President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to include discrimination against Jews as a violation of law in certain cases, with an eye toward fighting anti-Semitism on college campuses.
It’s an order that would allow Trump to take further steps to combat anti-Israel sentiments and divestment movements on college campuses by requiring colleges and universities to treat those movements as discriminatory or risk losing their funding.
The order would apply in cases where anti-Semitism is involved and applies only to discrimination concerns. A senior administration official told CNN on Wednesday that the order “does not ‘define’ Judaism at all. The (order) represents a legal judgment that discrimination against Jewish people is sometimes covered by Title VI.”
A White House official confirmed to CNN on Tuesday that the order would interpret Judaism as a nationality and not just a religion. The executive order released on Wednesday was not that specific.
The order released Wednesday evening interprets Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving Federal financial assistance” — as protecting from anti-Semitism. The Department of Education can withhold federal funding from any college or educational program that violates Title VI, according to the Civil Rights Act.
The definition of anti-Semitism will be adapted from the State Department, according to the order. The State Department cites the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.
Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” The US is a member of the alliance.
Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, pushed for the executive order, according to The New York Times, which first reported the order.
Trump, in announcing the order, said Wednesday that “the vile, hate-filled poison of anti-Semitism must be condemned and confronted everywhere and anywhere it appears.”
The order generated widespread reaction from Jews and Jewish groups, with some calling it a necessary measure against what they see as a rising tide of anti-Semitism on campuses and others calling it a chill on free speech.
The BDS movement, which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, aims to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians” and boycott Israel for its activities in the West Bank and Gaza.
The global movement has gained traction on some college campuses across the US, which critics say has led to Jewish students feeling targeted.
The move to combat what the administration views as anti-Semitism on college campuses comes in the wake of remarks Trump made over the weekend that several Jewish groups said promoted anti-Semitic stereotypes. In a speech to an Israeli-American organization, he suggested that many of the attendees at the event were wealthy and in real estate, and that their wealth would guide their votes in the 2020 presidential election.
Trump drew similar condemnation in 2015 when he told a group of Jewish Republicans, “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.”