Sunday, December 15, 2019

Antisemitism as free speech

It is notable that the objection to a crackdown on antisemitism arises primarily from a desire to criticize Israel.  Antisemitism itself is not being objected to

Whether antisemitism deserves free speech protection is of course a vexed issue

President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order focused on anti-Semitism on college campuses, drawing praise from some quarters and concerns from others about implications for free speech on campuses.

The executive order instructs agencies to "consider" a definition of anti-Semitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in investigating complaints of discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The IHRA definition is controversial in higher education because it encompasses some forms of anti-Israel speech.

The definition includes a list of various forms that contemporary anti-Semitism can take. Such forms include “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” or “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” The definition states, however, that "criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic."

"The Remembrance Alliance definition makes clear what our administration has stated publicly and on the record," Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, wrote in an op-ed about the order published in The New York Times. "Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. The inclusion of this language with contemporary examples gives critical guidance to agencies enforcing Title VI provisions."

Advocates of campus free speech rights argued that instructing federal agencies to adopt the IHRA definition to aid in their enforcement of Title VI could chill speech critical of Israel.

“Directing federal agencies to rely on this framework in enforcing Title VI would effectively order nearly every campus in the country to censor its students and faculty on the basis of viewpoint -- in this case, constitutionally protected speech that is critical of Israel,” the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said in a statement. “This result would be sharply at odds with our national commitment to freedom of speech and academic freedom, decades of First Amendment precedent, and the President’s stated concern for protecting free speech on campus.”


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