Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Judiciary Committee held a full committee hearing examining the increase of anti-Semitism on college campuses, potential solutions to this growing problem, and the impact new approaches would have on free speech.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) delivered the following opening statement:
Chairman Goodlatte: Racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism, among other forms of animus, are abhorrent whenever they appear, including on America’s college campuses. While our federal civil rights laws have long addressed discrimination based on race, sex, and ethnicity, a debate is ongoing regarding whether anti-Semitism on college campuses warrants a unique response compared to how harassment based on race or sex, for example, is addressed. This hearing will examine that question, among others.
There is widespread, bipartisan condemnation of anti-Semitism, which I have said is abhorrent and does not reflect core American values of equality and religious freedom. I’m also concerned about the so-called “BDS Movement,” an effort that through boycott, divestment, and sanctions seeks to end international support for Israel. It took just 11 minutes for the United States to recognize Israel after it formally declared independence in 1948, and ever since then the United States and Israel have had a strong relationship based on shared democratic values and common security interests. I will do everything I can to ensure that relationship remains strong.
There are those who disagree in various ways, of course, including student, faculty, and administrators on college campuses. And I will also do everything I can to ensure their right to speak is protected under both the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and free speech principles generally.
It’s in that spirit of welcoming all perspectives that I’ve convened this hearing today. When do speakers, scholarship, or student protesters that are harshly critical of Israel constitute anti-Semitism? What is the nature of anti-Semitism on college campuses today? Has the Department of Education, in the past or today, adequately examined allegations of anti-Semitism on college campuses? How does existing law address harassment based on anti-Semitism? What impact would some other approaches have on freedom of speech, student relations, and academic freedom? And what precedents would they set, good or bad?
Those are just some of the questions I look forward to discussing with today’s witnesses.