U.S. Congress Split Over Whether Criticizing Israel Constitutes Anti-Semitism

A potential addition to the federal anti-discrimination statute says verbal attacks on Israel count as anti-Semitism

A U.S. House of Representatives committee heard tough exchanges between proponents and opponents of a bill that would codify a definition of anti-Semitism that incorporates a controversial component addressing attacks on Israel.

The nine witnesses appearing Tuesday at a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee were split: Five among those said the proposed addition to federal anti-discrimination statutes is a necessary means of stemming anti-Semitism on campuses, and four who argued it infringes on speech freedoms. The law if enacted would apply to Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which addresses institutions — including universities — that receive federal funding.

The witnesses at times directly addressed one another, violating congressional protocol. Barbs were exchanged, with each side questioning the bona fides of the other in defining anti-Semitism. In a bizarre twist, the coauthors of the language that the bill would codify argued opposing viewpoints.

Lawmakers — who also bickered at times — marveled at the Jewish family food fight they were witnessing.

“It’s like throwing a ball and having a scrum and seeing who wins,” Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said.

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