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Washington is pushing policies to combat antisemitism. Critics say they could violate free speech

Against the backdrop of demonstrations against Israel’s war in Gaza on college campuses, the White House and Congress have announced a string of policies and commitments aimed at addressing what Joe Biden warned was a “ferocious surge of antisemitism” in the United States.

Antisemitism was on the rise in the US before Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, killing roughly 1,200 people and taking another 250 hostage. But the ensuing war has exacerbated the problem, with the law enforcement officials recording a spike in threats against Jewish Americans.

Several of the proposals coming out of Washington DC have converged around college campuses, where hundreds of students have been arrested as part of pro-Palestinian demonstrations against Israel’s ongoing offensive in Gaza, which has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians and caused catastrophic levels of hunger.

Many Jewish students have said that rhetoric common to the protests – for example, their denunciations of Zionism and calls for a Palestinian uprising – too often veers into antisemitism and poses a threat to their safety. A number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, as well as the president, have echoed their fears, condemning documented instances of antisemitism on campus.

But critics say some of the actions and polices under consideration threaten free speech and are part of a broader effort to silence legitimate criticism of Israel.

“The view that these encampments, these student protests, are per se antisemitic, which I think some people have, is leading to very aggressive repression,” said Genevieve Lakier, a professor of law at the University of Chicago law school and an expert in the first amendment. “I also think it is incorrect, particularly when the

Read more on theguardian.com