullying of Jews be given free rein, just as was done in Weimer Germany so Nazi Germany or a Nazi America can appear and take care of untermenschen such as my humble self. I am pretty sure this is what my rhomite buddies at "Reason" magazine want. As bad as you guys are toward pushing a second holocaust (there are six million Jews in Israel, afterall), the Jews amongst you are even worse -- real, evil traitors. From Hamas supporter, Sheldon Richmond, to Ekaterina ("and may the informers have no hope) Jung. The sickness and evil of those two makes them the lowest of the low.

    "There's no need to fear. Underzog is here."

  • Daniel68||

    There we no homicidal gas chambers, though many Jews were killed, just like many members of other groups, by both sides.

  • All Seeing Eye||

    Have these clowns lost their minds? We live in America, not China. Speech like this can never be outlawed and I doubt the supreme court, even as presently composed, would uphold this law. This thing is dead on arrival.

  • Libertopian||

    "While holding such a view is stupid and objectionable, Holocaust denial is legal in the United States."

    Significant claims made by Jewish people who were in the camps about people being made into soap and lampshades are already 'denied' by mainstream historians.

  • jeffrey fein||

    It's "Suck up to Israel time" again. Why wait a year? Let's get an early start on infusions of Jewish money for the next election.

    Welcome to the United States of Israel.

    And by the way, I'm an American and a Jew.

  • ERonan||

    Apparently the author is wholly unaware that a law already exists that allows students to sue in the case of civil rights violations by universities and colleges. The problem is that under that law Jewish students aren't protected as it is based upon race, and being Jewish is not a race, no matter what the altright may think. Prior to the Obama administration this oversight was ignored when Jewish students used the law to sue to protect their rights under the Constitution. However, the Obama US office for Civil Rights enforcement under the Department of Education takes a literal meaning of the law, hence Jewish students are not protected. Several law suits brought on behalf of Jewish students have been dismissed based upon this point of law. This newly proposed law simply fixes that oversight and applies the definition of antisemitism that is accepted by the US State Department.

    Furthermore, the law merely holds University administrations to the same level of protecting Jewish students that they are required by law to protect racial minorities and women. If people are held up to ridicule for racism and misogyny on campus, then what is wrong with holding them up to ridicule for antisemitism?

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