Britain, Italy and Finland on Saturday became the latest countries to pause funding for the United Nations’ refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA), following allegations its staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.
Set up to help refugees of the 1948 war at Israel’s founding, UNRWA provides education, health and aid services to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. It helps about two thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million population and has played a pivotal aid role during the current war.
The United States, Australia and Canada had already paused funding to the aid agency after Israel said 12 UNRWA employees were involved in the cross-border attack. The agency has opened an investigation into several employees and severed ties with them.
The Palestinian foreign ministry criticized what it described as an Israeli campaign against UNRWA, and the Hamas militant group condemned the termination of employee contracts “based on information derived from the Zionist enemy.”
The UK Foreign Office said it was temporarily pausing funding for UNRWA while the accusations were reviewed and noted London had condemned the Oct. 7 attacks as “heinous” terrorism.
“The Italian government has suspended financing of the UNRWA after the atrocious attack on Israel on October 7,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on social media platform X.
Finland also said it suspended funding.
Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the Palestinians’ umbrella political body the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said cutting support brought major political and relief risks.
“We call on countries that announced the cessation of their support for UNRWA to immediately reverse their decision,” he said on X.
The post Britain, Italy and Finland Pause Funding for UNRWA first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
‘Rape Is Not Resistance’: Jewish Students Discuss National Walkout to Call for Release of Israeli Hostages
Jewish college students across the US last week participated in mass walkout to demand the release of Israeli hostages still held captive by Hamas in Gaza, where they were taken during the terrorist group’s massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.
The demonstration was organized by Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a nonprofit that promotes education about the Jewish state, as a response to a surge in pro-Hamas demonstrations on higher education campuses throughout the world. It also aimed to sustain the momentum of the Jewish community’s advocacy heading into the new academic semester, following November’s mass protest by the pro-Israel community in Washington DC.
The Algemeiner spoke to four students who participated in the walkout and events related to it — Ellie Raab of Florida Atlantic University, and Zoë Silverberg, Yasmeen Ohebsion, and Bali Lavine of Tulane University in New Orleans. Each discussed their triumphs as well as lingering challenges the students say they still face in their efforts to win the hearts and minds of their classmates, some of whom refuse to acknowledge the suffering of those affected by Hamas’ atrocities.
“At FAU, everyone walked out whether you had class or didn’t have class. We all met up at 10 AM, and at 10:07 AM, we walked around our campus holding signs, playing music, and basically we had three things we were walking for — to remember the victims of Oct. 7, call for the return of the hostages, and take a stand against rising antisemitism throughout the world, specifically in academic institutions,” Rabb told The Algemeiner. “We had a moment of silence for the victims, and we all had posters and signs of all the hostages. My vice president had a poster that said, ‘Rape is not resistance’ and ‘#metoo unless you’re a Jew.”
Later, the students were led in prayer by FAU’s Chabad rabbi, who asked for the protection of Israeli soldiers and the hostages.
Students at Tulane University “tabled” to promote the demonstration, setting up at a location on campus to distribute literature to passerby and engage willing students in conversation. Tulane, a school known for having a large population of Jewish students, has had at least one incident of note since Oct. 7. During protests near the campus on Oct. 26, a Jewish student was assaulted by pro-Hamas demonstrators. That incident was on the mind of Bali Lavine — she called it a “riot” — as her tabling duties prompted her to reflect on Jewish life at Tulane.
“It’s been strangely quiet on campus lately,” Lavine, a freshman who recently declared Jewish Studies as a second major, said. “But when I say quiet, I just mean that a student wasn’t physically assaulted, not that there wasn’t any antisemitism. Just this week I learned about multiple students transferring out of Tulane. Some of the students I know really did feel welcomed by [Governor Ron] DeSantis’ message from the Florida schools saying that Florida welcomes students with open arms.”
A hesitance of some to embrace SSI’s message was palpable, Zoë Silverberg, who is a senior, told The Algemeiner. Many did “engage positively” but others declined to wear a sticker that said “104 Days,” which was then the amount of time that Israeli hostages had remained in captivity. It has now been 112 days.
“I felt really loved and supported when people approached the table and asked questions or took stickers, but when people would say ‘no thanks I’m not interested,’ it just made me wonder if they are anti-Zionists or aren’t aware of what I’m tabling for,” Silverberg said, noting that one of the hostages they highlighted was Kfir Bibas, a baby who turned one year old while being held by Hamas. “The fact that people are able to easily walk past a table advocating for the safety of a one year old child and not bat an eye makes it abundantly clear how war removed so many college students are from the reality of this situation.”
Some of the students who wouldn’t wear a sticker were Jewish, Yasmeen Ohebsion noted, saying that “saddened her.”
“To see students who were nervous or hesitant to display their Jewish identities shows that the campus climate likely makes them feel unsafe. Later, I walked into class after tabling and considered taking mine off my sweatshirt out of fear that my professor would judge me or treat me differently,” she continued. “I decided to leave it on and proudly stand against terror, with Israel, and with the hostages.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
‘Overwhelmed With Gratitude’: Georgia Assembly Passes Bill Adopting Leading Definition of Antisemitism
The Georgia General Assembly on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to approve legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Esther Panitch (D) and Rep. John Carson (R), that would require state officials to refer to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when investigating antisemitic hate crimes, drawing praise from national civil rights groups and nonprofits.
The bill, HB30, passed nearly a year after similar legislation was blocked during the waning hours of the 2023 legislative session, an outcome that a legislator described to The Algemeiner at the time as “devastating to watch.” This time it passed in the Georgia House 129-5 and in the Georgia Senate 44-6. It now awaits a signature from Governor Brian Kemp (R).
“I am overwhelmed with gratitude to my co-sponsor Rep. John Carson and colleagues in the Senate for their bipartisan support of this bill,” Rep. Panitch told The Algemeiner in a statement. “Jewish Georgians know our state supports us and can better protect us with the added tool of the IHRA definition.”
HB30, proposed after a series of antisemitic incidents in the state involving harassment and literature drops by neo-Nazi organizations, faced numerous obstacles on its way through the Georgia Assembly. Last year, lobbyists representing the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) worked to add unfriendly amendments to it that would have defeated its purpose, and a Republican lawmaker, Sen Ed. Setzler, amended it to replace the IHRA definition of antisemitism with his own After Setzler proposed his amendment, three Democrats voted to approve it, prompting sponsors of the bill to motion to table it. Further efforts to pass it failed.
A surge of antisemitic incidents in the US and across the world after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7 gave the measure new importance this legislative session, and both parties worked to ensure its success.
Jordan Cope, Director of Policy Education at StandWithUs, an antisemitism watchdog that has filed numerous civil rights grievances on behalf of US college students, commended the Georgia Assembly for passing the bill this year.
“With antisemitism having exploded worldwide post October-7, the IHRA definition remains a tool of paramount importance for helping identify and quell the mounting tide of antisemitism,” Cope said. “Georgia’s moral clarity on this matter sets a clear example from which other states ought to draw inspiration as Jews around the world desperately seek assurances of their own safety.”
StopAntisemitism, a nonprofit that tracks antisemitic incidents across the world, also praised Georgia lawmakers, calling the vote “great news,” noting that the IHRA definition will be used “for purposes of hate crime and prosecution.”
First adopted in 2005 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism states that “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and includes a list of illustrative examples ranging from Holocaust denial to the rejection of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. The definition is used by hundreds of governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations and is supported by lawmakers across the political spectrum.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
The post ‘Overwhelmed With Gratitude’: Georgia Assembly Passes Bill Adopting Leading Definition of Antisemitism first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
The International Court of Justice’s decision on Israel’s conduct in Gaza stops short of calling for a ceasefire—but casts a pall on Holocaust remembrance ceremonies
The International Court of Justice stopped short of ordering a ceasefire in the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel, but ordered Israel to take steps during fighting to prevent genocide, in a decision released in The Hague on Jan. 26. The court also ordered Israel “to prevent and punish” incitement to genocide against Palestinians. The […]
The post The International Court of Justice’s decision on Israel’s conduct in Gaza stops short of calling for a ceasefire—but casts a pall on Holocaust remembrance ceremonies appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.