Teaching Schools a Lesson

trump anti-semitism executive order
President Donald Trump holds up an executive order on anti-Semitism that he signed during a Chanukah reception in the East Room of the White House, earlier this month. (Reuters/Tom Brenner)

There was a new sort of hero at the White House Chanukah party this year. Although, according to the left-wing media and far left Jewish groups, he was Antiochus reincarnated. President Trump once again emerged as a fierce warrior for the Jewish people. And he gave American Jews the best Chanukah present in the form of an executive order to combat anti-Semitism at American institutions of higher education.

The order makes use of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits federal funding to programs or activities that discriminate on the basis of race, color and national origin. It also broadens the federal government’s definition of anti-Semitism to encompass the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition, which includes criticism of Israel in the form of anti-Israel agitation.

In simple language, this means that the Department of Education can now withhold funding from schools if they are found to be in violation of Title VI. The executive order would give pause to colleges across America, which have tolerated a rapid spike in anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents on campuses including vandalism, harassment and assault against Jewish students. And it would encourage them to clean up their act. For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which sponsored a conference last March using federal grant funding that featured a “brazenly anti-Semitic” rapper, would now be held liable under similar circumstances.

President Trump said at the Chanukah party, “This is our message to universities: If you want to accept the tremendous amount of federal dollars you get every year, you must reject anti-Semitism.” U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr called the order a “game changer” and said, “Most Americans don’t know how bad things have gotten on many campuses where Jewish students face harassment, intimidation and discrimination. And the president said ‘enough is enough.’’’

Mr. Trump’s directive came only one day after the horrific anti-Semitic shooting attack in Jersey City. But the ink had yet to dry on his signature before The New York Times and other leftist media outlets issued their own directive lambasting it as an affront to free speech and attacking the notion of Jews being of “national origin.” Along with leftist Jewish groups, they accused the president of fomenting hate against Jews by harping on Jewish “nationalism” and insinuating dual loyalties.

The newspaper that buried coverage of the Holocaust in its back pages and denies Israel’s right to securely defend itself is suddenly debating the semantics behind the Jewish people’s nationhood. And it puts the right of free speech ahead of the right of safety for American Jews. Paradoxically, yet unsurprisingly, their fight for free speech on college campuses comes too little, too late: Countless Jewish and Israeli speakers have been physically prevented from speaking by violent protesters for years, unchecked by university officials and uncensored by the media.

Hatred for Mr. Trump so blinds those on the left that they cannot or choose not to see that there are far less than six degrees of separation between anti-Semites on college campuses chanting “from the river to the sea” and anti-Semites gunning down Chassidic Jews in a kosher supermarket in New Jersey.

Fortunately, President Trump’s order, a no-brainer in the fight against Jew-hatred, was praised by most Jewish groups, notably the ADL, AJC, and AIPAC, mainstream organizations that have been critical of the president’s past decisions. Unfortunately, facts on the ground have necessitated that about-face.

The ADL released a heartening statement about the executive order, saying it can “help determine whether an anti-Semitic or anti-Israel incident crosses the line from protected free expression into harassing, unlawful or discriminatory conduct against Jews.” And the ADL’s announcement last month, welcome yet belated, that it would double funding for its anti-bigotry school programs after a series of attacks against Jews in Brooklyn, suggests it had an epiphany regarding the connection between shouting “dirty Jew” in schools and beating up Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. Moreover, liberal Jews can no longer deny the evident truth that anti-Semitism is not within the strict purview of white supremacists.

What is clear is that allowing Jew-hatred to exist in any place and in any form emboldens anti-Semites wherever they might be. When hatred is permitted to flourish in one domain, it spreads to another. Swastikas painted on a college dorm at The University of Indianapolis quickly translate into swastikas painted on a New York City subway car or swastikas painted on a synagogue in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

American schools have tolerated and even sanctioned the intimidation of Jewish students for far too long — in the form of BDS support and the flourishing of false anti-Israel narratives. Like osmosis, that Jew-hatred seeps into all other educational, cultural and political organisms. Which has led to prominent members of academia, the media and the Democratic Party espousing a form of anti-Semitism that operates in a top-down fashion to the masses.

In the aftermath of the Jersey City massacre, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop was outspoken in assessing the crime as anti-Semitic. He told CNN, “If anti-Semitism can exist in a place that’s accustomed to diversity … it can exist anywhere. Every moment that you don’t call it out, you’re wasting an opportunity to bring attention to it.”

Likewise, President Trump’s proactive measure against campus anti-Semitism is a measure against all forms of anti-Semitism. And, despite the political hostilities surrounding his presidency, its warm reception counteracts the shrill protests emanating from the left. Which is providential, because it will take a lot more than a Chanukah miracle to halt the spread of anti-Semitism in a country many thought was immune to it. n