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A Middle East Cow Tale

Members of the Hamas terror group’s Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza in January 2017. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

JNS.orgThe Jan. 14 edition of The Palestine Chronicle, edited by Ramzy Baroud, featured an English-language translation of a televised speech made by Abu Obeida, the military spokesman for the Hamas Al-Qassam Brigades, on the 100th day of the Gaza war.

As the site notes, for nearly seven weeks, his messages were either audio recordings or written statements. At one point, he disappeared for weeks, raising speculations that he may have been killed.

Abu Obeida, whose real name is Huzaifa Samir Abdullah al-Kahloot, spoke of the Al-Aqsa Flood operation as “this historic and pivotal battle in the present of our people and our nation.” Israel was described as “Nazi” and a “most grotesque entity.”

He then explained that an Israeli “aggression” was being directed against Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa. And what was it? It was “the start of [the Temple Mount’s] actual temporal and spatial division, and the bringing of red cows as an application of a detestable religious myth designed for aggression against the feelings of an entire nation in the heart of its Arab identity.”

Before analyzing his propaganda charge and preposterous excuse for massacring many hundreds of civilians, including women, children and the elderly, it should be illuminating to cast a look over to India, where Muslims face a “cow vigilantism” phenomenon.

The cow possesses a sacred status for Hindus. It became an object of veneration from the fourth century BCE, representing Mother Earth, as it is a source of goodness. There is a “cow holiday” called Gopastami. India was invaded by Muslims already in the seventh century, and as they slaughtered cows for their Eid al-Adha, a problem arose.

Cow protection societies were founded in 1882 as a “fundamental antagonism between Hindus and Muslims” arose, as SOAS Shabnum Tejani scholar has described it. There were cow-related riots in 1893, and major ones again between 1900 and 1947. Even Mahatma Gandhi championed cow protection. Multiple post-state riots in which the killings of Hindus and Muslims in the 1950s and 1960s occurred involved the trigger of cow slaughter.

Between 2010 and 2017, 28 Indians—24 of them Muslims—have been killed and 124 injured. In February last year, two charred bodies were found in a burnt vehicle in India’s Haryana state. They were Muslim men, killed by right-wing Hindus suspecting them of cow-smuggling.

All of this raises a question. If Muslims suffer needless acts of murderous violence for their religious beliefs in the Asian sub-continent, would they not be more empathetic to another religion and its cow-related theology?

And there is another parallel. Muslims are now engaged in a campaign for their right to pray in a cathedral in Spain. The church, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, had been established in the fifth century, turned into a mosque in the seventh century following the Muslim conquest and occupation of that country, but reverted to a Christian place of worship in 1236 after the Reconquista.

The Islamic Council of Spain had lodged a formal request with the Vatican to pray in the building. In 2010, eight young Austrian Muslims were acquitted of responsibility for an altercation when they prayed in front of the Qibla wall, which the church had forbidden. Perhaps fearful of the fate of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, where a Turkish court revoked its status as a museum and Muslim prayer practices have taken place therein, Catholic Church officials have resisted any change in Cordoba.

Again, cannot Hamas exhibit a less ferocious opposition to religious customs and the opposition to them that they themselves seek to promote? But let us now return to Jerusalem and the Hamas claim of concern over an aggression of red heifers and recognize that that is a reverse mirror-image of Cordoba and Istanbul.

Two Jewish Temples existed for 1,000 years on Mount Moriah. Then, in the seventh century, Muslims—following the Roman, Byzantine and Persian empires that ruled Judea under conquest and occupation—built a mosque on the site and prohibited any semblance of Jewish worship, a ban Israel’s governments have upheld.

Between the 13th and the late 19th centuries, no Jew could even enter the compound, where previously Jewish kings, priests and prophets, judges and millions of pilgrims were at home, worshipping their God and teaching the world morals and ethics.

At a news website published by Jordan United Press based in Amman, we learn that five red heifers were “imported from Texas,” placed “in a secret farm” and “kept for the imminent arrival of the Messiah and the subsequent construction of the temple on the Al-Aqsa mosque ruins.” These actions are “perceived as preparatory for the Gog and Magog battle.”

Besides the fact that for a period those cows were kept at the Ancient Shiloh site (very publicly and visited by thousands), this is probably the fifth time red heifers have been brought to Israel over the past three decades. Why the belated but bestial invasion now? Why the rocket firings and terror when there were no red heifers?

In 1929, the Mufti Al-Husseini claimed that Jews were intent on storming Al-Aqsa, so his hordes slaughtered more than 70 Jews. The 1948 war that the Arabs launched, as Israeli historian Benny Morris has researched, was carried out according to the Dec. 2, 1947 call of the ulama, the chief scholars of theology, of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University for a “worldwide jihad.”

Arab terror, apparently, requires no excuse. It will interpret any event to serve its ultimate purpose: the end of Israel and the death of Jews. Indeed, it possesses no human logic that can be assuaged, neither by man nor beast.

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ACLU Threatens Lawsuit Against Columbia University

Anti-Israel students protest at Columbia University in New York City. Photo: Reuters/Jeenah Moon

The New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a far-left nonprofit, is threatening to sue Columbia University unless the school nullifies disciplinary sanctions which temporarily suspended anti-Zionist groups that staged unauthorized demonstrations on campus.

“The referenced ‘unauthorized event’ was a peaceful demonstration and temporary art installation advocating for the end of Israel’s current military campaign in the Gaza strip,” the group wrote in a letter to Columbia University president Minouche Shafik. “Columbia’s actions suggest impermissible and pretextual motives for sanctioning the student groups.”

The ACLU also accused the university, which is being sued for allegedly standing by while pro-Hamas students beat up Jews and screamed antisemitic slogans, of perpetuating “already pervasive dangerous stereotypes about Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims” and other minority groups.

“These student groups were peacefully speaking out on a critical global conflict, only to have Columbia University ignore their own longstanding, existing rules and abruptly suspended the organizations,” ACLU executive director Donna Lieberman said in a press release issued on Friday. “That’s retaliatory, it’s targeted, and it flies in the face of the free speech principles that institutes of higher learning should be defending.”

Columbia University suspended Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) in Nov., explaining in a statement that the groups had “repeatedly violated university policies related to holding campus events, culminating in an unauthorized event Thursday afternoon that proceeded despite warnings and included threatening rhetoric and intimidation.” Both SJP and JVP have been instrumental in organizing disruptive anti-Israel protests on Columbia’s campus since Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7 and killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

“Lifting the suspension will be contingent on the two groups demonstrating a commitment to compliance with university policies and engaging in consultations at a group leadership level with university officials,” a campus official said at the time, adding that the groups will be ineligible to hold events on campus or receive university funding for the duration of the punishment.

Even after being disciplined, however, SJP members continued their activities in front groups — such as Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), a non-campus affiliated group that supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement — staging more protests in flagrant violation of the terms of its suspension.

ACLU’s portrayal of pro-Hamas students as peaceful and artistic victims of racism is in tension with how Jewish Columbia students have described their behavior and the university’s response to it.

“F— the Jews,” “Death to Jews,” “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” they have chanted on campus grounds since Oct. 7, violating the school’s code of conduct, a lawsuit filed against Columbia University by last week says. In other incidents, they beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library and attacked another with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger.

Anti-Jewish violence and hatred became so common, the lawsuit alleged, that Columbia told Jewish students that campus security could no longer guarantee their safety.

SJP insisted in Friday’s press release that its members are the victims and suggested that those claiming to be advocates of social justice are beyond reproach.

“Columbia University likes to showcase itself to the world as a champion of student protest, equality, justice, and free speech — but the university’s actions in the lead up to our suspension, and its targeted punishment of our student groups, showed that it is all a farce,” SJP member Safiya O’Brien said. “As students of conscience, we know injustice when we see it. The university’s priorities are not with its student body — certainly not with its Palestinian students and the overwhelming number of those that advocate for them.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Low Expectations Ahead of Palestinian ‘Unity’ Talks in Moscow Convened by Russian Regime

Posters on a wall in Tel Aviv highlighting the plight of Israeli hostages seized by Hamas. Photo: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

Representatives of Palestinian factions are traveling to Moscow this week for talks aimed at forging a greater degree of unity, but analysts remained skeptical that the Russian initiative is likely to register progress.

The talks, which are scheduled to begin on Wednesday, will bring together officials of the Islamist terrorist organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) with representatives of PLO factions including Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Announcing the talks last week, Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov told pro-regime media outlets that “all Palestinian representatives who are located in different countries, in particular in Syria and Lebanon, other countries in the region,” would be invited to the Moscow parley, emphasizing at the same time that Russia’s rulers continue to regard the PLO — the main power in the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) — as “the sole legal representative of the Palestinian people.”

Several regional policy analysts argued that expectations from the talks should be necessarily limited, especially as Russia has failed in past efforts to bring rival Palestinian factions closer together.

“Russia does not have any road map for the Palestinian file, especially for the Gaza Strip as it would be necessary to have mediation functions and maintain good contacts with both Israel and the paramilitary wing of Hamas in Gaza,” Ruslan Suleymanov — an independent Middle East expert based in Baku, Azerbaijan — told the German broadcaster DW on Monday.

Suleymanov said that the talks were primarily an opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to showcase Russia’s geopolitical clout amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine and with elections — which Putin is expected to win easily — on the calendar in March.

“It’s really just dialogue for dialogue’s sake,” Suleymanov remarked.

Hugh Lovatt — senior policy fellow with the Middle East and North Africa Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations — offered a similar perspective.

“This Russian summit is a way to show that Russia has the diplomatic capacity to play a hands-on role in supporting Palestinian national unity,” he told DW. However, previous reconciliation talks that were hosted in Moscow, Algiers and Cairo have “also not succeeded in brokering a lasting reconciliation deal between the rivals,” he said.

A potential obstacle to the talks emerged on Monday with the resignation of the PA’s Prime Minister, Muhammad Shtayyeh, who had enthusiastically backed the Moscow talks in a speech at the Munich Security Conference earlier this month. The PA has been under increasing pressure from the US to form a more representative government that would be in a position to manage the Gaza Strip once hostilities end.

“The decision to resign came in light of the unprecedented escalation in the West Bank and Jerusalem and the war, genocide and starvation in the Gaza Strip,” Shtayyeh told PA President Mahmoud Abbas in a formal letter.

“I see that the next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the new reality in Gaza and the need for a Palestinian-Palestinian consensus based on Palestinian unity and the extension of unity of authority over the land of Palestine,” he added.

A Hamas spokesman told the Saudi channel Al Arabiya on Sunday that the terrorist group wants to form “an impartial national government based on the consensus of the Palestinian factions,” adding that the talks in Moscow would focus only on “a certain period and clear tasks.”

Separately, Hamas politburo member Muhammad Nazzal told the pro-Hamas website Middle East Monitor that the Moscow meeting was necessary because there had been “no official communication” with the PA on the subject of post-war planning.

Nazal claimed in the same interview that Hamas remained a powerful force in the Gaza Strip, where it continues to hold hostage more than 100 of the 240 people seized during its pogrom in southern Israel on Oct. 7. “Rumours of Rafah in the south of being the last stronghold of Hamas are false; the resistance exists across the entire Gaza Strip,” Nazzal said. “Moreover, the movement is fighting a fierce political negotiating battle, no less than the battle it is waging on the ground.”

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Harvard Professor Resigns From Antisemitism Task Force

Demonstrators take their “Emergency Rally: Stand with Palestinians Under Siege in Gaza” out of Harvard University and onto the streets of Harvard Square, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., October 14, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Internal tension and disagreement have caused a member of Harvard University’s Presidential Task Force on Antisemitism to resign as co-chair, The Harvard Crimson reported on Monday.

Raffaella Sadun, a Harvard Business School professor, reportedly left the group —which was formed to issue recommendations for addressing anti-Jewish hatred on the campus — because the university would not guarantee that the task force’s guidance would be implemented as official school policy. Her aggravation has been mounting for “some time,” the paper added, but she declined to cite conflict as the reason for her departure.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help advance the vital work to combat antisemitism and believe that [interim Harvard University] President Garber has assembled an excellent task force,” Sadun said. “I will continue to support efforts to tackle antisemitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position.”

In a statement, interim president Garber told The Harvard Crimson that Sadun had “expressed her desire” to get back to “research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities.”

“I am extremely appreciative of Professor Sadun’s participating in the task over the past few weeks,” Garber said. “Her insights and passion for this work have helped shape the mandate for the task force and how it can best productively advance the important work ahead.”

Announced in January, the Presidential Task Force on Antisemitism is Harvard University’s response to years of antisemitic incidents that earned the school the distinction of being labeled the most antisemitic campus in American higher education by education watchdog AMCHA Initiative. A now defunct group had been created by former president Claudine Gay, the Antisemitism Advisory Group, amid an explosion of antisemitic activity on campus following Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Gay eventually resigned from her position after providing controversial answers to a congressional committee about her efforts to manage the problem and being outed as a serial plagiarist. In her absence, Garber pushed ahead with forming task forces for addressing both antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Since then, the antisemitism group’s membership have stirred controversy and speculation. In January, Jewish community activists and nonprofit leaders criticized its naming history professor Derek Penslar as a co-chair because, in his writings and public remarks, he had described concerns about rising antisemitism at Harvard as “exaggerated” and blamed Israel for fostering anti-Zionism. According to the Crimson, Penslar considered resigning but decided against doing so. In Jan., Rabbi David J. Wolpe stepped down from the group, saying in a statement on X that “both events on campus” and Gay’s congressional testimony “reinforced the idea that I cannot make the sort of difference I had hoped.”

Last week, the school issued a statement denouncing another antisemitic outrage, a faculty anti-Zionist group’s posting on social media an antisemitic cartoon which showed a left-hand tattooed with a Star of David containing a dollar sign at its center dangling a Black man and an Arab man from a noose. The group’s leader, professor Walter Johnson, has since resigned as a member.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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