Campus Speech

Trump Signs New Executive Order Targeting Anti-Israeli Sentiment on College Campuses

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up an executive order on anti-semitism. December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that calls for Title VI civil rights law to apply to discrimination against Jewish people, especially on college and university campuses. 

“There’s been a lot of unclarity surrounding the application of Title VI to Jewishness, basically because of a question about whether Jewishness is primarily a religion – in which case Title VI would not apply to anti-Semitic discrimination –or whether it’s a race or nation origin,” a senior administration told The Washington Post. “This EO will clarify that Title VI applies to anti-Semitism.” 

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The order also asks that departments enforcing Title VI adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-discrimination, and to consider IHRA “contemporary examples of anti-semitism” when considering a case. 

The executive order was first reported by The New York Times reporters Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman on Tuesday.

Critics of the executive order worry that the new definition is “too open-ended and sweeping,” and will be used to censor “legitimate opposition to Israel’s policies,” according to The Times. 

“For instance, it describes as anti-Semitic ‘denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination’ under some circumstances and offers as an example of such behavior ‘claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor’,” Baker and Haberman wrote.

In an interview with The Times, the executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights Yousef Munayyer said that the president’s order would effectively silence Palestinian activism. 

“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,” said Munayyer. 

The Times also spoke with administration officials who said “[the order] was not intended to squelch free speech.” 

Trump’s executive order could have lasting impact because “his successors may find it politically unappealing to reverse,” Baker and Haberman wrote.

The New York Times The Jewish Insider The Washington Post