Trump anti-Semitism order could undermine free speech

Mr. Trump is expected to highlight his action during Hanukkah receptions at the White House on Wednesday. Others said they were uncomfortable with government action to create an ethnic categorization, and they also anxious about its potential to suppress free speech at schools.

The order would extend protections against discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to people subjected to anti-Semitism on college campuses.

Title VI bars discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin at colleges and universities that receive federal funding.

"Everything Trump does that he thinks is good for the Jews is ultimately bad for the Jews", she said. Thus, according to administration officials, it was decided there was a need to interpret Judaism as a nationality so violations on campuses could be punished. Religion was not included in the definition, but Judaism now is.

But critics have warned it may play into anti-Semitic tropes by treating Jewish people as a nationality other than American-a charge the White House has vehemently denied.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America said Trump was engaging in a political stunt with the executive order ceremony and "has zero credibility" to take meaningful action against anti-Semitism. "It will go down in history as one of the most important events in the 2,000-year battle against anti-Semitism".

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While he didn't specify which institutions were targeted by the order, he did explicitly call out the BDS movement, whose supporters seek to pressure Israel through protests and lobbying into ending its occupation of the West Bank, grant full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and recognize the right of return for Palestinian refugees. It also calls for Title VI enforcement agencies to "consider" the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism and its supporting examples, which is already used by the US State Department.

According to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Trump's action will lead to an abuse of federal funding "to bully universities into suppressing academic freedom and freedom of speech in support of Palestinian rights under worldwide law", something the group called "anti-democratic and anti-Palestinian".

"Directing federal agencies to rely on this framework in enforcing Title VI would effectively order almost every campus in the country to censor its students and faculty on the basis of viewpoint - in this case, constitutionally protected speech that is critical of Israel", the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said in a statement.

Some critics argue that participating in boycotts is protected by Americans' constitutional right to free speech and that legitimate criticism of Israeli policies could be stifled under the name of combating anti-Semitism. "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".

Trump delivered a speech on Saturday night that featured remarks from a recent New York University graduate who had accused the school of failing to protect its Jewish students from harassment. Can we say that the Crémieux Decree had any positive effect whatsoever on Jewish safety in France, or on French acceptance and tolerance of Jews?

Specifically the order is aimed at quashing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which has growing support on campuses, by forcing universities to block the movement or face a cut in government funds. In the case of France, the privileged status of Jews at the start of the 20th century allowed the French government to deflect Algerians' anger over the violence of colonization onto Jewish Algerians.

  • Sonia Alvarado