Jewish Democrat on voting against bill: Anti-Zionism not 'inherently' antisemitism

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Jewish Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) said she voted against the bill that would crack down on antisemitism on college campuses because, in her view, anti-Zionism is not “inherently” antisemitism, and the measure that passed through the House would “stifle” free speech rights.

Jacobs shared her explanation by drawing from her own experience of facing antisemitism in her personal life and adding that she is “deeply concerned” about its rise around the nation. 

“As a Jewish woman, I’ve experienced antisemitism all my life,” Jacobs said in a statement following the bill’s passage in the lower chamber. “I’ve been called a kike while I was waiting for a drink at a bar when I was at college. I’ve heard too many ‘jokes’ to count about my frizzy hair and my big nose.”

“I remember my classmates who thought it was funny to say people were ‘being Jewed’ when someone was being frugal,” she continued. “I know the hatred and ignorance that lie behind all these comments, and how they can quickly escalate into violence — and I’m deeply concerned about the rise of antisemitism in San Diego and across the country.” 

The California Democrat said she supports Israel’s right to exist but that she knows many who question that and are “deeply” tied to Judaism. 

“But I do not believe that anti-Zionism is inherently antisemitism. I support Israel’s right to exist, but I also know many people who question whether Israel should exist as a Jewish state who are deeply connected to their Judaism,” Jacobs said. 

She, along with 69 Democrats, voted against the Antisemitism Awareness Act. The bill would require the Department of Education, when applying antidiscrimination laws, to utilize the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The bill would codify the measure’s definition of antisemitism, and all institutions that receive federal funding would be obligated to comply. 

The IHRA definition of it antisemitism is “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.”

The bill passed with a 320-91 vote. The 70 Democrats were joined by 21 Republicans in opposing the measure that now heads to the Senate. 

Jacobs said the bill does not “effectively” tackle the spike in antisemitism and restricts First Amendment rights. 

“Today, I voted against H.R. 6090, because it fails to effectively address the very real rise of antisemitism, all while defunding colleges and universities across the country and punishing many, if not all, of the non-violent protestors speaking out against the Israeli military’s conduct,” she said. 

“Conflating free speech and hate crimes will not make Jewish students any safer,” she continued. “This bill would stifle First Amendment rights to free speech and free assembly. And it would distract from real antisemitism and our efforts to address it.”

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