Israeli Yair Levi did not write his first song until the age of 28, but that has not stopped him from quickly becoming a recognizable figure in the international Jewish music scene.
Now almost 35, Levi has seen his most recent song — a collaboration with Christian singers Sean Feucht from the United States and Carine Bassili from Lebanon — become a hit. The song, called God of Israel, was recorded shortly after the start of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and praises God in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.
Levi told The Algemeiner that it was a dream of his while serving in the Israeli army to become a singer. A captain in Shayetet 13, Israel’s version of the US Navy SEALs, he spoke while he is currently on reserve duty. More than 350,000 reservists have jointed the military for duty since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.
The father of three explained his journey of growth through music, with the COVID-19 pandemic being a huge catalyst. Levi said all his concerts were canceled due to the pandemic, so he prayed asking for guidance. Just then he received a call from his father telling him that his beloved grandmother was sick. That was his inspiration to write Refa Na, which means “please heal her” in Hebrew and garnered millions of views. The hit was translated into multiple languages.
That experience began his near monthly trips around the world performing for mainly Christian audiences of Israel supporters.
God of Israel was something discussed in brief before the war, Levi explained, but upon embarking on a campaign in the US to raise money for soldiers immediately after the outbreak of war, he gathered with Feucht and Bassili to create the new hit.
The song quickly reached the top of the charts, reaching number one in the global Christian music genre, which Levi says is the biggest in the world.
Something unique about the collaboration is the feature of the Lebanese-born Bassili. Lebanon does not recognize Israel and is home to the Iranian backed terror organization Hezbollah, which has been striking targets in northern Israel amid the current war, forcing tens of thousands of Israelis to flee their homes.
Levi said that Bassili had to evacuate her family from Lebanon and that she is unable to enter other Arab states. Hezbollah, which openly seeks Israel’s destruction, has also publicly threatened her life.
The latest musical collaboration, Levi said, showed the possibilities of peace that exist in the world despite the chaos facing the Middle East today.
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‘Unconscionable’: Major Academic Association Endorses Call for Ceasefire in Gaza
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), an academic professional organization, endorsed a labor union coalition’s call for a ceasefire in Gaza on Wednesday, according to Inside Higher Ed,
“We express our solidarity with all workers and our common desire for peace in Palestine and Israel, and we call on President Joe Biden and Congress to push for an immediate ceasefire and end to the siege in Gaza,” says the statement the group endorsed. “We cannot bomb our way to peace. We also condemn any hate crimes against Muslims, Jews, or anyone else.”
Despite pressing for a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas — a measure which pro-Israel activists have criticized for its potential to forestall eradicating Hamas from the Palestinian territories — the statement also call for the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza. It also urged that “water, fuel, and food” be transported to Gaza without restrictions.
“Both Hamas and Israel must adhere to standards of international law and Geneva Convention rules of warfare concerning the welfare and security of civilians,” it continued. “The cycle of violence must stop so that negotiations for an enduring peace proceed.”
Founded in 1915 by John Dewey and Arthur Oncken Lovejoy, the American Association of University Professors comprises over 370,000 members from higher education institutions across the US. Once regarded as a bulwark against attempts to politicize higher education, it has, in recent years been disparaged — by nonprofits such as the National Association of Scholars (NAS), for example — for allegedly becoming a shamelessly partisan advocacy group for the far-left.
Following Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, which included hundreds of murders of civilians and sexual assaults, two-and-a-half weeks passed before the AAUP commented on the ensuing conflict between Israel and Hamas, and, when it did, the group said nothing about the terrorist group’s atrocities but discussed the importance of academic freedom. At the time, dozens of professors were denounced for cheering Hamas’ violence and encouraging extreme anti-Zionist demonstrations in which masses of students and faculty called for the elimination of the Jewish state “from the river to the sea,” which is widely considered genocidal.
On Wednesday, Middle East experts told The Algemeiner that AAUP’s endorsing a ceasefire further accentuates the group’s political biases.
“The AAUP has once again shown its true bias colors by signing onto a call by multiple American labor unions for a ‘ceasefire in Israel and Palestine,’ Asaf Romirowsky, who serves as executive director of both Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA), said in a statement.
He continued, “The AAUP thinks Hamas can become an organization that behaves accordingly with international and humanitarian norms, which is absurd. The evidence of the Nazi-Islamist barbarism of Oct. 7 clearly shows otherwise and highlights the AAUP’s disconnect from the reality of the conflict in the Middle East.”
Miriam Elman, executive director of Academic Engagement Network, an organization which promotes academic freedom, also criticized the AAUP on Tuesday, explaining that it endorsed a false and “unconscionable” equivalence between Israel and Hamas.
“The AAUP is exceeding its mandate and mission by adopting a particular political position on the Israel-Hamas war,” Elman said. “The AAUP could be a leader in condemning and combating the ongoing ostracism, shunning, and boycotting of Israeli scholars and researcher, which has increased markedly since October 7. Instead its leadership is spending its time lending the AAUP’s name to a poorly worded, politicized statement.”
AAUP has commented on politically contentious matters before. In 2020, after the killing of George Floyd sparked protests across the US, the group said “it affirmed that Black lives matter and that the association is committed to addressing systemic racism in higher education and working toward racial justice.”
However, it has consistently opposed efforts to combat extreme anti-Zionist rhetoric.
In March 2022 it issued a statement which denounced the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, used by hundreds of entities to identify antisemitic conduct and speech, alleging that it “privileges the political interests of the state of Israel and suppresses discussion and activism on behalf of Palestinian rights.” In the same communication, the AAUP criticized the state of Florida for adopting the IHRA definition in legislation regarding public K-12 schools and colleges, describing the law and others like as “legislative attacks…presented in the guise of protecting students from discrimination.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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MIT Suspends Anti-Zionist Group for Rules Violations
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has suspended Coalition Against Apartheid (CAA), an anti-Zionist group, for staging an unauthorized demonstration in the Stratton Student Center on Monday.
“Members of the CAA — the Coalition Against Apartheid — once again conducted a demonstration on campus without going through the normal permission processes that apply to every student group at MIT,” Kornbluth said in a statement on Tuesday, adding, “the CAA’s executive officers received a letter today from Vice Chancellor Suzy Nelson immediately suspending the CAA’s privileges as a recognized student organization.”
Per the terms of the suspension, CAA is temporarily banned from using campus facilities — or “any space” — for events and meetings, receiving funds from the university, and holding demonstrations on university property. President Kornbluth also said that formal complaint against CAA has been filed with the school’s Committee on Discipline.
Kornbluth added, however, that “suspending CAA is not related to the content of their speech” and that “we shouldn’t feel it’s OK to vilify everyone who advocates for the Palestinian people as ‘supporting Hamas.’”
On Tuesday, CAA accused Kornbluth of unfairly punishing its members, 13 of whom, the group said, have been “threatened” with expulsion.
“It is in these moments, when we face the harshest repression, that we know the balance of power is shifting,” the group said. “Their response today reveal that MIT fears the mass mobilization of our community, who have remained steadfast with Palestine. Thousands of our community members, from students and alumni, to faculty and staff, have participated in our actions as part of the struggle for the liberation of Palestine.”
CAA’s suspension comes as MIT is under investigation by Congress for allegedly ignoring antisemitic discrimination and harassment and refusing to discipline anti-Zionist groups. The school’s past handling of unauthorized anti-Zionist protest has also drawn scrutiny from the Jewish community.
On Nov. 8, 2022, Coalition Against Apartheid (CAA), a campus anti-Israel group allegedly “physically prevented” Jewish students from attending class by forming a “blockade” of bodies in Lobby 7, a space inside the main entrance of the university. Non-students were invited to attend CAA’s demonstration, and together the entire group spent hours chanting “Intifada” — a term used to describe violent Palestinian uprisings against Israel — and declaring solidarity with Hamas.
The MIT Israel Alliance, writing in a letter which described antisemitism on campus as reminiscent of Nazi Germany on the eve of the Holocaust, said that by the end of that day, Jewish students were advised to enter the university through its back entrance and avoid the campus’ Hillel building.
Then, as now, Sally Kornbluth refused to denounce the students’ activity as antisemitic incitement, saying in a statement responding to the demonstration that “I am deliberately not specifying the view points, as the issue at hand is not the substance of the views but where and how they were expressed.”
US college campuses have experienced an alarming spike in antisemitic incidents — including demonstrations calling for Israel’s destruction and the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students — since Oct. 7, 2023, the day of Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel. In a two month span, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recorded 470 antisemitic incidents on college campuses alone. During that same period, antisemitic incidents across the US skyrocketed by 323 percent compared to the prior year.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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Comedian Who Orchestrated ‘Antisemitic Rally’ is Banned by Top London Theater
A leading London theater has banned the comedian whose show last weekend caused a furor after it turned into what some members of the audience likened to an “antisemitic rally.”
In a statement on Monday, the Soho Theater said that the comedian, Paul Currie, would not be “invited back to perform at our venue.”
During his show last Saturday night, Jewish members of the audience were hounded out of the auditorium by a baying crowd led by Currie — whose mimed show purposefully includes music but no verbal communication with the audience — after one Jewish man, who is an Israeli citizen, refused to stand in tribute to the Palestinian flag which Currie brought on stage.
After the round of applause was over, Currie pointed to the man and quizzed him over why he had remained seated.
The unnamed Israeli man replied, “I enjoyed your show until you brought out the Palestinian flag.” An infuriated Currie began screaming, “Leave my show now! Get out of my f—-ing show!” in response.
As the man and his partner rose to leave, accompanied by a handful of other shocked audience members, the assembled crowd began chanting “Get out” and “Free Palestine.”
In a written complaint to the theater over his treatment, the man wrote: “Shaken and feeling threatened by the growing antagonism, we exited and tried to complain/get some support from the front-of-house team at the theatre, who were not very sympathetic but did give us an email address to make a complaint. By this time, the show had ended and the audience started exiting, a number of whom were glaring at us aggressively and in a very threatening way. We all left the scene.”
He added: “Our friends later received a message from someone they knew who had also been at the show, saying that after we left, the situation became even more inflamed. What had been intended to be an evening of comedy turned out to be what felt like an antisemitic rally.”
In its statement disavowing Currie, the Soho Theater noted that “following the end of Paul Currie’s show, ‘Shtoom,’ Jewish members of the audience were subjected to verbal abuse and the performer aggressively demanding they leave the theater.”
It continued: “Such appalling actions are unacceptable and have no place on our stages, now or ever. We will not be inviting Paul Currie back to perform at our venue.”
The theater said that it had met with representatives of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), which has been providing support and advice to the affected audience members, as well as with the police.
In a separate statement, the CAA expressed appreciation for the theater’s decision, confirming that it was still examining legal action against Currie under British anti-discrimination laws.
It said that the theater “has engaged with us positively and swiftly. It is clear that the venue was caught by surprise. The show was supposed to be non-verbal, and had been on previous evenings. Soho Theatre has clearly condemned Paul Currie and confirmed that he will never again perform on their stage. The theatre is cooperating with the police investigation. We will be arranging for senior representatives of the theatre to meet with Jewish members of the audience to talk about what happened.”
The CAA emphasized that it was “continuing to review legal options in respect of Mr Currie and are discussing the matter with members of the audience.”
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