Speed Reads

Blurred Lines

Trump to define Judaism as a race or nationality in executive order for college campuses

President Trump will sign an executive order Wednesday authorizing the Education Department to withhold federal funding from colleges and universities that fail to combat anti-Semitism on campus, The New York Times and The Washington Post report. Since the relevant federal law, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, doesn't mention religion, the Trump administration is effectively defining Judaism as a race or nationality — both protected under Title VI, along with "color."

"There's been a lot of unclarity surrounding the application of Title VI to Jewishness, basically, because of a question of about whether Jewishness is primarily a religion — in which case Title VI would not apply to anti-Semitic discrimination — or whether it's a race or national origin," a senior administration official told the Post.

The Anti-Defamation League's Jonathan Greenblatt told the Times there's "empirical" evidence that anti-Semitism is on the rise in the U.S., and "we see Jewish students on college campuses and Jewish people all over being marginalized," adding that "of course" he hopes Trump's executive order "will be enforced in a fair manner." But there are concerns the rule, which defines anti-Semitism broadly, could be abused to quash free speech on campuses and penalize legitimate criticism of Israeli policy, specifically regarding its growing occupation of Palestinian territory, and especially given Trump's record.

"It is particularly outrageous and absurd for President Trump to pretend to care about anti-Semitism during the same week in which he once again publicly spouted anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money," J Street's Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a stamens. Emily Mayer with IfNotNow argued that "the order's move to define Judaism as a 'nationality' promotes the classically bigoted idea that American Jews are not American." White nationalists are among those who champion this vampiric "dual loyalties" slur against Jews.

Previous legislative efforts to include anti-Semitism in Title VI have had bipartisan support but come up short in Congress.