Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Faith Is Not A Race — Updated

Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice has issued a correction to his post based on reporting from Mark Joseph Stern at Slate:

The New York Times published a bombshell report on Tuesday claiming that President Donald Trump planned to sign an executive order that interpreted Judaism “as a race or nationality” under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI governs federally funded educational programs, so the Times warned that the order might be deployed to squelch anti-Israel speech on campus. “Mr. Trump’s order,” the Times further claimed, “will have the effect of embracing an argument that Jews are a people or a race with a collective national origin in the Middle East, like Italian Americans or Polish Americans.”

That turned out to be untrue. The text of the order, which leaked on Wednesday, does not redefine Judaism as a race or nationality. It does not claim that Jews are a nation or a different race. The order’s interpretation of Title VI—insofar as the law applies to Jews—is entirely in line with the Obama administration’s approach. It only deviates from past practice by suggesting that harsh criticism of Israel—specifically, the notion that it is “a racist endeavor”—may be used as evidence to prove anti-Semitic intent. There is good reason, however, to doubt that the order can actually be used to suppress non-bigoted disapproval of Israel on college campuses.

I’m going to let the original post stand because whether or not the reporting is incorrect, anti-Semitism in America is still on the rise.


From the New York Times:

Trump plans to sign an executive order on Wednesday targeting what he sees as anti-Semitism on college campuses by threatening to withhold federal money from educational institutions that fail to combat discrimination, three administration officials said on Tuesday.

The order will effectively interpret Judaism as a race or nationality, not just a religion, to prompt a federal law penalizing colleges and universities deemed to be shirking their responsibility to foster an open climate for minority students. In recent years, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — or B.D.S. — movement against Israel has roiled some campuses, leaving some Jewish students feeling unwelcome or attacked.

In signing the order, Mr. Trump will use his executive power to take action where Congress has not, essentially replicating bipartisan legislation that has stalled on Capitol Hill for several years. Prominent Democrats have joined Republicans in promoting such a policy change to combat anti-Semitism as well as the boycott-Israel movement.

But critics complained that such a policy could be used to stifle free speech and legitimate opposition to Israel’s policies toward Palestinians in the name of fighting anti-Semitism. The definition of anti-Semitism to be used in the order matches the one used by the State Department and by other nations, but it has been criticized as too open-ended and sweeping.

Politics aside, it’s dangerous to take something that anyone can adopt, such as a religion, and use it to define something that is genetic, such as race, or even circumstantial, such as nationality.  No one is born Jewish or Catholic or Buddhist or Quaker.  You may be born in a place where the majority is Jewish, for example, but show me the DNA marker that designates a particular faith.

There are also historical precedents for designating Judaism as a race or nationality, and as Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice, notes, it hasn’t turned out so well.

Any assertion of Judaism as a race and nationality is bad, as well as factually inaccurate. Making it official US policy, by way of an executive order, is potentially catastrophic. Other states that classified Judaism as a race and nationality include NAZI Germany in the Nuremberg Race Laws and the Soviet Union. The Nuremberg Race Laws went into effect in 1935 and were modeled on racial purity and separation laws from the Jim Crow south after Reconstruction was overthrown. In the case of the Soviet Union, the Soviet equivalents were a legacy and carryover of the pre-Communist Russian anti-Semitism that had permeated Russian life.

No one who isn’t either in denial or has decided to put political or personal profit ahead of reality, facts, and the truth needs any more evidence that the President and his administration are pushing a white supremacist agenda and are winking and nudging and signaling in a variety of other ways to Americans who would like to see the United States become a white, Christian herrenvolk. The Attorney General has now given two speeches in the past two months implying that this should be the case. But this new executive order is a significant development. And that is not meant to downplay what our fellow citizens; be they religious minorities like Muslims and the Sikhs, Hindus, and Buddhists mistaken for them because of superficial physiological resemblance; ethnic minorities whose families originated in Central and South America, the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and/or Africa, or LGBTQ Americans have been going through since January 2017. Rather it is an acknowledgment that things are accelerating in a bad direction. When governments declare Jews to be a race and nationality apart from the rest of the citizenry, bad things begin to happen. And they begin to happen quickly.

One of the goals of the founders of this country was to make this a nation where we did not distinguish between races and religions in order to form a more perfect union.  That we have not lived up to that over the last 250 years is a shame and a stain, but we have always striven to reach it.  This executive order does nothing to achieve it; it adds yet another layer of distinction that assures the racists and the white supremacists that they have been right all along.