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The Trump administration has declared war on the Palestine solidarity movement

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On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that President Trump is on the verge of signing an executive order that purportedly cracks down on antisemitism at college campuses. The move would apparently allow the government to withhold funding from schools that failed to effectively crack down on discrimination. Trump’s move is undoubtedly being implemented to strengthen the fight against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

According to the New York Times report, the government will begin interpreting Judaism as a nationality. This would allow the government to rely on a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits schools from receiving federal funding if they discriminate based on national origin. The Trump administration will work off the State Department’s definition of antisemitism, which was originally formulated by International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. This definition classifies certain criticisms of Israel as antisemitic.

However, Jewish Insider obtained a copy of the order and has reported that it doesn’t include any references to Judaism as a “national origin.”

The Jewish Insider (JI) points out that the executive order is the conclusion of a multi-year push led by Jewish Democrats and pro-Israel advocates. “Five years ago, Apollo Global Management co-founder Marc Rowan visited then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Washington to discuss the rise of antisemitism,” JI reported, “Attendees at the meeting included Reid’s chief of staff, David Krone, and super-lobbyist Norm Brownstein, a longtime Jewish community leader from Denver. Reid proposed the idea of pushing a wider adoption of the State Department’s definition [of antiSemitism] and Rowan, Krone and Brownstein spent the next five years building a coalition of organizations to push legislation through Congress. Reid himself continued to work on the issue even after leaving the Senate, including hosting a town hall on antisemitism in Las Vegas earlier this year.”

Trump’s move was blasted online by advocates for Palestinian self-determination. “As a recent Jewish college grad who engaged in campus anti occupation activism, I’m disgusted by this executive order—but most fear how it will be used to criminalize & silence Palestinian, Muslim, & Arab student,” tweeted Jews United for Justice organizer Rakhel Silverman.

“As a Palestinian citizen of Israel let me tell you, this thing where states create separate categories for Nationals and Citizens….yeah, it doesn’t work out well,” tweeted US Campaign for Palestinian Rights Executive Director Yousef Munayyer.

Earlier this year, the Department of Education (DOE) concluded an investigation into Duke-University of North Carolina’s Consortium for Middle East Studies and determined that the program must be revised in order to continue receiving Title VI funding. The DOE declared that, in the future, the program must provide “a description demonstrating how each activity promotes foreign language learning and advances the national security interests and economic stability of the United States.”

That investigation was initiated by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at the behest of Rep. George Holding (R-NC). Holding chose to contact the DOE after a pro-Israel blogger made a deceptive post criticizing a conference that the program had hosted.

A number faculty members at Duke published a letter condemning the actions of the DOE. “The Federal investigation is the culmination of a decades-long campaign by anti-Palestinian organizations against academic programing and curricular offerings that are deemed insufficiently ‘pro-Israel’,” it reads, “This investigation targeted a Middle East center, but should concern all of us. Today, all teachers and scholars are at risk when not aligned with national policy and national security priorities.”

That certainly wasn’t the first time that the alarm had been sounded over the Trump administration targeting pro-Palestinian speech on campus. Last year, the Senate approved the nomination of Kenneth Marcus for assistant secretary for civil rights. After Trump had originally nominated him for the position, a number groups and activists pointed to Marcus’s history of pro-Israel advocacy. As the founder and president of the pro-Israel Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights, Marcus fought to quash BDS activity at universities and lobbied to expand the definition of antisemitism to include criticism of Israel.

After his confirmation, Peace Now legislative director Debra Shushan asked, “When Marcus uses charge of ‘antisemitism’ to quell free speech on Israel-Palestine on campus, where will senators be then?”

Trump’s executive order comes just days after he made remarks at the Israeli American Council that were widely criticized for being antisemitic. Trump suggested that Jews would back him for the financial incentive, while mocking presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren. “A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers,” Trump told the audience, “Not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me; you have no choice. You’re not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax.”

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “This is outright and atrocious antisemitism coming from the President, and it is dangerous.”

“This is a baldfaced attempt to silence the movement for Palestinian rights on college campuses – something that has been at the top of the Trump administration’s agenda,” said Palestine Legal director Dima Khalidi in a statement after news of the executive order broke, “We’ve already seen how defining antisemitism to include criticism of Israel serves only to violate the free speech of students and professors who stand for equality and justice for all people by challenging Israel’s apartheid policies and decades of human rights violations. Rather than providing any new protections to Jewish students against the rampant and deadly antisemitism of a resurgent white nationalism, the order described in news reports aims to define the contours of what we can say about Palestine and Israel. We won’t abide, and it will be challenged.”

Michael Arria

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

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7 Responses

  1. Talkback on December 11, 2019, 11:20 am

    “This definition classifies certain criticisms of Israel as antisemitim”.

    Again, this is totally misleading and was invented by Zionist character assassins. The IHRA definition of antisemitism only encompasses these two sentences:
    “Antisemitism is 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.”

    “In response to enquiries, the IHRA’s Berlin office has clarified that the Working Definition of Antisemitism adopted by the IHRA at its meeting in May 2016 is the 40-word definition cited below in Section 3. See this document for further details. To be precise and clear – the Working Definition adopted formally by member states of IHRA is not the entire press release, but only the two sentences (which appear in a box in the press release).”

    • Misterioso on December 12, 2019, 10:02 am

      “Trump’s Executive Order is a Cynical, Harmful Measure Designed to Suppress Free Speech on College Campuses, Not Fight Anti-Semitism.”

      December 11, 2019

      “In response to reports that President Trump plans to sign an executive order related to anti-Semitism on college campuses, J Street’s President Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement:

      “This executive order, like the stalled congressional legislation it is based on, appears designed less to combat anti-Semitism than to have a chilling effect on free speech and to crack down on campus critics of Israel. J Street is committed to fighting all forms of anti-Semitism — and we feel it is misguided and harmful for the White House to unilaterally declare a broad range of nonviolent campus criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic, especially at a time when the prime driver of anti-Semitism in this country is the xenophobic, white nationalist far-right.

      “Kenneth S. Stern, the expert who drafted the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by this executive order, has publicly opposed its application to college campuses. In opposing the legislation that forms the basis for this executive order, Stern wrote in The New York Times that ‘If this bill becomes law…students and faculty members will be scared into silence, and administrators will err on the side of suppressing or censuring speech.’

      “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. The same right-wing groups who turn a blind eye to the president’s hateful rhetoric have promoted this executive order as part of a cynical push to turn the issue of anti-Semitism into a partisan political weapon, instead of seriously combating it in all its forms.”

    • Misterioso on December 12, 2019, 11:11 am

      Beyond words:

      Huffington Post, Dec. 12/19

      “Pastor Who Says Jews Are Going To Hell Speaks At Trump’s Hanukkah Party
      Robert Jeffress has also made inflammatory comments about Muslims, Mormons and Hindus.”

      “President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at tackling anti-Semitism on college campuses on Wednesday ― but one of the speakers at the event has said that Jews are going to hell.

      “Trump signed the order at a White House Hanukkah reception, with several prominent Jewish Americans in attendance, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

      “But the president also called upon evangelical Christian leader Robert Jeffress to speak, claiming he’s a ‘tremendous faith leader.’

      “Jeffress, in turn, called Trump ‘the most pro-faith president in history.’

      “But Jeffress has a long history of hateful comments toward other faiths.

      “In 2010, he called both Islam and Mormonism ‘a heresy from the pit of hell,” then issued a warning to Jews.

      “Judaism ― you can’t be saved being a Jew,” he declared on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

      In a 2009 sermon, he said:

      “Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell. You know, Jesus was very clear. Hell is not only going to be populated by murderers and drug dealers and child abusers. Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.”

      “Jeffress often speaks in support of Trump on cable networks and radio, and earlier this year he said evangelicals who don’t support the president are ‘spineless morons.’

      “He predicted in September that removing Trump via impeachment would lead to a ‘Civil War-like fracture.’

      “Trump has noticed ― and appreciated ― the stream of praise.

      “’I’d watch him on different shows, and I’d say, ‘I like that guy. Man, he talks really great about me,’ Trump said at the Hanukkah event on Wednesday. ‘And I like people that talk well about me.'”

    • punterweger on December 13, 2019, 12:24 pm

      @Talkback – your comment while technically correct is quite misleading with respect to the effect. The so-called “Working Definition” includes 11 examples of “contemporary anti-semitism,”and it is these examples that lead to the controversy. One example states: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” This is not only a non-sequitur, but will also be used politically to restrict free speech. Are you not aware of the lengthy fight inside the UK Labour party, which adopted the formal definition, but without all of the examples. The Israel Lobby went to work and ensured that the full definition including all examples was adopted.

  2. HarryLaw on December 11, 2019, 12:32 pm

    Trump said before his election that he was “the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” was, and is, obviously not true at all. Prior to being elected, Trump seemed to suggest to a room full of Jews that they buy off politicians; tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton’s face atop a pile of cash next to the Star of David and the phrase, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”; and released an ad featuring the faces of powerful Jewish people with a voice over about them being part of a “global power structure” that has “robbed our working class” and “stripped our country of its wealth.”
    Meanwhile..Trump’s mental state deteriorating dangerously due to impeachment: Psychiatrists
    A group of mental health professionals led by a trio of preeminent psychiatrists is urging the House Judiciary Committee to consider Donald Trump’s “dangerous” mental state arising from his “brittle sense of self-worth” as part of its inquiry into whether to approve articles of impeachment against him.

  3. Elisabeth on December 11, 2019, 12:47 pm

    This is good news, ultimately. It will accelerate the realization that something is fundamentally wrong in the way the whole Israel project was and is set up. Please Israël lobbies: Suck up to Trump and Johnson!! The more the better.

  4. JWalters on December 11, 2019, 7:46 pm

    The Department of Education wants a program applying for funding to show that it “advances the national security interests … of the United States.”

    A very strong case can be made that Israel is a major security liability for the U.S. Here is Col. Lawrence Wilkerson discussing that case. He presents essential information for any sound analysis of this issue.
    “Israeli influence on U.S. foreign policy” Col. Lawrence Wilkerson”

    It follows that a program which explains Israel’s security risks to the U.S. should easily get funding.

    Back in the 1940’s the U.S. Secretary of Defense predicted that recognizing Israel, with its inherent crimes against the residents of Palestine, would incur the wrath of Israel’s Muslim victims and their Muslim neighbors. This would lead to long-term animosities toward the U.S., blowback, military engagements, and serious security problems. All that has proven true. e.g. “War Profiteers and the Roots of the War on Terror”

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