Understanding the Background of the White House Ruling on Anti-Semitism and the Civil Rights Act

Dec. 13 2019

On Wednesday, the president signed an executive order allowing federal officials to extend the protections of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to Jews. (The order, promptly condemned for classifying Jews as a separate nationality, did nothing of the sort.) In 2010, Kenneth Marcus called for precisely such a ruling in the pages of Commentary, citing in particular the Department of Education’s lax response to a series of incidents at the University of California at Irvine, where, among much elase, Jewish property was vandalized and Jewish students were pelted with rocks, called “dirty Jew” and other epithets, and were told, “Jewish students are the plague of mankind.”

When complaints were lodged over these incidents, . . . the university responded either with relative indifference or with little urgency. But when the federal government was asked in 2004 to intervene to deal with incidents that its own investigators had determined to be clear-cut violations of the civil rights of Irvine’s Jewish students, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights failed to prosecute a single case. Indeed, it has finally become clear that the current policy of the office charged with enforcing civil rights at American universities involves treating anti-Jewish bias as unworthy of attention—a state of affairs in stark contrast to the agency’s quite justified alacrity in responding to virtually every other possible case of discrimination.

The lack of a coherent legal conception of Jewish identity has rendered the Office for Civil Rights (henceforth, OCR) unable to cope with [this] resurgence of anti-Semitic incidents on American college campuses, of which the Irvine situation is enragingly emblematic. The problem stems from the fact that federal agents have jurisdiction under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act over race and national-origin discrimination—but not over [religious discrimination]. And because they have been unable to determine whether Jewish Americans constitute a race or a national-origin group, they found themselves unable to address the anti-Semitism at Irvine. This confusion has led to enforcement paralysis as well as explosive confrontations and recriminations within the agency.

The position of David Black, [the OCR’s second-highest-ranking official], on the Irvine case was quite simple: “The allegations in [this] case were religious discrimination” and were therefore outside the scope of his office’s responsibilities because “OCR doesn’t have jurisdiction over religion.” . . . Black wanted more careful scrutiny of certain technical issues—and also insisted, oddly, that [OCR] staff “investigate whether Jewish students were Americans or of Israeli origin.”

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, U.S. Politics

Distrust of the Supreme Court Led Likud Voters to Rally around Netanyahu

Jan. 17 2020

A few weeks ago, Benjamin Netanyahu handily won the Likud party’s primary election, receiving 72 percent of the votes. He won despite the fact that he is facing indictments on corruption charges that could interfere with his ability to govern if he remains Israel’s premier, and despite the credible challenge mounted by his opponent, Gideon Sa’ar. Evelyn Gordon credits the results not to love of Netanyahu but to resentment of Israel’s overweening Supreme Court:

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Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politics, Israeli Supreme Court