David Wippman.

In “Trump's executive order raises important questions about Jewish identity and free speech,” co-authors President David Wippman and Professor of American Studies Glenn C. Altschuler question whether President Trump’s Dec. 11 Executive Order Combating Anti-Semitism adds to the protections already available for Jews under Title VI. They conclude that it “may well do more harm than good.” Published in The Hill on Dec. 22, the essay examines the “order’s stated intent is to ensure vigorous enforcement of existing civil rights law against ‘prohibited forms of discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism.’

“While the goal of combatting anti-Semitism is, of course, laudable, the order raises important concerns about defining Jews as a racial or national group and the suppression of free speech,” the authors write. They review how both the Bush and Obama administrations’ invoked Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and note how the Trump administration’s approach differs.

They observe, “Read literally, the order seems to say that Title VI covers discrimination against Jews because they are members of a racial group or separate nationality. The suggestion that Jews have a national identity different from the country in which they live has long been a basis for denying them the rights of citizenship.”

The authors suggest, “Combating discrimination … may be only part, and not the most important part, of the order’s goals.

“It seems likely that the Trump administration issued the executive order in part to attract political support from American Jews worried about the increase of anti-Semitism in this country, and especially on college campuses, where activists sometimes push for an end to Israel’s occupation of contested land, the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS).”

In concluding they note, “Ironically, the Trump administration has sharply criticized efforts to restrict the speech of conservatives on campuses.”

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