Trump signs an order aimed at antisemitism in college

Clay Curtis
December 12, 2019

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to include discrimination against Jews as a violation of law in certain cases amid a crackdown on rising anti-Semitism in the United States.

We have no quarrel with the thrust of Trump's executive order, which is that the federal government should make use of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to monitor anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses.

Title VI prohibits colleges that receive federal funding from discriminating based on race, color or national origin.

U.S. President Donald Trump commented on the New Jersey shooting, Wednesday, December 11, during a hannukah reception at the White House, one day after an attack at a kosher market left six people, including two suspects, dead.

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that Jews may be found to be victims of racial discrimination because a section of the U.S. Code written in 1866 ensuring property rights to nonwhites understood "race" to mean something different from what it means now.

Jong-Fast, who calls Trump (whose daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are Jewish) "very anti-Semitic" based on his past rhetoric, told VOA the president's order was meant to satisfy his Orthodox Jewish supporters.

"With all due respect to the decision-makers who wrote this executive order, the Jewish community does not need President Trump to codify what Jews are into law", he went on.

"It shall be the policy of the executive branch to enforce Title VI against prohibited forms of discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism as vigorously as against all other forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VI", the executive order continues.

Ahead of the signing, many expressed concern that the order apparently requires the US Department of Education to effectively interpret Judaism as a race or nationality, not just a religion.

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"Administrators are already disincentivized to allow that", she said.

According to the Republican Jewish Coalition, the order is "a truly historic and important moment for Jewish Americans". The executive order will extend the ban to discrimination based on anti-Semitism.

When serving as assistant secretary at the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) during the Bush administration in 2004, Kenneth Marcus clarified that protections afforded under Title VI also cover members of groups that "exhibit both ethnic and religious characteristics, such as Arab Muslims, Jewish Americans and Sikhs".

"It is game changer", said Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, called on by Trump to speak at the Hanukkah event.

"It will either address campus anti-Semitism, which is a growing problem throughout America - in fact globally - or, it will be used as an excuse to suppress free speech", said one Greenville rabbi, Harley Karz-Wagman.

J Street, a progressive Jewish organization, issued a statement blasting the expected executive order, saying it would have a "chilling effect" on criticism of Israel on campuses. While religion is not a protected category under the statute, guidance from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights issued in 2010 noted that harassment against members of a religious group "triggers a school's Title VI responsibilities when the harassment is based on the group's actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, rather than exclusively on its members' religious practices". "This result would be sharply at odds with our national commitment to freedom of speech and academic freedom, decades of First Amendment precedent, and the President's stated concern for protecting free speech on campus".

The Trump administration has previously acted to constrain perceived campus anti-Semitism, a year ago reopening a case of alleged discrimination against Jewish students at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Rush contended that Trump "does not care about Jewish safety".

The order comes as the boycott, divestment and sanction movement against the Israeli government gains momentum over its treatment of Palestinians in some campuses. "There's a lot of fear among many Jewish leaders all throughout the past century about that".

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