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Antisemitism Awareness Act passes House vote. Here's what the bill does.

House passes measure targeting antisemitism on campus. Here's what it means.
House passes measure targeting antisemitism on campus. Here's what it means. 02:10

NEW YORK -- The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the Antisemitism Awareness Act Wednesday. 

It comes as campus protests are taking place across the country. While the protests have the support of many Jewish college students, many others have said they feel intimidated and unsafe. 

The Antisemitism Awareness Act could make it easier for concerned students to file civil rights complaints.  

CBS New York spoke with Reps. Mike Lawler and Josh Gottheimer, two sponsors of the bipartisan bill.

"We need to be able to define antisemitism," Lawler said.

The bill put forth by Republican Lawler and Democrat Gottheimer aims to do just that.

International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance defines antisemitism

The Antisemitism Awareness Act directs the Department of Education to use the definition promulgated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance when enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws.

"Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews," the definition says.

It goes on to define examples of antisemitism, and some of the heated rhetoric heard on college campuses lately would be included.

"When you hear 'From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,' that is calling for the eradication of Jews and the state of Israel," Lawler said.

"All of our colleges have a responsibility to protect against hate and discrimination. There's a difference between speech which should be protected and harassment and violence and intimidation, like a death threat," Gottheimer said.

Colleges that fail to protect Jewish students could face civil rights enforcement.

What about legitimate criticism of Israel?

Critics of the new legislation, including Rep. Jerry Nadler, of New York, say the bill sweeps too broadly and would chill constitutionally protected free speech, including legitimate criticism of Israel.

However, others say speech has limits and some of the rhetoric crosses the line into harassment.

Omer Granot-Lubaton, a graduate student at Columbia University, said, "A lot of people come to me, 'Well, maybe they don't understand what they're saying.' Those people are educated adults, going to the best institutions in the world. They should know what they say."

The bill still needs to pass the Senate and be signed by President Joe Biden to become law.

It's not clear if House Speaker Mike Johnson will bring other bills to a vote, including one to create a national antisemitism coordinator position in the White House.

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