Published: Thu, December 12, 2019

President Trump Comments on New Jersey Shooting, Vows to Combat Anti-Semitism

At a Hanukkah celebration in the White House Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at suppressing criticism of the Israeli government on college campuses across the United States.

Opposition MK Yair Lapid, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, tweeted his congratulations to Trump on "an order that kicks at the boycott Israel movement and fights campus anti-Semitism". Others said they were uncomfortable with government action to create an ethnic categorization, and they also anxious about the measure's potential to suppress free speech at schools.

"I will always stand with our treasured friend and ally the state of Israel", Trump told a gathering in the White House's ceremonial East Room.

Trump on Twitter "for standing up for Jews and fighting against anti-Semitism", saying he's extending legal protections to Jewish students facing bigotry on college campuses.

President Donald Trump speaking at a White House Hanukkah reception on December 11, 2019.

Criticism that the order creates a nationalism definition of Jews is "complete and utter nonsense", Cooper said. Nevertheless, the federal government has interpreted Title VI as empowering it to investigate discrimination against members of groups that can be defined by religion as well as ethnicity. Rather, he wrote, it "can serve as an important tool to guide our government's response to anti-Semitism".

"The executive order does not define Jews as a nationality".

"It is very interesting to see how the leading heads of various Jewish organizations and activists who are infected with Trump derangement syndrome twist themselves all in a knot to try and explain how a president, who earlier this week they were accusing of trafficking in anti-Semitism, just did the most historic action to defend the Jewish community from anti-Semitism ever in history", Matt Brooks, president of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told VOA. At the same time, he said he was reserving judgment about whether it was a good thing for it to be enshrined in an executive order dealing with enforcement of civil rights law.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination based on race, color, or national origin but not, notes CNN, religion; those who violate that can lose out on federal funding from the Department of Education.

Hindu, Muslim and Sikh students already are protected from discrimination under Title VI of the act, based on their shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, according to officials.

"My guess is if there is an effort to apply it in some given case and that really is problematic there will be a very intense debate, a very public debate, which I think will be chastening if it is misapplied", Nelson said.

Trump said that part of his rationale for moving forward with the order was to target the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

FILE - Jeremy Ben Ami of J Street is pictured at the pro-Israel lobbying group's offices in Washington. However, IHRA includes as contemporary examples of antisemitism the accusation of dual loyalty, using symbols associated with antisemitism to characterize Israel or Israelis and "claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor".

"Directing federal agencies to rely on this framework in enforcing Title VI would effectively order almost every campus in the country to censor its students and faculty on the basis of viewpoint - in this case, constitutionally protected speech that is critical of Israel", the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said in a statement.

In a statement, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education argued that the while "the order is couched in language meant to paper over the readily evident threat to expressive rights, its ambiguous directive and fundamental reliance on the IHRA definition and its examples will cause institutions to investigate and censor protected speech on their campuses".

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