Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has condemned “boycott Israel” activists as “bullies,” and earlier this year, called the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — or B.D.S. — movement “one of the most pernicious threats” on campuses. But she has also prided herself on interpreting existing laws narrowly. The department has rescinded a number of Obama-era guidance documents that relied on flexible interpretations of federal laws, even as Mr. Marcus has asserted a Jewish “national origin” by fiat.
But behind Mr. Marcus’s agenda is the weight of the White House. The anti-Semitism executive order repeatedly refers to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which extends protections on the basis of race, color or national origin, then states, “Discrimination against Jews may give rise to a Title VI violation when the discrimination is based on an individual’s race, color, or national origin.”
Last weekend, Mr. Trump touted the N.Y.U. investigation as proof of his administration’s pro-Israel bona fides. In remarks to the Israeli-American Council National Summit that included a series of anti-Semitic tropes, Mr. Trump invited Adela Cojab, who filed the complaint against N.Y.U., to speak.
“My university failed to protect its Jewish community from ongoing harassment, from attacks on social media, to resolutions on student government, to boycotts, flag burnings, and physical assault,” Ms. Cojab said.
The Office for Civil Rights is investigating an event from last year when pro-Palestinian student groups at N.Y.U. were accused of disrupting a pro-Israel event. The university, whose student population is 13 percent Jewish, condemned the actions and disciplined students responsible.
But the university drew the ire of pro-Israel groups when Students for Justice in Palestine, a student group involved in the disruption described by Ms. Cojab as “an anti-Israel hate group,” was recognized with a President’s Service Award, “the highest honor you can receive as a group on campus,” Ms. Cojab said.