Skip to content

Since the ascension of Republicans to legislative power in 2010, one bad bill after another has rolled off the General Assembly line at a pace that, were they profitable commodities, most manufacturers would envy. However, the only profit in these products accrues to those who would see the environment and all forms of social resistance destroyed as objectionable barriers to the pursuit of money and power. This post and subsequent posts will look at some of these anti-people, anti-environment, pro-authoritarian laws and examine their impacts on the state and its peoples. There’s a long list, and sometimes older bills will get some attention. Today though we will look at the production of the Assembly line over the last couple of weeks.

The first bad bill we will talk about is HB 942, or The Shalom Act. This bill follows a trend in state and now federal bills, which the state of Israel and its supporters want to see across the US as buffers against criticism of Israel’s long program of ethnic erasure in Palestine. Like all such bills, it relies on a dubious conflation of historical events, along with a few outright lies, to provide a foundation for its necessity. Introduced by House speaker Tim Moore, the bill makes use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Assembly (IHRA) definitions of antisemitism. These definitions are problematic on several fronts, and citing the number of countries that have lent their official weight to them (35 or so, even Tim Moore isn’t sure) does not lessen the problems.

Speaking against this bill on the floor at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, May 8, I made the following observations: “HB942 attempts to codify a definition of antisemitism as approved by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Two of the working definitions do not equate to antisemitism, and are meant to curtail criticism of the state of Israel and the Zionist project in Palestine. By equating such criticism with antisemitism, the human rights violations committed over the last 76 years by Israel in the occupation of Palestine and the displacement of its peoples are to be shielded from public awareness and recognition.

That the state of Israel has committed war crimes and human rights violations in Palestine is recognized by the entire world. Silencing speech that is critical of Israel and its supporters will not change this. Criticism of Israel’s actions is not the same thing as antisemitism. Criticism of the settler-colonialist project of Zionism is not the same thing as antisemitism. This is obvious to anyone who can think critically and clearly on the subject, and sufficient thought has been presented publicly to show that it is not so. Judaism does not dictate the actions of the Israeli government. Those actions are determined by its Zionist offshoots, whose legitimacy is questioned by many Jews here and abroad. Zionism is a racist ideology. Hiding this connection behind disingenuous words in an unenforceable law is the goal of HB942.

Prior to the committee hearing, several organizations opposed to HB942 held a press conference outside the legislative building to highlight the bill’s flaws. Chief among them was that (1) the bill is performative theater, and does nothing to make Jews safer in our society; (2) it provides a launching point for businesses and schools to discriminate against Palestinians and supporters of the people of Palestine, by acting as a legal justification for repression and punitive action including termination of employment and suppression of free speech; (3) by conflating criticism of Israel and Zionism with antisemitism, it allows the state of Israel to continue to claim the Israel represents the world-wide Jewish community. Nothing could be further from the truth, as demonstrated by both Jewish Voice for Peace and the rejection of Zionism by orthodox Jewish communities.

Moore and the GOP pulled off some sleight-of-hand to get the bill to the floor of the house, where it was voted into law later in the day. It was supposed to be referred to the House Rules committee, which was not scheduled to meet, but like a quantum particle appearing mysteriously on the other side of a barrier, it made it to the house floor in the space of a couple of hours. It was truly bipartisan bad legislation, as all but four Democrats voted for the bill. Their fear of AIPAC and its ability to flood campaigns with money and social media gaslighting was a specter hovering over the assembly. Moore simply saw an opportunity to get AIPAC money and votes while trying to embarrass the Democrats in an election year. AIPAC should have been registered as an agent of a foreign country decades ago, and the fact it can make a mockery of our political system by acting as a US PAC says much about the degradation of democracy in the US.

My opponents Robinson and Stein tripped over themselves to show their allegiance to Israel by endorsing this bill in the N&O. Unfortunately for Stein, major Zionist organizations in the US have already chosen the Republican Party as their new vehicle for disinformation and military support. Stein will have to show more oppressive tendencies if he wishes to lure them back.

Much more could be said, but there are other bad bills to get through. There are many good analyses of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and of the current Israeli actions in Gaza, the West Bank and other areas of Palestine. One useful commentary can be found at Juan Cole’s website Informed Consent.

Another bad bill that may make its appearance soon is HB 10. This bill is meant to satisfy the xenophobia of the conservative base by forcing sheriff’s offices to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants. Another performative bill, and not at all popular with some sheriff’s offices, who have developed working relationships in Latino communities that would crumble under the weight of this law. As of May 7 this bill was in the Rules committee, and could appear in the House at any moment.

A new attack on the public school system has appeared in the form of bad bill HB 1032, or the disingenuously named Academic Transparency Act. This bill would require all public school teachers to post online all lesson plans for their courses, as well as any events, speakers, or other educational material that students encounter during the academic year. They do this anyway, but the bill was needed in response to hysterical accusations of “student indoctrination”, and is supposed to allow parents to identify instances where students are accidentally exposed to critical thinking, real history, and other identifiable “indoctrination” of their tender young minds. The perpetrators are communists, radicals, and socialists bent on turning the US into a Marxist dystopia of educated people free to live their lives in compassionate comprehension of the universe. The horror.

What it will do is allow people and organizations like Moms Against Literacy to scrutinize every word of the lesson plans and events for the insidious appearance of classical liberal education, so that teachers and administrators can be fired for real (or imagined) transgressions against the new neoliberal educational concepts of blind obedience, cultural ignorance and immediately profitable (to somebody else) job skills.

As noted earlier we will examine both previous and upcoming bills in future editions of Bad Bill Day. In the meantime, enjoy these fine products of our General Assembly line, and look forward to more of the same.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *