Zioness statement on today’s Executive Order:
With antisemitism rising around the globe and from every corner of social and political life, American Jews are feeling increasingly afraid, not just of the attacks on our bodily integrity, well-being and peoplehood, but of the disproportionate attention and focus on “the Jews”. Attempts to define us in certain ways or as members of certain categories or classes of people do not end well for the Jewish people, and it is difficult for us to find comfort in any action by an American President who singles out marginalized group after marginalized group, consistently propagates classical antisemitic tropes, and cozies up to white nationalists––including within the senior ranks of his own administration.
Having said that, the American Jewish community––and all Americans of conscience––have an urgent obligation to pay attention to what is happening on college campuses in this country. Jewish students are demonized, demoralized and alienated as “Zionists” by far left factions––whether they publicly identify as Zionists or not. Jewish voices are silenced, the Jewish state is existentially threatened, and anyone who believes in its secure future––including, of course, nearly every American Jew––is attacked, verbally and too often, physically, for its ostensible wrongdoing. Young Jews who feel called to social action are told by peers, professors and university administrators that they must make a false choice between their progressive identities and their commitment to Jewish liberation (Zionism). They are discriminated against in campus environments that are pervasively hostile, where they cannot learn because they cannot even *be* without fear.
And yet, under our existing national civil rights framework, Jewish students are not adequately protected because “religion” is not a protected class under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. U.S. Department of Education guidance established in the Obama Administration recognized that Jewish, Muslim and Sikh students were indeed members of a religious group, but faced discrimination on account of their ethnic identities, and would therefore benefit from Title VI protection––but that guidance has not been formally adopted by the federal government, leaving a gaping loophole in civil rights law that must be closed.
It is critical that academic stakeholders and law enforcement officials understand that the perverse discrimination Jewish students face will have consequences. While in today’s hyper-partisan and alienating political environment, the messenger is often conflated with the message, today’s Executive Order is the culmination of years of bipartisan work by Members of Congress, attorneys, civil rights professionals, and courageous students who have been victimized by antisemitic and anti-Zionist hate.
We must remain vigilant in ensuring that any “classification” of Jews or any other persecuted group does not lead to more of the disgraceful “othering” we have seen from this administration since Day 1. But we must also recognize that the Jewish community, and Jewish students in our nation’s university halls, dorms and quads, must be protected to the full extent of the law.