CAIR Action Alert: Tell Congress That Campus Opposition to Israel’s Human Rights Abuses is Not Anti-Semitic

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/18/18) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, announced today its opposition to the falsely titled “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018,” [S. 2940/H.R. 5924] which incorrectly conflates legitimate First Amendment protected discussion on American campuses about Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians with the vile bigotry of anti-Semitism.

CAIR is also calling on all Americans to urge their elected representatives in Congress to oppose and not co-sponsor the act.


CAIR joins the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Arab American Institute (AAI) and other civil liberties groups in raising serious free speech concerns about the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018.

“The falsely-titled Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018 would only create confusion between what are real and punishable anti-Semitic hate crimes and the protected free speech rights of American students and faculty members,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

Awad added: “It is not anti-Semitic to criticize the Apartheid-like policies of a foreign government or for Americans to engage in the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.”

The act would seek to expand the “definition of anti-Semitism for the enforcement of Federal anti-discrimination laws” on campuses nationwide, possibly resulting in the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights reviewing or investigating legitimate criticism of Israel by American students as potentially being anti-Semitic acts.

If signed into law, President Trump’s nominee to serve as the next assistant secretary for civil rights in the Education Department Kenneth L. Marcus, would likely use the act to attack American student and faculty groups that advocate on campuses nationwide against Israel’s human rights abuses and in favor of the rights of Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

According to Jewish Voice for Peace, if Marcus is confirmed he, “will be able to apply a widely discredited definition of anti-Semitism with the power of the federal government behind him.” 

The act politicizes how anti-Semitism would be defined on U.S. campuses by codifying into law the U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism’s 2010 working definition of anti-Semitism – something that was never intended to be applied to American campuses. The Special Envoy’s office advances U.S. foreign policy on anti-Semitism and collects data on anti-Semitism for reports.

Last November, the co-author of the fact sheet, Kenneth S. Stern, testified before congress that this, “working definition,” was, “being abused in Title VI cases, because it was being employed in an attempt to restrict academic freedom and punish political speech.”

CAIR notes that the working definition and associated fact sheet itself clarifies in the end of the document that“criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and members of other religious groups based on their ethnicity or nationality – however, it does not restrict the free speech rights of students and faculty on campus to decry and raise awareness about human rights abuses committed by any nation, including Israel.

CAIR has a decades-long track record of denouncing bigotry in all its forms, including anti-Semitism. Like many other American civil and human rights groups, CAIR is concerned about the rise of hate speech and crimes across the nation and on U.S. campuses, including increased acts of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. 

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.

– END –

CONTACT: CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw, 202-742-6448,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,