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Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives leads Congress’ effort to curb campus protests over Gaza • Ohio Capital Journal

WASHINGTON – US House Speaker Mike Johnson argued Tuesday that protests on college campuses calling for a ceasefire in Gaza have crossed the line and pose a threat to Jewish students – a day before lawmakers in that chamber will vote on a bipartisan bill that would define anti-Semitism. for the Ministry of Education.

Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, is leading efforts in the House of Representatives to object to rising anti-Semitism across the country, and to sanction colleges and universities that allow student protests to continue.

“The university is intended to be the free marketplace for ideas. It is the place where you need to have vigorous debate, thoughtful debate, consideration of important issues – and often you have very different opinions, powerful disagreements,” Johnson said. “That’s all great. That is what the First Amendment protects.”

“This is not that,” he added, referring to the protests. “What these students are doing is closing the campuses and taking control of buildings.”

Many university campus protesters have called on their own universities to cut financial ties, such as donations, with companies that do business with Israel or make weapons used in the war in Gaza, which the Gaza ministry says has more than 30,000 Palestinians killed. of health.

Some of the protests on college campuses also involve Jewish students, many of whom wear shirts identifying themselves as members of Jewish Voice for Peace, which says it is “the largest progressive Jewish anti-Zionist organization in the world.”

Supervision of the colleges in committees

At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Johnson promised a congressional effort to address protests at colleges, such as oversight of college presidents and securing funding for colleges.

“Anti-Semitism… is a virus and it will spread if it is not eradicated,” Johnson said.

He was joined by the Republican chairmen of several committees, including Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, who heads the Education and Workforce Committee, and Jim Jordan of Ohio, who heads the Judiciary Committee.

Foxx has held several hearings, bringing in university presidents to question them about the student protests. She said she has now invited the president of Yale, chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles and president of the University of Michigan to a hearing on May 23.

“American universities are officially notified that we are coming to take back our universities,” Foxx said. “The college is not a park for young people who play theater or a battleground for radical activists.”

Jordan said Republicans sent Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas a letter asking if the agency knew how many international students with visas were participating in the protests.

Jordan said he also wants to know if Mayorkas has initiated expulsion proceedings for those students.

“Those are the questions before the Judiciary Committee that we want the answers to,” Jordan said.

Johnson argued that the protests have “gotten out of control” and no longer exercise protected freedom of expression. He also said it is “the duty of every leader in this country” to reject anti-Semitism.

Johnson also visited Columbia University last week and met with its president, Minouche Shafik, And called on her to resign.

Former President Donald Trump, who is again seeking the Oval Office as the presumptive Republican Party nominee, made several comments during his first term and during this campaign that were called anti-Semitic or seen as supporting white supremacist movements.

Trump said earlier this month that “any Jewish person who votes for a Democrat or for Biden should have their head examined” and said in March that Jewish people who vote for Democrats “hate Israel.”

Schumer condemns ‘lawlessness’

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York made similar comments late Tuesday about the protests that have taken place at Columbia University.

“Breaking windows with hammers and taking over university buildings is not free speech – it is lawlessness, and those who did this must immediately face consequences that are not just a slap on the wrist,” Schumer said.

“Freedom of speech, discussion and even strong disagreement are fundamental American values, and campuses should be places where those values ​​are cherished. Campuses cannot be places of learning, discussion and discussion if protests turn into crime, and those who commit such acts do nothing to convince others that their cause is just,” Schumer continued.

Raskin hopes for ‘tradition of nonviolence’

Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin said during a brief interview Tuesday that lawmakers from both political parties “react with horror to anti-Semitic speech and speech, and everyone reacts with horror to violence.”

“It’s not at the level of something like January 6, where police officers are getting injured more and more, but it is very serious,” Raskin said. “And it’s a departure from, you know, the nonviolent tradition of American protests.”

Raskin said the First Amendment, which protects freedoms of speech and assembly, as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin, are relevant when discussing the protests at the campus.

“We need to make sure we don’t create a hostile learning environment,” Raskin said. “But people have the right to speak, to protest and to express their opinions.”

Raskin said he hopes the student protests on college campuses across the country will take place “within the spirit and tradition of nonviolence.”

“That’s critical,” Raskin said. “And I certainly hope that they will reject anti-Semitism, along with every other form of discrimination and violence.”

House votes on anti-Semitism bill

The bipartisan bill that lawmakers will vote on Wednesday, H.R. 6090, would codify the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which all schools receiving federal funding must meet.

The State Department adopted that definition in 2016, which is a non-legally binding working definition of anti-Semitism.

That definition would be: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which can be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed against Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, against Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Some of these manifestations include “attacking the State of Israel, construed as a Jewish collectivity,” according to U.S. State Department guidelines.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect students from discrimination based solely on religion, so the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division refers these complaints to the Department of Justice, the Department of Education said.

Concerns about the terrifying freedom of speech

Some Democrats have expressed concern that the House bill is too broad and would create a chilling effect on free speech. That includes the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York.

“Speech that is merely critical of Israel does not constitute unlawful discrimination,” Nadler said Monday at a meeting of the Government Committee that tabled the bill.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York on Monday called on Congress to debate legislation to address anti-Semitism but pushed for another bipartisan bill, HR 7921.

“The effort to suppress anti-Semitism and hatred in any form is not a Democratic or Republican issue,” Jeffries wrote in a letter to Johnson. “It is an American issue that must be addressed in a bipartisan manner, with the fierce urgency of now.”