President Trump is threatening to cut federal funds to college campuses that don’t curb anti-Semitism against Jewish students, with an executive order set to be signed later Wednesday, according to a senior administration official.
Trump’s new order will hit the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement head-on and will invoke Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to fight anti-Semitic rhetoric on college campuses, labeling Judaism as a nationality as well as a religion, and calling on federally funded agencies to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism in cases of discrimination.
“My administration is committed to aggressively challenging and confronting anti-Semitic bigotry in every resource and using every single weapon at our disposal,” Trump told a crowd of over 4,000 people at the Israeli American Council National summit over the weekend.
“We began to focus on this issue in the late winter/spring of this year when we were alarmed frankly at a rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric, including unfortunately from leading political figures,” a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post. “We looked at the data, and we saw that there’d been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, and we began a policy process to figure out physically what we could do on the subject.”
David Krone, who was chief of staff to former Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., praised Trump for the move: “I know people are going to criticize me for saying this, but I have to give credit where credit is due.”
The Trump administration has received praise from both sides of the aisle but also has critics saying the new executive order violates free speech rights.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a left-leaning group, blasted the measure as having “a chilling effect on free speech” and a “crackdown on campus critics of Israel.”
A pro-Palestinian organization accused Trump of trying to “silence Palestinian-rights activism” by equating opposition to Israeli treatment of Palestinians with anti-Semitism.
“Israeli apartheid is a very hard product to sell in America, especially in progressive spaces,” Munayyer said in a statement published by The New York Times. “And realizing this, many Israeli apartheid apologists, Trump included, are looking to silence a debate they know they can’t win.”
“It is astonishing to me that Congress dithered with meaningless resolutions while violent anti-Semitic incidents were surging across the country, but it is precisely because of such Congressional paralysis that President Trump’s executive order is the right and necessary path to adopting the IHRA’s definition,” CUFI Action Fund Chairwoman Sandra Parker said in a statement.
In July, Congress passed a bipartisan condemnation of BDS as a movement that “promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment and group isolation, which are destructive of prospects for progress towards peace.”