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US muzzle on free speech

· 4 min read

US muzzle on free speech

TEHRAN - Pro-Palestinian student protests continue to grow in the United States amid police clampdowns and a House bill that is meant to penalize criticism of Zionism and Israel’s actions in the wake of the regime’s genocidal war on Gaza.

US muzzle on free speech

Police have arrested more than 2,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators on over 40 college campuses across at least 25 states since April 18.

Police have used large-scale violence against students who have set up encampments at college campuses. 

Pro-Israeli mobs have also attacked university students and beaten them amid police inaction. 

The protesters have demanded their educational institutions sever financial ties with Israel and divest from companies or institutions that profit from the regime’s war on Gaza. 

The demonstrators, among them Jewish students, call for a ceasefire and an end to Israel’s brutal onslaught on Gaza. 

US officials have condoned police violence accusing protesters of antisemitism.

But critics say such allegations are aimed at quelling the pro-Palestinian protests. 

On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill amid attempts to suppress demonstrations at universities. 

The legislation that would expand the federal definition of antisemitism was passed 320-91 with some bipartisan support. 

Republicans voted 187-21 for the legislation.  Democrats supported it 133-70. Eighteen members did not vote. The bipartisan bill went to the Senate for consideration.  

This definition would include the “targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.” 

House Speaker Mike Johnson has defended the bill as “a House-wide effort to crack down on antisemitism on college campuses.”

But lawmakers who voted against the measure have opposing views. 

Jerry Nadler, the most senior Jewish member of the House, said, “This legislation threatens freedom of speech, one of our most cherished values, while doing nothing to combat antisemitism.”

The Democratic lawmaker took a jab at GOP leaders.  He dismissed “political theatrics” by Johnson and top Republicans in the House, who gained the support of many Democrats for the bill. 

Some of the other 70 Democrats, including Jewish members also raised the alarm about the measure. 

Sara Jacobs, the youngest Jewish member of the House, said, “I do not believe that anti-Zionism is inherently antisemitism.”

Republican lawmaker Mike Lawler, however, railed against Democrats. He accused Democrats of “tripping over themselves because of electoral politics” in states with large

Muslim populations which traditionally vote Democratic.

Arab American and Muslim voters, who helped Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in the 2020 election, can play a crucial role in the November presidential vote. They are, however, critical of the Biden administration for supporting Israel’s war on Gaza.

In the Democratic primaries, particularly on Super Tuesday, a significant number of people, including Arab and Muslim voters, marked their ballots "uncommitted".

Meanwhile, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont warned Congress against accepting an argument made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “that equated criticism of his government’s illegal and immoral war against the Palestinian people with antisemitism.” 

“It is not antisemitic or pro-Hamas to point out that in almost seven months Netanyahu’s extremist government has killed 34,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 77,000—seventy percent of whom are women and children,” Sanders added. 

The American Civil Liberties Union also opposed the bill. “Federal law already prohibits antisemitic discrimination and harassment by federally funded entities. [The bill] is therefore not needed to protect against antisemitic discrimination; instead, it would likely chill free speech of students on college campuses by incorrectly equating criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism.”

Rights groups have repeatedly denounced attempts by the US and some of its Western allies to conflate criticism of Israel’s brutalities against Palestinians with antisemitism.
Students who are currently holding peaceful protests at college campuses are only critical of Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza.  

But police clampdowns and the approval of the bill in the House clearly show that the US establishment remains supportive of Israel regardless of the crimes that the regime is committing against defenseless Palestinians.