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Biden admin implementing Trump-era executive order on antisemitism

The executive order, which called on departments enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to adopt the IHRA definition, was signed by former President Donald Trump in 2019

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump signs an Executive Order to further the fight against the rise of anti-Semitism in the US, at a Hanukkah reception at the White House on December 11, 2019, in Washington, DC.

A White House official confirmed on Wednesday that the Biden administration is continuing to use a 2019 executive order issued by former President Donald Trump that broadened how the government defines race and national origin to include the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

“The Trump EO is still in effect. No change in approach to IHRA,” the official told JI.

The order calls on departments enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including the Department of Education, to adopt the IHRA definition. The order also calls on departments to consider “‘Contemporary Examples of Anti-Semitism’ identified by the IHRA, to the extent that any examples might be useful as evidence of discriminatory intent.”  

Communications from the Department of Education to university administrators suggest that the Trump executive order had not been revoked, but the White House did not yet address it directly. On Wednesday, a White House official confirmed that it remains in place.

Alyza Lewin, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, said the recent settlement of an investigation at the University of Vermont and the opening of a new investigation at SUNY New Paltz in New York — the latter of which occurred after the release of the administration’s national strategy to combat antisemitism — demonstrate that the Biden administration is continuing to use the executive order, noting that both cases “deal overwhelmingly with anti-Zionism.”

“What’s interesting about the UVM resolution,” Lewin told JI, “is how do they describe what this kind of antisemitism is? They say you have to make sure your university policies address antisemitism, including when it manifests as national origin discrimination on the basis of shared ancestry… Title VI makes clear that you have to protect the basis of race, color [and] national origin.”

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