Trump’s executive order meant to protect Jewish students on college campuses actually puts them at risk. Primarily, this order states that the federal government will withhold funding from universities that fail to combat what he sees as anti-Semitism. In reality, Trump is targeting anti-Israeli actions, and many people are raising concerns about damage to rights to free speech. The issue I have with this executive order is that it conflates being Jewish with supporting Israel, two things that are not always connected.
Not only does it paint Jews everywhere with a one-dimensional brush, but it also puts them in danger of ostracization. The far-left already has biases against the Jewish people. This is something I’ve anecdotally experienced -- as I am both open about my faith and heavily involved with large-scale far left activism - but has also been empirically documented. This isn’t the first time President Trump has portrayed this one-dimensional perspective of Jews. He’s referred to Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister,” when speaking to American Jews, and he’s openly critiqued Jewish with anti-Israel opinions, calling them “severely disloyal.” To me, it’s terrifying that my peers on the far-left have the ability to use this piece of legislation to ostracize me further, claiming that Jews in general are trying to take away their free speech rights and remove their ability to publically and vocally condemn nations committing grave human rights violations.
In the face of this executive action, my message as a Jewish teenage democrat is clear: anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are different. Jews can be anti-Zionist, but not anti-Semitic. A person can hate the actions of Israel, but they do not need to hate all Jews. Trump’s executive order creates legal means to conflate anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism by punishing anti-Zionist action as “hate crimes” or “hate speech” against the Jewish people. A direct quote from the definition of anti-Semitism originally formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”
Though it may seem a bit out of the ordinary for me to be covering such a domestic issue in a column that is meant to be about the Middle East, the Israel/Palestine conflict has reaches that dramatically impacts Jews nationally, including Jews in the United States. In my experience, this long-lasting conflict has been one of the most controversial issues I have ever discussed, so I won’t be sharing my outright opinion, nor do I owe my opinion to anyone. However, I do want to make it clear that I do not support all of the actions of Israel, despite connecting heavily with my Jewish faith, and this executive order is harmful to people like me. Though it has the ability to be overturned by the next president takes office, I have already begun to feel the effects of this executive order. Trump’s actions have created a sense of unrest and fear among the Jewish community, and it is the responsibility of every American citizen to listen to what the Jewish people are telling you when we say that this is not the kind of advocacy or legislation that our community needs.
Just days ago, mass unrest broke out in Iran as society increased the rise in fuel prices. Most of these protesters were young, typically ranging from 19 to 26. As many protests do, this one began to grow outside of its inciting issue to encompass more deep-seated problems, namely frustration with the current regime. This frustration only intensified as Iranian security forces opened fire on crowds of unarmed young people who were participating in peaceful protests, and culminated in Iran shutting off the internet to over 80 million people.
This dramatic action raises questions concerning ethics and our own internet-dependence as a society. At this point in history, internet usage is so ingrained in our daily lives that its removal may constitute the removal of a right rather than a pleasure. Access to the internet provided by a country should be characterized as a right. Without it, people within the country have no means of contacting other people across the globe. Without this, there are no people from the global community to check the government’s actions or put a stop to other abuses of power. It also blocks people from communicating with their family, friends, and coworkers.
Many countries are attempting to further create internet infrastructure that would allow them to have the same complete control over the internet that Iran just exercised. China engineered its infrastructure with this goal in mind, and countries like Russia have been retrofitting networks and implanting technical devices in order to give them greater control over the internet. In countries like Ethiopia and Iraq, technological blackouts like the one that just occurred in Iran have become the norm.
As the world becomes more and more technologically integrated, it is crucial that actions are protested that we believe infringe upon human rights, even when those human rights are something as abstract and intangible as internet access.