Trump Is 'Weaponizing' Anti-Semitism With Latest Executive Order, Rabbi Says

A prominent rabbi has accused President Donald Trump of weaponizing anti-Semitism with his latest executive order, which expands the administration's interpretation of race and national origin to include Judaism—previously only considered a religion.

The EO will extend civil rights protection for Jewish people and allow the Department of Education to defund institutions and programs allowing anti-Semitism to fester.

But critics have warned it may play into anti-Semitic tropes by treating Jewish people as a nationality other than American—a charge the White House has vehemently denied.

Others have warned that the EO will help the government crack down on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions-related movements, which are pressuring the Israeli government to improve its treatment of Palestinians and stop its violations of international law.

Rabbi Jack Moline, the president of the Interfaith Alliance, on Wednesday accused Trump of weaponizing anti-Semitism while simultaneously exacerbating intolerance by consistently reverting to offensive anti-Semitic tropes.

"From the beginning of President Trump's administration, we have seen—and called out—a trend of politicizing and weaponizing anti-Semitism," Moline said.

"The President has consistently refused to acknowledge any role in fanning the flames of this bigotry that remains on the rise.

"Now, just days after Trump deployed anti-Semitic tropes in a speech, including ones about money and dual loyalty between America and Israel, he plans to sign an executive order that further weaponizes anti-Semitism and limits free speech," Moline added.

Last weekend, Trump used multiple anti-Semitic tropes in a speech to the Israeli American Council. He suggested Jews would not vote for a wealth tax and said many of those attending were in the real estate business. "I know you very well," Trump said. "You're brutal killers, not nice people at all."

Moline dismissed the EO as "political theater" that "is not only counter-productive, but it endangers the very people such advocates claim to defend."

The White House has rejected the charge that it is classifying Judaism as a nationality. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 allowed the Department of Education to withhold funding for institutions or programs that discriminate "on the ground of race, color, or national origin." Religion was not included in the definition, but Judaism now is.

"Its implication that Jewish Americans have a national identity separate from their American identity is clear," Moline argued. "The Jewish community does not need President Trump to codify what Jews are into law. The president is changing Jewish status in an artificial way for callous political purposes."

Pro-Palestinian organizations have warned that the EO will allow the administration to suffocate the BDS movement, which supports an economic boycott of Israel. On Wednesday, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel—a founding member organization of the BDS Movement—said the EO was "anti-democratic."

Moline concurred. "While on the surface this seems like an attempt to hold institutions accountable for the very real issue of anti-Semitic incidents on campuses, we have seen what this will actually look like under this administration," he said.

"This administration uses anti-Semitism as a shield to ostracize others, squash dissent, and bolster political support for Israel. And that will only backfire against the Jewish community."

A senior administration official told Newsweek that the EO is designed to protect Jews against all threats and forms of violence.

"Commentators should read the EO before spouting off," the official said. "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 explained.

As to 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."

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

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

Donald Trump, anti-Semitism, Israel, rabbi, Jack Moline
President Donald Trump addresses the Israeli American Council National Summit 2019 at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida on December 7, 2019. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images/Getty