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The “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act”—Banning Opposition to Zionism, Crushing Academic Freedom

On May 1, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed (320 for, 91 against) the so-called “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” (the “AAA”). If passed by the Senate, this will mark a major leap in state censorship of criticism of Israel and will set a dangerous precedent more generally. This bill—and the whole repressive move against students and intellectuals of which this is a part—must be opposed and defeated.

There is real anti-Semitism throughout this society, and all decent people should oppose it. But this bill is not about stopping that. It's about trying to compel universities to suppress righteous protest against Israel, and against the genocidal war it is waging right now in Gaza. The AAA aims to do this by codifying (writing into federal law) the big lie that anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism.

Is this an exaggeration? No, it is not.

REVOLUTION 36: More Big Lies From Genocide Joe Biden.
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The heart of the AAA is the “adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's [IHRA] definition of antisemitism for the enforcement of federal anti-discrimination laws regarding education programs.” Under AAA, college administrators would be obligated by federal law to combat and suppress any speech or action on their campuses that falls under the IHRA’s definition. If they failed to do this, they could lose federal funding, which on average makes up about 14 percent of U.S. college funding—so that’s a big club over their heads!

But IHRA dramatically expands the definition of anti-Semitism so that it not only includes bigotry towards Jewish people or the Jewish religion but now also includes political opposition to a Jewish state, such as calling out the racist nature of Zionist rule or drawing comparisons between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and the German Nazis' treatment of Jewish people during World War 2. 

Specifically, the IHRA definition brands the following types of political speech or protest as anti-Semitic: 

“[C]laiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”


“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

But the truth is, Israel is a racist, Jewish-supremacist state, and it is currently carrying out a genocidal war. 

It is a basic truth, proven many times over, that Israel was founded in the land of Palestine where a large majority of the population was, and had been for many centuries, Palestinian.1

It is a basic truth, proven many times over, that to make it a Jewish state, the Zionists drove out a minimum of 700,000 Palestinian people and that Israel has denied these exiled Palestinians the right to return to their homeland ever since. As Bob Avakian lays it out in Revolution #6, “In establishing the state of Israel, in 1948, Israeli forces systematically destroyed hundreds of Palestinian villages, murdering thousands, raping women in large numbers, driving hundreds of thousands from their homes.”

It is a basic truth, proven many times over and documented by major human rights organizations like Amnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch, and B’Tselem (the main Israeli human rights group)—that Israel is an “apartheid state,” and was closely tied to and supported the white supremacist apartheid regime in South Africa when it was in power.2

And it is a basic truth, proven many times over every day, that the U.S.-backed Israeli war on Gaza has openly—and successfully—aimed to make Gaza unlivable and to drive the population to the edge of starvation. The similarities to what the Nazis did to Jewish people in the ghettos and concentration camps during World War 2 are all too painfully obvious.

A 10-year-old Palestinian boy, Yazan al-Kafarna, in hospital bed in Rafah, died due to what his doctor said was extreme muscle wastage caused primarily by a lack of food.


A 10-year-old Palestinian boy, Yazan al-Kafarna, died due to what his doctor said was extreme muscle wastage caused primarily by a lack of food, March 3, 2024.    Photo: AP

Malnourished 15-year-old boy rescued from Auschwitz, circa 1940.


Malnourished 15-year-old boy rescued from Auschwitz, circa 1940.   

But if the AAA is enacted, would professors be allowed to teach or even discuss such facts? Would they be allowed to assign books by respected scholars, Jewish and Palestinian, who have documented all this? Or would they find themselves accused of hate speech for doing that? And would administrators stand by them and defend their right to teach the truth—and risk losing massive funding for their institutions? Or would they seek to censor and shut down these “forbidden” ideas before the federal government even got involved? 

And the same questions go for allowing student organizations, protests and even panel discussions that sharply criticized Israel.3

For the U.S. rulers—the capitalist-imperialist class—this proposed law is a thinly disguised way to exercise their dictatorship, suppressing and punishing ideas that threaten the fundamental interests of their system, no matter how true those ideas may be.

There is a world of difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. As Bob Avakian lays out in his social media message Revolution #36

“the security of Israel” relies on and is enforced through the continual vicious oppression and outright slaughter of masses of Palestinian people, including huge numbers of children. Protest against this is not “anti-Semitism”: As voiced by many Jews who are actively taking part in these protests, opposition to this genocide perpetrated by Israel is in the best tradition of the declaration “Never Again”—never again shall the kinds of terrible atrocities and horrific genocide of Jews perpetrated by the Hitlerite Nazis, during World War 2, be allowed to take place, against any people—and it is all the more outrageous when genocide is perpetrated by Israel in the name of “the safety of the Jewish people.”

Bob Avakian on the Middle East


The immediate aim of the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” is clearly to suffocate the mass movement on hundreds of campuses against the genocide in Gaza. But it would also set an extremely toxic precedent for shutting down radical or revolutionary political speech, discussion and protest on campuses. 

Since passing the House, significant opposition to the AAA has emerged among some liberal Democrats and some MAGA fascists. Marjorie Taylor Greene worries that the AAA “could convict Christians of antisemitism for believing the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews.” In other words, she is concerned that this could cramp the ability of the Christian fascists to promote their brand of anti-Semitism—the claim that “the Jews killed Christ,” which has been used for centuries to justify horrific pogroms. (“Pogroms” were mob attacks by Christians on Jewish communities in Europe in which thousands were killed, women raped, villages burned to the ground.) 

And, on the very positive side, a “Statement from Concerned Jewish Faculty Against Antisemitism” was published—signed by over 1,100 Jewish faculty so far—strongly opposing “any effort to codify into federal law a definition of antisemitism that conflates antisemitism with criticism of the state of Israel.”

So it is not clear if this particular bill will end up being enacted as law or not. But the fact that it has gotten this far and has a serious chance indicates the degree to which the U.S. ruling class is willing to use state power to ban “dangerous ideas,” even when they are obviously true. They find the truths that people are spreading dangerous enough to drop their mask of “democracy” and “freedom of speech” and come right out with the fist of dictatorship.



1.  Moshe Dayan, one of the founders of Israel, stated: “There is not a single place built in this country [Israel] that did not have a former Arab population.” See “Take the Quiz! Israel, Perception and Reality, Pt. 1,”, updated Nov. 12, 2023.  [back]

2.  Apartheid is a form of severe, institutionalized system of oppression and discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity. Under international law it is classified as “a crime against humanity.” See “Does Israel’s Treatment of Palestinians Rise to the Level of Apartheid?,” Human Rights Watch, December 5, 2023. Also see “Take the Quiz! Israel, Perception and Reality, Pt. 2,”, updated Nov. 12, 2023.  [back]

3.  A lot of this kind of repression and censorship is already going on at many schools, much of it driven by the congressional interrogation of three university presidents in December 2023 that led to two of them losing their jobs for failing to effectively crush student protest. Now this new bill would essentially make that “obligation” to repress “the law of the land.”  [back]

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