Cooper signs bill to establish official state definition of anti-Semitism • NC Newsline

Cooper signs bill to establish official state definition of anti-Semitism • NC Newsline

Cooper signs bill to establish official state definition of anti-Semitism • NC Newsline

The SHALOM Act became law in North Carolina after Governor Roy Cooper signed it on Monday.

The law makes the “Working Definition of Antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance on May 26, 2016” the official state definition of antisemitism.

“Defining antisemitism is important to stopping it, and this new law helps to do that, as antisemitic incidents are on the rise,” Cooper said in a statement. Press release“While we protect the right to free speech, this legislation helps make our state a more welcoming, inclusive and safe place for everyone.”

According to this definition, various types of criticism directed against Israel, such as “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” would be considered antisemitism.

House Speaker Tim Moore, one of the bill’s lead sponsors, said at a news conference in May that the measure is a response to rising hate speech and attacks against Jewish people.

“North Carolina already has hate crime statutes, but there really isn’t a working definition of what actually constitutes anti-Semitism,” Moore said. “This is very timely given what we’ve seen across the country, and even here in North Carolina.”

While the bill does not provide for any particular enforcement mechanism, it specifies that the definition will be used as “a guide for training, education, recognizing and combating antisemitic hate crimes or discrimination and for monitoring and reporting antisemitic incidents.”

Moore said the bill does not create new criminal penalties related to anti-Semitism, as state laws against “ethnic intimidation” exist, but it does provide a clear definition of anti-Semitism for prosecutors and law enforcement.

“A prosecutor would look at that and the statutes that are already in place and determine whether that conduct rose to that level.”

Critics say the bill is an attack on freedom of expression and aims to stifle criticism of Israel.

Part of what the definition addresses is not anti-Semitism, Reighlah Collins of the ACLU of North Carolina said at a committee hearing last week.

“The right to engage in political speech is one of the most important protections of the First Amendment, even if we disagree with it, and for this reason, the IHRA definition cannot serve as a criterion for determining what is hate speech or religious discrimination and what is not.”

Last week, a group of Jewish and Muslim activists protested outside the Governor’s Mansion calling on Cooper to veto the bill after both chambers voted overwhelmingly to pass it.

Hadeel Hamoud of Muslim Women For Women, a North Carolina-based advocacy organization, said criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism.

“Criticism of a foreign government… should never be interpreted as hatred toward an ethnic religious group,” Hamoud said. “If our government truly cared about combating hate, it would invest in meaningful, community-based ways to combat hatred toward all religious groups.”

Sandra Korn of Jewish Voice for Peace Triangle NC said the bill is intended to divert attention from what she described as anti-Semitism in the Republican Party.

“It’s designed to confuse and distract from real anti-Semitism, and in particular from the Holocaust denial by our Republican gubernatorial candidate,” Korn said. “It’s part of a classic right-wing playbook for suppressing dissent and criminalizing protest.”

Korn was referring to Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the Republican candidate for governor in November, who has previously made multiple comments that critics have called anti-Semitic.