President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order on Wednesday that would define Judaism not just as a religion but also as a nationality or ethnicity.
The move, according to reporting from CNN, is being pushed by the administration in order to fight what they believe is anti-Semitic actions on college campuses. Some have expressed concern, however, over the effect the executive order may have on free speech rights — particularly when it comes to criticisms of the government of Israel that aren’t necessarily based on bigoted viewpoints.
A movement across several college campuses, called Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, aims to punish the Israeli government for its treatment against Palestinians living in the region. Some allege that BDS movements are anti-Semitic, while supporters say their aims aren’t targeting Judaism but rather the political actions taken by Israel.
— Noah Ross (@drnoahross) December 11, 2019
It’s believed by some that the executive order signed by Trump on Wednesday would be used to go after colleges and universities that allow student groups to engage in BDS-led protests or events similar in nature, the Washington Post reported.
The executive 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,” J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement.
Others worry about more graver threats from the executive order, including some who espouse actual anti-Semitism interpreting it as promoting nationalism, and an errant distinction between Jews and Americans living in the United States.
“The order’s move to define Judaism as a ‘nationality’ promotes the classically bigoted idea that American Jews are not American,” Emily Mayer, political director of IfNotNow, said.