Controversial anti-Semitism Bill Won't Pass Congress in 2016

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016 would have instructed the U.S. Department of Education to consider a definition of anti-Semitism that includes 'judg[ing] Israel by a double standard' when investigating federal discrimination claims.

Demonstrators in Paris calling for a boycott of Israel, in 2014.
Demonstrators in Paris calling for a boycott of Israel, in 2014. AFP

A controversial bill that would have defined some criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism will not make it through Congress this year.

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016 would have instructed the U.S. Department of Education to consider a definition of anti-Semitism that includes “judg[ing] Israel by a double standard” when investigating federal discrimination claims.

The bill whipped through the Senate in just days, and had made it to the House Judiciary Committee. Now, however, with just days left before Congress officially adjourns until 2017, the bill has floundered.

A spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League, which supported and helped draft the bill, acknowledged that it would not pass Congress this year, but offered no comment.

The bill had drawn a growing chorus of critics in recent days, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the anti-Semitism expert Kenneth Stern, who wrote the definition of anti-Semitism on which the bill was based.

“If this bill is passed, its proponents will have the ability to threaten federal funding at colleges and universities where political speech against Israel occurs, and where administrators then don’t try to stop it, or fail to put the university on record calling such speech anti-Semitic,” Stern wrote. “Think of the precedent this would set.”

The website Jewish Insider reported that the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, wanted more time to consider the bill. The report cited unnamed congressional staffers.

Since a new Congress will convene in January, the bills will need to be reintroduced in both the House and the Senate.

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