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After Trump executive order, GOP lawmaker tries to get Georgetown funding pulled over ‘anti-Israel, pro-Islamist’ bias

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On December 11, President Trump signed an executive order that effectively weaponizes antisemitism as a cudgel to beat back BDS activities on college campuses. The order threatens to withhold federal funding from universities if the government determines that they’ve failed to prohibit discrimination.

Trump’s move was barely announced before a member of congress attempted to use the new playbook. Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) has sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos asking for Georgetown University to be investigated over its alleged anti-Israel bias. The news was reported on Twitter by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Washington bureau chief Ron Kampeas.

“I have recently become aware of systematic support for biased, anti-American, pro-BDS individuals and scholarship at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies that are not in accordance with the mission of Title VI funds and contrary to America’s national security interests…The so-called Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a dagger aimed at the heart of one of America’s closest allies, Israel,” reads the letter. Riggleman cites a report on Georgetown faculty from Islamophobic commentator Daniel Pipes’s website as the basis behind his concerns.

Riggleman was elected to Virginia’s 5th district in 2018, beating his Democratic opponent, the investigative journalist Leslie Cockburn, with 53% of the vote. This September he traveled to Israel as part of an AIPAC-sponsored trip and, like many Republican members of that delegation, returned to criticize the push for a two-state solution. “The United States must step back and simply support Israel’s right to exist and to secure itself,” he declared at the time, “There is no easy fix.”

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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12 Responses

  1. bcg on December 12, 2019, 3:32 pm

    “The United States must step back and simply support Israel’s right to exist and to secure itself,” says congressman Riggleman. This “right to exist” zombie refuses to die. Once more, for any walking dead out there:

    “There is no such thing as a state’s “right to exist”, period. No such right is recognized under international law. Nor could there logically be any such right. The very concept is absurd. Individuals, not abstract political entities, have rights….The proper framework for discussion therefore is the right to self-determination, and it is precisely to obfuscate this truth that the propaganda claim that Israel has a “right to exist” is frequently made. It is necessary for Israel’s apologists to so shift the framework for discussion because, in the framework of the right to self-determination, it is obviously Israel that rejects the rights of the Palestinians and not vice versa.”

    • James Canning on December 13, 2019, 8:24 am

      @bcg In effect you argue that the Republic of South Africa had no right to exist, prior to black rule. Correct?

      • bcg on December 15, 2019, 5:07 pm

        No, I’m saying that “the right to exist” has no meaning. What’s the best bicycle for a fish?

  2. MHughes976 on December 12, 2019, 4:55 pm

    Well, I think that very idea of international law implies that each ‘nation’ to which the law applies has a duty to refrain from attacks on others unless with exceptional provocation and justification per some version of just war theory. From this it follows that each of these ‘nations’ has a corresponding right not to be attacked unless for corresponding wrongdoing. In that sense there is a right to exist.

    • bcg on December 12, 2019, 9:05 pm

      W e can have these disagreements about the “right to exist” precisely because the term has no meaning in the framework of modern international law. I think you’re talking about “the right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries”, which is different from the (meaningless) “right to exist”. I think the point is important – and goes beyond pedantic nit-picking – because of the way the phrase “right to exist” is used.

      “Nor should Israel’s “right to exist” be confused with its people’s “right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries,” the wording of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. “

      • HarryLaw on December 13, 2019, 9:29 am

        Thank you beg, as an illustration of your point here in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland comprising England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been given the right to self determination with referenda to be held whenever it is felt [using appropriate criteria] that a majority in those areas could vote for independence. In the event that those parts of the UK State do vote to be independent, the UK of GB and NI would cease to exist.

      • Talkback on December 13, 2019, 9:31 am

        bcg: “Nor should Israel’s “right to exist” be confused with its people’s “right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries,” the wording of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.”

        Oh, I always thought that “the right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries” rerferred to the countries that Israel attacked and that’s the reason why it calls for the withdrawal of its troops.

        But seriously, it doesn’t matter. Israel has been violateing 242 from the get go and will never stop doing so, because it is not interested in peace, but only in the transformation of the whole of Palestine into an only-for-Jews “bench”.

  3. wondering jew on December 12, 2019, 11:22 pm

    The Trump anti BDS move is important and interesting. Important as a milestone of the Trump administration battle against Palestinian sympathies and interesting as this redefining of the Jews for a technical legal purpose raises a deep question solving a superficial need. Just wish to mention that to Pittsburgh and Poway we must now add Jersey City of this current era. Compared to the bloodbath of American deaths from gun violence it might not seem important, but it nonetheless is troubling.

    • eljay on December 13, 2019, 8:40 am

      || wondering jew: … this redefining of the Jews for a technical legal purpose … ||

      …is a glorious victory for Zionism and Zionists, y.f. You (plural) have demanded recognition of Jews as a nation(ality) and of the “Jewish State” as the ancient / historic / eternal / lost / one true homeland of all Jewish nationalists. You should be celebrating, y.f., not getting cold feet.

    • Misterioso on December 13, 2019, 8:54 am

      @wondering jew

      “The Trump anti BDS move is important and interesting.” Indeed!! It will prove to be the cause of a major increase in anti-“Israel” sentiment and antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world. In short, a real dumb move.

    • Mooser on December 13, 2019, 2:52 pm

      You’ve got it all wrong, “wj”. The Trump Executive order is no threat, rather, it’s a boon! It finally opens the door to the privileges and more-than-just-Americans status we American Jewish people deserve.
      I see all kinds of tax exemptions and legal immunity coming. It’s gonna be great.
      I can’t wait to get a ‘blue-star’ license when I renew. That should help with the speeding tickets.
      And of course, no regulations on money-transfers to Israel, and it makes FARA regs unnecessary.
      And just think of the biggest benefit of all! Since Zionism is, apparently, the true measure of Judaism, none of these benefits will be available (Hmph! If they are conceded to be Jews by US law at all!) to non-Zionist Jews.

      “Yonah”, always remember, our rights were delineated in an Executive Letter from George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation.
      That’s 60-70 years before the Civil War and nearly two hundred before the Civil Rights movement. So we have precedence in the rights department.

  4. James Canning on December 13, 2019, 8:16 am

    Denver Riggleman thinks BDS is a “dagger”? A mortal threat to Israel? What utter rubbish. BDS does compiicate Israel’s continuing effort to trample on the right of the non-Jews in the occupied West Bank to have their own state.

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