Executive Order Stifles Campus Debate

Donald Trump Il Duce

Richard Silverstein

Fresh off his anti-Semitic barnstorming spree in Florida, in which he called his Israeli-American audience “brutal killers,” Pres. Trump is trying to make it up to us.  He’s tied up a nice holiday package in bows and ribbons and left it on the doorstep of Kenneth Marcus, head of the Education Department’s civil rights division.  Marcus has made it his life’s work to ferret out anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses.  He was thwarted in this mission when he was deputy chief under Pres. Bush. when courts and universities rejected all such claims.  But with his promotion to division chief under Secretary Betsy DeVos, Marcus is newly empowered to root out the anti-Semites lurking in the halls of academia.

Recently, the University of North Carolina caved to one of his investigations, settling a case which required them to conduct sensitivity training of staff about issues of anti-Semitism.  Marcus also found that Middle East studies courses were hopelessly biased against Israel and in favor of Islam.  But the settlement offered him no opportunity to muck about in course offerings or curriculum.

Trump determined after reading the bad press he got from the IAC speech, that he needed to throw a sop to all those angry Jews.  So he will sign an executive order tomorrow banning anti-Semitism on campuses.  Schools found to be permitting such violations would stand to lose federal funding.

Marcus had one problem with folding anti-Semitism into existing federal statutes prohibiting campus discrimination: they were formulated to combat racism and gender bias.  But anti-Semitism did not fall under this rubric.  Therefore, discrimination against Jews will henceforth be defined as race-based.  That means that the Education Department is doing to Jews exactly what the Nazis did to us: defining us as a race:

The order will effectively interpret Judaism as a race or nationality, not just a religion, to prompt a federal law penalizing colleges and universities deemed to be shirking their responsibility to foster an open climate for minority students.

Judaism is a religion, not a race and not a nationality. That is the error that Israeli Zionists make when they conflate Israel with Judaism.

Trump’s Order is deeply problematic for other reasons as well: it will use the IRHA “working definition” of anti-Semitism as the basis for determining a finding of discrimination.  As most of you know, IHRA is not a definition of anti-Semitism at all.  It is a means to muzzle all speech critical of Israel.  It is a fraud.  And now Ken Marcus has inveigled the federal government to protect Israeli interests, not Jewish students, on U.S. campuses.

Professors who teach courses including Palestine in their curriculum can be brought before federal investigators and accused of anti-Semitism.  Not only will their own departments suffer financially, the entire university might be penalized.  Even students participating in Students for Justice in Palestine could be hauled before federal Torquemadas and forced to confess their sins.  Anyone who advocates or even mentions issues like BDS will stand accused of anti-Semitism.

As you might have expected, Jonathan Greenblatt’s ADL is delighted with the new policy:

“Of course we hope it will be enforced in a fair manner,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is we see Jewish students on college campuses and Jewish people all over being marginalized. The rise of anti-Semitic incidents is not theoretical; it’s empirical.”

How will it be enforced in a “fair manner” when the only targets will be Palestinians and supporters of Palestinian rights?  That in itself will indicate an ethnic bias.  How will it be fair when even Jewish or Israeli professors who broach these subjects in their courses can be accused of anti-Semitism?

Another egregious error in his statement is the claim that BDS, advocacy of Palestinian rights, and any other activity deemed discriminatory under this new Order cause anti-Semitism.  This is not just wrong. It’s stupid and counter-factual.  What really causes anti-Semitism? Speeches like Trump’s last weekend.  Comments from the president that murdering white supremacists are “really fine people.”

Another troubling aspect is that there are billionaire pro-Israel enablers of Trump, like Ronald Lauder, who made this revolting defense of the president:

…Lauder, who has known…Trump for decades, said the president’s 2019 State of the Union address had settled the matter [of anti-Semitism] for him, when Mr. Trump declared: “We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism, or those who spread its venomous creed.”

“I don’t believe there is an anti-Semitic bone in his body,” Mr. Lauder said of Mr. Trump. “He set the record straight, as far as I’m concerned, in front of the whole nation.”

During the worst of the Holocaust, there were Jews who collaborated with the Nazis in order to save their own lives and those of their families.  But no Jew ever praised Hitler as Lauder has Trump.  No Jew ever denied Hitler was an anti-Semite.  Lauder is worse than deplorable. He’s a traitor to his people and an enabler of anti-Jewish hate.

The NY Times article I linked above contains this troubling passage:

…[Trump] has positioned himself as an unflinching supporter of Israel and a champion of Jewish Americans, moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, supporting settlements in the West Bank and recognizing the seizure of the Golan Heights.

Yes, Trump has positioned himself in this way.  But there is no context offered regarding how American Jews have responded.  They have soundly rejected everything he stands for.  61% of the Jewish community disapproves of him as president.  Only 29% approve.  Further, Jews reject not only his presidency, but his specific policies regarding Israel.  Polls show most of us reject recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the annexation of the Golan.  Most of us reject settlements as illegal. Most of us will reject, if it ever sees the light of day, the vaunted Kusher-Trump Middle East peace plan.

So if he is anyone’s champion, it’s that thin slice of Orthodox Jews and wealthy pro-Israel oligarchs like Lauder.  A distinct minority.  And every news report should reinforce this rather than taking Trump’s claims at face value.

This post originally appeared on Richard’s blog.

5 thoughts on “Executive Order Stifles Campus Debate

  1. The references to anti-Semitism early in this article should have been enclosed in quotation marks, for the very essence of the policy in question is to totally gag any speech critical of Israeli policies. What we might call “fake anti-Semitism.” Ergo, American college students are to no longer enjoy freedom of speech on our campuses. Trump first floated this idea months ago and I guess the push-back from advocates of free speech was insufficient to sway him from pushing on with it. He who promised to drain the swamp is simply continuing the obligatory full support for Israeli transgression of human rights and international concepts of law upheld by: Obama, G.W. Bush, Clinton, G.H.W. Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford…well, you get the picture. Some things don’t change. As for the bit about “brutal killers,” I missed the context of that claim; saw a brief headline on CNN about it but didn’t follow up. Can anyone enlighten me on that speech?

    • Greg–if you go online there are many links to references to Trump’s attack on Jews and their disloyalty to him and Isreal. Here is just one that covers a bevy of his comments including the one you refenced. I am sure you can find the whole speech in which he made those comments but I like this one which summarizes and portrays the breadth of his attacks and efforts to bring the Jewish population to its knees before him:


      • Thanks for the link. So, Trump was referring to Jewish real estate moguls he’s butted heads with. “Brutal killers” in the realm of big business. So, only Trump is allowed to be Master of the Art of the Deal, eh?!? I knew in my bones he wouldn’t have been criticizing Apartheid Israel…unless he did so from the right!!

  2. This is just another layer of the movement toward fascism and its legitimazation (new word I just created). We should be talking about these moves by Trump, the GOP, the Dems within the context of the overarching goals of the oligarchy which is total world control. GMO’s are part of the plan for using food to control the population. Big Pharma pushes enforced drugging which people are conditioned and bullied into accepting. They are convinced vaccines are good despite all the science to the contrary and are threatened when trying to refuse. The public is so brainwashed/propagandized, that it becomes part of the forces pushing for compliance. Sometimes talking with people, I feel like I am in the midst of a mob scene looking for blood just for raising the question about vaccine/drug safety! Militarily we see event he left supporting the illegitimate ousting of other countries duly elected leaders simply because the US oligarchy does not like their attempts for independence/non-compliance with US control of their resources and as most of them are people of color all the more reason to destroy them. What Trump is about, in his typical brash and bullying way is what the Oligarchy has been pushing for decades. Israel was created as a white, western State in the midst of a region of people of color who have the audacity to not be christian believers simply to be the West’s spy on the wall and to be divisive in that region. It is no accident that Israel has become one of the world’s biggest “security” industry States and has one of the biggest armies. Nor is it an accident that Israel has been a known nuclear State but allowed to develop such technology in alleged secret. So this new layer of using Israel and the fake anti-semitism argument as an in road towards the domestic push for suppressing free speech is not news. The real news, for me, is how blind people are in understanding the trajectory of this country towards fascism and the steps that are being taken in slow motion to accomplish this goal. We should all be writing and talking from the point of the ‘big picture’ and placing these tactics within this context or we will be missing the boat–something liberals have been doing for years!

    • I believe firmly that Trump did NOT expect to win the presidency. He entered the race so a white-hot spotlight would be on him constantly. (And, to our chagrin, it’s only grown more intense!) Thus, I can’t picture him on Day One of his term having a “program for Fascism” in his head. But the Steve Bannon/Steven Miller types (are there no Good Guys named Steve anymore?) found a vacuum (the “mind” of Trump!) and started pumping in their poison. Mr. Trump, totally lacking a moral compass, fell in lockstep behind them. As an expression I’m fond of goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you’re liable to fall for anything.”

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