Trump Order On Anti-Semitism Sets Off Fear, Praise From Jewish Community

Dec 17, 2019
Originally published on December 17, 2019 2:26 pm

President Trump’s executive order to combat anti-Semitism on college campuses triggers strong feelings among American Jews. We’re listening.

Guests

Michael Brenner, professor of Israel Studies at American University. Professor of Jewish history at University of Munich. Author of “In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea.”

Susannah Heschel, professor and chair of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College and author of “The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany.” Her scholarship focuses on Jewish-Christian relations in Germany during the 19th and 20th centuries, the history of biblical scholarship, and the history of anti-Semitism.

Jonathan Tobin, editor-in-chief of Jewish News Syndicate. (@jonathans_tobin)

From The Reading List

Washington Post: “Opinion: Why President Trump’s executive order to fight anti-Semitism is dangerous for Jews” — “News of President Trump’s recent executive order to combat anti-Semitism on college campuses set off a firestorm online. To use Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to fight discrimination against Jews, Jews would have to be defined under that law as a nationality or a race, since Title VI does not address discrimination against religious groups.

“But the vast majority of Jews in the United States do not see themselves as a separate nationality or a race. In most polls, they describe their Jewishness as a cultural or religious identity, or simply as a matter of heritage, while their nationality is American.

“The announcement of Trump’s policy change echoes older debates about Jewish identity over the past 250 years — which is why the first reports of the executive order sparked such controversy. The accusation that Jews have not been devoted to the countries in which they live but rather have different national loyalties instead of or in addition to their formal citizenship is an age-old anti-Semitic trope. It was often used to deny Jews full rights and privileges in their respective countries of residence and opens up a question of Jewish belonging that the United States has not seen before — a scary proposition for American Jews.”

Israel Hayom: “Trump’s anti-Semitism order is a Rorschach test for Jews” — “Demographers have spent a great deal of time in recent decades trying to learn more about the changing demographics of American Jewry. But whatever else he has accomplished, President Donald Trump has, albeit unwittingly, gone above and beyond those efforts. In signing an executive order extending protections to Jewish students against anti-Semitic hate on college campuses due to vicious incitement and discriminatory actions promoted by the BDS movement, Trump has, in effect, provided us with a sanity test for Jews.

“It consists of the following formulation: If you are so deranged with hatred of Trump and rabid partisanship that you are even prepared to denounce administration efforts to stop anti-Semitism, then you should immediately seek help.

“Unfortunately, some Jews are flunking that test, though to be fair, their deluded reaction to the executive order has been influenced by biased media reports and statements coming from left-wing groups that are the product not so much of madness, as of partisanship and anti-Zionist sympathies.”

The New York Times: “Anti-Semitism or Free Speech? College Students Cheer and Fear Trump Order” — “Spencer Kaplan, a junior at Duke University, believes Israel has been unfairly targeted on campus, and he felt unsafe as a Jewish student after a swastika was found scrawled on a mural that Duke students had painted to honor the victims of last year’s massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“But Mr. Kaplan said he felt little comfort in President Trump’s executive order last week targeting anti-Semitism on college campuses.

“‘I just fear it’s going to backfire for Jews,’ said Mr. Kaplan, 20. ‘It reframes the debate from “is this anti-Semitic” to “is this suppression of free speech.” ‘

“While battles over limits on free speech and debates over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have long played out on American college campuses, students across the political spectrum said they worried about how Mr. Trump’s order would affect their daily lives, both in and out of the classroom.”

USA Today: “‘Vile and bigoted remarks’: Left-leaning Jewish groups accuse Trump of anti-Semitic stereotypes” — “Critics accused President Donald Trump of playing to anti-Semitic tropes during a speech Saturday in Florida at a conference sponsored by the Israeli-American Council, where he said many Jewish Americans do not “love Israel enough.”

“‘We strongly denounce these vile and bigoted remarks in which the president – once again – used anti-Semitic stereotypes to characterize Jews as driven by money and insufficiently loyal to Israel,’ said Halie Soifer, the executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, in a statement.

“Soifer’s group is currently running an ad that calls Trump the ‘biggest threat to American Jews,’ and she said his comments Saturday ‘only reinforce’ that belief.

“In his address, Trump said the ‘Jewish State has never had a better friend in the White House’ than himself, and he listed his acts since taking office, which he thought demonstrated that friendship.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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