- A tip of the hat to the Department of State, which had
the guts and good sense to express its opposition (sort of) to congressional
legislation creating an office for monitoring "anti-Semitism."
- The bill passed both houses of Congress by voice vote
and was signed into law by President Bush last week.
- It's a very silly and dangerous measure.
- "We opposed creation of a separate office for the
purpose and opposed the mandating of a separate annual report," a
State Department spokesman told the press. "We expressed the view
that separate reports on different religions or ethnicities were not warranted,
given that we already prepare human rights reports and religious freedom
reports on 190 countries." [Anti-Semitism office planned at State
Department, By Nicholas Kralev, Washington Times, October 14, 2004]
- But the Department isn't dumb. Having seen how easily
it passed, the spokesman explained also why the law really wasn't a problem
- "It's more of a bureaucratic nuisance than a real
problem. We are not going to fight a bill that has gained such political
- You bet your pension you're not.
- The bill did not, of course, pass Congress because there
was such a massive groundswell of grassroots support for it. It passed
because Jewish organizations demanded it, and no sitting politician wants
to get on the wrong side of these groups.
- That's why the bill passed the Senate by agreement and
the House by voice voteóthere's no debate and no record of how anyone
- Pushed by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith
and most other major Jewish organizations, the bill requires the Department
to record acts of physical violence against Jews, their property, cemeteries
and places of worship abroad, and the response of local governments to
- As the Department notes, it already issues reports on
"human rights" abuses, and there's no special reason why attacks
on Jews should be recorded separately.
- Why not reports about attacks on other groupsóblack
people, white people, women, Christians?
- If the lobbies that represent such categories can make
enough noise for it, there would be such reports. The State Department
could then spend all its time recording what should be the concern of local
- The Department was right the first time that the bill
requires a duplication of what it already does, but that's not what's really
wrong with the law.
- What's wrong with it is that it opens one more door to
the criminalization of thought and expression.
- The bill requires only that acts of physical violence
against Jews be recorded, not expressions of anti-Semitism, but you can
bet the bill's promoters will soon be pushing to include what they claim
are "anti-Semitic" expressions to be reported as well. As press
reports noted, "among the attacks that prompted passage of the bill"
was "the recent claim by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir
Mohamad that Jews 'rule the world by proxy.'"
- That's the sort of stuff the State Department will now
have to record and report about?
- Last year the British Parliament debated a bill that
would have allowed British citizens to be extradited to European Union
countries to stand trial for expressing "xenophobia and racism"
if the expressions were broadcast into countries where they are illegal,
as in several European countries they are. It didn't pass, and the law
just enacted doesn't do that, but all of it is part of the same pattern.
- The pattern is the criminalization of thoughtófor
"xenophobia," "racism," "white supremacy,"
"homophobia," "anti-Semitism," "patriarchalism,"
and any number of other isms, manias and phobias unknown to any language
a few years ago.
- What really drives the crusade to criminalize thought
and expression is not any legitimate revulsion against real violence (which
is already illegal) but the compulsion of powerful and well-organized lobbies
to muzzle criticism.
- Neoconservatives are already claiming that criticism
of them is really "anti-Semitism," which is what they also said
about the recent FBI investigation of the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC) for espionage for Israel, and what the Anti-Defamation
League and many other Jewish spokesmen said about Mel Gibson's movie, "The
Passion of the Christ," and what the same groups say about criticism
of Israel or of U.S. policies toward Israel.
- It might be a lot simpler if the State Department had
to report on what isn't anti-Semitism.
- The list would be a lot shorter.
- What is worrisome about the new law is not that the Department
will have to duplicate what it already does but that what is not anti-Semitism
at all, let alone violence, but merely criticism and dissent will be demonized
- Maybe in some minds that was the real purpose of the
law all along. And maybe, before the congressmen and senators all shouted
their approval of the measure, they should have talked and thought about
it a little more than they did.