There are three main criticisms of Trump’s executive order on antisemitism.
One, prompted by the truly offensive New York Times article that said initially that the law would define Jews as a separate nationality, is that somehow regarding Jews as “Jewish Americans” deserving of special protection is a step on the way to taking citizenship away from Jews. This was absurd from the start – are Korean Americans, protected from discrimination under Title VI, considered less than American?
Yet the NYT now reports on the “controversy” over the law based on its own inaccuracy:
In Chicago, Rabbi Hara Person, the chief executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, saw the president’s action and worried. …
“Not to overdramatize, but it feels dangerous,” she said. “I’ve heard people say this feels like the first step toward us wearing yellow stars.”
Even two days after the NYT report was found to be an example of poor reporting, critics are citing the article as the truth, and not the text of the executive order itself.
The second criticism of the EO is based on its supposed potential to suppress free speech. Supposedly, since it says that schools should consider the IHRA definition of antisemitism when deciding whether someone is being discriminated against, critics claim that the order is an assault on free speech.
But if you read the actual text of the EO, it explicitly says the opposite:
[A]gencies shall not diminish or infringe upon any right protected under Federal law or under the First Amendment. As with all other Title VI complaints, the inquiry into whether a particular act constitutes discrimination prohibited by Title VI will require a detailed analysis of the allegations.
Title VI protects students (and others who receive government funds) from discrimination. Only when speech becomes harassment does that become an issue. And this is an issue under the existing Title VI with respect to racist and xenophobic harassment already. Why is putting antisemitism on the same level as racism a problem? Those who are complaining, whether they realize it or not, are arguing that Jews do not deserve the protections that other minorities have on campus.
Isn’t that antisemitic?
Law professor David Bernstein discusses the third criticism of the EO, and notes the hypocrisy of those who advance that argument.
There is a separate, more sophisticated argument: that college administrators will proactively suppress constitutionally protected speech for fear of “hostile environment” liability. But as I noted elsewhere, there’s nothing in the EO that remotely suggests colleges do this, and if colleges react in that way to hostile environment law, it’s not the least bit unique to Jews; they could equally suppress, say, speech about affirmative action for fear of creating a hostile environment for blacks, or about abortion for women, etc.
In other words, if that’s the problem, the problem is not with the EO, which doesn’t address hostile environment law at all, but with the long shadow on speech cast by hostile environment law, and it’s hostile environment law, not the EO, that needs to be addressed.
There are also those who want hostile environment law to suppress speech, but only speech leftists abhor, which doesn’t include genocidal speech about Israel. Such individuals of course oppose the EO, but their claim that it’s because they care about free speech is disingenous.
Rather, they see the possibility that hostile environment law will apply to some anti-Israel speech as a barrier to their goal, which is to use that law to suppress other speech.
One must wonder protecting Jews – or even “Zionists” – from discrimination is a bad thing. And the only reason that makes sense is that some people want to take away the rights of Jews and Zionists on campus and elsewhere.
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