A diverse group of artists is sponsoring an auction and fundraiser with more than 400 one-of-a-kind items, services, and experiences, with proceeds going to an organization that aims to educate students on US college campuses about antisemitism.
The online auction, sponsored by Artists Against Antisemitism, begins on Friday, the last day of Hanukkah, and extends until Dec. 22 “to keep the light [of Hanukkah] going” for another week, according to a description for the fundraiser. Proceeds will support Project Shema, an organization that tries to build bridges and fight antisemitism through education and understanding. Project Shema will use proceeds from the auction “to subsidize essential training on select college campuses to help students understand anti-Jewish harm and allyship in this difficult moment.”
Artists Against Antisemitism was founded by 32 contemporary Jewish women writers from the US who were seeking a sense of support and community following Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel. The group has since expanded to include more than 100 actors, playwrights, creators, and others in the artistic community.
Some of the items and experiences up for bid as part of the auction include a 15-minute Zoom meet-and-greet with actress and former Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik, a separate Zoom call with actor Henry Winkler, lunch in New York or Los Angeles at a kosher deli with actor and former Royal Pains star Mark Feuerstein, and a set of signed books titled She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton.
Other signed books are also available for auction, as well as artwork, jewelry, vacation packages, naming rights for characters in novels, and a personalized recorded message from the voice actor who plays the Looney Tunes animated character Porky Pig, who is also offering a Zoom call with a fan or coaching lessons.
Martin Fletcher, the former Middle East correspondent and Tel Aviv bureau chief for NBC News, is offering a 30-minute talk with a fan about Israel, the Middle East, or one of his books. There are also VIP concert ticket packages available for New Kids on the Block, Bruce Springsteen, and Sister Hazel. Fiction and non-fiction authors have additionally offered to participate in virtual classroom visits via Zoom.
“We took anything from people that are artists or even art adjacent, but we really wanted items that are not something you could get in a store or even a book signing,” said Alison Hammer, a co-founder of Artists Against Antisemitism. “We wanted things that were really unique and we hope people will bid early and often and help us raise money.”
“We hope that everyone can join us in standing against hate and that felt like something we could really rally people around,” she added.
Jill Santopolo, another founding member of Artists Against Antisemitism, said the goal of partnering with Project Shema for the auction was to “specifically target campus antisemitism.”
“We had all been hearing about a lot of antisemitism on college campuses, many of which we had attended or our siblings had attended, and thought that [campuses] were really some place we could make a difference,” she added. “Particularly because college students are the next generation and the future. If we can combat antisemitism at that stage it would really make a difference.”
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Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow
i24 News – Russia has extended invitations to various Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, for discussions on the Israel-Hamas conflict and broader issues in the Middle East.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced the initiative on Friday, highlighting Moscow’s desire to engage with all major players in the region amid heightened tensions.
The invitation included a dozen Palestinian groups and is slated for “inter-Palestinian” talks scheduled to commence on February 29.
Bogdanov, serving as President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East, emphasized the inclusivity of the invitation, stating, “We invited all Palestinian representatives — all political forces that have their positions in different countries, including Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the region.”
Among the invitees are Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, alongside representatives of Fatah and the broader Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The invitation comes at a critical juncture as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate, drawing international attention and concern. Russia’s proactive stance in convening discussions reflects its growing criticism of Israel and its Western allies, underscoring Moscow’s efforts to assert its influence in the region.
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Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose
i24 News – Hamas drops its “delusional” demands, productive hostage talks could begin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, stressing Israel would not agree to the terror group’s current demands.
WATCH: PM Netanyahu delivers a statement after Hamas suspended negotiations pic.twitter.com/nxISPb4JUm
— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 17, 2024
“I insist that Hamas should abandon its delusional demands – and when it does, we will be able to move forward,” Netanyahu said in a statement live on TV.
“Those who want us to desist from the Rafah operation,” the leader said in an apparent reference to the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden, “are telling us we should lose. We won’t be dictated to.”
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Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry
i24 News – Iran demonstrated new weaponry on Saturday, including what it said was the locally made Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, said the official IRNA news agency. Saturday’s unveiling ceremony of the two vehicle-mounted systems was held in the presence of Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.
“With the entry of new systems into the country’s defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” said IRNA.
Video of the new Azarakhsh SHORAD engaging a target drone
— Iran Defense|نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران (@IranDefense) February 17, 2024
The Arman missile system is said to be able to “simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km,” while the Azarakhsh missile system “can identify and destroy targets up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles.”
The announcement comes amid tensions across the Middle East, with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacking vessels linked to the United States, UK and Israel in the Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Gaza Strip.
— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2024
The U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are concerned with Iran’s growing role at the international global arms market, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. The transformation of the industry, boosted by Russia’s “purchase of thousands of drones that altered the battlefield in Ukraine, has helped Tehran scale up its support of militia allies in Middle East conflicts,” read the report.