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January 4, 2023 6:09 pm
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Biden Administration Delays Civil Rights Protections Against Antisemitism to December; Palestinian Group Lauds Move

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avatar by Dion J. Pierre

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel, July 13, 2022. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

The Biden administration has again delayed issuing new federal regulations — first proposed by President Trump — that would apply the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism to civil rights investigations, which lawmakers and advocates have long said would help protect Jewish students from anti-Zionist discrimination and harassment.

The proposed guidelines, based on a directive given in Dec. 2019 by former President Donald Trump in response to rising anti-Zionist discrimination on college campuses, will not be instituted until at least December 2023, according to a copy of the proposed rule on the website of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

The IHRA definition of antisemitism includes examples of anti-Israel bias, including “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” “denying the Jewish people their right to self determination,” and “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

The Department of Education had initially pledged to issue new regulations in September 2020. After President Joe Biden was sworn in on January 20, the administration indicated that it had embraced the IHRA working definition but delayed codifying civil rights protections based on it until January 2021.

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In February, thirty-nine members of the US Congress released a letter urging the Department of Education to speed the process up.

On Wednesday, however, OCR Assistant Secretary Catherine Lhamon issued a statement affirming that the Biden administration’s “commitment to applying Executive Order 13899 on Combating Antisemitism” while noting that OCR opened in 2022 several investigations based on complaints of anti-Zionist discrimination and harassment.

Palestine Legal, a nonprofit legal and advocacy organization, lauded the move.

“We are reassured to see @EDcivilrights do the right thing: #RejectIHRA, and focus on rising threats of bigotry & racist attacks by white supremacists,” the group said in a Tweet.

Kenneth Marcus, former OCR Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and current chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights on Law, told The Algemeiner that the new guidance’s delay is disappointing but that Lhamon’s statement is an indication that the Biden administration is moving closer to adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

“This is the Biden administration saying publicly for the first time that they are committed to complying with the Executive Order on antisemitism,” Marcus said. “Although I would have preferred to have seen this in a regulation.”

Recent complaints with the Department of Education have focused on Stanford University, where Jewish professionals were allegedly assigned to segregated discussion groups for white members against their objections; and at Brooklyn College, where Jewish students were allegedly harassed and pressured into identifying as white in discussions around social justice.

The Algemeiner has asked OCR to comment on the delaying of the new guidance. This story will be updated accordingly.

Follow reporter Dion J. Pierre at @DionJPierre.

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