How Bad Arguments Undercut Georgia Legislation against Anti-Semitism

March 28 2023

Last week, the Georgia state senate decided not to advance a bill that would classify attacks on Jews as hate crimes—a legal category that in Georgia already protects those targeted because of their race, sexual orientation, national origin, and so forth. The bill, in part a response to the distribution of anti-Semitic flyers in the Atlanta area, may have floundered because of its use of the much-maligned definition of anti-Semitism produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). In February, Mark Goldfeder wrote the following in defense of the legislation:

Critics have challenged IHRA’s use in policymaking on two grounds. First, they claim that it conflates political speech against Israel with anti-Semitism. That part is simply not true; there is a safe-harbor provision in IHRA itself that says that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country” is not anti-Semitism, as well as an express caveat that all of the examples given, including the ones about Israel, “could, taking into account the overall context,” be anti-Semitic.

The second objection to using the IHRA definition in a policy context is that in the wrong hands, it could theoretically be used to stifle speech. That argument is a red herring. Of course, free speech is a core aspect of democracy; that is why such bills cannot and do not take the form of a speech code. But discriminatory harassment and criminal conduct are not just speech, even if words are sometimes used. Unlike speech, such conduct is absolutely subject to government regulation. Well-established Supreme Court precedent requires behavior to be “objectively offensive” to fall under the category of discriminatory harassment. To meet this “objectively offensive” standard, the definition used in the discriminatory anti-Semitism motivational analysis must be objectively well-accepted. The IHRA definition is once again the obvious choice.

Read more at Atlanta Journal-Constitution

More about: Anti-Semitism, Hate crime, U.S. Politics

Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship