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December 11, 2019

Trump signs executive order combating anti-Semitism

Source: Reuters

US President Donald Trump announced the signing of an executive order (EO) on Wednesday that calls on government departments enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.


Specifically, the order is aimed at federally-funded universities and colleges and will require the Department of Education, when reviewing whether there has been a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to consider this widely accepted definition of antisemitism as part of its assessment of whether an incident or activity may be antisemitic. As such, according to an explanation of the EO provided by the Anti-Defamation League, criticism of Israel could be considered antisemitic if it becomes “intentional, unlawful, discriminatory intimidation and harassment against Jews.”


The IHRA defines antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. The Department of Education could cut federal funding for institutions that fail to remedy antisemitic incidents that fall under the title.

A senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that antisemitism on campuses is often hidden in an anti-Israel agenda. If campuses that receive money from the government adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism in cases of discrimination, students who will feel that they are being bullied on college campuses would be able to complain to their institution's administration, who will then need to decide if the incident is considered antisemitic.

"We began to focus on this issue in the late winter/spring of this year when we were alarmed frankly at a rise in antisemitic rhetoric, including unfortunately from leading political figures," the official said. "We looked at the data, and we saw that there'd been a rise in antisemitic incidents, and we began a policy process to figure out physically what we could do on the subject."

A second official explained to the post that the policy of the executive branch is to enforce Title VI in order to prohibit discrimination rooted in antisemitism "as vigorously as against all other forms of discrimination," noting that this will be language used in the order.

For many years, the Department of Education has said that Title VI is meant to protect students of all religions: Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists and others.

The majority of the Jewish community celebrated Trump’s announcement.

Republican Jewish Coalition national chairman Senator Norm Coleman called the move “truly historic” and said that “President Trump has extended to Jewish students very strong, meaningful legal protection from antisemitic discrimination.”