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Trump signs executive order on anti-Semitism

President Trump, joined by First Lady Melania Trump, holds an Executive Order he signed on combating anti-Semitism Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (D. Myles Cullen)

By Jackson Richman

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump was expected to sign an executive order on Dec. 11 addressing anti-Semitism amid the rise in hatred toward Jews in education in the US, announced the White House in a call with reporters on Tuesday evening.

The measure is particularly focused on activities on American college campuses, where the anti-Israel BDS movement has taken a hold among students and even faculty.

It would require the US Dept. of Education to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance definition of anti-Semitism in evaluating such incidents on college campuses and at other educational institutions in accordance with Title VI, enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The new executive order would also label Judaism as a nationality, in addition to a religion, so that it would fall under Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.

Religion was not included among the protected categories.

Jewish and pro-Israel groups applauded the expected move.

“It will have an immediate impact on US campuses plagued with anti-Semitic and extreme anti-Israel acts, where many university officials complained that the lack of a working definition of anti-Semitism hampered efforts to deal with anti-Semitic incidents on campus,” said Simon Wiesenthal Center associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper in a statement.

“Now, through this Executive Order, necessitated by Congress’ failure to pass legislation, university officials and Jewish students will be better equipped to deal with hate attacks often associated with the anti-Israel BDS campaigns.”

“More broadly, President Trump’s Executive Order sends a strong message domestically and around the world against history’s oldest hate at a time of surging anti-Semitism on both sides of the Atlantic,” he added.

In a statement, the American Jewish Committee called the “The situation for Jewish students . . . most worrisome.” The statement cited AJC’s recent survey on anti-Semitism in America as showing that nearly half of American Jews between the ages of 18 and 29 “have been victims of anti-Semitic acts over the past five years, compared to just over a third of American Jews overall.

“More than a third of Jewish young people said they either had experienced antisemitism on an American college campus themselves or know someone who has.”

The House has stalled on the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, introduced in July by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) that would require the US Dept. of Education to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance definition of anti-Semitism in evaluating incidents on college campuses and at other educational institutions.

The Senate version was reintroduced in March by Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.).

In the past, while pro-Israel groups have supported the measure, organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have opposed it, citing First Amendment concerns.

Initial reporting by The New York Times, which broke the story Tuesday night, Dec. 10, indicated that the order would include language defining Judaism as a “national origin,” setting off a frenzy on social media, with many deeply concerned about the order perpetuating the “dual loyalty” trope.

However, on Wednesday morning, Dec. 11, Jewish Insider published a draft of the executive order, which made no reference to national origin or to Israel.


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