DES MOINES, Iowa – An Iowa House subcommittee on Wednesday unanimously advanced HSB 538, a bill applies the working definition of antisemitism and contemporary examples adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in the Iowa Code.
State Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, the chairman of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee, is the sponsor of the bill.
IHRA defines antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
They also state:
Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.
Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
- Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
- Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
- Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
- Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
- Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
- Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
- Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
The legislation also states that this chapter in the Iowa Code, once adopted, shall not be construed to diminish or infringe First Amendment rights. The bill requires the state to consider the definition of antisemitism when investigating an alleged violation of any relevant policy, law, or regulation prohibiting discriminatory acts. Finally, the bill states that the IHRA definition of antisemitism shall also be used when providing state personnel anti-discrimination and anti-bias training.
The subcommittee included State Reps. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, Brian Meyer, D-Des Moines, and Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville.
“Antisemitism can sometimes be hard to define. This bill simply uses a definition that is accepted by so many in the Jewish community to help ensure that we can identify antisemitism and act accordingly,” Wheeler told The Iowa Torch.
Salmon pointed out that the federal government uses the IHRA definition and that antisemitism is rising, especially on college campuses.
“Antisemitism is the leading form of religious-based hatred in the US. According to the FBI, 60 percent of religious bias incidents were anti-Jewish, and this despite Jews making up only 2 percent of the US population,” she told The Iowa Torch. “Defining antisemitism is necessary to be able to combat it.”
Meyer, who supported the bill, told The Iowa Torch that he would like to see it expanded.
“I support anything we can do to stop hate crimes. I would like to see this expanded to include all religions,” he said.
The bill is supported by various business groups such as the Iowa Chamber Alliance and the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce. HSB 538 is also supported by The FAMiLY Leader. There is not any registered opposition to the bill.
The bill can now be considered by the full Iowa House Judiciary Committee.