The Senate Just Quietly Passed A Measure To DESTROY Free Speech On College Campuses

College campuses are one of the places where free speech is extremely sacrosanct, and for that reason, they’re also often the target of censorship attempts from the government. Right now, campuses are under attack because they’re hotbeds for opinions and movements that politicians can’t stand, and the Senate has decided to try and stop that.

The bill sounds innocuous at first. It’s called the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, and it’s aimed at combating anti-Semitism, which has been on the rise thanks to Trump normalizing pretty much every form of bigotry there is. Combating anti-Semitism in the wake of his election through legislation is commendable.

Combating it the way the Senate is doing, though, is not. What they saw in the rise of anti-Semitic sentiment and hate crimes here was not a real chance to address hate crimes and speech. They saw an opportunity to squash speech in favor of Palestinian rights in one of the places where it’s strongest, and they pounced.

This bill encourages the Department of Education to adopt the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, which includes demonizing and delegitimizing Israel, applying double standards, and focusing on Israel only for human rights investigations.

While the bill doesn’t actually tell the Department of Education to use the language from the State Department, it does steer them in that direction. The Senate’s hope seems to be that when they’re investigating schools for anti-Semitic discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, they’ll sanction schools with heavy anti-Israel sentiment.

In fact, the definition is so broad that any speech criticizing Israel could be considered anti-Semitic hate speech, and thus, curbed lest the school get in trouble for daring to allow it.

The Senate bill supposedly isn’t meant to infringe on anyone’s First Amendment right to criticize Israel, so long as they do it in the same way they would criticize any other nation. But we know how it’ll actually be used. Groups like the Zionist Organization of America, AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Jewish Federations of North America can’t stand things like the BDS movement (boycott, divest and sanction) gaining steam. The Zionist Organization of America absolutely loves to file complaints with the Department of Education to try and silence any Palestinian rights speech on campus.

That is only likely to increase if this bill becomes law. Students who fight for Palestine because Israel is guilty of murdering them for nothing, is guilty of forcing occupation and subjugating them, and is guilty of all manner of human rights abuses, already work in a heavily repressive environment. This will make that considerably worse.

This has been simmering under the surface for a long time. Last year, Ted Cruz delivered a speech to AIPAC talking about how people involved with the BDS movement might end up in prison, depending on what’s defined as legal and illegal protest behavior, and said that schools that support the BDS movement should lose their federal dollars.

The University of California at Berkeley has faced tons of pressure to squash the BDS movement on their campus. And a student at George Washington University had campus police tell her to take a Palestinian flag out of her window.

All of this is done under the idea that speech and expression in support of Palestinian rights are intimidating and frightening to Jewish students. However, a growing number of American Jews have a severe problem with how Israel abuses, oppresses and enslaves Palestine. Yes, it’s a balancing act, but every right we have is a balancing act. In this case, the Senate wants to tip that balance towards censoring free speech. Do not expect them to stop there.

The broader implication is that censoring pro-Palestine speech on college campuses could lead to censoring other speech on campuses. We do need to combat anti-Semitism along with other forms of hate. This, however, is just the Senate seeing their opening to end pro-Palestine speech on college campuses, likely with the hope that it’ll die elsewhere.

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