Anti-Zionists have a right to speak – Cle DSA Statement Against HR 6090

Cleveland DSA condemns the House’s passage of HR 6090, which deploys the IHRA definition of anti-semitism, conflating anti-zionism and anti-semitism, for enforcement of federal antidiscrimination laws on campus. Republicans introduced this legislation in a desperate assault on the youth protests that have erupted across America as a result of American universities’ bizarre, large scale investments in Israel. A hundred and thirty-three Democrats voted for this bill, with Cleveland’s Shontel Brown among the co-sponsors.

Cosponsor Richie Torres claims the bill doesn’t limit criticism of Israel’s policies except when people call for the destruction of Israel. In other words, one can legally favor one Zionist policy over another, but there will be only one lawful opinion on the apartheid regime itself. Legislators are well aware that those who support democratic rights for Palestinians across historic Palestine, regardless of the model proposed, are considered to be calling for Israel’s “destruction”. They know the IHRA holds that describing Zionist colonialism as racist is, by itself, antisemitism. They themselves join in widespread and willful misinterpretation of protest slogans as antisemitic. Why the First Amendment should have an exception carved out for Israel is not clear, but there is no question of how this law will be used on campuses across the United States.

There is a good reason Israel and its allies have, for decades, worked hard to cancel, vilify, and suppress Palestinian speakers and their allies, especially on campus. They know that there is no justification for settler colonialism, massacres, torture, police kidnapping, and general exploitation of Palestinians. Reflecting on the campus protests, Israeli Minister Nir Barkat recently stated that “American public opinion is an existential threat to Israel.” Mr. Barkat’s allies in Congress say it is necessary to ban certain opinions on Israel to prevent their gaining a foothold in the United States. This is a doomed effort, already a substantial minority of Americans, including large portions of America’s Jewish community, are openly expressing anti-zionist views, a situation that was unthinkable even 10 years ago.

Passing anti speech legislation to shield genocide supporters, a supposed anti-discrimination measure from the same party systematically attacking trans youth at school, is an insult to young voters. Under Trump, there is no question that the organizations criminalized today, with Democrat connivance, will be on the front lines against GOP repression. Laws like HR 6090, among countless other bipartisan measures of state-surveillance and repression, will be deployed against us by Trump. We will use our front line role in the battle for democracy to further educate the American public about Israel, whether or not the attorney general or the supreme court consider this lawful.

There is a widespread fear that Biden cannot secure enough young and Arab-American votes to defeat Trump, particularly here in the midwest. Democrats have been trying, hopelessly, to play both sides, to both criticize and supply Netanyahu’s genocide, and it is destroying their party. Should Biden decline to veto the bill, this would represent yet another step towards a second Trump term, a step taken not by students, nor outside agitators, neither by antizionist Jews, nor Arab America, but by the candidate who asks for our vote. It is in this desperate context that the GOP and the large majority of House Democrats are asking Joe Biden and their Senate colleagues to spit on the first and most fundamental right of Americans.

Our congresspeople were among the 91 to vote against the bill. Socialists must do likewise even when they are alone. Elected socialists must maintain a clear and accurate message regarding the occupation of Palestine. We urge our representatives and our sister chapters to comply with the spirit of the 2023 National Convention, which specifically resolved to expect electeds and prospective endorsees to reject the IHRA definition.

DSA chapters nationwide will continue to engage in protected speech on and off campus. We do not ask Congress’ permission for this. We applaud our fellow students, alumni, and community members on campuses across the country, risking their safety and liberty to fight the genocide, most especially right here at Case Western Reserve University. We know that you too do not ask the US government what you can or cannot say. Take heart: history will absolve us, even if the courts do not.