Virginia Democrats in the state Senate killed two measures supported by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin aimed at combatting antisemitism just two days before Holocaust Remembrance Day last week.
Senate bill 1252 would’ve had Virginia recognize a commonly used ‘working definition of antisemitism’ adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), an intergovernmental organization that unites governments (including the U.S.) and experts to combat antisemitism and promote Holocaust remembrance.
Six Republicans and one Democrat — Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, who’s Jewish – voted for the bill in committee. However, seven Democrats, led by Senate President Pro tempore Louise Lucas, voted against it and an eighth, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, abstained from the vote, killing the measure before it could get to the floor.
McClellan is currently running for Congress in a special election in Virginia’s 4th Congressional District to succeed the late Rep. Donald McEachin.
As of December, a total of 1,116 global entities — from countries to companies — have adopted and endorsed IHRA’s non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism, according to the Combat Antisemitism Movement. In the U.S., this includes 30 states and 56 cities and counties. The State and Education departments did the same under the Trump administration.
Even though Virginia’s legislature hasn’t adopted the definition, Youngkin issued an executive order recognizing it last year.
According to the definition, 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.’
IHRA provides 11 specific, contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere. Beyond classic antisemitic behavior associated with the likes of the medieval period and Nazi Germany, the examples include denial of the Holocaust and newer forms of antisemitism targeting Israel — such as demonizing the Jewish state, denying its right to exist, and holding it to standards not expected of any other democratic state.
Experts have argued the definition is important for a range of practical uses such as adjudicating legal cases, monitoring bigotry on campuses, and training law enforcement.
Critics have argued the newer examples of antisemitism cited in the definition don’t allow for what they describe as legitimate criticism of Israel and its policies. It’s unclear whether this is why some Virginia state senators didn’t support the bill. Fox News Digital reached out to McClellan and Sen. Jennifer Boysko, who opposed the measure, for comment, but they did not immediately respond.
The second measure, Senate bill 1375, would prohibit state institutions from contracting with entities that boycott Israel as part of an effort to combat the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) against the Jewish state.
Six Republicans voted to pass the measure, and nine Democrats voted against it.
The stated goal of BDS is to abolish Israel as a Jewish state.
‘Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine,’ Omar Barghouti, a prominent spokesman for BDS, said in 2014.
Barghouti has also said the return of all Palestinian refugees to Israel, a stated goal of BDS, ‘would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.’ He previously explained, ‘If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two-state solution; you’d have a Palestine next to a Palestine.’
The United Nations uniquely classifies Palestinians, and no other people, as refugees at birth — even if they never fled persecution. The so-called right of Palestinian refugees to return, therefore, would mean that not only all the Arabs who were displaced following Israel’s founding could settle in Israel but also all their descendants.
Norman Finkelstein, one of the West’s fiercest critics of Israel, has called BDS a ‘cult,’ while also agreeing that the movement’s goal is to abolish the Jewish state.
In response, As’ad AbuKhalil, a professor of political science and prominent supporter of BDS, said: ‘Finkelstein rightly asks whether the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel. Here, I agree with him that it is. That should be stated as an unambiguous goal.’
As with IHRA’s definition of antisemitism, critics argue that anti-BDS measures such as Senate bill 1375 are designed to silence criticism of Israel.
Fox News Digital also reached out to Boysko’s office for comment on why she opposed the anti-BDS measure.
Both bills failed in committee on Wednesday, two days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the victims of the Holocaust in which the Nazis killed six million Jews in an attempted genocide.
Youngkin backed both bills, which were recommended by the Commission to Combat Antisemitism in its final report. Youngkin established the commission on his first day in office.