December 15, 2019 — Los Angeles
This piece originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
Why does protecting college students from antisemitism bother people?
To the editor:
Your editorial regarding President Trump’s executive order on antisemitic harassment on college campuses is puzzling. The executive order merely lends the White House’s support to existing Department of Education guidelines dating back two administrations.
The federal government provides civil rights protections against discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability and national origin. Those protections include a requirement that recipients of federal funding, such as universities, protect groups against hostile environments.
Yes, these protections can be misapplied to silence protected speech. Yet we do not hear calls to rescind the essential protections for the categories above because they might be abused or misapplied. Why, then, worry only about protections against antisemitism?
We agree that anti-discrimination laws should not be used to silence conventional political speech. But some anti-Israel activities — as well as some speech about race, gender and sexual orientation — cross the line from speech to discrimination. The president’s order merely helps draw a line in the context of antisemitism.
Richard S. Hirschhaut, Los Angeles
The writer is director of the American Jewish Committee of Los Angeles