News Release

Conflating Anti-Semitism and Criticism of Israel

Today, the Senate is scheduled to vote for President Trump’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, Kenneth Marcus.

The week, the ACLU released a fresh warning: “The Latest Attack on Free Speech in the Israel-Palestine Debate,” which states: “Members of Congress last month introduced the ‘Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.’ The bill purports to address a real problem: According to the FBI, incidents of hate crimes motivated by anti-Jewish bias have significantly increased in recent years.

“But anti-Semitic harassment is already illegal under federal law. The new bill does not change that fact, but its overbreadth makes it likely that it will instead silence criticism of Israel that is protected by the First Amendment.”

The ACLU report caused Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept to comment: “You wouldn’t know it from self-described free speech crusaders, but by far the #1 threat to free speech — on U.S. campuses and in the West generally — are aimed at Israel critics.”

See also from the media watch group FAIR: “With Literal Nazis Running for Office, NYT Suggests Candidate’s Israel Criticism Is Antisemitic” about the candidacy of Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn.

ABBA SOLOMON, abbasolomon at gmail.com, @Abba_A_Solomon
Solomon is author of The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech “The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.” His recent pieces include “Portman and Perlman, and the liberal Zionist awakening,” “Identity as pathology,” “ZOA Madness: Bannon Gala” and “The Occupation of the American Mind, Documented.”

He said today: “There is a shocking effort in the United States to label concern for the basic human rights of Palestinians as anti-Semitism. Various state and proposed federal legislation is based on that flawed proposition.”

“In the current administration, Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer and current U.S. ambassador to Israel just said in Jerusalem that the press should ‘keep your mouths shut’ because they are reporting Israeli violence against Palestinian protesters in Gaza.”

DIMA KHALIDI, dkhalidi at palestinelegal.org, @pal_legal
Khalidi is director of Palestine Legal, which recently released the statement “Lawmakers Reintroduce Federal Bill Aimed at Censoring Palestine Advocacy on Campuses.”

The group also just released “Kenneth Marcus’ Anti-Free Speech, Anti-Civil Rights Record,” which states his appointment “would be a disaster for freedom of speech and civil rights.

“Marcus has a long record of targeting First Amendment-protected speech and scholarship of people with whom he disagrees.

“Marcus’ history also reflects a hostility towards civil rights, including making racially-charged accusations and opposing affirmative action.

“Reasons to oppose the appointment of Kenneth Marcus:

* “He has a history of attempting to dismantle policies aimed at remedying racial discrimination, including affirmative action.

* “As Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, he opposed investigating violations of the rights of LGBT persons.

* “He filed baseless Title VI complaints in order to censor and chill speech supporting Palestinian rights on college campuses.

* “He lobbied Congress to defund Middle East Studies programs not sufficiently supportive of Israeli policies.

* “He lobbied for state and federal legislation that would redefine antisemitism to include criticism of Israeli policies, a move that would encourage universities to violate the First Amendment.”