Critics Say Kushner's 'Craven' Defense of Trump Anti-Semitism Order Is Enabling President's Own 'Bigotry'

Presidential Senior Advisor Jared Kushner has waded into the anti-Semitism row swirling around President Donald Trump, after the commander-in-chief signed a new executive order Wednesday which will effectively treat Judaism as a race or nationality, rather than just a religion.

Kushner—himself Orthodox Jewish—penned an op-ed for The New York Times published Wednesday in support of the EO, which will allow the Department of Education to defund programs and institutions that let anti-Semitism develop.

This will allow the administration to clamp down further on movements linked to the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which is pressuring the Israeli government to to improve its treatment of Palestinians and end its continued violation of international law.

However, progressive Jewish groups have condemned the EO itself as anti-Semitic as it could be interpreted into cast Jews as a separate nationality to other Americans, while stifling legitimate debate by conflating anti-Semitism with criticism of the state of Israel.

"As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I understand the horrors of anti-Semitism. I could not be more proud of President Trump's new policy," Kushner wrote, noting the rise in anti-Semitic sentiment and violence in the U.S.

The order will accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's 2016 definition of anti-Semitism, which critics have dismissed as too broad.

Kushner explained, "The Remembrance Alliance definition makes clear what our administration has stated publicly and on the record: Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism."

But some Twitter users took issue with Kushner's assertions. They noted that his father-in-law has been accused of fomenting anti-Semitic sentiment despite casting himself as a close ally of Israel, while other argued that anti-Israeli criticism should not be considered anti-Semitism.

Writer and historian Mitch Horowitz said Kushner was "dead wrong" in his backing of the EO. "You can't foment hate & then slap a flawed band-aid on it to please a constituency," he wrote on Twitter.

Horowitz argued, "Bigotry is a rising danger. It requires constant vigilance starting with firing Jared's father in law." Journalist Mehdi Hasan added that the EO "does nothing to tackle" threats of violence faced by Jews in the U.S.

Author and commentator Tony Schwartz branded Kushner "craven, enabling and complicit with his father-in-law," while Vox senior correspondent Zack Beauchamp described his intervention as "awful and such an own goal."

On Wednesday, the White House denied that the EO would explicitly define Judaism as a nationality.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Department of Education was previously able to withhold funding for any program or institution that discriminates "on the ground of race, color, or national origin." Religion was not included, meaning the EO is effectively treating American Jews as a race or nationality.

A senior administration official told Newsweek, "Commentators should read the EO before spouting off. Anyone who reads the President's EO will see that the President is explicitly allowing for the Title VI penalties to apply to anti-Semitic acts, including violent anti-Semitic acts."

The official declined to comment on concerns that the EO will stifle legitimate criticism of Israeli government policy.

On allegations of Trump's own anti-Semitism, the official said, "President Trump is the most pro-religion, pro-Jewish, pro-Israel President in U.S. history. Anyone who claims otherwise is fighting an up-hill battle against the facts."

This article has been updated to include a comment from the White House.

Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, anti-Semitism, Executive order
Senior Advisors Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner watch as President Donald Trump shows an executive order regarding anti-Semitism in the East Room of the White House on December 11, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Getty