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House passes bill updating the definition of anti-Semitism

Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y. The Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci

House passes bill updating the definition of anti-Semitism

The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill condemning anti-Semitism and cementing the definition used by the government in enforcing civil rights protections under Title VI. The measure passed 320-91. Seventy Democrats and 21 Republicans voted against its passage.

Title VI prohibits federal funding or assistance to bodies that discriminate based on race, color, or national origin. The text of the bill applies the definition of anti-Semitism used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and instructs the government to utilize it in its enforcement.

Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., the sponsor of the bill, believes it will create one cohesive definition across federal enforcement.

“It’s clear, it adopts the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism and all of its contemporary examples for the Department of Education to enforce Title VI violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Lawler said. “It’s time for the Senate now to take this bill up.”

Other members, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who voted against the bill, believe the definition isn’t specific enough and would cover political criticisms of Israel in its war against Hamas.

“The IHRA conflated, I think dangerously, criticisms of the Israeli government policy with the definition of anti-Semitism. In all moments, but especially this moment, it’s important to send the message that criticisms of the Netanyahu government do not amount to anti-Semitism,” Cortez said.

IHRA, on its website, defines anti-Semitism 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.”

Why does it matter? The House vote comes as student protests have broken out in many federally-funded universities and institutions of higher education.

Notably, demonstrations have broken out at George Washington University, Columbia University, UCLA, and others, prompting calls of alarm from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Most recently, the President of Columbia University requested the assistance of law enforcement in response to a shut-in where protesters took control of Hamilton Hall, one of the buildings on the university’s campus.

Dig deeper: Read my coverage of a recent foreign aid package passed by Congress that has divided Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


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