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Biden expands Civil Rights Act protections at 8 cabinet departments to include antisemitism

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Biden administration is aiming to counter antisemitic discrimination in federally-funded transit systems, housing, food programs and other areas — one of the most major actions the White House has taken since it unveiled a far-reaching strategy to combat antisemitism in May.

On Thursday, the administration announced that it is instructing eight cabinet departments to extend civil rights protections to victims of antisemitism and other forms of religious bigotry. The decision marks a broad expansion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In addition, the administration is launching a listening tour of schools and colleges this fall to hear from Jewish students about hostility on campus, which Jewish groups say often comes from the anti-Israel left. Last week, an LGBTQ student group at Rice University cut ties with Hillel over its support for Israel, and in a separate incident, the Hillel at the University of Pennsylvania was vandalized.

Thursday’s launch of the listening tour in San Francisco will include a meeting between the deputy secretary of education and representatives of the city’s Hillel chapter. 

“The Biden-Harris Administration will continue to lead a robust, whole-of-society effort to combat antisemitism and discrimination in all its insidious forms,” a White House official said in an e-mailed statement. The four-page release was the most comprehensive accounting to date of how the antisemitism strategy has been implemented since May. Biden set a deadline of May 2024 for the strategy to be implemented across the executive branch.

The announcement includes a comprehensive list of initiatives already taken under the antisemitism strategy. It also comes the same day as President Joe Biden is set to deliver a speech in Phoenix at the McCain Institute, named for the late Republican senator, that will warn of threats of democracy from the far-right and former President Donald Trump.

Under the 1964 act’s Title VI, which the White House release cites, any program or activity receiving federal funding cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The White House statement said that staff at the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, Treasury, and Transportation will be told the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of religious bias.

The initiative is a substantial expansion of initiatives by the Obama and Trump administrations to extend the Civil Rights Act’s protections to Jews through the Education Department. An executive order signed by Trump led to a series of federal complaints alleging that Jewish and Zionist students faced hostile campus environments.

Staff will be trained “to respond to this kind of discrimination, engage with entities that are prohibited from discriminating in these ways to explain their legal responsibilities, and inform communities of their rights to be free from such discrimination and how to file complaints,” said the release. Fact sheets on the topic will be available in Yiddish, Hebrew, Arabic, Punjabi, and other languages.

Examples of how the expansion would work, the release said, include “shielding people from harassment or discrimination on transit systems funded by the Department of Transportation; in housing funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development; or in U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded food programs.”

In recent years, Jewish watchdog groups have recorded a spike in antisemitic attacks in public places, targeting people who wear outwardly Jewish symbols or clothing. Muslim and Jewish groups have also long advocated — with some success —  for making kosher and halal food available through relief programs.

Jewish groups have, for decades, sought the act’s protections, but have been frustrated by the difficulty of resolving constitutional guardrails around the separation of church and state. The Obama and Trump Education Department directives worked around that issue by defining Jews not simply as a faith but as a group defined in part through ancestry, and also as a group perceived by bigots as being a race — cateogires that fall under Title VI’s purview. 

As part of the launch of the listening tour of Jewish students, Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten will meet with Jewish students, teachers and community leaders at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum, followed by a closed session with Hillel-affiliated students from the Bay Area about campus antisemitism.

The emphasis on allegations of campus antisemitism may address concerns by some Jewish organizations that the Biden administration was not as focused on combating antisemitism from the left as it was on antisemitism from the right, and that it is not addressing antisemitism in the context of anti-Israel activism.

In addition to the expansion of Title VI and the listening tour, the White House statement mentioned a list of actions the administration has taken as part of the strategy on antisemitism. Those include delivering information and training to Jewish and other communities on securing their buildings and their computer systems in the face of threats, and bringing together law enforcement agencies and religious communities targeted by violence. Federal officials are also training National Park Service staff on stopping and preventing antisemitic harassment.

The White House is providing information to religious communities on their rights to build houses of worship, an issue that continues to dog Muslim and Orthodox Jewish communities thwarted by local authorities. Alongside those measures, the administration is informing members of religious minorities of their rights to religious accommodation in the workplace and is educating medical students, professionals and chaplains on religious discrimination in health care settings. In addition, an exhibit on how the United States reacted to the Holocaust is touring libraries across the country.

In November, a planned Agriculture Department summit of religious leaders in Omaha will “assess the state of antisemitism, highlight effective strategies to counter antisemitism, and build solidarity across faiths.”


The post Biden expands Civil Rights Act protections at 8 cabinet departments to include antisemitism appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israel, US Blast ‘Outrageous’ ICC Request for Netanyahu’s Arrest

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

US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday issued blistering condemnations of the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor’s demand for arrest warrants for the Israeli premier, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Hamas terror chief Yahye Sinwar.

Biden said the move by Karim Khan was “outrageous” and “shameful,” adding, “Let me be clear: Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that the US “fundamentally rejects the announcement.”

In a video message, Netanyahu called the warrant application “absurd and false” and said it “was not directed only against the prime minister of Israel and the defense minister, but against the entire State of Israel and against the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers, who are fighting with otherworldly heroism against the depraved Hamas murderers who attacked us with savage butchery on the seventh of October.”

Addressing the chief prosecutor, Netanyahu continued: “With what chutzpah do you dare compare the monsters of Hamas to the soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world? With what audacity do you compare between Hamas that murdered, burned, butchered, raped, and kidnapped our brothers and sisters, and the IDF soldiers who are fighting a just war that is incomparable, with a morality that is unmatched?”

In addition to Sinwar, the request also called for the arrests of Hamas’ political leader in Qatar, Ismail Haniyeh, and the Palestinian terror group’s military head, Mohammed Deif, on charges of war crimes.

Blinken called the prosecutor’s equivalence of Israel with Hamas “shameful.”

“Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization that carried out the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and is still holding dozens of innocent people hostage, including Americans,” Blinken said.

He emphasized that the ICC had “no jurisdiction” over the war, and noted that both Israel and the US are not parties of the Rome Statute, the international treaty that established the court. The top US diplomat also called into question “deeply troubling processes” by Khan, who was supposed to send a team to Israel on Monday to coordinate his own visit next week.

“Israel was informed that they did not board their flight around the same time that the prosecutor went on cable television to announce the charges. These and other circumstances call into question the legitimacy and credibility of this investigation,” Blinken said.

An unprecedented majority in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset — 106 out of 120 MKs — signed a petition on Monday afternoon against what they said was an “unerasable historical crime.”

“The scandalous comparison by the Hague prosecutor between Israel’s leaders and the heads of terror organizations is an unerasable historical crime and a clear expression of antisemitism,” the petition read. “We reject this with revulsion. Eighty years after the Holocaust, no one will prevent the Jewish state from defending itself.”

Israel will likely lobby the US Congress to pursue sanctions against the ICC. Several Republican senators last month warned against issuing warrants, saying they would push for sanctions against Khan including barring entry to the US.

One of them, US Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said on Monday he will “feverishly work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both chambers to levy damning sanctions against the ICC,” adding that “Prosecutor Khan is drunk with self-importance and has done a lot of damage to the peace process and to the ability to find a way forward.”

Former US national security adviser John Bolton also called for the US to impose sanctions on the ICC, saying the Hague court had proved its “fundamental illegitimacy.”

“To aid our ally Israel, the US should take steps both in Congress and in the White House to condemn the ICC and impose sanctions,” he wrote on X/Twitter.

The ICC action also received strong criticism in Europe.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala called Khan’s decision “appalling and completely unacceptable.”

“We must not forget that it was Hamas that attacked Israel in October and killed, injured, and kidnapped thousands of innocent people,” he wrote on X. “It was this completely unprovoked terrorist attack that led to the current war in Gaza and the suffering of civilians in Gaza, Israel and Lebanon.”

Other European leaders, however, supported the ICC move.

“Crimes committed in Gaza must be prosecuted at the highest level, regardless of the perpetrators,” Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib wrote. “The fight against impunity wherever crimes occur is a priority for Belgium.”

The call for arrest warrants “is an important step in the investigation of the situation in Palestine,” she added.

The post Israel, US Blast ‘Outrageous’ ICC Request for Netanyahu’s Arrest first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Republican Jewish Coalition Unveils $50,000 Ad Buy to Woo Jewish Voters Ahead of 2024 Presidential Election

US President Joe Biden speaks at a Detroit Branch NAACP annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit, Michigan, US, May 19, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) will purchase $50,000 worth of digital ads in key battleground states with the purpose of targeting Jewish voters ahead of the 2024 US presidential election, according to a statement released by the group on Monday.

The RJC, an organization that seeks to build support for the Republican Party among Jewish voters, claimed it would release new ads underlining what it described as the deteriorating relationship between Israel and the United States during the Biden administration. The ads suggest that US President Joe Biden has undermined Israel’s military campaign in Gaza against Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that launched the ongoing war with its Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

As antisemitism spikes to record highs and America’s relationship with our ally Israel continues to reach new lows, the Jewish community is more energized than ever to turn the page from the failures, broken promises, and betrayals by Joe Biden,” RNC chair Norm Coleman and CEO Matt Brooks said in a statement.

The two ads will be deployed in states considered critical in the 2024 presidential election: Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Michigan. Both ads swipe at Biden over his decision to pause offensive arm shipments to Israel and suggest the president has “stabbed Israel in the back.” They also accuse Biden of not being “strong” enough to guarantee Israel’s security and urge voters to support Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

“Biden is siding with Hamas, Iran, and Hezbollah over Israel at the most crucial time, a blunder of historic proportions that will lead to more death and destruction,” one of the ads says. 

Biden expressed strong support for Israel following the Oct. 7 onslaught, and since then the US has sent significant amounts of munitions to the Jewish state for its war effort against Hamas. In recent weeks, however, he has adopted a much more critical posture toward Jerusalem, culminating with his decision earlier this month to withhold sending certain weapons to Israel due to disagreements over Israeli military operations in Gaza.

In the months following Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks on Israel, Republican politicians have attempted to capitalize on the growing tension between Democrats and Jewish voters. On May 9, Trump lambasted Jewish supporters of Biden.

“If you’re Jewish, and you vote for him, I say shame on you,” Trump said. 

Ammiel Hirsch, a rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week warning Democrats not to take Jewish voters for granted. 

“American Jews increasingly feel politically homeless. Liberal Jewish voters consider President Biden a longtime friend. At the same time, they are troubled by the growing influence of anti-Israel forces in the Democratic Party,” Hirsch wrote.

In his final statement before passing away earlier this year, former US Senator and Democratic Party vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman similarly warned Democrats and Biden about the political danger of turning against Israel.

“We are here to say that you can no longer simply count on our vote just because Jews traditionally have voted Democratic. We are here to say you must earn our vote,” the joint statement read. “We want to continue to support Democratic candidates, but you need to know that if you abandon Israel in order to garner the support of anti-Israel extremists within the Democratic Party, it will be difficult for us to support Democrats who are on the ballot this November.”

Lieberman, an ardent supporter of Israel, was the first Jewish candidate on a major party presidential ticket in the US.

The post Republican Jewish Coalition Unveils $50,000 Ad Buy to Woo Jewish Voters Ahead of 2024 Presidential Election first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Pro-Hamas Encampment at Drexel University Pushes School Into Lockdown

“Gaza Solidarity Encampment” at Drexel University. Photo: X/Twitter

A “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” was erected suddenly at Drexel University in Philadelphia over the weekend, forcing school officials to lock down the campus to protect it from a flood of non-students who joined the demonstration.

“This demonstration has already proved intolerably disruptive to normal university operations and has raised serious concerns about the conduct of some participants, including distressing reports and images of protesters subjecting passersby to antisemitic speech, signs, and chants,” Drexel University president John Fry said on Sunday in a letter to the campus community. “These kinds of hateful and intimidating acts must be condemned, and they cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Fry added that “it has become increasingly apparent that most of the encampment participants are outside individuals who are unaffiliated with Drexel.”

The group responsible for the demonstration, Drexel Palestine Coalition (DPC), is demanding that the school adopt the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and “terminate” its Hillel and Chabad chapters.

“These organizations must be replaced by non-Zionist Jewish ones that in no way support the ongoing genocide, occupation, or apartheid in Palestine,” DPC said in a statement posted on social media.

DPC also wants the university’s police force to be abolished, amnesty granted to any protester charged with violating school rules, and a “60 percent” reduction in Fry’s salary, the savings of which would be invested “into local community efforts such as affordable housing, co-ops, land trusts — specifically towards Black Bottom residents — and the rebuilding of Palestinian institutions such as hospitals and universities.”

Footage of the demonstration shows some aggressive behavior, including the protesters’ dismantling police barricades. According to the latest reports, there have been no arrests.

“Hillel continues to be grateful to have partners on campus who believe that a university experience should be filled with opportunities to engage thoroughly and thoughtfully around issues where there is both deep investment and deep disagreement while recognizing that a prerequisite for any such conversation is a demonstrated commitment to the safety, well being, and shared sense of belonging of all of the students, faculty, and staff who call our university home,” Drexel Hillel said on Sunday in a statement issued about the encampment.

The protesters’ demands are not the first assault on Jewish organizations at Drexel University this academic year.

Last month, the Raymond G. Perelman Center for Jewish Life was vandalized, with the culprits removing large channel letters spelling out Perelman’s name from a brick structure near the entrance to the building. The disturbing act, which occurred amid an explosion of antisemitic hate crimes across the US, was filmed by surveillance cameras, but the persons responsible cannot yet be identified because they wore masks.

“It bears repeating that vandalizing centers of Jewish life and learning, defacing property with antisemitic graffiti, or ripping mezuzot off doorposts in residence halls does not constitute any legitimate form of protests,” Fry said at the time. “Such acts are antisemitic in their intent to disrupt Jewish life and intimidate our Jewish communities, and have no place at Drexel or in our democratic society.”

Drexel University joins the list of over 100 schools where anti-Zionists have taken over sections of campus and refused to leave unless school administrators agree to condemn and boycott Israel. Other demonstrations timed to coincide with the end of the academic year petered out earlier this month, but at Drexel, which uses the quarter system, classes do not end until June 8. Because of this, the encampment there could last as many as three weeks.

In the interim, the school remains locked down, and on Monday, Fry ordered that all classes be conducted virtually.

“We will continue to provide updates regarding this situation or any changes to the university’s operations,” Fry said in Sunday’s letter. “I ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we work toward ensuring that our campus can soon return to normal.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Pro-Hamas Encampment at Drexel University Pushes School Into Lockdown first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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