Critics of President Donald Trump accused him of antisemitism Tuesday evening because of a poorly-worded tweet by the New York Times about an executive order to fight discrimination against Jews.
As Breitbart News reported, President Trump planned to sign an executive order Wednesday directing federal agencies to apply Title VI of the Civil Rights Act — which bans discrimination on the basis of “race, color, or national origin” — to Jews.
The move has long been supported by Jewish groups and was first undertaken by the Department of Justice in the Obama administration in 2010, which expanded the federal government’s interpretation of Title VI to cover religious groups. That decision was also implemented by the Department of Education under Obama.
However, the New York Times tweeted Tuesday evening that Trump’s executive order would redefine Judaism as a “nationality” — an error that evoked the antisemitic practices of totalitarian societies, such as the Soviet Union.
President Trump will sign an executive order defining Judaism as a nationality, not just a religion, thus bolstering the Education Department’s efforts to stamp out “Boycott Israel” movements on college campuses https://t.co/0avw7eseMc
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) December 10, 2019
In response, left-wing critics of the president — celebrities, journalists, athletes, politicians, scholars — went into a frenzy, accusing him of antisemitism and white supremacy:
So if I decide not to be Jewish am I not part of the race anymore? If three days later I decide I want to be part of the race is it my race again? Judaism is a faith. Anyone can be Jewish whenever they want and anyone can decide not to be. It is not a race or a nationality. https://t.co/u72dSLgjcS
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) December 11, 2019
This is the same kind of shit that Nazis did.
Judaism isn’t a nationality.
It’s not an ethnicity, either.
This EO is the stuff of every anti-Semitic rant about how Jewish people are outsiders and interlopers. https://t.co/QVG2eYfPeR
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) December 11, 2019
This is chilling on multiple levels.
My nationality is American. Criticism of Israel is not the same thing as anti-Semitism. And Jews are not your excuse to go after students and activists exercising their rights to free speech. https://t.co/lLb1OpZAbg
— Leah Greenberg (@Leahgreenb) December 11, 2019
What could possibly go wrong with a white supremacist president labelling Jews a nationality…presumably other than American. Good stuff 2019! https://t.co/9G53qfjxmq
— Charlie Pickering (@charliepick) December 11, 2019
My nationality is American. https://t.co/RezgcK4IZd
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) December 11, 2019
This goes far beyond Trump simply playing on the Anti-Semitic trope of “dual loyalty” – Trump is now literally saying Judaism is another nationality, not a religion. Was this Trump’s efforts to attract more support of white nationalists because nothing else makes sense?! https://t.co/XBeifH368o
— (((DeanObeidallah))) (@DeanObeidallah) December 11, 2019
This comes from Russia!!!!
Russians do this categorization of Jews as their nationality- they are not Russian nationals, Jewish people in Russia are categorized as Jewish nationals. Which would mean Russian Jews and American Jews are the same. #crazy
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) December 11, 2019
Jewish identity was listed as a nationality on Soviet passports.
Surprised to see this become an Executive Order in the US. pic.twitter.com/6XZiwYepXn
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) December 11, 2019
Matt Gertz at the left-wing Media Matters for America tried to rein in the hysteria, as did Yair Rosenberg of Tablet magazine — no fan of Trump, as the tweet below indicates, but wary of the misinterpretation of the Times article:
One reason to cool your jets about Jewish deportation: the underlying rule here is an Obama-era distinction that protects Jews as a ‘nationality and race’ *not* because we Jews all see ourselves that way, but because RACISTS do, and the law needs to fight them when they do that. https://t.co/EcjtyTmhTr
— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) December 11, 2019
The underlying New York Times article, by Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker, was more accurate, though it conflated the executive order with efforts to stop the anti-Israel “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” movement.
Senior administration officials, speaking on background, said the executive order was addressing antisemitism as a separate issue from BDS, adopting an international definition of antisemitism that allowed for criticism of Israel.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.