OpinionU.S. News

Governor’s veto is needed to prevent an antisemitic debacle in Indiana

State legislators declared their intent to take action against hatred targeting Jewish residents. Yet HB 1002 does not do it.

The city of Indianapolis with the Indiana State Capitol upfront. Credit: Pixabay.
The city of Indianapolis with the Indiana State Capitol upfront. Credit: Pixabay.
Alan Clemmons. Credit: Courtesy.
Alan Clemmons
Alan Clemmons is the founder of American Patriots for Israel. He served for 18 years in the South Carolina House of Representatives, where he authored the first anti-BDS law in America. He is also the author of the Israel plank in the current Republican Party platform.

An Indiana woman crashed her car this past November into what she thought was a Jewish school “on purpose.” The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is investigating a Title VI Complaint against Indiana University for failing to protect its Jewish students on campus. Antisemitic fliers were placed in the downtown Indianapolis lending library. Antisemitism has spiked 400% in the past five months, and Jewish students and communities are reeling from the resuscitation of this ancient hatred.

To address the surge in antisemitism, the Indiana House passed House Bill 1002 two months ago after listing it among their five priorities for the 2024 session.

The Senate passed an amended version of HB 1002, which outrageously removed any reference to the consensus-driven International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism

This would render the legislation ineffective and harmful to the interests of Jewish victims of antisemitic crime and discrimination. A big community campaign was launched to fix the bill.

On Friday, March 8, the Indiana House and Senate met in conference to develop a bill that was acceptable to both Republican-led chambers. The result was a piece of legislation that utterly fails to meet its intended purpose and globally harms efforts to increase understanding of antisemitism. Adding insult to injury, antisemitic groups like Jewish Voices for Peace and another affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are now expressing their approval of what Indiana’s bad bill has done to boost their interests.

Legislators and doctors are both meant to follow a cardinal rule in their work: “First do no harm.” In 2018, I led the way as a legislator in helping South Carolina become the first state in the country to adopt a uniform definition of antisemitism for regulatory purposes. The purpose of adopting the IHRA definition is to help clarify what antisemitism is at a critical moment when this ancient hatred is once again spiking. Because antisemitism changes the way it manifests itself over time—sometimes religious, sometimes economic, sometimes racial, sometimes nationalistic—there is often confusion when trying to identify it. Just as developing a vaccine for the first manifestation of COVID-19 won’t work on newer strains, looking at antisemitism only as it appeared in 1942 will not help guide us to identify more contemporary mutations, i.e. those that target the Jewish collective, Israel, rather than the individual Jew. 

The IHRA definition taken without its examples component, as many definitions, is vague. The examples component is integral because it helps clarify what might be considered antisemitism today. Yet it is precisely a reference to those examples that was red-lined from the bill language, leaving us with:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

A bill intended to help state officials identify antisemitism ends up shedding no light on contemporary manifestations of antisemitism, leaving students and communities without a clear and concise definition to protect them from discrimination and hate. As it is written today, HB 1002 does not consider the following antisemitic:

• Calling Israelis Nazis and blaming Jews for the Holocaust;
• Inciting/justifying violence against and rape of Israeli women;
• Vilifying Israelis as devils who control the media and banking of the world;
• Denying Israel the same right to existence and self-defense that is accorded all other countries;
• Advocating for the genocide and/or ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel and more.

In short, HB 1002 now accomplishes nothing to confront antisemitism. Of course, a definition with no meaning is exactly what the anti-Israel/antisemitic crowd demands. Keeping the waters muddy provides cover for antisemitic conduct, whose perpetrators incite antisemitism and camouflage their conduct by claiming that being anti-Zionist (advocating for the destruction of the only Jewish state) and demonizing anyone who supports Israel have nothing to do with being antisemitic. It is no surprise that the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network, which testified against the original House version, released a statement in support of the final bill, saying the group was “pleased to see” House Bill 1002 passed. Similarly, Daniel Segal, a coordinating committee member for Jewish Voice for Peace Indiana (designated by the Anti-Defamation League as a virulently antisemitic group), lauded the final version.

Some organizational professionals who are disappointed in the bill are willing to accept the shadow of an antisemitism bill rather than a real piece of legislation. They are saying to the community, “This is the best we can get.” Or “the examples are implied.” Neither is true. The Jewish community must not settle for a bill that will not help it. Caryl Auslander, speaking on behalf of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, stated, “We feel very strongly that since the 11 examples are included within IHRA, that those are being incorporated by reference.” Her statement is incorrect. The red-lined bill, which deletes any reference to the IHRA examples in bold red pen, is the public record of the legislature’s intent. 

Not only does HB 1002 lend no clarity to understanding antisemitism, it makes Indiana an outlier among all 36 states, the U.S. Department of State, 45 countries and more than 1,200 institutions around the world. Even the world’s largest Global Imams Council has adopted the definition of antisemitism and its examples.

Indiana legislators declared their intent to take action against antisemitism. Yet HB 1002 does not do it. At a time when there is a dire need for a meaningful, consensus-driven definition of antisemitism, HB 1002 offers no guidance or clarity. Jewish Hoosiers deserve better. Hoosier legislators can do better.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, a strong opponent of antisemitism, needs to veto a bill that undermines its very purpose. He must instead take charge by issuing an executive order adopting the IHRA definition and its 11 illustrative examples, which is the definition accepted by the vast majority of Jewish scholars and community members, rather than language acceptable to the most virulent detractors of Israel and Jews.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates