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LANGUAGE

The Antisemitism Awareness Act bars the teaching of modern Jewish history

Writer mike goldHis The Broken Jew was perhaps the most influential literary novel by a Jewish American of the mid-20th century, and he was an ardent anti-Zionist.

His funny and often tragic stories of working-class Jewish immigrants in New York City are a generous, Whitmane-esque take on Jewish life in the early 20th century, with Jewish gangsters, prostitutes, A revolutionary, a peddler, a house painter, a doctor, a Hasidic rabbi – he admires everything but solitude. That person is a “Zionist dry goods merchant” who practices voter fraud, undermines labor unions, and engages in racist real estate deals.

Gold, who was also editor of the equally influential left-wing arts and culture journal New Mass, published other Jewish writers in the 1930s who expressed their disdain for Jewish nationalists in Mandate Palestine. Share, calling Zionists “fascists” and revisionist Zionist Vladimir Jabotinsky as “Jewish Mussolini.”

Although I mention Gold as his novel, many of the essays would hardly receive recognition in my classroom or in a Jewish studies classroom.Anti-Semitism Awareness Act‘ passed the Senate. This law requires the Department of Education to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism. International Holocaust Remembrance Alliancestates that anti-Semitism is not just “hatred of Jews” but also includes three articles regarding criticism of Israel.

The law states that declaring Israel a “racist endeavor,” “applying double standards to Israel” that would not apply to “other democracies,” and “contemporary Comparing Israel’s policies with those of the Nazis” is defined as: This amounts to discrimination and slander against Jews.

There is no other definition of prejudice in the world that equates criticism of a nation, even severe and unjust criticism, with discrimination or prejudice against its citizens. If someone claims that condemnation of the violent foundations of the Russian Empire is “anti-Slavic” or “racist against Russians,” it is immediately clear that this is simply an instrumentalist defense of Russian national interests. It will be discovered.

Perhaps the strangest part of the push for the government to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism as part of federal civil rights law is the extent to which Jewish history and culture will be banned from university classrooms and student bodies. Or so I guess. Hannah Arendt, one of the most important Jewish philosophers of the 20th century and a Holocaust refugee herself, was a young woman by the mid-1940s when it became clear that Israel was not a state for everyone. He abandoned the early Zionism and became one of its most scathing critics. Those people, but only the Jews.

rabbi elmer bergerThe president of the American Jewish Council of Reform Judaism went further in the 1950s, arguing that there was nothing in Jewish tradition to suggest that Jews had any special ethnic rights to the state. did. Sigmund Freud called Zionism “baseless fanaticism.” Albert Einstein called the Irgun, the pre-state Zionist militia, “Nazis.”

Tony Kushner, Noam Chomsky, Abbie Hoffman, Lenny Bruce, Philip Roth, Jonathan Glaser, Walter Benjamin, Wallace Shawn, Daniel Boyarin, Shor Majid, Judith Butler, Ed Asner, and others. They are among countless Jews who will now be considered “anti-Semites” under the new law. Despite the fact that many of them are important figures in Jewish art and literature as well as leaders in the field of Jewish studies.

Criticism of Zionism among American Jews is not the idiosyncratic opinion of an isolated Jewish individual, but rather a strong, living current in the secular and religious life of American Jews. It represents a long Jewish tradition of criticizing militarism, nation-state violence, and racial exclusion. Many ultra-Orthodox Jews oppose Zionism on religious grounds, saying it usurps what only the Messiah could do: return Jews to Jerusalem.

One-third of American Jews People under 40 consider Israel’s attack on Gaza a “genocide,” and two-fifths of American Jews in the same age group think of Israel as an “apartheid state.” The new anti-Semitism law will effectively silence vast numbers of Jews within educational institutions. In some ways, this would be the harshest punitive law against Jews ever enacted in America. Immigration Act of 1924.

Of course there are many Jews, but believe that Israel represents them and is inseparable from their form of Jewish religion and cultural practice; There are also many Jews who have done the following in their letters and actions, as I have described. signaled Israel is not represented their or their conception of Jewish life and identity;.

In short, Congress doesn’t need to define what it means to be Jewish.

Of course, this is not just an internal Jewish problem. Silencing critics of Israel is a violation of free speech and academic freedom, ignores the stories of Palestinians, and threatens the calls for a peaceful future for all people in the Holy Land. And the appearance of the U.S. government taking sides in controversial debates only infuriates those who feel Jews have too much power and are receiving unfair preferential treatment from the last global superpower. I must also say that.

At the risk of being overly subjective, there is something deeply unsemitic about such laws. Jewish customs are marked by debate, dissonance, and disagreement. “Two Jews, three opinions” is a famous Jewish proverb that describes a culture of shared stubborn and bitter disagreements.

And the debate is not just about Jewish values. Those are American values. The United States is not a country that defines public opinion by banning certain controversial ideas and viewpoints. American universities stand for academic freedom and independence from state coercion, making them the envy of the world. These are sacred principles of Jewish life and of American life. I urge your senators to vote against this legislation.

Benjamin Baltazar is an associate professor of multi-ethnic American literature at Indiana University South Bend.

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