The pandering by Donald Trump and those around him to Israel and to some conservative American Jews is apparently endless. Last Wednesday the president signed an executive order that is intended to address alleged anti-Semitism on college campuses by cutting off funds to those universities that do not prevent criticism of Israel. To provide a legal basis to defund, the administration is relying on title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits any discrimination based on race, color or national origin. Since the Act does not include religion, Trump’s order is declaring ipso facto that henceforth “Jewishness” is a nationality.
The executive order does not mention Israel by name, but it does state that its assumptions are based on “the non-legally binding working definition of anti-Semitism adopted on May 26, 2016, by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), 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’; and (ii) the ‘Contemporary Examples of Anti-Semitism’ identified by the IHRA, to the extent that any examples might be useful as evidence of discriminatory intent.”
The IHRA “contemporary examples” supplementing the basic description are important. They considerably broaden the definition of anti-Semitism, to include “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations” and “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” The examples also included holding Israel to a higher standard than other nations when criticizing it, and IHRA offers no possible mitigation even if the accusations are, in the case of the behavior of some Jews and of Israel, accurate.
Those who are confused because in the past expressions like “Italian” or “Irish” or “British” meant actual countries should recognize that Trump-speak never respects any connection with reality when there is political advantage just sitting out there waiting to be snatched and exploited. And that imperative is considerably multiplied when one is referring to either the state of Israel or of Jews in general, particularly as seen by the Trump White House,