Nel's New Day

December 15, 2019

‘Anti-Semitism’ Ban Doesn’t Protect Jewish People

At a White House Hanukkah reception, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signed an executive order explicitly naming Jews as a protected class under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and cracking down on anti-Semitism by denying federal funds to any group exhibiting his definition of anti-Semitism. Title VI lists non-discrimination only for race, color, and national origin which means that Jewish people are protected as “national origin” and not religion.

The order punishes any First Amendment free speech criticism of Israel, blocks the BDS movement—Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions—which attempts to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians” by boycotting Israel for its illegal activities in the West Bank and Gaza, and eliminates any support for Palestinians. Curriculum that did not completely support Israel would also be banned under this order.

A hue and cry declaimed that DDT didn’t declare Judaism a “nationality,” that he just put it under “race” and “nationality.” That explanation seems to have the same meaning as “nationality”—it even uses the same word. The order raises questions such as whether Ivanka Trump, a Jewish convert, now has a new “race” or “nationality.” Most of the Jews in the U.S. describe their identity as cultural or religious—or perhaps heritage—while they are Americans. Being separate from Americans can deny them the nation’s rights. If the government determines a definition of nationality for Jewishness, this different category leaves them open to more discrimination.  

Several Jewish organizations raised objections to DDT’s order. Alissa Wise, an activist rabbi with Jewish Voice for Peace, said:

“Trump has never cared about stopping antisemitism — this executive order is about silencing Palestinians and the people who speak up with them.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, said:

“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.”

In its petition to reject DDT’s executive order, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights states:

“Though touted as a means of protecting Jews and of supporting Israel, this planned Executive Order only threatens First Amendment rights, which include the right to criticize the actions of any country on earth, while confirming a centuries-old antisemitic trope — that the primary loyalty of Jews is not to the state in which they live. This supposition has resulted in horrific discrimination against Jews in countless countries. Take a stand against it today.”

Emily Mayer, political director of IfNotNow, wrote:

 “Trump’s executive order is not about keeping Jews safe. After a week in which he spewed classic anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money, this is just more anti-Semitism. The order’s move to define Judaism as a ‘nationality’ promotes the classically bigoted idea that American Jews are not American. This order is a dangerous move to silence the free speech of human rights advocates and, in particular, Palestinian and Muslim college students.”

Last weekend, DDT used anti-Jewish negative stereotypes of the wealthy Jew in real estate when he said to the Israeli American Council:

“A lot of you are in the real estate business… You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me. You have no choice. You’re not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax.”

DDT continues his pattern of protecting anti-Semitic white supremacists, as he did after their racist protests in Charlotte (VA). Despite the nationalist protesters’ cries of “Jews will not replace us,” DDT continues to insist that they were “fine people on both sides.” 

The executive order is reminiscent of the 1870 Crémieux Decree that the French government enacted in Algeria with the white supremacist goal of giving Algerian Jews the rights and protection of French citizenship while leaving Muslim and Amazigh Algerians second-class citizens. Jewish Algerians lost their privileges when Nazis took over Europe and set up the Vichy regime in France.

By creating citizenship for Algerian Jews, the French government deflected Algerians’ anger of the violence of colonization onto this minority group. Separating the two oppressed groups, Jews and Muslims, meant that they could not successfully opposed the French colonial power. The rise of anti-Semitism drove Jews out of Algeria to France and the anti-colonial movement. By 1940, Muslims fought colonization in Algeria, and Jews faced genocide in France.

France suffers from both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the direction that the United States is taking. White supremacist governments, including the United States, isolate religious and ethnic groups to pit them against each other to block solidarity. DDT separates Jews and Muslims to make them more ineffective in the fight against white supremacy. He strengthens his division of minority groups by ordering that Palestinian liberation work and fighting anti-Semitism are in opposition.

George W. Bush and President Obama used Title VI to oppose discrimination against people of different religions, not specifically Jewish, and did not declare them a nationality. Instead, discrimination against Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, etc. was covered by Title VI if the discrimination is based on “the group’s actual or perceived ancestry or ethnic characteristics” or “actual or perceived citizenship or residency in a country whose residents share a dominant religion or a distinct religious identity.”

DDT uses a pattern of stating that Jewish people in the United States aren’t really “Americans.” Speaking to Jewish groups, he calls Israel “your country” and Benjamin Netanyahu “your prime minister.” He uses perspectives about Israel, PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and himself to define the Jewish community as “loyal” or “disloyal.” Prominent Jewish people, for example, Alexander Vindman who testified during the impeachment inquiry, suffer from questions about their patriotism and their loyalty to “America.” DDT’s executive order expands on the difference, insinuating that “Jewish” is separated from “America” and putting that idea into law. This follows DDT’s position that “Mexican Americans” aren’t really Americans.

The new executive order lumps together all anti-Israel conduct without considering whether it is anti-Jewish. The First Amendment protects anti-Semitic speech—at least until DDT was inaugurated. Although it may be repugnant, the term “I hate Jews” is as protected as “I hate carnivores.” The order bans free speech by requiring all government agencies consider the nonbinding International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism in enforcing anti-discrimination law. The criteria, developed for data-collection, are so vague and imprecise that a Palestinian rights group on campus could lose funding for a school.

To ban all criticism against Israel is to stop criticism of a country.  Israel is a political entity, and DDT’s order bans any criticism of an entire country and its government. Criticism of illegal West Bank settlements is a political discussion, not “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group,” a definition of anti-Semitism. Debates about Israeli policy is not necessarily anti-Jewish.

DDT’s goal with his executive order is to stop any criticism of Israel by calling it “anti-Semitic.” Israel is a political entity, and his order bans any criticism of a country and government. Criticism of illegal West Bank settlements is a political discussion, not “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group,” the definition of anti-Semitism. Debates about Israeli policy are not anti-Semitism.

Technically, DDT’s executive order against “anti-Semitism” should oppose discrimination against a wide range of communities. Although claims have been made that “anti-Semitism” is exclusively for Jewish people, the term Semite covers people in West Asia, North and East Africa, and Malta—all racially connected by the Semitic language. Therefore, bans against anti-Semitism should stop discrimination against Muslims, Palestinians, etc. DDT’s “anti-Semitism” order is actually anti-Zionism. Both left and right Zionists want the state of Israel, but DDT’s ideology, the rightwing Zionists, combine religion and politics while opposing peace with Palestinians in order to take over all their land. The Zionists want privileges for Jews over Arabs, Palestinians, and Christians.

As a person, DDT is pro-Zionist, trying to protect the state of Israel to keep the evangelical Christians happy, but he demonstrates anti-Jewish behavior which encourages his prejudiced base to behave violently toward Jewish people in their desire to rid the U.S. of Jewish people. Anti-Jewish episodes in the U.S. increased 60 percent in the first year after DDT’s inauguration and continued into a record number of attacks, for example the killing of four people at a Jersey City kosher supermarket this past week.  

Anti-Muslim evangelical Christian leader Robert Jeffress spoke at the Hanukkah event where DDT signed his order. Jeffress maintains that “you can’t be saved being a Jew” and called Mormonism “a heresy from the pit of hell.” According to anti-Jewish Jeffress, Hell is “filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.” DDT supports Jeffress because “I like people that talk well about me.”

DDT is not a friend of the Jewish people in the United States.

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