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Committee removes portion of controversial language from bill to define antisemitism

 A photo of the Indiana Statehouse
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
The amended language uses the same definition from the IRHA, but no longer references the organization or its examples.

A Senate committee removed a portion of controversial language from a bill to define antisemitism. The new bill uses language from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, but takes out references to the IHRA directly and its examples of antisemitism.

What changed?

The original version of the HB 1002 referred to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. It cited examplesused in the IRHA definition, which some argued too closely conflated criticism of the state of Israel with antisemitism.

While the original bill included language attempting to separate criticism of Israel from antisemitism, some Hoosiers argued it was not enough and said it could limit free speech and create a “chilling effect.”

The amended language uses the same definition from the IRHA, but no longer references the organization or its examples.

Support for the amended bill 

Yaqoub Saadeh is the president of the Middle Eastern Student Association at IUPUI. He said he was initially against the bill’s use of IHRA definition.

“My concern with the bill originally was with the ambiguous language and the examples that were included with the IHRA definition,” he said. “Seven out of 11 of those examples directly referenced the state of Israel. This would have hindered my ability to be a student advocate, and it would have infringed on my freedom of speech.”

He added this definition could have increased anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiments on college campuses, which he has said in testimony he has already seen.

Daniel Segal is with Jewish Voices for Peace Indiana. He said the “harmful” elements of the bill were removed once it was amended.

“The previous bill, we thought, was harmful to our Arab brothers and sisters, and we are deeply committed as Jews to ensuring that never again is for everybody,” he said. “And that includes Palestinians, and as Jews, that is part of our faith.”

Maliha Zafar is with the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network. She said that by removing the examples in the IRHA definition of antisemitism, this new version of the bill still helps to combat antisemitism while maintaining free speech.

“We unequivocally condemn antisemitism and all forms of discrimination,” she said. “The examples provided within the definition and previously in HB 1002, by reference, although undeniably addressing antisemitic sentiments, are concurrently overly broad and would have inadvertently stifled legitimate criticism and analysis of Israeli policies.”

READ MORE: How do I follow Indiana’s legislative session? Here’s your guide to demystify the process

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Opposition for the amended bill

Maya Wasserman is a senior at Indiana University. She said the examples in IRHA’s definition provided needed context to define and recognize antisemitism.

“It’s essential to understand that these examples are not meant to stifle legitimate criticism of free speech,” she said. “Instead, they provide a framework to distinguish between criticism and harmful rhetoric that can lead to discrimination.”

Kaylee Werner is with the Jewish Culture Center’s Antisemitism Prevention Task Force at Indiana University. She said the previous language was necessary to allow schools to combat it.

“The House-passed IHRA statement offers a beacon of hope in this darkness. It equips our administration with the necessary tools to combat antisemitism effectively and educate our community,” she said. “In this conversation, there is no room for ambiguity. There is either hate or there is acceptance. There's either right or there's wrong.”

Rabbi Hal Schevitz agreed.

“IHRA and that version of the bill still allow for criticism of Israel, in the same way that we would criticize any government for policies with which we disagree, including our own,” he said.

The Senate committee unanimously passed the amended version of HB 1002. If signed into law, the bill would incorporate this amended definition of antisemitism into Indiana’s education code.

The measure now moves to the Senate floor for consideration.

Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.