White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerHillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money Kushner associate pardoned by Trump in plea discussions over cyberstalking charges Biden has an opportunity to put his own stamp on Arab-Israeli relations MORE on Wednesday defended President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE's new executive order combating anti-Semitism, arguing in a New York Times op-ed that critics misunderstood the objective.
The order, which Trump signed after his son-in-law's opinion piece was published, defines Jewish people as an ethnic group rather than just a religious one, a controversial step that grants broader authority to the Department of Education to respond to anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“When news of the impending executive order leaked, many rushed to criticize it without understanding its purpose. The executive order does not define Jews as a nationality. It merely says that to the extent that Jews are discriminated against for ethnic, racial or national characteristics, they are entitled to protection by the anti-discrimination law,” wrote Kushner, who is Jewish.
Jewish groups that have characterized some of Trump’s own actions as anti-Semitic criticized the order, calling it a misguided attempt to quell anti-Semitism.
“This executive order, like the stalled congressional legislation it is based on, appears designed less to combat anti-Semitism than to have a chilling effect on free speech and to crack down on campus critics of Israel,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the left-leaning J Street, said in a statement.
The Jewish Democratic Council of America, which has called Trump the “biggest threat to American Jews,” characterized Trump signing the order as hypocritical.
“This is truly the arsonist attempting to serve as the firefighter,” the group's executive director Hali Soifer said in a statement. “American Jews – and Israel – are not pawns to be used in Trump’s re-election bid. It’s not up to Donald Trump to define, stereotype, or use Jews for his own political advantage, and we reject his attempts to do so."
Kushner wrote that the order adopts the definition of anti-Semitism as the language put forth in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
“The Remembrance Alliance definition makes clear what our administration has stated publicly and on the record: Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. The inclusion of this language with contemporary examples gives critical guidance to agencies enforcing Title VI provisions,” he wrote.
“Anti-Semites have grown increasingly brazen in claiming that attacks on Israel — and even on Jewish students who may or may not support Israel — are not anti-Semitic. It has become fashionable among Jew haters to characterize any discriminatory behavior — no matter how loathsome — not as criticism of Jews, but of Israel. This is a lie,” Kushner added. “Especially on college campuses, where discrimination, harassment and intimidation of Jewish students has become commonplace and is routinely, but wrongly, justified.”
Trump signed the executive order Wednesday during a celebration for Hanukkah. Several Cabinet members lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were in attendance.