The NY Times reported this evening that President Trump will sign an executive order Wednesday which would allow the Department of Education to withhold funds from schools that fail to do enough to prevent anti-Semitism. This order is seen as taking aim at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which has become popular on college campuses.
In signing the order, Mr. Trump will use his executive power to take action where Congress has not, essentially replicating bipartisan legislation that has stalled on Capitol Hill for years. Prominent Democrats have joined Republicans in promoting such a policy change at a time of rising tension on campuses over anti-Semitism as well as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions or B.D.S. movement against Israel…
Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the department can withhold funding from any college or educational program that discriminates “on the ground of race, color, or national origin.” Religion was not included among the protected categories, so Mr. Trump’s order will declare that Judaism may be considered a national origin.
The definition of anti-Semitism to be adopted from the State Department and originally formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance includes “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”
Last week a group of 88 organizations concerned about BDS efforts on college campuses sent a letter to Education Secretary DeVos. The letter argued that the whole point of Title VI funds was to promote training and research overseas, and therefore supporting BDS undercuts the purpose for which the funds are provided. From the letter [emphasis in original]:
While acknowledging that a faculty member’s right to express support for an academic boycott of Israel is protected by academic freedom, were the director or affiliated faculty of an NRC to implement an academic boycott of Israel or any other country within their center’s purview, it would explicitly contravene the purposes of Title VI and the will of Congress. It is unacceptable that federal funds could be used to implement an academic boycott that directly contravenes the purposes for which these funds have been granted. Area studies programs whose directors or affiliated faculty engage in such behavior should be ineligible to receive or renew Title VI funding.
The executive order comes as President Trump has come under fire by left-leaning groups for language he used over the weekend. Speaking to a Jewish audience in Hollywood, Florida, Trump made comments some took as based on anti-Semitic tropes. The left-leaning Jewish group J Street reacted to Trump’s comments on Twitter:
The President of the United States is incapable of addressing Jewish audiences without dipping into the deep well of anti-Semitic tropes that shape his worldview. https://t.co/XGewT2VGPC
— J Street (@jstreetdotorg) December 8, 2019
The American Jewish Committee offered a more moderate but still critical take:
Dear @POTUS – Much as we appreciate your unwavering support for Israel, surely there must be a better way to appeal to American Jewish voters, as you just did in Florida, than by money references that feed age-old and ugly stereotypes. Let’s stay off that mine-infested road.
— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) December 8, 2019
During that speech, Trump did call out the BDS movement:
Trump called out “the vile poison” of anti-Semitism, including the BDS movement that has been echoed on college campuses and even by members of Congress, in which he said U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been “pushed around” by them…
“This could not have happened 10 years ago,” said Trump. “Radical lawmakers who support the BDS movement are advancing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic” legislation.
Earlier this year, Omar introduced a pro-BDS resolution.
Stay tuned tomorrow for more on this executive order. Here’s Trump’s complete speech to the Israeli American Summit: