'In a move to chill speech critical of Israel, a former Israel lobbyist who is now the Trump administration’s top civil rights enforcer has said that the Department of Education will apply standards that conflate criticism of Israel and Zionism with anti-Jewish bigotry.
The announcement was made without public or congressional notification or debate, and reportedly took current and former investigators in the education department “by surprise.”
Kenneth Marcus, who was recently confirmed to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights under Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, also re-opened a dismissed complaint against Rutgers University made by the Zionist Organization of America.
While leveling charges of anti-Semitism against supporters of Palestinian rights, the ZOA has openly aligned itself with unabashed anti-Semites and white supremacists such as former Trump aides Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka.
In a 27 August letter obtained by The New York Times, Marcus notified the ZOA that he would be using the “State Department definition” of anti-Semitism to define Judaism as an ethnic origin rather than just a religion in order to charge Palestine rights activists with ethnic discrimination.
“In effect, Arab-American activists say, the government is declaring the Palestinian cause anti-Semitic,” The New York Times stated.
“Marcus is sending a clear signal that attacking free speech for Palestinian rights is at the top of his agenda at [the Office for Civil Rights],” said Dima Khalidi, director of the civil rights group Palestine Legal.
She called Marcus’ move a “perverse use of government resources” especially at a time when white supremacist attacks are rampant on college campuses.
It is called the “State Department definition” of anti-Semitism because a version of it was adopted by the US State Department.
But it is substantially the same as the so-called IHRA definition of anti-Semitism that Israel lobby groups pressured the UK’s Labour Party to adopt as part of their campaign against leader Jeremy Corbyn and to curtail expressions of support for Palestinian rights.'
Read more: Trump administration moves to curb campus criticism of Israel
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