On university campuses across the country, pro-Palestinian groups have taken up their politically-correct cudgel against Jewish and pro-Israel organizations and individuals. They have harassed invited speakers at campus events, and disrupted them with noisy demonstrations that make speech impossible, depriving the speakers of their free speech and harassing their audiences, as well.

President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order which extended the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to Jewish students on college campuses. Given the rabid and blatantly anti-Semitic environment that pervades many colleges around the country, the President’s Executive Order is a welcome and long overdue move, and should give some relief to Jewish college students, who have been harassed, bullied, and hounded for years by groups of organized left-wing and Palestinian activists. 

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits intentional discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. But it doesn’t go far enough.  

So the new Executive Order of December 11, 2019 on Combating Anti-Semitism adds the following: 

“While Title VI does not cover discrimination based on religion, individuals who face discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin do not lose protection under Title VI for also being a member of a group that shares common religious practices. Discrimination against Jews may give rise to a Title VI violation when the discrimination is based on an individual’s race, color, or national origin. It shall be the policy of the executive branch to enforce Title VI against prohibited forms of discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism as vigorously as against all other forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VI.” 

The order specifies that those agencies responsible for Title VI enforcement shall “consider” the working definition of anti-Semitism that was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016, which states, “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities”.

In the national consideration of how to reduce institutionalized prejudice in this country, Jews have not been included in the discussion until now. Such legislation in the past has largely been focused on alleviating the hardships faced by black Americans, Latinos, Asians, and other minority groups. This, even though Jews represent a significant minority, and have been singled out for discrimination throughout history. 

After World War II, for example, a phenomenon called the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” made many hotels, apartments and residential neighborhoods, private schools and colleges, and country clubs, off-limits to Jews. But by the time the civil rights movement gained traction in the 60s, Jews were at the forefront of the fight for the civil rights for black Americans, and were no longer considered to be victims of the kind of prejudice that required legal protection.

It is different today. Very different. The empowerment of minorities, the rise of “wokeness”, the demand for entitlement at the expense of those with “white privilege”, the movement to rewrite American history and destroy the symbols of pasts injustices, and the general hatred of people with white skins⏤all these have changed the American landscape. 

Universities should be a place where free speech and the open discussion of conflicting ideas are a fundamental principle for everyone. Instead, the universities of today have become the haven for those whose bigotry and intolerance demands that only their ideas are worthy of expression. They consider it their right and duty to deprive their fellow students – and teachers – and invited guests – with whom they don’t agree, of the freedom to express their own opinions.

The irony is that the Jewish population around the globe is infinitesimal compared to the rest of the world. In the United States, there are only an estimated 5.3 million Jews (in a country of 330+ million people). They represent only 6% of the American population. So what is there to fear? Why is there so much animus against them?

I have never found an acceptable explanation for anti-Semitism. But it has plagued the Jewish people for thousands of years. And it continues unabated today. On Tuesday, a violent act of anti-Semitism in Jersey City, New Jersey took the lives of four people – a police officer, the proprietor of a Kosher grocery story, a customer, and an employee of the store. 

The two attackers were also killed in a shootout that lasted for several hours. From all appearances, both of the killers were anti-Semites who targeted the store because it was a Kosher store and the owners were Jewish, as were most of its customers. This was a horrible attack, but it was only one of many anti-Semitic attacks that have taken place across the country in increasing numbers. The attack at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg that took 11 lives, for example, should have been a wake-up call. But it wasn’t enough. Then there was another attack at the Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California, where a congregant threw herself in front of the Rabbi and saved his life but lost hers. 

According to the FBI, although the number of hate crimes in the U.S. went down slightly in 2018, the number of anti-Semitic crimes that year increased to 1,879. In fact, nearly 60 percent of all the hate crime attacks in the U.S. last year were committed against Jews and Jewish institutions. 

Anti-Semitism is a poison to our society. And it is spreading. Even though the mayor of Jersey City tried to pull the city together in solidarity, people in the neighborhood were heard to blame the slayings on the Jews, the victims, saying, “Why don’t they get the f— out of here!”. Former NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind visited the site and reported, “While the Jewish blood of terror victims was still warm, local residents gathered outside not to show support, not to offer help, but  . . . The big story here is that not only was there a horrible terror attack motivated by antisemitism that occurred, but it happened in a context in which wishing death on Jews seems totally normal.” 

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib rushed to post a Tweet in which she claimed that the murders were the act of “white supremacists”, even though they turned out to be black anti-Semites. She retracted her Tweet fairly quickly, but didn’t offer a correction. (Her anti-Semitism is well known, and no one expects her to apologize.) 

So, in signing his Executive Summary, President Trump has done a very good thing. An important move, to make sure that America’s tiny Jewish population is also covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s an important step towards protecting our children in school, and creating a better country for all of us. 

A hatred that goes back thousands of years will not disappear overnight. It may not disappear at all. But this Executive Order may help to create more of a balance between the anti-Semitic activists on college campuses and the Jewish students who just want to be able to exercise their right to the freedom of expression that was guaranteed to them in the First Amendment. Seems only fair.

Image: NYT