During a tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau this week, a group of Jewish school students from the UK placed photos of the nearly 200 remaining hostages held by the Hamas terror group in Gaza on the train tracks leading up to the gates of the Nazis’ largest death camp.
Zak Jeffay — director of Jewish education at JRoots, which organized the trip to Poland for students from London’s JFS — said Auschwitz was the “ultimate symbol” of Jew-hatred and as such it made sense to pay tribute to the Israeli hostages outside the death camp.
“One of the big topics students grapple with time and time again is understanding where the antisemitism of 80 years ago fits into what we’re experiencing and understanding today,” Jeffay told The Algemeiner.
“The murder and kidnapping of Jews today is happening against the backdrop of what we describe when we tell the story of the 1.1 million Jews in Auschwitz,” he added.
According to Talia Giffin, a teacher at the school, placing the images of the hostages served as a “strong reminder to students that unfortunately we’re still living in times of people hating Jews for no reason.”
Being confronted with the faces of the hostages before entering the Nazi concentration camp was “a stark reminder that all of these things are still going on and that what happened on Oct. 7 was no different to the horrific things that occurred in World War II,” Giffin told The Algemeiner.
Giffin added that the move also symbolized the “inseparable” connection between Israel and Judaism.
“It negates any argument trying to separate anti-Zionism from antisemitism. It showed clear as day that hating Israel is hating Jews — they are one and the same. It’s really important to teach that to our students,” she said.
There has been a global surge in antisemitism since Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, with the US and several European countries experiencing record numbers of antisemitic incidents. Holocaust survivors from across the world have released powerful testimonies saying they feel unsafe for the second time in their lives since the Oct. 7 onslaught, in which Palestinian terrorists led by Hamas killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped over 240 others as hostages.
There are currently just under 200 people remaining in captivity in Hamas-ruled Gaza following a ceasefire deal in which dozens of the hostages taken last month were released.
During the six-day trip to Auschwitz, the biggest death camp of the Holocaust, the students also visited Jewish sites in Warsaw, Lublin, and Krakow.
Menucha Sampson, a 17-year-old student at the school, said the decision to place the images of the hostages on the train tracks brought a “detached history back to the present day.”
Another student, Jake Kushner, 17, said: “The Holocaust ended but that hasn’t stopped antisemitism growing. People have no limits when it comes to attacking Jews.”
But despite the horrors of both the past and the present, the trip ended on a note of optimism, he said.
“By the end of it, we were walking out [of the camp] singing Am Yisrael Chai (“the nation of Israel lives”), and that showed they’ll never actually succeed,” Kushner said.
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Top Swiss Diplomat Appointed to Mediate Tensions Between Jewish Tourists, Businesses in Davos Ski Resort
The tourism authority in the exclusive Swiss mountain resort of Davos has appointed a top diplomat to mediate the growing tensions between local businesses and Orthodox Jewish visitors as complaints of antisemitism increase.
Michael Ambühl — the former State Secretary of Switzerland previously in charge of the country’s relationship with the European Union (EU) — will head a task force to tackle the problem, Swiss media outlets reported on Friday.
The announcement of Ambühl’s appointment comes just days after the resort was roiled by the refusal of a restaurant that operates a ski equipment rental store to provide services to Jewish guests.
A sign in Hebrew at the Pischa Restaurant in Davos stated that “due to various very annoying incidents, including the theft of a sledge, we no longer rent sports equipment to our Jewish brothers. This affects all sports equipment such as sledges, airboards, skis and snowshoes. Thank you for your understanding.”
Swiss police are currently investigating the incident as a possible case of discrimination. One Israeli tourist reported that he had visited the Pischa Restaurant where he “pretended not to understand Hebrew and asked if we could rent the equipment. After the woman consulted with the manager, she rejected our request.”
The tourism authority’s decision has irritated the country’s main Jewish representative body, the Swiss Israelite Association (SIG), which had been engaged in a separate dialog with the authority about accommodating Jewish guests that was abruptly closed down last year.
“The latest case shows that something is obviously wrong in Davos,” SIG General Secretary Jonathan Kreutner said in remarks quoted by the Blick news outlet.
Kreutner said that “comparable problems are not known from other holiday destinations, especially in those where our dialogue program is still active.” Kreutner acknowledged that the tourism authority “wants to take a new path, but we don’t yet know what it looks like and where it will lead.”
‘Israel Outright Rejects International Dictates’: Biden Creating Plan For Palestinian State, Netanyahu Pushes Back: Report
US President Joe Biden, along with a number of Arab states, are quickly working to form a plan to end the Israel-Hamas war and create a Palestinian state, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, sparking pushback from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The first step of such a plan would be for Israel and Hamas to agree to a six-week ceasefire in exchange for the Israeli hostages. Then, during that pause in fighting, the U.S. and its Arab partners would announce the plan and start to form an interim Palestinian government.
The US, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates are all reportedly are part of the talks, which have an ultimate goal of creating a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Washington Post also suggests that Israel may be expected to expel many of its own citizens from West Bank settlements and help rebuild Gaza.
The development of these plans is part of the reason Biden has cautioned Israel against moving on to fighting Hamas in Rafah — the terrorist group’s last stronghold. He believes such a ground offensive could jeopardize the prospect of peace.
In a statement on Thursday, the White House said Biden “raised the situation in Rafah [during a call with Netanyahu], and reiterated his view that a military operation should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the civilians in Rafah.”
In response to these reports and the conversation he had with Biden, Netanyahu wrote that “Israel outright rejects international dictates regarding a permanent settlement with the Palestinians. Such an arrangement will be reached only through direct negotiations between the parties, without preconditions.”
He added, “Israel will continue to oppose the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Such recognition in the wake of the October 7 massacre would give a huge reward to unprecedented terrorism and prevent any future peace settlement.”
The tension represents the latest hiccup in Biden and Netanyahu’s relationship, which has grown increasingly sour since October 7 as Biden put pressure on Israel to wind down its fight against Hamas.
Netanyahu, jpwever, was not the only one to question the prudence of the proposed American-led plan. Left-leaning group Democratic Majority for Israel said in a post on Twitter/X: “We have always favored a two state solution. But right now, how do we ensure the lesson does not become ‘sheer evil,’ pays? That must be a central part of any plan.”
Richard Goldberg, a Senior Advisor at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies contended that the plan “is doomed to fail for several reasons. Two big ones: It’s premised on Hamas surviving and involves Qatar.”
“Israel will be in a much stronger position after it takes Rafah,” he argued.
Harvard University Issued Subpoenaed for Antisemitism Documents
Following weeks of warnings and ultimatums, the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce subpoenaed Harvard University on Friday to hand over documents related to its handling of allegations of antisemitic intimidation and harassment.
The order represents an escalation of tactics by the House Committee, which began investigating Harvard University last semester to determine whether it ignores complaints of discrimination when the victims who lodge them are Jewish. Since then, Harvard has been asked twice to submit a trove of materials requested by the committee.
Last week, Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) wrote Harvard a censorious letter accusing school officials of obstructing the committee’s investigation with “grossly insufficient” responses to its inquires and submitting content of a “limited and dilatory nature.”
In a statement to Reuters, Harvard maintained that it has cooperated with the committee in “good faith,” providing “10 submissions totaling more than 3,500 pages that directly address key areas of inquiry put forward by the committee.” Chairwoman Foxx told the outlet, however that the problem is one of “quality, not quantity,” suggesting that Harvard is frenetically pantomiming compliance without providing anything of substance.
Foxx has requested “all reports of antisemitic acts or incidents and “related communications” going back to 2021 that were sent to Harvard’s offices of the president, general counsel, dean of students, police department, human resources, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, among others. She also requested documentation on Harvard Kennedy School professor Marshall Ganz, who, the school determined, had “denigrated” several students for being “Israeli Jews.” Originally, Foxx gave Harvard a deadline of Jan. 23 by which to comply.
“While a subpoena was unwarranted, Harvard remains committed to cooperating with the committee and will continue to provide additional materials, while protecting the legitimate privacy, safety, and security concerns of our community,” Harvard told Reuters.
“We will use our full congressional authority to hold these schools accountable for their failure on the global stage,” said committee member and Harvard Alumnus Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) in a statement announcing the action.
The past four months have been described by critics of Harvard as a low-point in the history of the school, America’s oldest and, arguably, most prestigious institution of higher education. Since the October 7 massacre by Hamas, Harvard has been accused of fostering a culture of racial grievance and antisemitism, while important donors have suspended funding for programs, and its first Black president, Claudine Gay, resigned in disgrace last month after being outed as a serial plagiarizer. Her tenure was the shortest in the school’s history.
As scenes of Hamas terrorists abducting children and desecrating dead bodies circulated worldwide, 31 student groups at Harvard, led by the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) issued a statement blaming Israel for the attack and accusing the Jewish state of operating an “open air prison” in Gaza, despite that the Israeli military withdrew from the territory in 2005. In the weeks that followed, anti-Zionists stormed the campus screaming “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “globalize the intifada,” terrorizing Jewish students and preventing some from attending class.
In Novevmber, a mob of anti-Zionists — including Ibrahim Bharmal, editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review — followed, surrounded, and intimidated a Jewish student. “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!” the crush of people screamed in a call-and-response chant into the ears of the student who —as seen in the footage — was forced to duck and dash the crowd to free himself from the cluster of bodies that encircled him.
By Dec., Claudine Gay — along with Elizabeth Magill of University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and Sally Kornbluth of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) — was hauled before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to account for her administration’s handling of the problem. For weeks, Gay was reluctant to punish students who chanted genocidal slogans and unequivocally condemn antisemitism. During questioning, she told the committee that determining whether calling for a genocide of Jews constitutes a violation of school rules depends “on the context.”
Two days later, the committee launched investigations of Harvard, Penn, and MIT.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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