UNITED STATES NEWS

Indiana bill defining antisemitism advances to state Senate

Jan 18, 2024, 12:19 PM

INDIANPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Thursday that defines antisemitism as religious discrimination in the state education code, repeating a 2023 vote after a similar bill died in the state Senate.

Backers hope the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel and ensuing war in Gaza have spurred renewed support for the bill this legislative session. State lawmakers across the country are expected to use annual legislative sessions for various symbolic and policy proposals centered on the war.

Indiana House Republicans included the bill, for the 2024 session. The legislation — largely aimed at higher education — would define antisemitism as religious discrimination and “provide educational opportunities free of religious discrimination.”

At a committee hearing this month, lawmakers heard passionate testimony from dozens of people, including high schoolers, undergraduate and graduate students in Indiana.

Advocates for the bill said instances of antisemitism have increased at college campuses in Indiana since the Oct. 7 attack, when militants stormed into Israel from Gaza, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and capturing around 250 people.

Supporters of the legislation say a working definition of antisemitism in the state education code has been wanting long before October. Opponents of the bill worry it will be used to silence support for Palestinians and criticism of Israel.

The language of the bill currently says antisemitism “does not include criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country.” Critics say the provision is vague and will not adequately protect students, faculty and others who are critical of Israel military operations in Gaza, where more than 24,000 people have been killed since Oct. 7.

About 30 people gathered outside of the House chamber Thursday to protest the measure, and one protestor was removed from the gallery before the vote.

Yaqoub Saadeh, 21, president of the Middle Eastern Student Association at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, said the legislation will infringe on academic freedom and his ability to speak out against Israel.

“I don’t need to feel like as a student I’m going to be either censored or attacked or harassed,” he said.

The House unanimously passed a bill with the same language during the 2023 legislative session. The 2024 bill now goes to the Senate, where it failed to get a committee hearing last year.

House Speaker Todd Huston, a Republican, told reporters Thursday he was “thrilled” about the unanimous vote.

“We feel good about what the House has done and we’ll leave it up to our Senate colleagues,” he said.

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, a Republican, has said his caucus would take a look at the bill should it pass to his chamber.

“The world’s a little bit of a different place than it was even last year,” he told reporters at a press conference Jan. 11.

In at least eight statehouses across the country, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers — sometimes working together — have introduced measures to define antisemitism. Some of the measures were introduced after the Oct. 7 attack. Others were on the agenda before that: Arkansas passed such a law early last year and one chamber of legislatures in both Georgia and South Carolina did, too.

Bills are also pending in at least Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and South Dakota.

Lawmakers have also introduced scores of resolutions condemning the Oct. 7 attacks and supporting Israel. Some have pushed bills that would go further. For example, a measure being pushed in Florida would require students who “promote a foreign terrorist organization” to pay out-of-state tuition at public universities. New Jersey lawmakers have proposed reimbursing state residents who left Israel after the attacks.

In Iowa, a resolution to reaffirm support for Israel passed by voice vote Thursday in the House, as other states have done. The Republican-led act condemned Hamas, saying Israel should “oppose any pressure to enact a ceasefire before the State of Israel has secured its safety.”

State Rep. Sami Scheetz, an Arab American of Syrian and Palestinian descent whose district includes Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said the resolution will not change the outcome of the conflict. Scheetz said he voted against the resolution that the “hyper-partisan” Republican majority brought without any consultation with Democrats.

“This is not justice that will lead to a lasting peace,” Scheetz said, citing statistics on the more than 24,000 Palestinians killed and millions displaced. “Republicans in the Legislature stood for partisanship and exclusion instead of peace, justice and nonviolence for all.”

Iowa passed a law in 2022 to enshrine the definition of antisemitism in the state code. Thursday’s resolution in the House includes a call for law enforcement to “remain vigilant” in protecting Israeli Americans.

___

Associated Press writers Hannah Fingerhut in Des Moines, Iowa, and Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

United States News

President Joe Biden speaks to the media as he arrives to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force B...

Associated Press

President Joe Biden says it was a ‘mistake’ to say he wanted to put a ‘bull’s-eye’ on Donald Trump

Biden told NBC News Monday that it was a “mistake” to put a “bull's-eye” on Trump, but argued that Trump's rhetoric was more incendiary.

26 minutes ago

Associated Press

Border arrests plunge 29% in June to the lowest of Biden’s presidency as asylum halt takes hold

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Arrests for illegally crossing the border from Mexico plunged 29% in June, the lowest month of Joe Biden’s presidency, according to figures released Monday that provide another window on the impact of a new rule to temporarily suspend asylum. Arrests totaled 83,536 in June, down from 117,901 in May to mark […]

36 minutes ago

FILE - People walk past May Hall, the main administrative building at Dickinson State University in...

Associated Press

President of Dickinson State University in North Dakota resigns after nursing faculty quit

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — The president of Dickinson State University in North Dakota announced his resignation on Monday, days after the school’s nursing faculty quit. In a video, Steve Easton announced his departure and acknowledged “turmoil between some in the faculty and the administration.” Seven faculty members resigned Wednesday, KFYR-TV reported. Former Assistant Professor of […]

50 minutes ago

Associated Press

FACT FOCUS: A look at false claims around the assassination attempt on former President Trump

The assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump, who is running for reelection, is fueling a range of false claims and conspiracy theories as authorities seek information about the 20-year-old shooter’s background and motive, how he obtained the AR-style rifle he fired at Trump and security at the venue that failed to stop the shooting. […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Christina Osborn and her children, Alexander Osborn and Bella Araiza, visit a makeshift memo...

Associated Press

Judge clears way for demolition of Texas church where 26 people were killed in 2017 shooting

FLORESVILLE, Texas (AP) — A judge on Monday cleared the way for the demolition of the small Texas church in Sutherland Springs where a gunman killed more than two dozen worshippers in 2017 in what remains the deadliest church shooting in U.S. history. Following the shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the church […]

1 hour ago

RNC Chair Michael Whatley speaks during the Republican National Convention Monday, July 15, 2024, i...

Associated Press

Outside RNC, conservative group defends its Project 2025 guidebook as Democrats ramp up attacks

MILWAUKEE (AP) — At the edge of the cordoned-off perimeter around the Republican National Convention on Monday, hundreds of conservatives filed into the ornate home of the Milwaukee Symphony to hear a parade of luminaries talk policy and Project 2025. Project 2025 is the term for the Heritage Foundation’s nearly 1,000-page handbook for the next […]

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

Indiana bill defining antisemitism advances to state Senate