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President Trump fights anti-Semitism one day, fuels it the next

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the league, praised Trump's new order for giving police and campus officials a new tool in fighting anti-Semitism.

Members of both parties have proposed similar actions in Congress. But Trump's executive order also poses hazards for those who care about preserving something that is necessary yet regrettably embattled these days: free speech.

For example, the order comes as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Israeli government has been rising up on some campuses. The movement began as a protest against the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians. But over time that legitimate political issue has become intermixed in too many minds to mean opposition to the Jewish state itself.

A more technical but still intriguing sticking point raised by the president's order is its use of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to withhold federal money from schools that fail to act against discrimination against Jews.

Can Jews, besides being a religion or an ethnic group, be considered a race and therefore a protected class under Title VI? Experts speak eloquently on both sides of that issue, so I don't expect that question to go away soon.

But our president, as he has shown many times, isn't into nuance. "If you want to accept the tremendous amount of federal dollars that you get every year, you must reject anti-Semitism," he said. "It's very simple."

 

No, nothing about race, ethnicity and fighting discrimination is simple. Meanwhile the plague of anti-Semitism appears still to be rising, with campuses hardly topping the list of terror threats.

The day before Trump's signing ceremony, two shooters, including one said to have published anti-Semitic posts and to have been a follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which is hostile to Jews, killed four people in a rampage in Jersey City that appears to have targeted a kosher market before the shooters also were killed.

The Department of Homeland Security recently shifted its strategy to focus on domestic racial terrorism, including white terrorists. That's a welcome move. So would leadership, not just provocation, from the White House.

(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

(c) 2019 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

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