Trump's Executive Order, Jewish Identity, and Free Speech

tags: Jewish history, free speech, Executive Order, Trump

Initially, a factually flawed article in the NY Times alarmed our Third Narrative discussion group by reporting that the Trump administration’s new executive order was redefining Jewishness in “national” or even “racial” terms.  The actual text of the “Executive Order on Combating Anti-Semitism” does not do thathowever.  

Two of our Third Narrative colleagues are in the forefront of the public discussion.  Kenneth Stern, currently director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate, has long been an authority consulted and writing on the complexities of identifying hate speech within a society that values free speech and scholarly discourse; he is mentioned in a number of prominent publications on this new executive order.  Writing in The Guardian, he reminds us that a government sanction against some opinions regarded as antisemitic may inhibit legitimate debate and scholarly research:

"Fifteen years ago, as the American Jewish Committee’s antisemitism expert, I was the lead drafter of what was then called the “working definition of antisemitism”. It was created primarily so that European data collectors could know what to include and exclude. That way antisemitism could be monitored better over time and across borders.

It was never intended to be a campus hate speech code, but that’s what Donald Trump’s executive order accomplished this week.  . . .

. . .  I’m worried administrators will now have a strong motivation to suppress, or at least condemn, political speech for fear of litigation. I’m worried that faculty, who can just as easily teach about Jewish life in 19th century Poland or about modern Israel, will likely choose the former as safer. I’m worried that pro-Israel Jewish students and groups, who rightly complain when an occasional pro-Israel speaker is heckled, will get the reputation for using instruments of state to suppress their political opponents.  . . ."

Read entire article at The Third Narrative Blog

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