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At US Colleges, Antisemites Are More Equal Than Others

Harvard University President Dr. Claudine Gay delivers remarks on Dec. 5, 2023, during the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on the recent rise in antisemitism on college campuses. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

The 1945 satirical novella Animal Farm by George Orwell depicts a group of farm animals who rebel against their human farmer, hoping to create a society where animals can be equal, free, and happy. But their idealistic aspirations are eventually crushed under the dictatorship of a pig fittingly named Napoleon, who is supported by a group of snobby pigs and a herd of adulating sheep.

Initially, one of the Seven Commandments established by the animals to govern their new society is “All animals are equal.” But towards the end of the book, this slogan is altered by the pigs to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

The changed mantra reflects the rise of a new elite class among the animals, specifically the pigs, who start to resemble the oppressive human rulers they initially overthrew. The altered commandment symbolizes a betrayal of the revolution’s original ideals, and the establishment of a new tyranny under Napoleon and the pigs.

Orwell’s “Some animals are more equal than others” is a piercing critique of political hypocrisy. It reflects the reality seen in governing entities around the world that loudly champion the ideals of equality and justice for all, yet subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, create an elevated class among those under their jurisdiction.

This paradox of proudly proclaimed egalitarianism contrasted with the reality of selective privilege forms a cornerstone of Orwell’s sharply observed narrative, and it remains as accurate today as when it was first published.

This past Tuesday, we were presented with a shocking live-action version of Orwell’s perceptive observation during the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing about antisemitism on college campuses.

The gathering heard from three presidents of Ivy League universities, Claudine Gay of Harvard University, Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania, and Sally Kornbluth of MIT. All three universities have witnessed a dramatic spike in overt and even violent antisemitism over the past few weeks, since the Hamas-perpetrated October 7th massacre against Jews in southern Israel.

It was a perfect opportunity for these senior representatives of three bastions of academic excellence to publicly distance themselves from the radical elements that have overtaken student activism on their campuses, and turned their institutions into cesspools of ugly prejudice and hatred against Jews. Instead, they obfuscated and used every rhetorical trick in the book to evade admitting the truth, which is this: on their college campuses, Jews are not treated equal to other minorities, which means that Jewish students can be targeted in ways that other minority groups can never be targeted, and those who target them will not face formal consequences.

Consider this astounding exchange: “Yes or no, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate [your university’s] rules of bullying and harassment?” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) repeatedly asked this question to the witnesses. Kornbluth initially answered, “If targeted at individuals not making public statements,” and then added, “I have not heard calling for the genocide for Jews on our campus.”

Stefanik pointed out that MIT students had publicly called for “Intifada” — which is a euphemism for violence and terrorism against Jews. “I’ve heard chants which can be antisemitic depending on the context,” Kornbluth responded. In what context is calling for an Intifada not antisemitic, one wonders.

The answer is simple and tragic: in a world where Jewish rights are not equal to the rights of others, calling for an Intifada is not considered antisemitic. Although, imagine calling for an Intifada against Black, or Asian, or transgender people; would anyone hesitate to consider the context?

Magill was equally slippery: “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment.” Stefanik kept going: “I am asking, specifically calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?”

Magill responded, “If it is directed, severe, pervasive — it is harassment … it is a context dependent decision, Congresswoman.”

Stefanik appeared stunned. “It’s a context-dependent decision? That’s your testimony today? Calling for the genocide of Jews is depending upon the context — that is not bullying or harassment? This is the easiest question to answer!”

The pantomime continued with Magill’s next answer: “If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment.” This time Stefanik was even more shocked. “Conduct, meaning committing the act of genocide? The speech is not harassment? This is unacceptable! Ms. Magill, I’m going to give you one more opportunity for the world to see your answer. Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s Code of Conduct when it comes to bullying and harassment, yes or no?”

But Magill still refused to be drawn. “It can be harassment,” she responded after a pause and then a smirk.

At this point, Stefanik moved on to Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay. “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment, yes or no?” It was almost as if the three presidents had colluded and rehearsed their lines in advance. Perhaps they had.

“It can be, depending on the context,” Gay responded.

By this time Stefanik was incredulous. “What’s the context?” she asked.

Gay shot back, “Targeted at an individual.”

Stefanik’s jaw dropped. “It’s targeted at Jewish students, Jewish individuals. Do you understand your testimony is dehumanizing them? Do you understand that dehumanization is part of antisemitism?”

Gay didn’t need to answer. We all know the answer. The three pigs had made their views very clear. Dehumanizing Jews doesn’t matter. Or, it only matters when the powers-that-be decide it matters; Jewish victims of dehumanizing antisemitism have no say in whether it matters or not. Because “some animals are more equal than others.”

“This is why you should resign,” Stefanik told the Kornbluth, Magill, and Gay, as she finished her round of questions. “These are unacceptable answers across the board.” Although of course they won’t resign, because on their Animal Farms, they are Napoleon, and they are fully supported by similarly snobby pigs and herds of adulating sheep.

In Parshat Vayeishev, we read the story of Joseph and his brothers. The brothers had a grudge against Joseph and unjustly targeted him. Motivated by jealousy and blinded by hatred, they accused him of crimes he had never committed, and eventually sold him off into slavery to Egypt. There he encounters even more injustice — he is thrown into prison after being falsely accused of attempting to rape his master’s wife.

The Talmudic sages note that Jacob’s brothers were convinced their treatment of Joseph was equitable and just; they were seemingly unable to put themselves in Joseph’s shoes and see things from his perspective. In fact, as far as they were concerned his perspective didn’t count — only their perspective mattered. Crucially, they had the power to be judge and jury, despite their inherent biases — and their refusal to be objective resulted in family turmoil that took decades to come right.

Joseph’s resilience and eventual rise to power in Egypt, despite his brothers’ treachery, offers us some hope from the dawn of Jewish history. It reminds us that even in the face of overwhelming injustice and prejudice, integrity and truth do eventually prevail.

This parallel is a poignant reminder that despite the current dominance of unfair and biased attitudes against Jews, and the lack of equity in the treatment of Jews as the current crisis in the Middle East continues to rage, the potential for a just outcome still remains. Let us pray it is not too long in coming.

The author is a rabbi in Beverly Hills, California.

The post At US Colleges, Antisemites Are More Equal Than Others first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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What the Torah Teaches Us About Modesty

A Torah scroll. Photo: RabbiSacks.org.

Many years ago, I was told a story about my father by somebody who belonged to the same congregation as his family in London. My father was, from a young age, a very confident speaker. In his little community of Notting Hill in West London, he was often asked to give a Derasha (a sermon) on Shabbat. What attracted the attention of the public was the fact that the sermon he gave was entitled “The Priests’ Pants.”

In England, this meant underpants, unlike in America, where pants mean what we call trousers. It was obviously an oratorical device to attract everyone’s attention right away — something I have often used myself, although not at such an early age.

This is relevant because the Torah reading on that occasion happened to be the same one as we read this week, Tetzaveh. This parsha is concerned almost entirely with the special garments Aaron the High Priest and his sons wore when serving in the Tabernacle, and that succeeding priests would wear in the Temple (Exodus 28:42).

In all temples, then and now,  priests of all religions, pagan and monotheistic, all dressed up in special clothes as an obvious sign of importance, designed to generate respect and awe. Indeed, even to this day aristocrats, diplomats, military officers, and clergy wear formal uniforms from top to toe, as a sign of importance.

But why mention the unmentionable underpants? The word used here in Exodus 28:42 is Michnasayim, which in modern Hebrew means trousers or pants. But it also means “to cover up.” And that’s what the Bible was instructing priests — and us — to do.

The truth is that sexuality plays a very important part in our lives, and certainly sexuality played a very important part in Pagan worship. The very first episode of human interaction in the Torah is the story of Adam and Eve realizing that nakedness is something that can be misused as well. And requires covering.

One of the important themes of the Torah is the idea of modesty. Some of our bodily functions may be perfectly natural and necessary such as reproduction or using the bathroom. But they are things that traditionally had to be treated differently and privately, and not in the public domain. Not all societies agree with this. Nowadays many of us live in societies where the definitions of modesty are changing and loosening. As important as modesty in every area is, the Torah never tries to define it. Probably because it is too variable to legislate specifically for, which is why in different religious communities the customs are so varied, and each one sets its own standards.

You may wonder whether this was an appropriate message for a 13-year-old boy to hold forth upon. And I might be inclined to suggest within an ideal world that my father might have chosen another topic. But given that rabbis or their representatives are expected to speak about the reading of the Torah each week, frankly, it is hard to imagine what else he could have chosen as a topic that would have inspired some interest amongst his audience. So, he took a risk. Something I unconsciously must have picked up on from my father.

The author is a writer and rabbi, currently based in New York.

The post What the Torah Teaches Us About Modesty first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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A Letter to Candace Owens on Israel and Jews

Candace Owens. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Dear Candace,

The last time we chatted (OK, I wrote to you), you were defending Kanye West for his antisemitic tirades. It was unclear whether you were doing this as his friend, or because you agreed with him (though your obnoxious tone suggested the latter).

The past four months have made everything much clearer. Most recently, in a podcast and three rants, you accused a segment of Jews of being dishonest, disgusting, manipulative, thugs, and Marxists.

So, to use your favorite expression, let’s be honest here:

Sure, there are Marxist Jews. And they’ve caused a lot of problems. But they don’t like Israel any more than you seem to. They are not the ones defending Israel against the incessant attacks from some Democrats, whom you have proclaimed to hate. In fact, some of those Marxist Jews have helped to create terrorism-friendly campuses and are taking part in the daily, violent pro-Hamas protests.

You go after “DC Jews” and call them a fringe element, a “rot” in the Jewish community, comparing them to Black Lives Matter activists. Again, you’re a little confused. Pro-Israel Jews do not “use” antisemitism the way some BLM activists use the cause against racism to advance an agenda. Since Oct. 7, antisemitic incidents in the US have risen 400%. The reason all your “best friends” growing up didn’t call out antisemitism is because it wasn’t as big of a problem then as it is today.

Or maybe your friends are status leftists who prefer to be silent on these issues precisely because of people like you, who would use it against them.

Regarding the two ads the Israeli government took out for the Super Bowl: Those ads were meant to remind Americans that Hamas still holds 134 hostages — five of whom are Americans. Hamas is not the “government” of Arabs who identify as “Palestinian,” as you claim. They’re terrorists. Are you now pro-terrorism — or just when it comes to Jews?

Yes, the US gives Israel aid — but the vast majority of it must be used to buy American weapons. They’re called Foreign Military Financing grants, meaning they simultaneously give Americans jobs. Maybe if your new best friends like Hamas stopped trying to destroy Israel, these grants would not be needed.

Despite all the nasty things you have said about us, let’s assume for a moment that you do like Jews — that many of your “best friends” have in fact been Jewish — and you don’t hate Israel. Let’s assume all of your problematic views are coming from the neo-isolationism that Tucker Carlson and the Freedom Caucus espouse. (Though Carlson has shared antisemitic tropes during a discussion with you, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who believes Jews use space lasers to control the world, was a key member of the Caucus.)

There are numerous problems with this neo-isolationism, but since being “America first” is key to who you claim to be today, let’s just look at one of America’s enemies: Iran. You may not be aware of this, but Iran doesn’t like America. Iran calls us the “Great Satan.” Iran is also part of the new axis of evil — Russia, China, North Korea — that Carlson doesn’t want to acknowledge.

Which country has the best intel on Iran? That tiny homeland of the Jewish people. Why? Because Israel is “Little Satan” to Iran. Why does Israel have better intel on Iran than the US? Because they’ve had to. Maybe you don’t know this, but both Hamas and Hezbollah are Iranian proxies.

You talk a lot about “emotional manipulation” — indoctrination, brainwashing — on the part of Democrats. But you do the same. Because I don’t think you’re lacking in facts as much as you pretend to be. On the subject of Israel, you seem to want to believe leftist/Marxist lies.

But many of your followers are not smart enough to see through your emotional manipulation. And they don’t want to. Most are ultra-nationalist white Christians who don’t like Blacks or Jews. They’re willing to overlook your skin color because you incessantly attack Blacks and Jews. What do you think they would do if you stopped?

As you repeatedly say, all your life Jews have been very good to you — both as friends and employers. But you’ve now attached yourself to the ultra-nationalist/neo-isolationist wing of the GOP, and they, like their parents and grandparents, don’t like Jews. Instead of trying to reconcile this, as an honest person would, you’ve taken the antisemitic way out: blaming Jews for antisemitism.

Hitler, for whom you have expressed great admiration, would indeed be proud.

Karen Lehrman Bloch is editor in chief of White Rose Magazine. A different version of this article was originally published by The Jewish Journal.

The post A Letter to Candace Owens on Israel and Jews first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Media Distort Israel’s Refusal to Be Bullied Into Rewarding Terrorists

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their homes due to the war provoked by Hamas’s terror attacks, shelter in a tent camp, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, December 29, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Shadi Tabatibi

Following indications by the likes of the United Kingdom and France that they could formally recognize a Palestinian state without Israel’s approval, the Israeli government issued a statement in response:

Israel outright rejects international dictates regarding a final status agreement with the Palestinians. The agreement, in so far as it will be reached, will be solely through direct negotiations between the parties, without preconditions.

Israel will continue to oppose the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Such recognition in the wake of the October 7th massacre would give a huge reward to unprecedented terrorism and prevent any future peace agreement.

Israel’s message was explicit: it will not stand back and allow the perpetrators of the October 7 massacre of Israeli civilians to be rewarded with what effectively amounts to legitimacy.

What Israel’s statement about unilateral recognition did not do, was oppose Palestinian statehood in general. That is, Israel did not outright reject the idea that a Palestinian state could be formed as part of a larger peace agreement.

Why, then, did some media outlets distort the contents of Sunday’s announcement to suggest that Israel had said it would refuse to accept a two-state solution to the conflict?

The Telegraph, for example, characterized Israel’s position as Israel declining outright the possibility of two states existing side by side in a misleading headline that also hinted at Israeli aggression by linking the supposed rejection to a ground offensive in Rafah.

The Israeli cabinet rejected an imposed two-state solution from outside without Israeli agreement.@Telegraph‘s headline is disingenuous and fails to make this clear.#HeadlineFailhttps://t.co/QBt1o1tFKb pic.twitter.com/5eba0rWwSY

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) February 19, 2024

Taking a similar line was LBC News, which led with Israel’s plan to root Hamas from its last stronghold in Rafah — painting it instead as effectively an assault on the 1.5 million people sheltering there, and tying it to Israel’s allegedly stymying Palestinian aspirations for a sovereign state.

The New York Post chose to obscure what had occurred to suggest that the Israeli government was rejecting “all calls” for a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, the Irish Times, the Financial Times and Voice of America all produced vague headlines that claimed Israel is opposed to a state as part of any resolution after the war against Hamas in Gaza, without noting that its objection was to unilateral recognition.

Irish Times:

Financial Times:

Voice of America:

The fact is, Israel has shown time and time again that is willing to negotiate with Palestinians and is not opposed to the actualization of a Palestinian state.

Indeed, one only needs to look at the many occasions over the years in which Israel has come to the negotiating table offering the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state — only for the Palestinians to, invariably with violence, reject its creation.

From the UN partition plan to the Camp David proposals, Israel’s willingness to accept Palestinian statehood is etched in the history books.

For the media to suggest otherwise is just historical revisionism.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The post Media Distort Israel’s Refusal to Be Bullied Into Rewarding Terrorists first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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