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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Why does protecting college students from anti-Semitism bother people?

Pro-Palestinian protesters march at UC Berkeley in 2002.
Pro-Palestinian protesters march at UC Berkeley in 2002.
(Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

To the editor: Your editorial regarding President Trump’s executive order on anti-Semitic 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 anti-Semitism?

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 anti-Semitism.

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Richard S. Hirschhaut, Los Angeles

The writer is director of the American Jewish Committee of Los Angeles.
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To the editor: The L.A. Times is right to recognize that Trump’s executive order is an attack on free speech. It is also an attack on Palestinians and our basic human rights.

Trump is a primary purveyor of the anti-Semitism that has horrified all of us. As a Palestinian American lawyer working to protect our constitutional rights to even talk about Israel’s wrongs, I can see clearly that the target of this order is not the vile and violent anti-Semitism of white nationalists but, rather, the advocates on college campuses for Palestinian freedom.

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It may make some Jewish students uncomfortable to hear what Israel means for Palestinians. But Palestinians have been “uncomfortable” for more than seven decades while Israel has taken our land, our homes and our fundamental human rights. We must be allowed to speak our truths without fear of investigation and punishment.

The Trump administration is up against a diverse grass-roots movement that believes in freedom and equality for all in Israel and Palestine. There’s no anti-Semitism in that.

The only racism and discrimination at play here is Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights and humanity. Let’s talk about that.

Dima Khalidi, Chicago

The writer is founder and director of Palestine Legal.


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