House to vote on antisemitism bill amid campus protests over the war in Gaza

While it’s expected to pass, the resolution will likely expose a bitter divide between moderate and progressive Democrats.

Officers detain a protester on the campus of Emory University during a pro-Palestinian demonstration.
A protester is detained by police during a pro-Palestinian demonstration on the campus of Emory in Atlanta on April 25. (Mike Stewart/AP)

The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote this week on a bipartisan bill aimed at cracking down on antisemitism on college campuses amid a wave of pro-Palestinian protests. While it’s expected to pass, the resolution will likely expose the split between moderate and progressive Democrats over the war in Gaza.

The Antisemitism Awareness Act would require the Department of Education to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism when determining if an act of discrimination against students violates federal statutes.

According to the organization, examples that fit the definition of antisemitism include:

  • “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.”

  • “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

  • And “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

A view of the Capitol dome in Washington.
A view of the U.S. Capitol dome. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

The resolution, H.R. 6090, was introduced by Rep. Mike Lawler, a Republican from New York, weeks after the deadly Oct. 7, 2023, attack on Israel by Hamas militants. It was co-sponsored by 33 Republicans and 14 Democrats, including Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Jared Moskowitz of Florida and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.

Progressive Democrats led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, who visited the controversial pro-Palestinian encampment at Columbia University on Friday. Rep. Jerry Nadler, a progressive Jewish Democrat and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to his Democratic colleagues over the weekend saying he "opposes this bill as written."

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Congress pointing out that federal law already prohibits antisemitic discrimination and harassment, and that the passage of this resolution “would likely chill free speech of students on college campuses by incorrectly equating criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism.”

Demonstrators rally in support of Palestinians on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.
Demonstrators against the war in Gaza rally in support of Palestinians on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin on April 25. (AFP via Getty Images)

The expected vote comes amid an explosion of protests and arrests on college campuses across the country over the war in Gaza. More than 100 students were arrested at Columbia University on April 18, a day after administrators appeared before Congress and promised a crackdown.

Similar protests at more than a dozen schools, including NYU, Yale, USC, UCLA and the University of Texas at Austin, have led to hundreds of arrests.

On Monday, 21 House Democrats wrote a letter to Columbia’s Board of Trustees expressing "disappointment that, despite promises to do so, Columbia University has not yet disbanded the unauthorized and impermissible encampment of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish activists on campus."

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to take up a number of bills, including this one, when it meets on Monday afternoon. A full floor vote is expected sometime this week.