The White House:
David Jackson, USA TODAY
Published 9: 10 a.m. ET Dec. 11, 2019 | Updated 8: 03 p.m. ET Dec. 11, 2019
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday designed to cut off aid to colleges that tolerate anti-Semitism, though some critics called it an effort to stifle free speech and criticism of Israel.
“This is our message to universities: If you want to accept the tremendous amount of federal dollars that you get every year, you must reject anti-Semitism,” Trump said during a Hanukkah reception at the White House where he signed the executive order.
The order basically aims to extend the scope of the section in the Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin. It would now include anti-Semitic “hate,” Trump said during the signing ceremony.
A White House statement said the order is written so as to enshrine “the definition from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance of anti-Semitism into an executive order, and clarify that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act applies to anti-Semitic acts.”
‘Vile and bigoted remarks’: Left-leaning Jewish groups accuse Trump of anti-Semitic stereotypes
Before signing the order, Trump said anti-Jewish hatred appears to be on the rise, and apparently was a motive for Tuesday shooting’s at a kosher deli in Jersey City, New Jersey, that killed a police officer and three other people.
Critics said the order is really targeting criticism of Israel, particularly the “Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel movement” (BDS) that involves criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.
“This is not ‘protecting Judaism under civil rights law,'” tweeted Sophie Ellman-Golan, director of an organization called Jews against White Nationalism. “This is using Jews and Judaism as a shield to go after Palestinians and anti-authoritarian professors and student activists.”
The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights criticized the order as an attempt to silence protests against Israel, saying in a statement that it is “a clear instrument of repression targeting activism for freedom, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people on college campuses.”
During the White House Hanukkah ceremony, Trump denounced BDS and similar movements that call for economic boycotts of Israel.
“We forcefully condemn this anti-Semitic campaign,” he said.
Trump has made an appeal to Jewish voters a major part of his election strategy and touted his ties to Israel.
“The Jewish state has never had a better friend in the White House than your president, Donald J. Trump,” he said at a weekend conference in Florida sponsored by the Israeli-American Council.
Trump’s critics have also accused him of engaging in anti-Semitic stereotypes. During that Florida speech, Trump joked the audience had to support him over the Democrats because “you’re not going to vote for the wealth tax.”
Halie Soifer, the executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said “we strongly denounce these vile and bigoted remarks in which the president – once again – used anti-Semitic stereotypes to characterize Jews as driven by money and insufficiently loyal to Israel.”
Some critics said the new executive order comes dangerously close to declaring Judaism its own race or nationality, but supporters said that is not the case.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO with the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted that the order “protects Jews and other religious minorities from discrimination” under civil rights laws, “but does NOT break new ground on identifying Jews as a protected class.”
The proposal does not differ much from previous actions of Democratic and Republican administrations to protect Jews and other religious groups in “a climate of rising anti-Semitism,” Greenblatt said.
“Anti-Semitism on campus is a critical issue,” he said, “and we at ADL have supported bipartisan efforts to improve the federal tools to combat it for years.”
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