Having failed at one attempt to suppress pro-Palestinian advocacy and activism on American college campuses, the Trump administration will try a new tack: defining Jewishness as a nationality or race.
The New York Times reported this week:
President Trump plans to sign an executive order on Wednesday targeting what he sees as anti-Semitism on college campuses by threatening to withhold federal money from educational institutions that fail to combat discrimination, three administration officials said on Tuesday.
The order will effectively interpret Judaism as a race or nationality, not just a religion, to prompt a federal law penalizing colleges and universities deemed to be shirking their responsibility to foster an open climate for minority students. [Emphasis added.]
The Times notes that “prominent Democrats have joined Republicans in promoting such a policy change to combat anti-Semitism as well as the boycott-Israel movement.”
Yes, of course, the government should not force taxpayers give money to anyone, but that’s not the point here. The point is that, according to Trump and Kenneth Marcus, who heads the office for civil rights at the Education Department, Hitler was right: Jews constitute a separate racial group. It’s in their blood. Once a Jew always a Jew. Hitler wasn’t the first to take this position, and Zionist leaders agreed with him. It was the view of pre-20th-century European rulers who confined Jews to ghettos (with rabbinic endorsement), treating them as mere members of a corporate entity rather than as individual citizens with rights. (Napoleon broke up this system and emancipated the Jews for a time.)
The problem for Trump and Marcus, as I explain here, is that the 1964 Civil Rights Act doesn’t list religion as a forbidden discrimination category. It “prohibits discrimination [only] on the basis of race, color, or national origin.” That being the case, how can the Trump administration claim that colleges and campus groups act illegally when they allow or put on programs designed to bring attention to the Palestinians, who have suffered so long at the hands of Israel, the self-described nation-state of the Jewish people everywhere, including the United States?
The administration was hoping that Congress would pass a definition of anti-Semitism that would shoehorn Jewishness into the Civil Rights Act clause and force schools to crack down on support for, say, the BDS movement, which opposes apartheid policies in the West Bank. But Congress hasn’t passed the so-called Anti-Semitism Awareness Act. So here is the new tack: define Jewishness as a nationality or race. Voila! Problem solved. Students and professors who disparage the Jewish state for its cruelty to the Palestinians can be charged with discriminating against Jewish American students who are actually members of the Jewish nation or race, and the administration can cut off the money.
Liberal Jewish groups are protesting what Trump’s up to, which is good. But in fact Israel itself defines Jews as constituting a nationality or race. As I explain here, no such thing as Israeli nationality exists in the Jewish state. For purposes of nationality, Israeli citizens are officially listed as Jewish, Arab, or any one of dozens of other categories. When fans of Israel point out that Palestinians are citizens, they ignore the fact that those citizens are not Israeli nationals and that it is nationality, not citizenship, that matters when it comes to Israeli policy regarding access to resources and services. Remember, Israel exists for the benefit of Jews – everywhere – and not for all of its citizens regardless of religion or religious background. It’s a rigged game that cleverly manipulates the terms citizen and national.
Some Trump critics try to tar him as an anti-Semite, but their case so far has been flimsy. His actions – including moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, declaring settlements in conquered territory legal contrary to international law, quitting the Iran nuclear agreement, and working toward a mutual defense alliance – fulfill every Zionists’ wishlist. He’s even overturned a classic alleged anti-Semitic trope by charging Jewish Americans with being insufficiently loyal to Israel.
But now some solid evidence is at hand. Declaring that Jews (including nonbelievers who have Jewish mothers) are members of a separate national and racial group is the essence of anti-Semitism. The only problem for many Trump critics is that it’s also the position Israel and its apologists.
Sheldon Richman is the executive editor of The Libertarian Institute, senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. He is the former senior editor at the Cato Institute and Institute for Humane Studies, former editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education, and former vice president at the Future of Freedom Foundation. His latest book is Coming to Palestine.