Trump signs order defining Judaism as a nationality, not just a religion

Trump signs order defining Judaism as a nationality, not just a religion
US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Wednesday extending protections against discrimination to those facing anti-Semitism on college campuses.
3 min read
11 December, 2019
President Donald Trump is a staunch supporter of Israel [Getty]

US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Wednesday to include "Jewishness" in Title 6 of the Civil Rights Acts, a move that could see universities lose their federal funding if they fail to combat anti-semitism.

Trump's order, which was first reported by The New York Times, "just explains if an incident is anti-semitic it could fall into a Title 6 violation", a senior administration official said Tuesday. 

"Just because someone is Jewish doesn't mean they should be punished and not receive the same protections for discrimination under Title 6," the official said.

Title 6 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, colour and national origin in programs receiving federal assistance. The inclusion of Judaism under the act effectively interprets it as a race and nationality - not just a religion.

The Anti-Defamation League said it recorded 201 anti-Semitic incidents at colleges and universities in 2018, slightly less than the 204 recorded in the previous year, Reuters reported.

Those facing anti-semitism on college campuses in the United States will now be protected under Title 6, and although welcomed by many, it could spell trouble for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

The pro-Palestinian BDS movement aims to pressure Israel to adhere to international law and human rights by lobbying various states, institutions and personas to understand its oppression of Palestinians and take action as a result.

But Israel claims the movement is a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism - a claim activists firmly deny, calling it an attempt to discredit them.

Trump's executive order endorses the International Holocaust Research Association's (IHRA) 2016 definition of anti-Semitism, Haaretz reported.

The order calls on federal agencies to "consider" this definition when investigating potentially anti-semitic incidents.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education released a statement Tuesday warning the executive order infringes on the right to free speech.

"The apparent rise in campus anti-Semitism is a real problem. But however well-intentioned, if the President's Executive Order does in fact rely on [the IHRA] definition, it will impermissibly threaten the expressive rights of students and faculty at institutions across the country," the organisation warned. 

President Trump is a staunch supporter of Israel. He declared himself the "best friend" Israel has ever had in the White House on Saturday because, unlike his predecessors, "I kept my promises".

The US president also said some Jewish Americans "don't love Israel enough" and claimed he would have no trouble persuading Jewish voters in the 2020 election as they would want to "protect their wealth". Critics have condemned the remarks as anti-Semitic.

Trump also took aim at supporters of the BDS movement in his comments to the Israeli-American Council (IAC), referencing prominent Democratic advocates of the movement Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, although not by name.

Read more: BDS movement growing in US universities

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions committee, comprised of over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations, unions, and cultural and rights groups - including all major political parties, trade and academic unions -  issued its official call for boycott in 2005.

The non-violent movement says it is inspired by the campaign that targeted South Africa's apartheid regime and is seeking to put an end to Israel's brutal occupation of the West Bank.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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