Trump signs executive order declaring Judaism a nationality

Trump signs executive order declaring Judaism a nationality

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President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order Wednesday that would interpret Judaism as a nationality in a move to crack down on discrimination against Jews on college campuses.

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The order, signed during a Hanukkah ceremony in the White House, says that those who experience anti-Semitism will be protected under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which "prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin" in state-funded institutions. Religion is not covered in that portion of the law, and thus, the president declared it a nationality as well as a religion. If anti-Semitism isn't treated as discriminatory and stopped, universities could lose their federal fundings, according to the order.

The definition of anti-Semitism for the order is adapted from the State Department. It cites the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which describes it as "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 president's remarks: "This is our message to universities: If you want to accept the tremendous amount of federal dollars that you get every year, you must reject anti-Semitism. It's very simple," he said before signing the document. "The vile, hate-filled poison of anti-Semitism must be condemned and confronted everywhere and anywhere it appears."

Worth noting: A senior administration official told ABC News that the order clearly states it "should be applied consistent with the First Amendment."

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A Trump yarmulke: A 12-year-old who was invited to the signing event was spotted wearing a red yarmulke with the president’s last name embroidered on it. Others in the crowd wore pro-Trump yarmulkes too.

Mixed responses: "In a climate of rising anti-Semitism, this Executive Order provides valuable guidance on anti-Semitism, giving law enforcement and campus officials an important additional tool to help identify and fight this pernicious hate," said Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, in a statement.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Israel's Foreign Minister, Yisrael Katz, welcomed the change as well.

"These are significant steps in the ongoing fight against antisemitism and the BDS movement on college campuses," Katz said in a statement.

Critics expressed concerns about the implications the order could have on free speech rights, saying the IHRA's definition is overly broad and that it could unfairly target the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which criticizes Israeli policies. Some people on social media argued that it's wrong to say that their nationality is Judaism when they're Americans.

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 ... 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," said the Jewish group J-Street in a statement.

The president has been accused of making anti-Semitic statements as well. This weekend, President Trump came under fire for suggesting to a group of pro-Jewish people that they had little choice but to vote for him in 2020 because they wouldn't support "the wealth tax", a nod to the stereotype that Jewish people are rich and greedy, critics said.

In August, he said Jewish people who back Democrats were "being very disloyal to Jewish people and you're being very disloyal to Israel," which some interpreted as a referral to the anti-Semitic trope that Jews are guilty of dual loyalty.

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