update deskAntisemitism

White House announces Civil Rights Act applies to forms of antisemitism

Eight federal agencies wrote that Title VI of the transformative 1964 law can protect Jews and other minority groups.

White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Menachem Wecker.
White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Menachem Wecker.

The Biden administration is touting what it regards as a “landmark” move in the implementation of its National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.

“Eight federal agencies clarified—for the first time in writing—that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits certain forms of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and related forms of discrimination in federally funded programs and activities,” the White House stated. “These wide-ranging protections provide important tools to curb discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics and to better protect the civil rights of all Americans.”

The agencies making the civil-rights statement include the Departments of Agriculture; Health and Human Services; Homeland Security; Housing and Urban Development; Interior; Labor; Treasury; and Transportation.

The Jewish Federations of North America applauded what it called a “substantial step by the Biden administration.”

“These steps will afford important protections for our community across a number of important fields and mark an important step in the right direction,” stated Elana Broitman, senior vice president of public affairs at JFNA.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the administration to take further action, particularly when it comes to protecting our schools and college campuses, and urge the administration to fully implement the IHRA definition of antisemitism,” she added. (IHRA refers to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.)

Arsen Ostrovsky, CEO of the International Legal Forum, said that his organization “applauds the announcement by the U.S. Biden administration today that eight federal agencies will formally adopt Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”

He added that “with antisemitism in the United States at a record high, especially on campuses, this decision will solidify and reinforce the civil and legal rights of Jewish Americans, against the scourge of modern Jew-hatred and antisemitism in all its forms.”

The Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law stated that is “elated” by the White House announcement.

“But there’s a problem,” added Kenneth Marcus, founder and chairman of the center. “The fact is that it’s one thing for the government to commit to addressing antisemitism and another for it to identify antisemitism properly.” To do the latter, the entire U.S. government must adopt the IHRA definition, he said.

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