Trump’s Executive Order is a Cynical, Harmful Measure Designed to Suppress Free Speech on College Campuses, Not Fight Anti-Semitism

December 11, 2019

In response to reports that President Trump plans to sign an executive order related to anti-Semitism on college campuses, J Street’s President Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement:

“This executive order, like the stalled congressional legislation it is based on, 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. J Street is committed to fighting all forms of anti-Semitism — and 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.

“Kenneth S. Stern, the expert who drafted the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by this executive order, has publicly opposed its application to college campuses. In opposing the legislation that forms the basis for this executive order, Stern wrote in The New York Times that ‘If this bill becomes law…students and faculty members will be scared into silence, and administrators will err on the side of suppressing or censuring speech.’

“It is particularly outrageous and absurd for President Trump to pretend to care about anti-Semitism during the same week in which he once again publicly spouted anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money. The same right-wing groups who turn a blind eye to the president’s hateful rhetoric have promoted this executive order as part of a cynical push to turn the issue of anti-Semitism into a partisan political weapon, instead of seriously combating it in all its forms.”

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