In an apparent response to recent comments by U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, the U.S. State Department modified its official definition of anti-Semitism to include “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of Nazis” as an example of anti-Semitism in public life.
In May, the department’s defined anti-Semitism using a list containing 10 examples of anti-Semitism. The updated definition cites 11 examples, adding that anti-Semitism includes, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
Philanthropist and co-founder of the Adam and Gila Milstein
Foundation celebrated the department’s decision, arguing the “BDS Movement is
Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions supporters demand the withdrawal of financial support for the Israeli government in protest of the treatment of Palestinian people.
The state department also states on its website, “antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law. Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.”
In July, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan resolution opposing an international effort to boycott Israel. The resolution passed on a vote of 398-17. Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., were among the 16 Democrats who voted against the resolution.
Omar responded by proposing a resolution to supporting the right to boycott Israel, likening the boycott of the Jewish state to boycotts of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
“Americans of conscience have a proud history of
participating in boycotts to advocate for human rights abroad including …
boycotting Nazi Germany from March 1933 to October 1941 in response to the
dehumanization of the Jewish people in the lead-up to the Holocaust,” Omar said
in the resolution.
In an interview with Al-Monitor argued the right to boycott is an expression of
“We are introducing a resolution … to really speak about the American values that support and believe in our ability to exercise our First Amendment rights in regard to boycotting,” she said. “And it is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”
The American Center for Law and Justice launched an online petition demanding Congress censure Omar as well as her Democratic colleague, Muslim Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D –MI), over their repeated anti-Semitic remarks.
“Rep. Omar said that support for Israel is ‘all about the
Benjamins’ – a bigoted accusation that Jews control all the money,” the
petition states. “She’s attacked Jews and anyone who supports Israel as having
a dual allegiance – another anti-Semitic trope.
“Rep. Tlaib said she has a ‘calming feeling’ about the
Holocaust. Someone espousing these bigoted views should not have access to
classified information or sit on congressional committees such as the Foreign
Affairs Committee.” the petition continues. “Take action with us. Fight back
against anti-Semitism. Demand Reps. Omar and Tlaib be removed from the
committees and censured.”