There has been a dangerous spike in anti-Semitic incidents, including a bloody attack Tuesday at a kosher market in Jersey City, which left four victims dead, including a police detective. Those episodes are in line with a wave of hate crimes nationally. The Anti-Defamation League said the number of anti-Semitic incidents last year was the third-highest it has recorded. And, according to a recent FBI report, hate crimes directed at individuals of all sorts reached a 16-year high in 2018.
The acrimony has not spared higher-education campuses, where hate speech and toxic symbols have appeared on buildings, walls and across social media, and the Trump administration is right to be alarmed. The order signed Wednesday by the president specifically targets colleges and universities by classifying Judaism not only as a religion but also as a race or nationality, thereby enabling the federal government to penalize institutions deemed to tolerate a climate of bias.
This is too narrow in training its sights only on academia when so many hateful occurrences have occurred at synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and elsewhere. It deals with campus incidents too broadly by threatening to suppress speech that may be reflexively labeled as bigoted if, for instance, it attacks Israel. If criticism of Israeli policies is reflexively conflated with anti-Semitism, then robust debate and academic freedom will suffer.
Mr. Trump has his own history of anti-Semitic remarks. But the real problem is that Mr. Trump consistently labels hyphenated Americans and minorities as less than wholly American, thereby affirming bigotry itself. His embrace of birtherism; his contempt for a Mexican American judge; his singling out of Somali refugees to elicit a crowd’s boos; his suggestion that four minority congresswomen, three of them U.S.-born, go back to places “from which they came” — all of it feeds and indulges prejudice.
Mr. Trump is not the cause of anti-Semitism, but he has repeatedly transmitted a message of intolerance. And wherever intolerance is cultivated, anti-Semitism will surely find fertile ground, just as it has in Mr. Trump’s America.