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Gov. Abbott Issues Executive Order Against Antisemitism At Texas Universities

All Texas higher education institutions must revisit their free speech protocols

Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order aimed at combating the rise of antisemitic incidents within colleges and universities across Texas on March 27, 2024. The order seeks to uphold a secure educational atmosphere for Jewish students and all residents of the state.

"Antisemitism is never acceptable in Texas, and we will do everything we can to fight it," Gov. Abbott said in an official statement. "The State of Texas stands with Israel and the Jewish community, and we must escalate our efforts to protect against antisemitism at Texas colleges and universities and across our state. 

The executive order from the governor mandates that all Texas higher education institutions revisit their free speech protocols, implementing suitable penalties for any instances of antisemitic language on their campuses. 

The order also calls for the enforcement of policies addressing the concerning surge in antisemitic incidents and the integration of a clear definition of antisemitism within their free speech guidelines. The order mandates all universities in Texas to include the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism in their free speech policies.

The definition that must be adopted reads: Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

According to IHRA, antisemitic acts may involve focusing on the state of Israel, perceived as a Jewish collective. However, critiques of Israel akin to those directed at any other nation should not be classified as antisemitic. 

In a statement, Abbott said antisemitism has grown in “number, size and danger to the Jewish community” since Hamas' attack on October 7. 

“Texas took immediate action to protect Jewish schools, synagogues and other key locations,” Gov. Abbott said. “Many Texas colleges and universities also acted quickly to condemn antisemitism, but some radical organizations on our campuses engaged in acts that have no place in Texas. Now, we must work to ensure that our college campuses are safe spaces for members of the Jewish community."

In October 2023, Gov. Abbott directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to work with local partners and federal intelligence agencies on heightened public safety measures. During that time, the governor allocated more than $4 million in grant funding to 31 Jewish organizations to facilitate physical security upgrades and implement additional security measures.

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