The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement began on N. American college campuses during the previous administration. It’s just one of a number of campus campaigns aimed against Israel and Jewish students (others include Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine). They poison the minds of impressionable college students against Israel, Jews, and non-Jewish supporters of Israel. It uses programs and spectacles like the infamous campus “Apartheid week,” events which flood college campuses with Jew/Israel-hating propaganda. On a regular basis proponents of campus BDS disrupt or manage to prohibit “controversial” pro-Israel speakers, paradoxically using the 1st Amendment as justification.
Among those whose speeches were disrupted or canceled are former ambassador to the US, Michael Oren; well-known lawyer and Constitutional scholar, Alan Dershowitz; and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somali-born Dutch American activist, writer, and politician.
Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects people from discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance – but it left a loophole by not mentioning religion. As such, Jews and supporters of Israel were not protected. On December 11, President Trump signed an Executive Order which includes Jews under existing Title VI protections against increasingly rampant campus aggression.
The President’s legally grounded declaration instantly received many condemnations, including from Jewish individuals and organizations. It has even been termed “racist.” In his succinct directive, Mr. Trump said antisemitism would henceforth be covered by the Civil Rights Ac, which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin.” (Trump’s action doesn’t define Judaism as a nationality.)
Antisemitism (Jew/Israel-hatred) on campuses has become so prolific that Jewish students feel threatened, are threatened, or hide their Jewishness. A recent example: “Indiana University (IU) announced on Dec. 15 that the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity has been suspended after video footage emerged over the weekend of their members beating three Jewish students. The video footage shows 11 men beating up the three Jewish students — all of whom are members of IU’s Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) chapter — in front of a house on the evening of Dec. 13. The students suffered concussions from the incident.” (https://jewishjournal.com/)
Immediately after the President’s initiative was announced, critics pounced: “Today, anti-Zionist Jewish and Palestinian groups hostile to Israel have mobilized to fight the White House’s expanded protections against anti-Semitism. It will now be more difficult for these groups to hide behind the ‘shield’ of human rights and free speech. That is why there is a long list lining up to denounce the Trump action and the IHRA (The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti- Semitism. They include far-Left groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, If Not Now, J Street, campus groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, the Palestine Solidarity Committee, Palestinian BDS Apartheid networks incited by the online Electronic Intifada, Palestinian expat academics, and student BDS warfare leaders.”
(Dan Diker, 12/15/19, https://jcpa.org/president-trumps-executive-order-on-anti-semitism/)
There are also many examples of liberal Jewish criticism, many resulting, in my opinion, from the deep-seated rejection of anything promoted by President Trump.
A few examples:
“This is deeply objectionable, going back centuries in anti-Semitic thinking,” said Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel, who leads Temple Micah, a Reform congregation in Washington. (https://www.viportal.co/) … in Chicago, Rabbi Hara Person, the chief executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis [Reform Rabbinic leadership organization], said, “I’ve heard people say this feels like the first step toward us wearing yellow stars.” (https://www.enmnews.com)
…the left-leaning J Street lobby group said in a statement that, “Trump’s executive order is a cynical, harmful measure designed to suppress free speech on college campuses, not fight anti-Semitism. 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.”(https://jstreet.org/press-releases/trumps-executive-order)
Other critics complain that coverage by Title VI implies that Jews are not American. This is rubbish. Are African Americans not American? If born to an American parent, a black person is automatically an American too. The same can be said of any others born to an American parent. Therefore, if a Jewish person has an American parent, then American citizenship automatically applies, without reference to race, religion, or nationality.
In its Twitter feed, the New York Times reported Trump’s action thus: “President Trump will sign an executive order defining Judaism as a nationality [sic], not just a religion, thus bolstering the Education Department’s efforts to stamp out ‘Boycott Israel’ movements on college campuses.”
Israeli columnist Carolyn Glick says that the New York Times’ tweet is, “… so off-base that it is impossible to view it as a mere misunderstanding by the paper of record for the liberal establishment. The assertion that Trump’s move “defined Judaism” smacks of cultural appropriation, and as such, it sounds like an act of aggression against Jews. By falsely claiming Trump defined Judaism as a nationality, the Times made it sound like Trump was saying that Jews aren’t American.”
In the Times of Israel’s summary article of the protection afforded to Jewish students by Trump’s declaration, it’s stated that in too many instances Jewish Americans, especially college students, are compelled to keep their heads down, or face abuse and harassment due to intimidation of Israelis, Israel, and by extension, Jews.
The most direct way to handle the problem is by applying the protections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to Jews, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of color, race and national origin in programs and activities receiving Federal financial assistance – which is almost every American college or university.
“Over the past several years, Congress made several attempts to amend Title VI to include anti-Jewish discrimination. These efforts enjoyed broad bipartisan support. But they were all blocked by members of the progressive camp inside the Democratic congressional caucus. Like the anti-Semitic boycott activists ostracizing Jews on campuses, the progressive lawmakers claimed that expansion of the protections of Title VI to include anti-Jewish discrimination would undermine the free speech rights of anti-Israel activists on campuses. That is, they said the rights of anti-Semites to preach anti-Semitism superseded the rights of Jewish students not to be harassed.”
Trump’s order makes it clear that Title VI applies to anti-Semitism as defined by the IHRA. That definition says anti-Semitism may include “targeting of the state of Israel conceived as a Jewish collectivity.” (https://www.timesofisrael.com/jewish-groups-divided-)
Shmuel Rosner, an editor at the Jewish Journal and a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, insists: “Jews were never merely the followers of a certain religion, they were always – both in their consciousness and the eyes of others – a people, which some would describe as a nation. Jewishness was always a combination of many things – religion, culture, and a sense of peoplehood and nationhood that binds them together.” (https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/)
Jews are a people who identify with the religious and/or moral percepts of Judaism. Some Jews are secular, considering themselves “Jewish” only in the cultural sense. Regardless, today any Jew may be subject to harassment, especially during college years. The inclusion of Jews under Title VI’s protective umbrella is a welcome event, not some sort of calamity.