Updated April 16, 2019
HB 600/SB 1250
What it does:
In February 2019, Tennessee lawmakers introduced HB 600 and SB 1250, which would require state educational institutions to use a highly contested definition and examples of antisemitism to determine whether there has been a violation of certain education policies prohibiting discrimination based on Jewish ancestry or ethnic characteristic. ethnic characteristic.
The bills’ examples include the so-called 3 D’s of antisemitism related to Israel: “[d]emonization of Israel,” “[s]etting double standards for Israel” including by “[f]ocusing, by multilateral organizations, on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations,” or “[d]elegitimizing Israel by denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist.” The “three D’s” are so broad and vague that they could encompass any and all criticism of Israel, circumscribing important political speech activities, potentially in violation of the First Amendment.
Read the bills:
Tennessee legislators had previously introduced another bill re-defining antisemitism in 2017. This bill did not pass.
Read the bill: SB 581/HB 885
In 2015, the Tennessee state legislature passed SJR 170, a non-binding resolution condemning the BDS movement. That resolution has no effect on BDS or your right to advocate for BDS.
These bills are the result of a campaign to suppress Palestine human rights activism in the U.S. Israel's interest in restricting this activism should not override our constitutional right to advocate for change.
The good news is that your right to engage in boycotts related to Israeli human rights abuses and to advocate for BDS is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. None of the bills and resolutions described here prohibit you from engaging in BDS activities.
Whatever your views on Israel and Palestine, these bills should be of concern because they threaten the rights of everyone in the U.S. to take collective action to address injustice. Moreover, we should all be alarmed that a foreign government, Israel, is lobbying U.S. politicians to restrict our rights.