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After delays, Hamas releases another 13 Israeli hostages and 4 foreign nationals

(JTA) — Hamas released another 13 hostages on Saturday after delays resulting from Israel and Hamas accusing each other of bad faith.

The total number of Israeli hostages released since Friday is now 26, more than half of the 50 women, children and elderly captives Hamas pledged to free. Hamas released the hostages in exchange a ceasefire that began on Friday and is slated to last at least four days. As part of the deal, Israel has also pledged to release a total of 150 Palestinian women and minors held in Israeli prison on security offenses.

In addition to the freed Israeli captives, Hamas has now released a total of 15 foreign hostages under a separate agreement brokered by the Thai government via Iran.

Hamas took approximately 240 people captive in its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, in which the terror group also killed 1,200 and wounded thousands. Hamas can extend the ceasefire by one day for every 10 additional hostages it releases, and may release a total of 80 under the current deal. Three Palestinian prisoners will be released for every Israeli hostage freed.

Israel has vowed to resume the war after the ceasefire, with the goal of eliminating Hamas. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says 12,000 people have been killed in the fighting, a number that includes combatants and civilians and doesn’t specify casualties from misfired Palestinian rockets.

The hostages released on Saturday night included eight children and five women. Israel was set to release 39 Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas scheduled the release for the afternoon and then delayed it, accusing Israel of delaying the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, which was part of the deal, and of failing to release the longest-serving Palestinian prisoners. Israeli officials said the aid trucks had reached the Gaza Strip, but were delayed by roads devastated by weeks of Israeli strikes. Israel said there was no formal agreement to release the longest-serving prisoners first.

Last-minute interventions by the governments of Egypt, the United States and Qatar, which has acted as an intermediary for Hamas, salvaged the transfer. President Joe Biden made calls to Egyptian and Qatari leaders to ensure that the release occurred.

The Red Cross picked up the hostages around 11 p.m. on Saturday and crossed the border into Egypt just before a midnight deadline that would have triggered the end of the ceasefire. Israeli media and the families of the hostages identified some of those released as they watched video of them get out of ambulances in Egypt. They were transferred to Israeli territory within 30 minutes.

The 13 hostages, identified by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, included some whose families have advocated in international media for their release. May are from Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the communities hardest hit by Hamas’ massacre. They are:

–Hila Rotem Shoshani, 12, and her friend, Emily Hand, 9, who were abducted from Kibbutz Be’eri. Hand is a dual Irish-Israeli citizen whose father, Tom, has written about her plight and called for her release on TV. Her mother died of breast cancer when she was a baby. Hila’s mother, Raya, remains in captivity.

–Shira Weiss, 53, and her daughter, Noga, 18, abducted from Be’eri. Ilan Weiss, Noga’s father and Shira’s husband, remains missing.

–Alma Or, 13, and her brother, Noam Or, 17, also abducted from Be’eri, where their mother, Yonat, was killed during the raid. Their father, Dror, remains in captivity.

–Maya Regev Jirbi, 21, who was injured in a Hamas raid on an outdoor party in which hundreds of young people were killed. Regev’s medical status was classified as “complicated” and Israeli TV reported that she would likely be transferred to a hospital by helicopter. Regev’s 19-year-old brother remains in captivity. She is the first abductee from the outdoor party to be released.

–Sharon Avigdor, 53, and her daughter, Noam, 12, who were visiting friends at Kibbutz Be’eri to celebrate the Simchat Torah holiday when the attack occurred.

–Adi Shoham, 38, and her children, Neve, 8, and Yael, 3, who were visiting family in Kibbutz Be’eri. Adi’s mother, Shoshan Haran, 67, a resident of the kibbutz, was also released. Adi and her daughters are dual German-Israeli citizens. Tal Shoham, their father and husband, remains in captivity.

Survivors of the attack on Be’eri crowded around TVs at a Dead Sea hotel where the Israeli government has housed them since Oct. 7. cheering when they recognized friends on the live feed from Egypt.

Upon the delivery of the hostages, Be’eri officials also accused Hamas of bad faith, noting that it had promised to keep families united and noting that Hila Rotem Shoshani’s mother remains captive.

The post After delays, Hamas releases another 13 Israeli hostages and 4 foreign nationals appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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South Dakota Passes Bill Adopting IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

Gov. Kristi Noem (R) speaking to legislators during the State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024 at South Dakota State Captiol in Pierre. Photo: Samantha Laurey and Argus Leader via REUTERS CONNECT

South Dakota’s state Senate passed on Thursday a bill requiring law enforcement agencies to refer to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when investigating anti-Jewish hate crimes.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) already adopted the definition, which has been embraced by lawmakers across the political spectrum, via executive order in 2021. This latest measure, HB 1076, aims to further integrate the IHRA’s guidance into law and includes the organization’s examples of antisemitism. It now awaits a vote by the state House of Representatives.

“As antisemitism continues to rise across America, having a clear and standardized definition enables a more unified stance against this hatred,” the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), said in a statement. “We appreciate Governor Kristi Noem for making this legislation a policy goal of hers, strengthening the use of the IHRA Working Definition in South Dakota through legislation, following the December 2021 adoption via executive proclamation.”

CAM called on lawmakers in the lower house to follow the Senate’s lead and implored “other states to join the fight against antisemitism by adopting the IHRA definition, ensuring the safety and well-being of their Jewish residents.”

First adopted in 2005 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism states that “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and includes a list of illustrative examples ranging from Holocaust denial to the rejection of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. The definition is used by hundreds of governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations.

Widely regard as the world’s leading definition of antisemitism, it was adopted by 97 governmental and nonprofit organizations in 2023, according to a report Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) Antisemitism Research Center issued in January.

Earlier this month, Georgia became the latest US state to pass legislation applying IHRA’s guidance to state law. 33 US States have as well, including Virginia, Texas, New York, and Florida.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Columbia University Sued for Allowing Antisemitic Violence and Discrimination

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

Columbia University allowed for antisemitism to explode on campus endangering the welfare of Jewish students and faculty, StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice and Students Against Antisemitism (SAA) alleges in a lawsuit announced on Wednesday.

Filed in the US District Court of Southern New York, the complaint recounts dozens of reported antisemitic incidents that occurred after Oct. 7 which the university allegedly failed to respond to adequately because of anti-Jewish, as well as anti-Zionist, bias.

“Columbia refuses to enforce its policies or protect Jewish and Israeli members of the campus community,” Yael Lerman, director of SWU Center for Legal Justice said on Wednesday in a press release. “Columbia has created a pervasively hostile campus environment in which antisemitic activists act with impunity, knowing that there will be no real repercussions for their violations of campus policies.”

“We decline to comment on pending litigation,” Columbia University spokesperson and vice president for communications told The Algemeiner on Friday.

The plaintiffs in the case accuse Columbia University of violating their contract, to which it is bound upon receiving payment for their tuition, and contravening Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. They are seeking damages as well as injunctive relief.

“F— the Jews,” “Death to Jews, “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” students chanted on campus grounds after the tragedy, violating the school’s code of conduct and never facing consequences, the complaint says. Faculty engaged in similar behavior. On Oct. 8, professor Joseph Massad published in Electronic Intifada an essay cheering Hamas’ atrocities, which included slaughtering children and raping women, as “awesome” and describing men who paraglided into a music festival to kill young people as “the air force of the Palestinian resistance.”

300 faculty signed a letter proclaiming “unwavering solidarity” with Massad, and in the following days, Students for Justice in Palestine defended Hamas’ actions as “rooted in international law.” In response, Columbia University president Minouche Shafik, opting not to address their rhetoric directly, issued a statement mentioning “violence that is affecting so many people” but not, the complaint noted, explicitly condemning Hamas, terrorism, and antisemitism. Nine days later, Shafik rejected an invitation to participate in a viewing of footage of the Oct. 7 attacks captured by CCTV cameras.

The complaint goes on to allege that after bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on their people, pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.

More request to the university went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while Students for Justice in Palestine held demonstrations. The school’s powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP continued to host events whole no one explained the inconsistency.

Virulent antisemitism at Columbia University on the heels of Oct. 7 was not a one-off occurance, the complaint alleges, retracing in over 100 pages 20 years of alleged anti-Jewish hatred at the school.

“Students at Columbia are enduring unprecedented levels of antisemitic and anti-Israel hate while coping with the trauma of Hamas’ October 7th massacre,” SWU CEO Roz Rothstein said in Wednesday’s press release. “We will ensure that Columbia University is held accountable for their gross failure to protect their Jewish and Israeli students.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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University of California-Los Angeles Student Government Passes BDS Resolution

Graphic posted by University of California, Los Angeles Students for Justice in Palestine on February 21, 2024 to celebrate the student government’s passing an resolution endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. Photo: Screenshot/Instagram

The University of California-Los Angeles student government on Tuesday passed a resolution endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as false accusation that Israel is committing a genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

“The Israeli government has carried out a genocidal bombing campaign and ground invasion against Palestinians in Gaza — intentionally targeting hospitals universities, schools, shelters, churches, mosques, homes, neighborhoods, refugee camps, ambulances, medical personnel, [United Nations] workers, journalists and more,” the resolution, passed 10-3 by the UCLA Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC), says, not mentioning that UN personnel in Gaza assisted Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.

It continued, “Let it be resolved that the Undergraduate Student Association of UCLA formally call upon the UC Regents to withdraw investments in securities, endowments mutual funds, and other monetary instruments….providing material assistance to the commission or maintenance of flagrant violations of international law.

The days leading up to the vote were fraught, The Daily Bruin, the university’s official student newspaper reported on Wednesday.

“Non-UCLA students” sent USAC council members emails imploring them to vote for or against the resolution and USAC Cultural Affairs Commissioner and sponsor of the resolution, Alicia Verdugo, was accused of antisemitism and deserving of impeachment. The UCLA Graduate Student Association and University of California-Davis’ student government had just endorsed BDS the previous week, prompting fervent anticipation for the outcome of Tuesday’s USAC session.

Before voting took place, members of the council ordered a secret ballot, withholding from their constituents a record of where they stood on an issue of monumental importance to the campus culture. According to The Daily Bruin, they expressed “concerns” about “privacy” and “security.” Some members intimated how they would vote, however. During a question and answer period, one student who co-sponsored the resolution, accused a Jewish student of being “classist” and using “coded” language because she argued that the council had advanced the resolution without fully appreciating the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the history of antisemitism.

“As a Guatemalan, …my country went through genocide,” he snapped at the young woman, The Daily Bruin’s reporting documented. “My family died in the Guatemalan Mayan genocide. I understand. I very well know what genocide looks like.”

Other council members  voiced their support by co-sponsoring the resolution, which was co-authored by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group that has held unauthorized demonstrations and terrorized Jewish students across the country.

Responding to USAC’s decision, Jewish students told the paper that they find the campaign for BDS and the attempts of pro-Palestinian students to defend Hamas’ atrocities myopic and offensive.

“How can anyone dare to contextualize since Oct. 7 without acknowledging that the Jewish people are victims of such a cataclysmic attack?” Mikayla Weinhouse said. “BDS intentionally aims to divide a community. Its supporters paint a complex and century-old conflict in the Middle East as a simplistic narrative that inspires hate rather than advocates for a solution.”

University of California-Los Angeles denounced the resolution for transgressing school policy and the spirit of academic freedom.

“The University of California and UCLA, which, like all nine other UC campuses, has consistently opposed calls for a boycott against and divestment from Israel,” the school said in a statement. “We stand firm in our conviction that a boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty and to the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on this campus.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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