- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2019

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to extend protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to bar anti-Semitism on college campuses, a move praised by some Jewish groups and criticized by others as an attempt to stifle criticism of Israel.

In an East Room ceremony celebrating Hanukkah, the president began by offering sympathy to the families of four people killed Tuesday in Jersey City, New Jersey, in a shooting feared to be an anti-Semitic attack by two assailants who were later shot dead by police. Three of the victims were killed at a kosher store, while the fourth was a police officer.

“With one heart, America weeps for the lives lost, with one voice we vow to crush the monstrous evil of anti-Semitism, whenever and wherever it appears,” Mr. Trump said.

The president then turned to his executive order, which aims to extend the scope of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act — barring discrimination by federally funded schools on the basis of race, color and national origin — to include anti-Semitism. Mr. Trump said his action makes clear that the law also “applies to institutions that traffic in anti-Semitic hate.”

“This is a very powerful document that we’re signing today,” the president said. “They had almost universal support in Congress and yet they didn’t get it done … there was always a roadblock. But this year, there’s no roadblock because I’m doing it myself.”

The audience, which included a few people wearing red yarmulkes with the word “Trump,” cheered its approval.

The president also said his action is part of taking a stand against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, targeting Israel in legislation that was co-sponsored by 18 Democratic lawmakers earlier this year.

“We forcefully condemn this anti-Semitic campaign against the state of Israel and its citizens,” Mr. Trump said.

Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress, who attended the event, made an apparent reference to the House impeachment inquiry as he praised the president’s action.

“You’re on the right side of God and that’s why you are not going to fail, and we’re going to stand behind you 100%,” he told Mr. Trump.

Alan Dershowitz called the order “a game-changer” for turning universities “away from being bastions of hatred and discrimination.”

“It will go down in history as one of the most important events in the 2,000-year battle against anti-Semitism,” Mr. Dershowitz told the president.

Some groups criticized the move as an effort to muzzle criticism of Israel in general.

“This is not ‘protecting Judaism under civil rights law,’” tweeted Sophie Ellman-Golan, director of Jews Against White Nationalism. “This is using Jews and Judaism as a shield to go after Palestinians and anti-authoritarian professors and student activists.”

Jewish Democratic Council of America Executive Director Halie Soifer said Mr. Trump “has zero credibility to take meaningful action to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism for which he is partially responsible.”

“If President Trump truly wanted to combat anti-Semitism, he would accept responsibility for his role in perpetuating anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and emboldening white nationalism,” she said. “We said it before and we’ll say it again — Donald Trump is the biggest threat to American Jews.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition applauded Mr. Trump, tweeting “for standing up for Jews and fighting against anti-Semitism,” saying he’s extending legal protections to Jewish students facing bigotry on college campuses.

The Orthodox Union, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, applauded Mr. Trump, saying the order “will provide new and stronger protections for Jewish students on college campuses against anti-Semitic attacks and harassment.”

“The order comes at a time when Jewish students are increasingly being targeted on campuses across the United States both for their religion and because of anti-Israel sentiment fomented by the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel campaign,” the group said. “Under the executive order, schools could lose federal funding if they don’t take action against discrimination targeting Jewish students.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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