Trump signs executive order against campus anti-Semitism

A new executive order promises to protect Jewish students on campus from potential discrimination.

Trump announced he would sign the executive order aimed toward combating anti-Semitism at colleges and universities on Wednesday. The order would cut off federal dollars from schools that do not protect Jewish students from discrimination.

Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1984 allows the U.S. Department of Education to withhold funding from schools that discriminate against people on the basis of “race, color, or national origin.” Trump’s order would recognize people of Jewish heritage as having their own national origin or ethnicity, effectively including them within the groups protected by Title IV. 

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According to the New York Times, the definition that will be employed by the State Department was originally created by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and indicates “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”

While some consider the executive order to be a positive move to protect civil liberties, others have expressed concerns that it will chill free speech and be used to silence any criticism of Israel.

Executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights Yousef Munayyer, said that the order is part of a concerted effort to “to silence Palestinian rights activism” by blurring the lines between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel.

“Israeli apartheid is a very hard product to sell in America, especially in progressive spaces and realizing this, many Israeli apartheid apologists, Trump included, are looking to silence a debate they know they can’t win,” Yousef said.

This order comes just days after Trump condemned the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign while speaking at the Israeli American Council National Summit.

“I want to be very clear [that] my administration vigorously condemns the BDS campaign against Israel. But sadly, BDS has also made disturbing headway on American college campuses,” Trump said. 

Trump also invited New York University alumna Adela Cojab to speak about how her school “ failed to protect its Jewish community from ongoing harassment” including attacks on social media, student government resolutions, boycotts, and burning flags. 

“The physical assaults ended in two arrests, and the university didn’t stand idly.  Instead, they gave an anti-Israel hate group the President Service Award, the highest honor you can receive as a group on campus,” Cojab said. 

“I was notified my case was accepted by the Department of Education, and an investigation has been launched against NYU for failure to protect this community.”

Cojab also stated that students in the audience should not be afraid to stand up and that as an immigrant from Mexico City, that she is thankful to live in a country where the Office of Civil Rights “takes the concerns of Jewish students seriously”. 

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“[Zionist Organization of America] is responsible for the original victory making sure that Jewish students on campus are protected under Title VI,” New York University alumna and the current Tri-State Campus Coordinator for the ZOA, Marlene Artov, told Campus Reform

She stated that the executive order is “extremely meaningful” on several levels including that Jewish students have the right to be protected under Title IV and that being Jewish is not simply a religion, but “we are in fact a people."

“This helps dispel extremely anti-Semitic myths like ‘the Holocaust happened to white people’ or ‘religions don't have self-determination’” she said. 

Artov told Campus Reform that concerns about free speech being limited by the order are misguided. 

“I do not see it that way. Individuals and students still have opportunities to debate, and protest, and speak their minds: they can say whatever they want to say. However, the order is saying the government will not support universities that do not keep their Jewish students safe. Jewish students have been physically assaulted on college campuses, and the administration often takes the side of the perpetrators,” she explained.

“This order is not about speech, it is about action. It is not about disallowing criticism of Israel, it is about the physical safety of Jewish students and making sure that administrations take it seriously,” Artov added.

“The President’s order codifies a definition of anti-Semitism established by the State Department under President Obama and it strikes directly at the thinly-veiled bigotry against Jews and Israel that has become institutionalized on college campuses. Claiming this chills free speech is a canard. This is no more an attack on free speech than the policies used by the federal government during the civil rights era to end the open discrimination of African Americans by colleges receiving federal dollars,” Syracuse University student and Campus Reform New York Campus Correspondent Justine Murray told Campus Reform.

“The sad fact is, Jews and the state of Israel stand alone in being the only people and nation whose legitimacy is freely attacked, questioned and undermined daily in academic life and in the approved curriculum on our college campuses in this nation. This is not about debates on the policies of Israel. This is about the open, accepted use of anti-semitic tropes, myths, stereotypes and propaganda by academics on the left as well as the right and the lack of resolve in America, until now, to do anything about it,” Murray added.

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