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Jacobin - December 12, 2019

"In fact, US lobby groups have along historyof working with the Israeli government’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and itshasbara(propaganda) efforts to sabotage Palestinian activism on campuses. Particularly, they have targeted theadvancesmade by Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaigns to pass resolutions to divest their universities from companies that support Israeli occupation."

Few people would trust Donald Trump to protect Jews from a rise in antisemitism. In the United States alone, there were more than a hundred cases of physical attacks, arson, vandalism, and threats in 2018, including last October’s assault in Pittsburgh that left eleven Jews dead at the Tree of Life synagogue. Tuesday’s shooting at a Jersey City kosher market appears to be the latest anti-Jewish attack.

Trump once called himself “the least antisemitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” But his December 11 executive order, which claims to target antisemitism on campuses, ironically employs an antisemitic trope. By defining Judaism as a nationality, Jews, the logic flows, are inherently foreign. This should come as no surprise, given the home that white nationalism and antisemitism have found in the Trump White House.

This isn’t new territory for Trump, who famously refused to call out antisemitic white supremacy after the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Most recently, he told a room full of Jews at the Israeli American Council:

You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me — you have no choice. You’re not gonna vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100 percent of your wealth away! Some of you don’t like me. Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’re going to be out of business in about fifteen minutes if they get it. So I don’t have to spend a lot of time on that.

But the intention of the executive order is plainly not to protect Jews, but to silence the movement for Palestine. As Peter Beinart put it: “It is a bewildering and alarming time to be a Jew, both because antisemitism is rising and because so many politicians are responding to it not by protecting Jews but by victimising Palestinians.”

The executive order adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which so broadly defines the term that it includes such items as: “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.” And by defining Judaism as a nationality, the order has power to withhold federal money from educational institutions that don’t adequately clamp down on these broadly and cynically defined affronts.

Trump isn’t actually trying to fight antisemitism here. He’s cynically trying to shut down criticism of Israel’s barbaric policies — the latest episode in Zionism’s long history of allying with antisemites.

“A Debate They Know They Can’t Win”

Trump’s order is but the latest salvo in a years-long campaign to redefine antisemitism for the purposes of shutting down criticism of Israel.

As Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, told the New York Times: “Israeli apartheid is a very hard product to sell in America, especially in progressive spaces. And realizing this, many Israeli apartheid apologists, Trump included, are looking to silence a debate they know they can’t win.”

Across the ocean, France’s parliament recently passed a resolution equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism. And in Britain, today’s elections, in which a victory for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party would dramatically turn around the state of British politics, have already been marred by nonstop smears purporting endemic antisemitism within the Labour Party. These attacks have mirrored the attempts to silence Ilhan Omar, an outspoken critic of Israeli aggression.

Supporters of Israel have been waging a coordinated, well-resourced counteroffensive to discredit the Palestine movement. The charge of antisemitism has been their weapon of choice, and campuses have been their ground zero.

As the Guardian recently reported, this strategy has been quite explicit, and it has been driven by a sundry assortment of right-wing forces. At a conference this summer of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative network that promotes right-wing policies, Republicans met with pro-Israel lobbyists. ...
Read full report at Jacobin