Christian Zionists push bill to bolster US action against campus anti-Semitism

Motion advocated by CUFI proposes codifying IHRA definition under Civil Rights Act, but some say it would inhibit speech freedoms, criticism of Israel

Illustrative: a screenshot from the documentary 'Crossing the Line 2,' which depicts rising anti-Semitic activity on North American campuses. (Courtesy)
Illustrative: Screen capture from video of a man holding up a swastika sign during an event marking Israel's Independence Day held at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (Twitter)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Christians United for Israel ended a three-day summit in Washington with its 5,000 activists lobbying Tuesday for a bipartisan bill that would facilitate US government action against anti-Semitism on campus.

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act adds a controversial definition of anti-Semitism to Title VI protections under the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in the education system.

The measure codifies the definition of anti-Semitism advanced in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The definition includes some attacks on Israel, including holding Israel to different standards than other states, and denying a Jewish right to self-determination.

Israel critics and free speech advocates say that codifying the definition would inhibit speech freedoms.

Some administrations have been wary of extending Title VI to anti-Semitism because of the difficulties of distinguishing between discrimination on the basis of religion, which is still protected in some instances under US law, and on the basis of race or ethnicity. The government could deny federal money to institutions seen as violating Title VI.

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Christians United for Israel’s annual summit, Monday, July 8, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The CUFI summit drew top Trump administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence, an unusually broad array for a pro-Israel conference.

On Tuesday morning, before the activists went to Capitol Hill to lobby, they heard from a number of Republican senators, including Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, an initiator of the anti-Semitism measure with Pennsylvania’s Robert Casey.

No Democrats spoke at the conference.

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