Federal Legislation

Updated August 8, 2019

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2019

  • What it does:

    • This bill directs the U.S. Department of Education to use the definition of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which the U.S. State Department now uses on its website, when investigating complaints of antisemitism on campuses. The highly contested IHRA definition and examples falsely conflate political criticism of Israel with antisemitism and are so broad and vague they could encompass virtually all criticism of Israel and Israeli government policies as antisemitic. If enacted, this bill would likely be used to justify federal investigations into Palestine activism on campuses while adding no new legal protections for Jewish students. Substantially similar versions of this bill were introduced and failed to pass in 2016 and 2018.

  • Status:

    • The bill was introduced in the Senate in March 2019; an identical bill was introduced in the House in July 2019.

  • Read the bill: S. 852 and H.R. 4009

  • Resources on previous versions of the ASAA:

H. Res. 496 (Affirming that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution)

  • What it does: 

    • This non-binding resolution affirms the constitutionally protected right to participate in boycotts for civil and human rights. Emphasizing the long history of the use by Americans of boycotts to address injustices, the resolution also “opposes unconstitutional legislative efforts to limit the use of boycotts to further civil rights at home and abroad.” 

    • This affirmative resolution stands in marked contrast to ongoing legislative efforts at the federal and state level to suppress advocacy for Palestinian rights. 

  • Resources:

  • Media:

  • Read the resolution: H. Res. 496

H.Res. 246 (Opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel)

  • What it does:

    • This non-binding resolution condemns the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

    • The resolution mischaracterizes grassroots efforts seeking justice for Palestinians as anti-peace and accuses the BDS movement of promoting “collective guilt, mass punishment, and group isolation” -- charges that human rights bodies have made against Israel for its actual treatment of Palestinians: the UN and the ICRC have found that Israel’s 12-year blockade of Gaza constitutes “collective punishment,” and a recent UN investigation concluded that Israeli forces had killed or gravely injured hundreds of Palestinian civilian protestors, including children, in besieged Gaza despite the fact that they posed no imminent threat.

    • Though it does not bear the force of law, the resolution’s language is a broad condemnation of individuals who boycott for human rights, raising concerns that it will reinforce and legitimize other legislative attacks on protected speech, including anti-boycott laws.

  • Status:

    • On July 23, 2019, the House of Representatives passed H. Res. 246, voting 398-17, with 5 members abstaining.

  • Resources:

  • Media:

  • Read the resolution: H.Res. 246

The Combating BDS Act of 2019 (S. 1 and H.R. 336)

H.R. 221 (Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act)

  • What it does:

    • The bill upgrades the global antisemitism envoy to the ambassador level, which would impose a 90-day limit on how long the position can remain unfilled. The House passed the bill on January 11, 2019.

  • Update:

    • The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), has made clear that the bill aims to suppress criticism of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights by labeling them anti-Semitic according to the problematic “3-Ds” definition that the State Department has adopted to identify antisemitism abroad, and which the Special Envoy would employ.

    • The Trump Administration left the position open for more than two years, appointing Elan Carr in February 2019 in response to this congressional pressure.

  • Click here for more info.

  • Read the bill: H.R. 221

H.R. 72 (Rejecting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred in the United States and around the world)

  • What it does:

    • The resolution conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism and attacks Reps. Tlaib and Omar because of their outspoken support for Palestinian rights. It also falsely characterizes on-campus advocacy for Palestinian rights as antisemitic. The resolution was introduced on January 23, 2019 by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY).

  • Read the resolution: H.R. 72

Previous federal bills

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act

Former staff attorney Rahul Saksena and Rabbi Joseph Berman of Jewish Voice for Peace discuss the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. 


Other federal bills and resolutions:

  • 115th Congress

    • Combating BDS Act of 2017 - S. 170

    • PROSPER Act - H.R. 4508

    • Export Administration Anti-Discrimination Act - H.R. 6095

    • Reaffirming United States support for Israel and condemning the United Nations Human Rights Council for certain wasteful and abusive actions - H. Res. 728

  • 114th Congress

    • Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 - H.R. 644

    • Boycott our Enemies not Israel Act - H.R. 1572

    • Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 - H.R. 1890

    • To prevent the Thrift Savings Fund from investing in any company that boycotts Israel - H.R. 2645

    • Fair Treatment of Israel in Product Labeling Act of 2016 - S. 2474

    • Combating BDS Act of 2016 - H.R. 4514/S. 2531

    • Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act of 2016 - H.R. 6298

    • Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016 - H.R. 6421/S. 10

    • Condemning resolutions or policies calling for or instituting a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars by institutions of higher learning and scholarly associations - H. Res. 318

    • Regarding politically motivated acts of boycott, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel - H. Res. 402

    • Opposition to labeling Israeli products and goods manufactured in the West Bank - H. Res. 567

  • 113th Congress