Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023

Floor Speech

Date: May 1, 2024
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. LAWLER. Mr. Speaker, I respond to my colleague from New York and his misguided remarks.

In 2018, the gentleman was a cosponsor of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which adopted the very definition that he just objected to. As a cosponsor of H.R. 5924, the definition that would be adopted is: ``Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti- Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.''

He was a cosponsor of that bill.

H.R. 6090, which I introduced, which has 59 cosponsors, adopts the IHRA working definition and its contemporary examples. The definition is: ``Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.''

It is the same definition, and, yet, now, somehow he is opposed to it.

Fundamentally, some of my colleagues on the left are allowing electoral politics to get in the way of doing what is right.

The gentleman from New York is a graduate of Columbia University, and yet couldn't muster the courage to take the subway north to stop by and call out the anti-Semitism that is running rampant at Columbia University. It is exactly why this bill is necessary today.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of my bill, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, and I thank my colleague, Congressman Josh Gottheimer from New Jersey, for his courage in leading on this issue.

In every generation, the Jewish people have been scapegoated, harassed, evicted from their homeland, and murdered. Many of us remember the Holocaust as the most recent large-scale instance of this, but it was hardly the first in the Jewish people's long history of persecution.

Prior to October 7, it may have seemed like we were making progress in fighting anti-Semitism, especially in the United States. A prime example: Jewish students weren't afraid to attend classes on their college campuses.

And yet today, we hear calls for intifada ring out on school grounds. We see Jewish students being physically prevented from going to class, rioters chanting ``death to Israel'' and ``death to America,'' and so much more.

In the U.S., Jews account for only 2.4 percent of the population, and globally they make up 0.2 percent of the world's population. The Jewish people need our support now. They need action now. They need to know they have a place in our country now.

They cannot fight anti-Semitism alone, and they shouldn't have to either.

The Antisemitism Awareness Act requires the Department of Education to use the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism and its contemporary examples when enforcing title VI violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Codifying a single definition of anti-Semitism will help the Department of Education and school administrators, who have been feckless, clearly identify instances of anti-Semitism and protect the safety of all students, including Jewish students.

Now, some opponents may try to make the argument that this imposes restrictions on our constitutional right to free speech. It is not true.

First of all, a constitutional protection is in the bill. It clearly states: ``Nothing in this act shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.''

Additionally, speech is already protected under the Civil Rights Act, but when the speech turns into harassment or other prohibited action and the action is motivated by anti-Semitism, that is when it becomes illegal conduct.

Right now, without a clear definition of anti-Semitism, the Department of Education and college administrators are having trouble discerning whether conduct is anti-Semitic or not, whether the activity we are seeing crosses the line to anti-Semitic harassment.

Other opponents to the bill say they would rather see a different bill tackling this.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. LAWLER. That is no reason, and no ``political cover'' to vote against another helpful measure.

I ask my colleagues who would prefer other solutions to consider the good it will do for the Jewish students and, yes, keep pushing for more change in the future. We need to hold these institutions accountable.

My bill has bipartisan support: 59 cosponsors, dozens of Jewish advocacy groups, including the ADL, the AJC, and Agudath Israel. It is absurd to oppose this on the grounds that it somehow limits free speech.

Calling for death to Jews is not protected speech. It is anti- Semitic, and the fact that we have some of the highest-ranking Jewish officials in America refusing to defend the Jewish community because of politics is a disgrace, it is shameful, and it is pathetic.

Anyone who votes against this bill because they would rather put political expediency and electoral politics ahead of anything else has no business being a Member of Congress.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. LAWLER. Mr. Speaker, never again is now, and we must act. That is our responsibility.

I would remind everyone, when you cosponsor a bill that accomplishes the same thing, nothing has changed, and yet now we need to backtrack all because of politics.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. LAWLER. Sure. I think any legislation that we can bring forward to combat anti-Semitism is critical, and I think Ms. Manning and Mr. Smith have done a great job working to bring a piece of legislation forward. I have introduced a number. This is but one of them.

I think the objective is to clearly define anti-Semitism and force accountability on these administrators and make sure the Department of Education has the teeth to enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


Source
arrow_upward