Trump is misusing the very real problem of anti-Semitism to silence his critics. by the Forward

I’m A Palestinian Student. Trump’s Executive Order Will Censor Me

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On Wednesday, the President of the United States signed an executive order that promises to endanger free speech. “We have… taken a firm stand against the so called Divestment and Sanctions Movement or BDS,” the president said Wednesday. “We forcefully condemn this anti-Semitic campaign against the State of Israel and its citizens.”

But to me, a Palestinian college student, this was no civil rights defense of a vulnerable population. It rather harkened back to the days of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his campaign to weed out Communism in the United States. Rather than a protection, this new executive order encourages the government to penalize colleges and universities who don’t crack down harshly enough on students like me, who vigorously criticize Israel.

Opinion | I’m A Palestinian Student. Trump’s Executive Order Will Censor Me

It’s not just actual anti-Semitism that this executive order is designed to target. The State Department and now the federal government have changed their definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel by suggesting the use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, which identifies anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. The IHRA definition effectively characterizes all Palestinian resistance, much of which views Zionism as racist, as anti-Semitic.

Thus, with this order, President Trump is using the charge of anti-Semitism to silence people who are critical of his administration’s policies and of Israel’s.

In combining actual anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, and by silencing the voices that are shedding a light on another conveniently forgotten problem, the occupation of the Palestinians, President Trump shows the American public that he doesn’t actually care for the Jews of America. This is all just another political move to garner support for his longtime ally, Netanyahu — a man who is also being indicted by his government.

Opinion | I’m A Palestinian Student. Trump’s Executive Order Will Censor Me

As a Palestinian student on an elite American campus, I came here to hear other perspectives and to have my thoughts challenged on a daily basis, not to be told to shut-up or face the consequences.

And now, when I offer another perspective to others, I have to weigh the very real threat of the consequences. Every time I open my mouth might be the final time I’m allowed to speak. That our colleges and universities might lose funding over our activism — and thus might penalize us — is now a consequence Palestinians and other social justice advocates will have to consider. I worry that I will lose my $250,000 scholarship simply for exercising my fundamental right to free speech.

I fear that even attending events that highlight the occupation of Palestine may put me at risk. I worry that sharing information such as the United Nations reports that blast Israel for purposely targeting journalists, children, and medics will be off limits.

Opinion | I’m A Palestinian Student. Trump’s Executive Order Will Censor Me

Now that the Trump administration is threatening to take away funding from schools for allowing public criticism of Israel, I fear a crackdown on campus groups that push for ethical divestment from Israeli institutions based on their human rights abuses.

“This is our message to universities,” said Trump. “If you want to accept the tremendous amounts of federal dollars that you get every year then you must reject anti-Semitism.”

The president is right about one thing: Anti-Semitism is a very real and dangerous problem around the world. But you don’t solve a problem by silencing and intimidating students who are committed to creating a just world this administration purports to be defending. History shows us that kind of tactic leads down a dark road: a return of McCarthyism, with a vengeance.

Samer Hassan is a Palestinian social activist and student at Columbia University.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Trump’s Executive Order Will Censor Palestinians


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