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President’s actions will further isolate Jewish people | Opinion

December 23, 2019 Ann Toback
President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The president’s executive order purports to address anti-Semitism on college campuses, but a lot of confusion and ambiguity remains about its meaning and impact.

As a 120-year-old organization that has actively battled anti-Semitism and hatred in all its forms, the Workers Circle is clear on one thing: censoring free speech is not the antidote to anti-Semitism. At the Workers Circle, we promote freedom of expression as an essential part of a healthy society. Just as we believe critiquing American policy does not diminish your patriotism, we vehemently reject the idea that if you express opposition to Israeli government policies, you are an anti-Semite. On those occasions when opposition to Israeli policies and to Zionism crosses the line into anti-Semitism, we have and will continue to call out those statements for what they are.

We know that when free speech is censored, evidenced-based arguments get stifled while hate speech merely retreats to the dark corners of the internet and behind closed doors where we have less ability to monitor it and safeguard ourselves from its dangers.

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We view this executive order as nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to censor free speech, on college campuses or elsewhere, and worry it will only divide our country further and undermine America’s effort to collectively pursue freedom for all people. We are also keenly aware of its source: a president whose record on combatting hatred is non-existent. Rather, President Donald Trump frequently traffics in anti-Semitic tropes and much of his rhetoric and policies often target our brothers and sisters of other religions, ethnicities, geographic origins, genders and classes in ways all too familiar to our community.

This is the president who put immigrant children in cages, who refers to asylum-seekers as an infestation, and who stands in defiance of international law as he perpetrates human rights violations at our border.

This is the president who, under the guise of championing religious freedom, sanctions discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans seeking to adopt children, seeking to work, and seeking to serve in our military as he rolls back hard-earned rights.

This is the president who slanders his own citizens — whole urban areas in fact — by disparaging low-income, urban neighborhoods where communities of color have been systematically segregated and underserved for decades.

This is the president who actively endangers all Americans by encouraging white nationalism and hate as he did when claiming there were “good people” among those in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

With this as context, we are suspicious of the president’s motives for signing this executive order. We cannot look to this administration to lead the fight against anti-Semitism nor protect us from its evils. Rather, we must turn to our proven allies and organize in solidarity with other vulnerable groups to make real our country’s promise of life, liberty, and happiness for all.

Ann Toback is the CEO of the Workers Circle, a Jewish social justice organization originally founded in 1900.

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