Trump plunges into campus conflicts about Israel and Palestinian rights

A guest at the White House Hanukkah reception on Wednesday wears a “Make America Great Again” yarmulke. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)
A guest at the White House Hanukkah reception wears a “Make America Great Again” yarmulke, Wed, Dec 11, 2019. (photo: Tom Brenner / Reuters)
The executive order, like many of Trump’s policy moves related to Israel, drew approval from parts of his evangelical Christian base, while Jewish leaders were divided in their responses.

By Julie Zauzmer and Susan Svrluga | The Washington Post | Dec 11, 2019

The executive order ‘has been crafted carefully in a way to paper over the inherent flaw in directing federal agencies to use a definition of anti-Semitism that reaches speech plainly protected by the First Amendment.’
— Will Creeley, a senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

President Trump added new fuel Wednesday to a long-simmering fight about how colleges should handle activism around the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, signing a controversial executive order directing the federal government to penalize universities that allow anti-Semitism on campus.

Jewish Americans, from rabbis to college students, were deeply divided in their opinion of an order ostensibly meant to protect Jews. Advocates for Palestinian rights and for free speech on college campuses feared that the order might be used to punish students for criticism of Israel that they contend is political, not anti-Semitic.

On campuses across the country, including at George Washington University in the District, students and faculty are fighting over what constitutes bias against Jews and what is legitimate criticism of a foreign government.

Trump’s executive order called on executive agencies enforcing Title VI — which prohibits discrimination based on race or nationality in educational settings — to use a definition of anti-Semitism written by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The group defines many criticisms of Israel as examples of anti-Semitism, including “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

Such a definition could be used to paint anyone who opposes Israel’s government as an anti-Semite in the eyes of the Department of Education, said George Washington University student Yoni Slater.

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