One way to stop the barrage of anti-Semitism on college campuses is to withhold federal funds from institutions that tolerate it. This is what motivated President Trump to issue an executive order that will allow Jewishness to be seen as an expression of ethnicity.
In doing so, he offers protection to Jews on campus: they are being bullied by those who are part of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) aimed at destabilizing Israel. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act will now apply to anti-Semitism (the law offers protection on the basis of race, color or national origin, but not religion).
Critics of the order say it will penalize criticism of Israel, thus acting as a gag order. They are mistaken. The language to be adopted by the State Department states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”
Some left-wing Jewish critics are alarmed that Jews are now seen as a nationality. Their fears are unfounded.
In 1964, Milton Gordon published his classic book, Assimilation in American Life. It was a brilliant discussion of the various ways in which immigrants assimilated into American life. His definition of an ethnic group, which was widely adopted by sociologists, applied to minority groups who exhibited “a sense of peoplehood.” In doing so, he included Jews as constituting an ethnic group.
President Trump should be commended for issuing this executive order. Unfortunately, bigots on the campus—this includes administrators and faculty, as well as students—are a real problem today. Now at least some of them will be put on notice. What to do about Christian bashing on college campuses still needs to be resolved.