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Abbott signs executive order to curb antisemitism on Texas campuses, demands 'appropriate punishments'

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order on Wednesday to combat the rise of antisemitism on college campuses, vowing to do 'everything we can to fight it.'

Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, issued an executive order on Wednesday aimed at combating antisemitism on college campuses in his state as the nation grapples with a troubling uptick in antisemitic incidents amid the Israel-Hamas war.

Abbott's directive mandates Texas colleges and universities to review their free speech policies, define antisemitism in clear terms and definitively outline "appropriate punishments" for antisemitic rhetoric on campus. The executive order demands college and university administrators enforce such policies to ensure "a safe learning environment for Jewish students and all Texans," according to a press release from the governor's office.

"Antisemitism is never acceptable in Texas, and we will do everything we can to fight it," Abbott said in the 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. Across the country, acts of antisemitism have grown in number, size, and danger to the Jewish community since Hamas' deadly attack on October 7th."

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Abbott credited his administration for taking "immediate action to protect Jewish schools, synagogues, and other key locations."

"Many Texas colleges and universities also acted quickly to condemn antisemitism," he added. "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."

The text of the executive order addressed the "unspeakable and heinous" crimes perpetrated by Hamas on Israel during the October 7 terror attack that killed over 1,000 civilians.

 "Incidents of antisemitism have increased since Hamas' attack and the proliferation of antisemitism at public universities is particularly concerning," Abbott wrote.

Detailing the plight of Jewish students on campus since the war broke out, Abbott described how protected free speech areas, including parking lots and buildings of Jewish student organizations, have been vandalized with antisemitic graffiti. He also addressed student organizations that have staged walkouts, chanting "antisemitic phrases, such as 'from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.'"

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Jewish student groups cheered Abbott for the executive order late Wednesday. Rabbi Stephanie Max, the Executive Director of Texas Hillel, told Fox News Digital that she has seen "a number of [antisemitic] incidents in our campus community, including the recent vandalism of our building."

"We appreciate the governor's efforts to ensure that Jewish students are able to express their full Jewish identities without fear of harassment, intimidation, or violence," she said. "We are confident that the university has and continues to take seriously the importance of community and belonging and will continue to address behaviors that are in conflict with those values."

The executive order comes less than a month after Jewish students from across the country testified about the rampant antisemitism they're currently facing at a congressional hearing, with one student describing it as, "open season for Jews on our campuses." 

The students described vicious antisemitic incidents happening at Harvard, Columbia, UC Berkeley and several other universities.

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"Dirty. Dirty Jew monster. Colonizer. Child killer. These are the names we were given at Stanford. Labels that strip us of our humanity, our dignity and our identity. These are the names a dozen Stanford students hurled in my face one night in November as they surrounded me," Kevin Feigelis of Stanford University told lawmakers.

"It is time to wake up America and understand what is happening on our college campuses," a student at Rutgers added.

Acclaimed director Steven Spielberg said he was concerned about the return of antisemitism at universities earlier this week, telling a crowd that "fully 50 percent of students say they have experienced some discrimination because they are Jewish."

"We see every day how the machinery of extremism is being used on college campuses," Spielberg said.

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"Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it," he added. "I am increasingly alarmed that we may be condemned to repeat history – to once again have to fight for the very right to be Jewish."

Fox News' Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.

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