Bills Aimed At Defining Antisemitism Skyrocket

Cases of antisemitism are becoming so rampant across the country that lawmakers around the country are seeking to pass laws that would define what it is.

While the problem is certainly rising around the country, proposing bills to address antisemitism in this way have already sparked discussions over free speech as well as whether local statehouses should dive into world politics.

Supporters of these bills say that it’s become very important today for laws to clearly define whether criticism directed toward Israel ends up amounting to hatred of Jewish people.

In Georgia, state Democratic Representative Esther Panitch has sponsored a bill that the state Legislature passed recently. It’s expected to be signed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp in the near future.

Panitch, who is the lone Jewish member of the Legislature in Georgia, explained her position recently when she said:

“For anybody that didn’t think that anti-Zionism could cross into antisemitism, the rest of the world could see that it had.”

What she was referring to was the brutal surprise attacks by terrorist organization Hamas on Israel on October 7, which left 1,200 people dead, many of them civilians. Hamas also took roughly 250 hostages during that attack.

The attacks sparked Israel to strike back, with reports saying that more than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed in the process. Israel has said it won’t stop its war until Hamas is completely eradicated.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance defined antisemitism in 2016 as:

“A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Yet, the person who authored that definition, Kennth Stern, said it is problematic for states to use that language as part of laws that they pass.

Stern, who serves as the Bard Center for the Study of Hate’s director, said:

“There’s an increasingly large number of young Jews for whom their Judaism leads to an anti-zionist position. I don’t want the state to decide that issue.”

In recent months, protests have increased in number in parts across the U.S., with people calling for Israel and Gaza to stop fighting, and for Israeli hostages to be released.

A coalition of groups involved, led by CAIR and the Jewish Voice for Peace, issued a statement saying that the bill that was passed in Georgia, “falsely equates critiques of Israel and Zionism with discrimination against Jewish people.”

In other words, people can criticize what Israel is doing in their war against Hamas without hating Jewish people. It would be similar, in fact, to someone criticizing what the U.S. government is doing while still being proud to be an American.

Other states have taken up similar measures to the one that Georgia has passed. State legislatures in both South Dakota and Indiana have been discussed, and others are expected to follow suit.