As anyone who has ever served on the board of an organization knows, “no good deed goes unpunished.” There is no better example of that expression than the executive order to fight anti-Semitism that President Trump signed last week. While designed to stop the growing problem of anti-Jewish hatred on American college campuses, it has the potential of protecting Jews way beyond colleges. But to some of the most liberal Jews and to leftist media, the more important question involves concepts of Jewish nationhood and freedom of speech.
Anti-Semitic incidents have increased in America since 2013, particularly in schools and on college campuses. The issue on college campuses is no longer what might be considered classic anti-Semitism; it has morphed into attacks on anyone who expresses an infinity toward the Jewish State.
According to the AMCHA Initiative (a nonpartisan organization that tracks anti-Semitism on American campuses) anti-Semitic acts involving the unfair treatment of Jewish and pro-Israel students or attempts to exclude them from campus activities have more than doubled. Many of those acts involving calling for or implementing a boycott or exclusion of Zionist students or expression from campus life. Most troubling is that it’s not just the students pushing hatred; the report reveals a dramatic increase in faculty participation in academic BDS promotion and implementation and Israel-related anti-Semitic expression from 2017 to 2018.
FBI stats for 2018 released last month detail a 12 percent rise in total anti-Semitic incidents country-wide from the previous year and a more than a 40 percent increase in violent incidents.
One of the problems with fighting anti-Semitism from a government standpoint is there is no standard definition of what constitutes an anti-Semitic act. To make fighting the hatred easier, Trump’s executive order defines anti-Semitism and provided the government with direction about how to fight the hate. The order was based on a bill introduced in Congress by a Baptist, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2019.
The president’s executive order made it clear that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to hatred against Jews. The order states that while the act “does not cover discrimination based on religion, individuals who face discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin do not lose protection under Title VI for also being a member of a group that shares common religious practices.”
The order continues: “Discrimination against Jews may give rise to a Title VI violation when the discrimination is based on an individual’s race, color, or national origin. It shall be the policy of the executive branch to enforce Title VI against prohibited forms of discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism as vigorously as against all other forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VI.”
ne of the oldest debates about Judaism is whether it’s just a faith, or a faith and a nation or race. Such liberal media as the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post and Newsday ran editorials incorrectly claiming the order defined the Jews as a race and/or a nation. This executive order was smart enough to avoid that issue and simply considers Jews as a protected special class.
The protected class view is not a new concept. Under President Obama, both the Department of Justice and the Department of Education established policies apply Title VI to discrimination against Muslims. Sikhs, Jews, and other faiths when the discrimination is based on the group’s actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics or when the bias comes from an affiliation with a country where one faith is dominant. In other words if one discriminates against Catholics because they think Italy is a fascist state the DOJ may come knocking.
This executive order’s real step forward is that it defines what is meant by anti-Semitism. Helping the cause is that the order uses an internationally recognized definition that includes hatred based on the claim that Jews have no right to self-determination. Both the president and Pope Francis have already called that anti-Semitism.
Here’s how the international definition, advanced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, begins:
“Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong.’ It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.”
The more contemporary part of the IHRA definition includes provisions that some left-wing Jews find controversial. They include:
•Labeling anti-Semitic actions such as claiming there is a worldwide Jewish conspiracy controlling such things as the economy, media or government
•Holocaust denial or revisionism
•Suggesting American Jews have a dual loyalty between the US and Israel.
As mentioned above, it includes denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor. Applying double standards toward Israel by requiring of it a behavior not expected of other democratic nations is included, as is the classic examples of anti-Semitism such as claims the Jews killed Jesus, or blood-libel against Jews, Israel or Israelis.
Finally, the list says that comparing Israeli government policies to the Nazis, and blaming all Jews for the policies of the government of Israel, are also anti-Semitic.
resident Trump’s order directs federal agencies to get back to him within 120 days with a report of other ways the government can use its nondiscrimination authority to address anti-Semitism, which may result in expanding the order beyond college campuses.
Most Jewish groups, even the ones that hyper-focus on supporting the Democratic Party and Democratic Party issues, praised the president’s order. Those supporting groups include the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the American Jewish Committee, and (you may want to sit down for this one because it’s shocking) the ADL.
On the other hand, such left wing Jewish groups like J Street had a fit.
“This executive order, like the stalled congressional legislation it is based on, appears designed less to combat anti-Semitism than to have a chilling effect on free speech and to crack down on campus critics of Israel,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami.
Kenneth S. Stern, who drafted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, wrote an op-ed in the UK newspaper the Guardian. He claimed Trump’s order was an example of the right wing’s attempt to “weaponize” his definition of anti-Semitism.
As Ile, a character in the Eugene O’ Neill play, says, “Ay thars the rub!” Far-left objection to Trump’s order has nothing to do with a concern for American Jews and everything to do with American Politics.
President Trump can legitimately claim that he has been the best President for the Jews. He can make this claim for a host of reasons. He killed the Iran deal, recognized Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, stood up to the United Nations, his 2017 Executive Order that the government should vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom, his is 2018 establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, and other actions has won the hearts of many Jew. Last week’s anti-Semitism executive order seals the deal, especially when one adds that the Democratic Party has failed to address the systematic Anti-Semitism within their ranks.
The extreme-left is criticizing the order and falsely accusing this president of anti-Semitism because they are worried that he will be reelected. If Trump wins another four years he might able to turn around the liberal federal judiciary and bureaucracy that’s been running the country for the past four decades.
In 2016 Trump got 26 percent of the Jewish vote. It will be a miracle if Donald he gets the majority of the Jewish vote in 2020. But remember a presidential election isn’t a national contest, it’s an aggregation of 50 separate state elections. Any Jewish vote increase may help Trump in key states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada, and to a lesser extent Virginia. Those states represent about a quarter of the electoral college votes he needs.
Whether one likes Trump or not, understand that the far-left claims about him, the executive order, and their accusations that he uses of anti-Semitic language, have more to do with those electoral college votes than any concern for the Jewish people.