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Amid Anti-Jewish and Anti-Israel Persecution, We Can Find Hope in Our History

A Torah scroll. Photo:

I have always tried to live my life by the Hanlon’s Razor rule: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

This pithy observation, attributed to Professor Robert J. Hanlon of Thompson Rivers University, is a modern, tongue-in-cheek derivative of its more famous predecessor, Occam’s Razor. The latter, a philosophical rule proposed by 14th-century English monk William of Ockham, states: “If an event has two possible explanations, the one that requires the fewest assumptions is usually correct.”

The problem is that this week, I find myself caught between the two. The seemingly stupid decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to propose arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for war crimes, alongside Yihya Sinwar and two other Hamas leaders, is far too malicious to be adequately explained by stupidity.

While the simplest assumption should be that someone representing international law is solely interested in upholding justice, this decision by Karim Asad Ahmad Khan KC to tarnish the reputation of the leader of a democratic country — a country with a robust judiciary that has previously convicted both a prime minister and a president — suggests motivations other than justice. It certainly demands more than a blind assumption that Khan is fair-minded.

Is it simply a coincidence that just last week, Khan faced strong criticism at a UN Security Council meeting from Libya for not issuing arrest warrants for those responsible for alleged “massacres” in the Gaza Strip?

Denouncing Khan for his inaction, Libyan envoy Taher M. El-Sonni said, “The world wants you to discover those involved in the mass graves, mass crimes against children, the genocide, the ethnic cleansing perpetrated in the ‘holocaust’ of the 21st century, the Gaza holocaust.”

Just to be clear: Libya is a country where war crimes are perpetrated often, and where tens of thousands have died in the endless and brutal civil war that has raged since 2011. Yet now this country has become the impetus for an international legal body to issue spurious, unfounded accusations against Israel?

Does it make any sense that criticism from a country mired in its own atrocities has seemingly pressured the ICC prosecutor into targeting a democratic nation with a strong judiciary that is in the middle of a defensive war against self-declared genocidal terrorists?

And then, in an interview with Piers Morgan a day after the ICC prosecutor announced the arrest warrants, the ever-urbane President of Israel, Isaac Herzog, revealed that on the very day that Khan made his announcement, ICC representatives had been slated to arrive in Israel — with Israel’s ready agreement, despite not being part of the 1998 Rome Statute which binds countries to the ICC. But just hours before Khan publicized the warrants, Israel was informed that the ICC delegation wasn’t coming to Israel.

“It shocked all of us, because we act in good faith,” Herzog told Morgan. “We are willing to have a dialogue with any international body that is relevant, honest, and can have a dialogue.” But it would appear that Khan and the ICC fail on all three counts.

In early December, Khan issued a statement at the conclusion of his visit to the scenes of devastation in southern Israel and meetings with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. His opening sentence should have forewarned the world of his political position, and of where he was headed with his investigations: “I have just concluded my first visit to Israel and the State of Palestine.” [emphasis added]

Surely Khan knows that there is no “State of Palestine”? For him to use an official statement as the platform to promote a nonexistent entity, particularly during a conflict initiated by terrorists seeking exactly such concessions, was unconscionable.

So, notwithstanding Khan’s declaration that his visit had been “to ensure that the protection of the law is felt by all,” his sneaky inclusion of politically loaded terminology in the opening words of his statement said it all.

What is particularly galling is that Khan had been invited to Israel by family members and friends of Israeli citizens who were either killed or taken hostage by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups on October 7th.

In his statement, Khan said that in both Kibbutz Beeri and Kibbutz Kfar Azza, as well as at the site of the Nova Music Festival in Re’im, he “witnessed scenes of calculated cruelty” and that it was clear that the terrorists who perpetrated these atrocities were guilty of “some of the most serious international crimes that shock the conscience of humanity, crimes which the ICC was established to address.”

Khan continued: “In my meeting with the families of the victims of these attacks, my message was clear: we stand ready to work in partnership with them as part of our ongoing work to hold those responsible to account.”

But with his decision to issue arrest warrants for Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gallant, Khan has betrayed those families, along with the memory of every victim who died or was kidnapped at the sites he visited.

In the Haftarah for Parshat Behar, the prophet Jeremiah is confined within King Zedekiah’s royal compound, prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jewish people. Yet, even amidst these dire circumstances, God reveals to Jeremiah that his cousin Hanamel will offer him ancestral land, and instructs him to purchase it. Jeremiah follows God’s directive, transferring money and documenting the purchase in the presence of witnesses — even as he continues to predict doom and gloom.

Jeremiah’s transaction is laden with symbolism. Through Jeremiah, God proclaims that “houses and fields and vineyards shall be purchased again in this land” (Jer. 32:15) — a message of hope and redemption even as prevailing circumstances seemed dire. Despite the hardship, the Jewish people were assured that their land is and will remain theirs, and that no enemy could ever sever the irrevocable bond between the Jews and Eretz Yisrael.

Today, in the face of bias from prosecutor Khan and the ICC, and the relentless efforts of those who wish to undo any Jewish connection to Israel “from the River to the Sea,” we find strength in our proud heritage and in the powerful prophecies of Hebrew Scripture. Just as Jeremiah’s purchase symbolized hope amidst despair, so too does our presence in Israel as a Jewish sovereign state after two millennia of bitter exile represent a fulfillment of ancient prophecies and the unbreakable bond with our land.

Despite the challenges and the malign intentions of detractors and haters, our future — both short term and long term — is firmly rooted in the country of our heritage. In the darkest of times, the promise remains: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be purchased again in this land.”

Kfar Aza, Beeri, Re’im, and Sderot — as well as the many empty towns on the northern border that have been evacuated to avoid Hezbollah rockets raining down from Lebanon — will flourish again soon, fully free of the terrorist threat that has caused and is causing so much suffering.

The Jewish story is one of resilience and unyielding hope, and it is this unwavering faith that will continue to guide us through the pain of unfounded accusations and unforgivable attacks, towards a future where our connection to our ancestral homeland remains unbroken and triumphant. This is not just hope; it is reality.

The author is a rabbi in Beverly Hills, California.

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Netanyahu Heads to DC After Biden Quits 2024 Race, Says Israel Will Remain ‘Strong’ US Ally Whoever Is in White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday departed for a highly anticipated trip to Washington, DC, where he will meet with US President Joe and Biden and deliver a speech before Congress this week as America grapples with the aftermath of Biden’s unprecedented decision to end his 2024 reelection campaign.

During his first trip to the US capital in almost four years, Netanyahu plans to visit the White House and also address US lawmakers on Wednesday. Netanyahu was originally expected to meet with Biden on Tuesday; however, several Hebrew media outlets reported that the meeting will likely be delayed due to Biden still being sick with COVID-19.

It is unclear how Biden’s shock decision on Sunday to drop out of the US presidential race will impact Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress. According to Israel’s Channel 13, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, a close confidant of Netanyahu, assured US officials that the speech will not include criticism of or against Biden following repeated requests by US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan for information about what the Israeli premier will say.

Netanyahu issued a statement following Biden’s announcement indicating the Israeli premier will underline the importance of bipartisanship in maintaining a close US-Israel relationship.

“I will seek to anchor the bipartisan support that is so important for Israel. And I will tell my friends on both sides of the aisle [in Congress] that regardless of who the American people choose as their next president, Israel remains America’s indispensable and strong ally in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said while leaving Israel for Washington, DC. “In this time of war and uncertainty it’s important that Israel’s enemies know that America and Israel stand together today, tomorrow, and always.”

The Israeli premier also expressed gratitude to Biden, stating that he will thank the US president for helping the Jewish state as he prepares to exit the White House.

“I plan to see President Biden, whom I’ve known for over 40 years. This will be an opportunity to thank him for the things he did for Israel in the war and during his long and distinguished career in public service, as senator, as vice president, and as president,” Netanyahu said.

Amid declining support for Israel among US liberal Democratic lawmakers, Netanyahu hopes to use his congressional address and White House visit to mend relations with Democrats, who have become increasingly uneasy over Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

Biden has come under heavy fire from Republicans as well as pro-Israel Democrats for what they’ve described as him turning against Israel amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

The US president expressed strong support for Israel following Hamas’ brutal invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped about 250 hostages during their onslaught. In recent months, however, Biden has paused some weapons shipments to Israel and accused the US ally of “indiscriminate bombing” — a charge rejected by Israeli officials.

The Biden administration also discouraged Israel from launching a military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to target some of the last remaining Hamas battalions, arguing such an operation would put too many civilians at risk. Experts told The Algemeiner at the time that Israeli forces needed to operate in Rafah in order to dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities.

More broadly, the relationship between the Democratic Party and Israel has deteriorated in the months following Oct. 7. Several high-profile Democrats, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), have suggested that Israel’s military operations in Gaza are tantamount to a “genocide.” Democratic lawmakers have also called on Biden to halt arms transfers to Israel, citing concern over mounting civilian casualties in Gaza.

While Israeli officials have expressed frustration about the Biden administration pressuring them to halt their military campaign, Netanyahu is expected to use his visit as a way to repair some of the damage. The trip could also serve as a way to make Israel’s case directly to the American public, which overall remains pro-Israel despite declining support among younger demographics.

The percentage of Americans that express “little or no confidence” in Netanyahu has increased by 11 points since 2023, according to an April poll by Pew Research Center. Among Democrats, a staggering 71 percent express “little or no confidence” in the Israeli leader. 

Anti-Israel groups have also organized protests in advance of Netanyahu’s congressional address. Far-left organizations such as Party for Socialism and Liberation and Palestinian Youth Movement are urging their supporters to “surround the Capitol” during Netanyahu’s address. Leaders of these groups have branded Netanyahu as a “war criminal” and have called for his arrest. 

The people charge Benjamin Netanyahu with genocide. When war criminal Netanyahu comes to Washington DC,” Palestinian Youth Movement wrote on Instagram, “the people of the world stand with Palestine and against the genocide committed by Israel with full support of the United States and impunity.”

In addition to meeting with Biden, Netanyahu may also speak with Republican presidential nominee and former US President Donald Trump. Netanyahu has requested an in-person meeting with Trump while in the US this week, according to Politico.

The Algemeiner could not immediately verify the report.

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Pro-Hamas Demonstrators Avoid Punishment Following Wave of Dropped Charges, Reports Say

Law enforcement officers detain a demonstrator, as they clear out a pro-Hamas protest encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Los Angeles, California, US, May 2, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

The State Attorney’s Office of Cook County, Illinois has dropped criminal charges filed against three Northwestern University faculty and one graduate student who allegedly obstructed law enforcement’s efforts to clear an unlawful demonstration at the Deering Meadow section of campus.

According to a local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, the office said its decision is based on its “policy not to prosecute peaceful protesters.”

Charges against the four individuals were pursued by the Northwestern University Police Department, which said that they allegedly engaged in “obstructing a police officer during the protests,” a crime for which they could, if convicted, spend a year in jail and pay a $2,500 fine, The Daily Northwestern reported last week. They had already appeared before a judge and were scheduled to do so again in August.

The university had defended the recommendation of its police department and rejected the notion that the individuals acted peaceably, saying in a statement issued earlier this month that it “does not permit activity that disrupts university operations, violates the law, or includes the intimidation or harassment of members of the community.”

Many more protesters have similarly avoided punishment for the actions they took during a burst of pro-Hamas demonstrations at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year, according to a new report by The New York Times. Prosecutors in Travis County, Texas, for example, have dropped over 100 charges of criminal trespassing filed against University of Texas at Austin protesters, the paper said, and 60 other Northwestern University protesters saw their charges dismissed, with prosecutors calling them “constitutionally dubious.” The Times added, however, that some charges will stick, including those filed against someone who bit a police officer, and many students are still awaiting the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

Per the report, “At the University of Virginia on May 4, as students were preparing for final exams, administrators called in police to break up an encampment. Police officers in riot gear used chemical irritants to get protesters to disperse and eventually arrested 27 people. The local prosecutor dropped the charges facing seven people after he determined there wasn’t enough evidence. He offered the rest an agreement: their charges would be dismissed in August if they didn’t have any outstanding criminal charges at the time.”

Prosecutors in other states have not been as forbearing. According to Fresh Take Florida, prosecutors in Alachua County, Florida charged seven University of Florida students, as well as two non-students, with trespassing and resisting arrest. The defendants have resolved to take their chances at trial, the news service added, noting that all nine have rejected “deferred prosecution,” an agreement that would require them to plead guilty, or no contest, in exchange for the state’s expunging the convictions from their records in the future so long as they abstain from committing more criminal acts.

One of the nine, computer science student Parker Stanley Hovis, 26, — who was suspended for three years — proclaimed earlier this month that they will contest the state’s cases.

“We did not resist arrest, and we are prepared to fight our charges,” Hovis said in a statement. “We’re standing in solidarity with each other, and collectively demanding that the state drop the charges against us.”

Jewish civil rights group have described the anti-Israel protesters across the US as posing an imminent threat to Jewish students and faculty while noting that many avert being identified by concealing their faces with masks and keffiyehs, a traditional headscarf worn by Palestinians which has become known as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel. Images and footage of the practice have been widely circulated online, and it has rendered identifying the protesters — many of whom have chanted antisemitic slogans, vandalized school property, and threatened to harm Jewish students and faculty during a weeks-long demonstration between April and May — virtually impossible.

On Thursday, one such civil rights group, StandWithUs (SWU), implored the US Department of Justice to crack down on masked protests at Columbia University by enforcing legal statues which are widely referred to as the “KKK Laws,” citing numerous antisemitic incidents of harassment and assault on its campus and the difficulty of punishing the perpetrators.

Dating back to the administration of former US President Ulysses S. Grant, the so-called “KKK Laws” empower the federal government to prosecute those who engage in activities which violate the civil rights of protected groups, as the Ku Klux Klan did across the US South during Reconstruction to prevent African Americans from voting and living as free citizens. StandWithUs alleges that five anti-Zionist groups — most notably Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — currently operating on Columbia University’s campus have perpetrated similar abuses in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which guarantees all students, regardless of race or ethnic background, has the right to a safe learning environment.

“We hope the Department of Justice will take this opportunity to restore justice on Columbia University’s campuses and hold bad actors responsible for violating federal laws,” Yael Lerman, director of the SWU Saidoff Legal Department, said in a statement.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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France Says Israeli Athletes ‘Welcome’ at Olympics Amid Mounting Threats, Added Security Measures

The Olympic Village prepared for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Photo: Paris 2024 / Raphael Vriet

French leaders said on Monday that the Israeli delegation to the 2024 Paris Olympics is welcome in France, despite what critics described as “antisemitic” comments to the contrary made by a French politician two days earlier

At an anti-Israel rally on Saturday, far-left French lawmaker Thomas Portes said, “I am here to say that, no, the Israeli delegation is not welcome in Paris. Israeli athletes are not welcome at the Olympic Games in Paris.”

Portes called for Israelis to be excluded from the Paris Olympics because of Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip who perpetrated the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

Portes later also told the newspaper Le Parisien that “France’s diplomats should pressure the International Olympic Committee to bar the Israeli flag and anthem, as is done for Russia” due to its invasion of Ukraine.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Portes’ comments had “obvious antisemitic overtones” and “placed a target on the backs of the Israeli athletes.” He added, “I want to express my disgust at that. I want to assure the Israeli athletes of our full protection, like all athletes, but particularly them, also welcoming them.”

Darmanin also announced that Israel’s Olympic delegation, which includes 88 athletes representing the Jewish state, will have increased security and will receive 24-hour security from French police. He said the decision was made after taking into consideration the 1972 Munich Olympics — where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September — and how Israeli athletes are a target for attacks, especially since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

France has experienced a record surge in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched the war with its massacre across southern Israel.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné reiterated that the Israeli delegation “is welcome in France” for the Paris Olympics during his visit to Brussels on Monday, the French-language newspaper Le Monde reported. He called Portes’ remarks “irresponsible and dangerous,” and added that France “will ensure the security of the [Israeli] delegation.”

Paris Police Chief Laurent Nuñez said 30,000 to 45,000 police personnel will be working daily to ensure safety at Olympic sites and fan zones in Paris.

It was previously reported that Israel doubled its security budget for this year’s Games, which will be Israel’s 18th appearance in the Olympics. Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar told The Telegraph that the Israeli Olympic delegation this year, which is the second-largest Israeli delegation in Olympics history, has received threats but he did not go into detail. He added that delegation members will receive security details from Israel’s Shin Bet security agency but not everyone will have their own bodyguards.

“We try our best to make sure the athletes feel free but also safe and not afraid. We don’t want them to notice the security guards too much. We want them to feel confident so they can do their job,” he explained to the publication.

There have been calls to ban Israel from the Paris Olympics because of the Israel-Hamas war, but Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said in March there is no doubt that Israel will participate in the Paris Olympics.

The 2024 Olympic Games will take place from July 26-Aug. 11.

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