'Blatant violation of First Amendment': Outrage after House passes bill to expand definition of antisemitism amid anti-Israel protests

'Blatant violation of First Amendment': Outrage after House passes bill to expand definition of antisemitism amid anti-Israel protests
The House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Antisemitism Awareness Act on Wednesday, May 1, 2024 (Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: The House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Antisemitism Awareness Act to expand the legal definition of antisemitism used to enforce anti-discrimination laws, under the leadership of Speaker Mike Johnson on Wednesday, May 1.

The bill comes at a time when college campuses across the United States are seeing an onslaught of anti-Israel student protests.

What does the Antisemitism Awareness Act entail?

The bill seeks to ensure that the Department of Education legally adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when enforcing anti-discrimination rules.

It passed through the House by an overwhelming majority of 320-91 but has yet to pass the Senate and be signed by President Joe Biden.

In spite of a clear majority supporting the bill across the aisle, the bill has drawn some flak from critics, who slam it as government overreach and fear that it would negatively impact free speech on campus.

Congressmen's statements backing the bill

Speaking with Fox News, Rep Mike Lawler (R-NY), who led the bill, stated, "When people engage in harassment or bullying of Jewish individuals where they justify the killing of Jews or use blood libel or hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the Israeli government — that is antisemitic. It's unfortunate that needs to be clarified, but that's why this bill is necessary."

He made his point by criticizing anti-Israel protests at colleges like Columbia University, Yale University and where he claimed Jewish students were feeling unsafe.

Lawler was seconded by a Democratic Congressman from NY, Pat Ryan, who said, "We need to take an aggressive and multifaceted approach to keep our Jewish students safe, and that means passing the Antisemitism Awareness Act immediately."

Criticism of the Antisemitism Awareness Act

Rep Jerry Nadler (D-NY), a Jewish progressive member on the House Judiciary Committee, led the opposition to the bill, stating, "This definition, adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance or IHRA, includes, quote, contemporary examples of antisemitism, close quote. The problem is that these examples may include protected speech in some context, particularly with respect to criticism of the state of Israel."

"To be clear, I vehemently disagree with the sentiments toward Israel expressing those examples. And, too often, criticism of Israel does in fact take the form of virulent antisemitism," he added.

Some members of the House GOP were among the harsher critics of the bill, as Rep Thomas Massie (R-Ky) wrote on X, "This is a poorly conceived unconstitutional bill and I will vote no."


"Antisemitism is wrong, but I will not be voting for the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023 (H.R. 6090) today that could convict Christians of antisemitism for believing the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews," shared Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga).


A similar sentiment was expressed by Rep Matt Gaetz (R-Fl), who shared on the X, "Antisemitism is wrong, but this legislation is written without regard for the Constitution, common sense, or even the common understanding of the meaning of words. The Gospel itself would meet the definition of antisemitism under the terms of this bill!"



Internet outraged with lawmakers for passing antisemitism bill

Netizens were not supportive of the new legislation and took to X to express their disappointment over it. 

"Blatant violation of the first amendment," wrote a social media user.


"Government overreach. This will go go to court," stated another.


"So much for freedom of speech," jibed a third.


"What happened to freedom of speech, freedom of expression???" echoed a fourth.


"What a joke, makes sense why the protestors were being funded. Made it easier to push s**t bills like this one," commented a fifth.


This article contains remarks made on the Internet by individual people and organizations. MEAWW cannot confirm them independently and does not support claims or opinions being made online.

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