President Trump will sign an executive order that will make Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act apply to anti-Semitic acts, the White House said on Wednesday. The order is generating concern that it will stifle free speech by those who oppose Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.
The executive order takes indirect aim at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that has generated intense controversy on college campuses.
Title VI bans discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs and activities, such as colleges and universities, that receive federal funding. The executive order will extend the ban to discrimination based on anti-Semitism.
A draft copy of the executive order was published Wednesday by Jewish Insider.
The draft order suggests that those charged with enforcing Title VI consider the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, 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.”
The order points in particular to the alliance’s “Contemporary Examples of Anti-Semitism.”
Among its examples is “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”
The left-leaning Jewish group J-Street said in a statement that the order “appears designed less to combat anti-Semitism than to have a chilling effect on free speech and to crack down on campus critics of Israel.”
J-Street adds that “we feel it is misguided and harmful for the White House to unilaterally declare a broad range of nonviolent campus criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic, especially at a time when the prime driver of anti-Semitism in this country is the xenophobic, white nationalist far-right.”
The White House said it had been spurred by a rise in anti-Semitic incidents since 2013, and that it was looking for a way to ensure colleges take anti-Semitic acts seriously.
The Republican Jewish Coalition praised the move, calling Trump “the most Pro-Israel President in American history” and saying that he has “shown himself to be the most pro-Jewish president as well. Today’s order will have a real, positive impact in protecting Jewish college students from anti-Semitism.”
Trump is expected to sign the order at a Hanukkah celebration at the White House on Wednesday afternoon.
NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith and religion correspondent Tom Gjelten contributed to this report.