Less than two weeks after Hamas’ brutal October 7 terror invasion, as Israel was conducting intense strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza and preparing for its ground invasion, the Houthi movement in Yemen surprised the world by embarking on a terror campaign against Israel.
The barrage of five cruise missiles and roughly 30 UAVs were launched at both Israel and the Red Sea region. Almost all of these aerial threats were intercepted by a US naval ship operating in the Red Sea. Attacks on ships in the Red Sea followed soon after.
To understand why a Yemen-based group is intent on attacking a country almost 2,000 miles away, it is important to understand who the Houthis are, the role that antisemitism plays in the movement’s worldview, and how it is connected to both Iran and its regional proxies.
Who Are the Houthis?
The group known as the Houthis (officially named Ansar Allah == Partisans of God) first emerged in the 1990s/2000s in northern Yemen as part of a religious revival by Zaidi-Shi’ite Muslims.
By the early 2000s, the group had grown into a militant movement led by Hussein al-Houthi — and, in 2004, it first sought to overthrow the government of Yemen. Al-Houthi was killed in this first uprising, and the group is now led by his brother, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.
By 2009, there had been six rounds of fighting between the Houthis and the armed forces of Yemen, resulting in Houthi control over part of northern Yemen.
In late 2014/early 2015, following Yemen’s revolution and the weakening of governmental power, the Houthis gained control over Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and sought to depose the internationally-recognized Yemeni government, prompting the Yemeni civil war.
As part of the civil war, a wide range of Middle Eastern and North African countries have contributed forces to a Saudi-led coalition that seeks to back up the Yemeni government. This has led to Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Houthis’ Antisemitism
Hatred for Israel and the Jewish people is at the core of the Houthi movement’s worldview.
Part of the official slogan of the Houthi movement is “Death to America, Death to Israel, Damn the Jews.”
The Houthi movement’s antisemitism stems back to the early 2000s, to the group’s founder, Hussein al-Houthi.
Al-Houthi’s sermons were rife with hatred for both Israel and the Jewish people, with him calling for the “elimination and destruction” of the Jewish state, and warning that Muslim and Arab nations “will not be delivered from the evil of the Jews except by their eradication, and by the elimination of their entity.”
Al-Houthi also blamed Jews for the world’s woes and accused them of “manufacturing world opinion.”
The legacy of Hussein al-Houthi’s antisemitism continues to this day.
Ever since the attacks of October 7, Houthi outlets and leaders have unleashed a wave of antisemitism online, quoting the fabricated antisemitic tome The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, lauding Adolf Hitler, and spreading antisemitic caricatures.
While the Houthis’ invective against Israel was largely bluster until October 2023, its antisemitism did have real consequences for the extremely small Jewish community that existed in territory controlled by the Houthis.
The Houthis as Part of Iran’s “Axis of Resistance”
Similar to Hamas and Hezbollah, the Houthis are a recipient of patronage from the Islamic Republic of Iran, including advanced weapons and training.
However, although the Houthis are considered to be part of Iran’s “axis of resistance” against Israel and the West — which includes Hamas, Hezbollah, and Shiite Iraqi militias — the Yemen-based group acts independently of the Islamic Republic and is not beholden to every whim of their patrons in Tehran.
Nevertheless, despite the nuances of the relationship between Iran and the Houthis, it is clear that the latest attacks from Yemen toward Israel and its allies in the Red Sea region are in line with Iran’s post-October 7 policy of “unification of the fronts.” This policy aims to apply pressure on Israel from different fronts so that it cannot concentrate all its military power in the fight against Hamas in Gaza.
Several Western officials have surmised that it is extremely likely that the Houthis’ attacks have been sanctioned by the Islamic Republic, if not outright ordered by it.
The Houthi War Against Israel
In the days following the October 7 Hamas attacks, Houthi representatives made several public statements expressing support for Hamas, declaring that they were “in complete coordination with … the axis of resistance,” and threatening both Israel and the United States.
As noted above, it was almost two weeks later before the Houthis fired the first shot against Israel.
Since then (as of December 17, 2023), several other missiles and UAVs have been launched by the Houthis toward Israel, all of which have been intercepted by Israel, the United States, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia.
However daunting the idea of a Houthi attack against Israel is, the aerial threat posed by the Yemeni group to the Jewish state is smaller when compared to that of Hamas and Hezbollah, due to the considerable distance between Yemen and Israel.
The much greater danger posed by the Houthis to Israel is the threat to both Israel-connected ships and ships bound for Israel in the Red Sea.
On November 14, 2023, the Houthis warned that any ships with a connection to Israel passing through the Red Sea would be attacked.
This threat came to fruition five days later, when Houthi fighters hijacked the Galaxy Leader, a ship owned by a company that is headed by an Israeli businessman.
In the following days, several other ships in the Red Sea were attacked, despite the fact that some of them had no connection to Israel at all.
On December 9, the Houthis raised the ante by threatening any ship headed for Israel, no matter the national origins of that vessel.
This threat is serious enough that several multinational corporations have suspended shipping through the Red Sea.
In response to the Houthi threats and attacks, the United States is forming a multinational coalition known as Operation Prosperity Guardian, which will “tackle the challenge posed by this non-state actor.”
U.S warns Houthi rebels to stop their attacks on ships in the Red Sea and against Israel
‘Their idea is to put pressure on Israel but also on the West… About 12% percent of the global shipping goes through the Red Sea, ‘ explains @IISS_org‘s Research Fellow @fab_hinz pic.twitter.com/soWbHh4mKS
— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) December 15, 2023
In an effort to harm Israel following October 7, the Houthi movement has also initiated an economic war against the Jewish state, reducing traffic by 80% at its southern port in Eilat and forcing Israeli shipping companies to move in a circuitous route, raising the prices of goods in Israel.
However, the brazenness of the Houthis’ hostilities toward Israel might be its undoing, as it has set itself against not only Israel but major regional and international powers with a vested interest in protecting the critical Red Sea shipping route.
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.
Harvard Alumni File Lawsuit Claiming Campus Antisemitism ‘Devalues’ Their Diplomas
A group of ten Harvard University alumni filed a lawsuit against the institution on Wednesday, accusing it of “devaluing” their degrees through permitting and fostering an environment of antisemitism, support for terrorism, and anti-Israel sentiment.
Filed in a Massachusetts federal court, the alumni claims that Harvard has breached an implicit contract with its graduates, promising to maintain the institution’s prestige, which they allege has been compromised due to a toxic campus environment. This, they argue, has led potential employers and prestigious law firms to distance themselves from Harvard alumni.
“Harvard has directly caused the value and prestige of plaintiffs’ Harvard degrees to be diminished and made a mockery out of Harvard graduates in the employment world and beyond,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit argues that the university’s administration has failed to combat campus anti-semitism, and has consistently overlooked assaults on Jewish students and calls by students and faculty for the annihilation of Israel. It highlighted, among other things, an open letter signed by more than thirty student organizations blaming Israel for the October 7 Hamas-led attack, and campus protests which included chants like “Long live the intifada!” and “There is only one solution: intifada revolution!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine is Arab!”
The suit also points to then-Harvard president Claudine Gay’s testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where she stated that calls for genocide against Jews would only violate bullying and harassment policies “depending on the context,” as indicative of the school’s tolerance of antisemitism.
The lawsuit is part of a growing dissatisfaction among graduates over what they perceive as rampant antisemitism on U.S. campuses, according to attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of legal aid group, Shurat HaDin, who is representing the alumni alongside New York-based lawyer, Robert Tolchin.
Darshan-Leitner criticized the colleges for becoming “hate centers” under the guise of academic freedom.
The lawsuit, Darshan-Leitner said, reveals the “growing outrage and contempt that graduates all across the US are feeling over the wild antisemitism and hate speech being encouraged and explained away on the American campuses.”
“This dangerous weaponization of higher education by radical faculty and students as well as the impotent administration response, all justified under the guise of academic freedom, has turned the colleges into hate centers which has greatly devalued their reputation and diplomas,” she said, adding that the suit could prompt similar actions from graduates of other institutions.
Tolchin accused the university of succumbing to “the flavor of the month, the lowest level of discourse.”
“Harvard’s seal proclaims “Light and Truth” in Latin and Hebrew–yes, Hebrew, the language spoken by the indigenous Israelites. Yet light and truth have been hard to find at Harvard. The darkness of antisemitism and the dishonesty, hate, and discrimination have cast a pall over Harvard so embarrassing that people do not wish to be associated with Harvard,” Tolchin said.
Harvard has been accused of facilitating an educational environment that is unwelcoming to Israelis and Jews for years, with the lawsuit citing annual events such as “Israel Apartheid Week” and incidents targeting Jewish students and symbols on campus.
Antisemitism expert Dara Horn, a Harvard alumnus who was asked to join Gay’s anti-Semitism advisory committee, authored a damning essay published this week in The Atlantic in which she detailed the Jew hatred on campus predating October 7.
She noted that staff members “who grade Jewish students used university-issued class lists to share information about events organized by pro-Palestine groups;” In one instance, a professor continued teaching after rejecting the findings of an investigation by Harvard after he was found discriminating against several Israeli students. Last spring, a student was asked to leave because her identity as an Israeli was making her classmates “uncomfortable.”
She also pointed to courses themselves “premised on anti-Semitic lies”, pointing to one called “The Settler Colonial Determinants of Health”, and noted that lecturers invited to speak at the campus included some who peddled in blood libels that Israelis harvest Palestinians’ organs or that the IDF uses Palestinian children for weapons testing.
“The mountain of proof at Harvard revealed a reality in which Jewish students’ access to their own university (classes, teachers, libraries, dining halls, public spaces, shared student experiences) was directly compromised,” Horn writes. The alumni’s legal action comes alongside another lawsuit filed by six current Harvard students on January 10, claiming that the university has not done enough to combat antisemitism on campus which had become a “bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment.” It also comes a day after a professor at the university, Walter Johnson, resigned from two anti-Zionist campus groups after they posted antisemitic cartoons.
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Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7
Israeli Culture Minister Miki Zohar sent the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) a letter on Thursday urging them to approve Israel’s submission to the Eurovision song competition, after the EBU called it “too political.”
“As you know, the State of Israel is experiencing one of the most difficult and complex periods since its establishment. We lost our loved ones, and there are women, men and children who are still held captive by a terrorist organization,” Zohar said.
Israeli media reported that the broadcasting union would not approve the song, called “October Rain,” after a number of countries even issued threats to boycott the event if Israel participates. The EBU issued a statement saying “We are currently in the process of carefully examining the lyrics of the song – a process that is confidential between the EBU and the Public Broadcasting Corporation until a final decision is made. To all broadcasters, they have until March 11th to officially submit their songs. If a song does not meet the criteria for any reason, the corporation will be given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics, according to the contest rules.”
“The song that Israel sent to the Eurovision Song Contest was chosen by a professional committee made up of well-known names in the local music and entertainment industry,” Zohar added. “It is a moving song, discussing renewal and revival from a very fragile reality of loss and destruction, and describes the current public mood in Israel these days. We see now most clearly because our lives – as one, united society – manage to overcome even the greatest suffering. This is not a political song.”
Despite the news that the song by Israeli singer Eden Golan would not be approved, The CEO of KAN, Israel’s national broadcasting service, and the body that approves the song, Golan Yokhpaz, said “We will not change the words or the song, even at the cost of Israel not participating in Eurovision this year.” Adding “The Israel Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) is in dialogue with the EBU regarding the song that will represent Israel at Eurovision.”
Zohar said later in a television interview “The songwriters, KAN, and the singer will have to make the decisions at the end of the day… I do think that Israel should participate in Eurovision because it is important for us at this time to be represented there, and to express ourselves throughout Europe.”
Speaking to the EBU, he said, “We trust that you will continue in your important task of keeping the competition free from any attempt at political manipulation.”
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UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’
The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories referred to Israelis as “colonialists” who have “fake identities” while quoting another Twitter/X account on Wednesday, raising questions about the impartiality of the international body.
She highlighted the following quote from Mizrahi: “free Palestine scares them [Westerners] bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities.”
” free Palestine scares them bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities..” https://t.co/N1wkOPgKJs
— Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur oPt (@FranceskAlbs) February 21, 2024
The original post claimed that “All colonial powers work together to guarantee the supremacy of made-up identities over genuine, native ones. Because if this model breaks anywhere, it will collapse everywhere.”
Mizrahi argued that “A Palestinian state would be a major, major moral blow to white, Western colonialism.”
The tweet was met with immediate condemnation.
David Friedman, who served as the US Ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021 under former President Donald Trump wrote that her tweet was “Exhibit A why the UN is a failure and why we no longer belong in that bastion of hypocrisy and corruption.”
An account documenting Hamas’ October 7 atrocities asked, “If Israel is indeed a ‘colonialist project’ Where should all the Israelis go if this project should be dismantled?”
The perception of UN bias against Israel has also been boosted by the fact that, in 2023, Israel was condemned twice as often as all other countries combined.
It is not the first time Albanese has made comments that raise eyebrows. Earlier this month, in response to French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron calling the October 7 attack “largest anti-Semitic massacre of the 21st century,” she said “No, Mr. Macron. The victims of October 7 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression.”
Following backlash, she wrote that she opposes “all racism, including anti-Semitism, a global threat. But explaining these crimes as anti-Semitism obscures their true cause.”
Hamas’ founding charter, in a section about the “universality” of its cause, reads: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
Albanese has also argued that Israel should make peace with Hamas, saying that “It needs to make peace with Hamas in order to not be threatened by Hamas.”
When asked about what people do not understand about Hamas, she added, “If someone violates your right to self-determination, you are entitled to embrace resistance.”
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