ADL Welcomes Executive Order Combating Anti-Semitism

  • December 12, 2019

New York, NY, December 11, 2019 … ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) welcomed the Executive Order to be issued today indicating that the Trump Administration will interpret a key federal statute prohibiting discrimination in programs receiving federal financial assistance to encompass anti-Semitic conduct.

Today’s announcement that the U.S. will adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism is an important step acknowledging the growing concern about anti-Semitism on American college campuses. The Executive Order includes Jews in Title VI protections, something ADL and previous administrations have supported for years.

“Anti-Semitism on campus is a critical issue and we at ADL have supported bipartisan efforts to improve the federal tools to combat it for years,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “In a climate of rising anti-Semitism, this Executive Order provides valuable guidance on anti-Semitism, giving law enforcement and campus officials an important additional tool to help identify and fight this pernicious hate. It also reaffirms protection of Jews under Title VI without infringing on First Amendment rights. These are all important steps forward.”

For many years the Department of Education has said that Title VI should protect Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others under Title VI where discrimination is based on shared ethnic characteristics.  The Executive Order confirms that understanding and uses the current, widely accepted IHRA definition to help determine whether an anti-Semitic or anti-Israel incident crosses the line from protected free expression into harassing, unlawful or discriminatory conduct against Jews.

The IHRA defines anti-Semitism as “… a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish people or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” Neither the IHRA definition nor the new Executive Order identify Jews as a nationality, and the IHRA definition is not legally binding.

The Executive Order would require the Department of Education, when reviewing whether there has been a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to consider this widely accepted definition of anti-Semitism as part of its assessment of whether an incident or activity may be anti-Semitic. Under the Order, criticism of Israel can be, and often is, protected speech, but the line must be drawn when such expression becomes intentional, unlawful, discriminatory intimidation and harassment against Jews.

The IHRA definition has been adopted more than 20 countries, government entitles, U.S. states and cities, and is supported or endorsed by a number of other entitles including the European Union and the U.N. Secretary General.