Last week, President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to evaluate alleged cases of discrimination against Jews on campuses across the country under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, using a definition of anti-Semitism that conflates hatred of Jews with criticism of Israel. In the name of protecting Jewish students like me, the order takes direct aim at the right to free speech for Palestinian students and others who support Palestinian freedom on campus.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Trump’s order is its elevation of a controversial definition of anti-Semitism promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Among other clauses targeting critics of Israel, the IHRA definition includes “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” as an example of alleged anti-Semitism. But it’s a fact: Israel’s political and legal system does discriminate against Palestinians.
Now, any student or professor who points this out and questions its moral rightness is liable to be labeled an anti-Semite. That harms everyone who believes in justice.
As the recent alarming rise of white supremacist violence perpetrated on Jewish people has made clear, Jews should be protected from anti-Semitism under the Civil Rights Act. But rather than keep Jews safe, this order will threaten the free speech and academic freedom of Palestinian students, professors and staff and others who support them, including many Jews like me.
I wasn’t always a strong supporter of Palestinian rights. However, when I arrived at Brown University and found a home and identity in a community in the tradition of Jewish struggles for social justice, I discovered that it was possible to embrace my Jewishness and reject the ethnostate that claims to speak for me. Since then, I’ve fought for Palestinian rights as a member of Brown Jewish Voice for Peace and Brown Students for Justice in Palestine — memberships that would put me at risk under Trump’s executive order if I attended a public university — and an organizer with the Brown Divest campaign.
(Source: Daily News)