(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – American lawmakers across party lines are working hand in hand on a bill that would combat rising antisemitism in Europe.
But their greater challenge may be in legislating against the scourge at home, as Jewish organizations, civil-rights groups and governmental agencies track a spike in antisemitic actions and rhetoric across the United States over the past year.
Two White House aspirants – Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Marco Rubio of Florida – banded together to introduce the Combating European Antisemitism Act last week, following on similar bipartisan action in the House.
The bill requires the State Department to increase its monitoring and reporting of anti-Jewish sentiments in Europe.
Yet leaders in both parties are coming to grips with a rise in antisemitism correlated with nativist campaign rhetoric, which dominated the 2016 election cycle. The rise of the alt-right, in particular, has provided a home for white nationalist groups that see a conspiracy of “globalist” Jews controlling America’s media, financial markets and branches of political power.
Drafting legislation targeting this trend in Europe is comparatively easy – both Democrats and Republicans can agree on what hateful racism looks like abroad, and on the dangers that come with it. It is more difficult to target the trend at home, as this alt-right movement gains political power through Washington influence and representation in government.
Nevertheless, state and local lawmakers are successfully targeting groups considered antisemitic on the left – also on a bipartisan basis – by going after the movement to boycott, divest and sanction the state of Israel.
Those laws accuse BDS of discriminating against the state on the basis of its identity as Jewish, and effectively blacklist organizations participating in boycotts from receiving state or local funds and protections.
So while lawmakers from both parties appear to have settled on a strategy to combat what they characterize as antisemitism from the left, they have yet to devise one to handle an even greater challenge from the right, in which anti-Jewish rhetoric is unvarnished, pronounced, and appears to be a cornerstone of a larger ultranationalist political ideology.
How one legislates against such a movement is yet to be seen, and whether such an effort would be bipartisan also remains an open question.