Anti-Israel students at Columbia University in New York have organized a “strike” to withhold their tuition payments unless the school accedes to their demands, which include purging the campus of investments, trustee members, and academic programs linked to the Jewish state.
“We demand that a referendum be established for students from all schools of Columbia University on the issue of divestment from companies profiting from or otherwise supporting Israeli apartheid and Columbia’s academic ties to Israel,” the students wrote in a document outlining their demands. “This referendum will be binding; if a majority (50% +1) of students vote in favor of divestment, Columbia will immediately divest from all companies profiting from or otherwise supporting Israeli apartheid and end their academic ties to Israel.”
The students also called for Columbia to “immediately remove Board of Trustees members whose personal investments, financial commitments, employment, or other forms of business involvement entail profit from or support for Israeli apartheid.”
The strike for the 2024 spring semester has been organized by the Barnard Columbia Abolitionist Collective, the Young Democratic Socialists of America, and Student-Worker Solidarity organizations.
In a “frequently asked questions” page, the students explained the purpose of their strike. “We want our university to refuse to invest in ethnic cleansing and genocide abroad,” they wrote. “We refuse to accept our university’s silencing of student voices demanding decolonization on our campus. We refuse to allow our tuition dollars to fund apartheid.”
The student strikers did not provide evidence of Israel, the lone democracy in the Middle East, committing genocide, ethnic cleaning, or apartheid. They noted they will call for students to withhold their tuition if they amass 1,000 pledges to strike, claiming 1,000 students would represent about 10 percent of the tuition-paying student body and entail a $20 million loss in revenue for the university
The move came after Columbia suspended Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which normally organizes such anti-Israel initiatives, as an official student group on campus through the end of the fall semester for repeatably violating university policies. It also came a month after after the Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) coalition issued a Nov. 14 statement in the campus newspaper demanding the school “immediately divest all economic and academic stakes in Israel” in order to fight “Israeli apartheid” against Palestinians. The coalition falsely accused Israel of “actively committing genocide and ethnic cleansing” and called on Columbia to cancel the opening of its Tel Aviv Global Center and end a dual degree-program the school offers in partnership with Tel Aviv University.
Last week, meanwhile, Columbia Social Workers 4 Palestine planned an event to celebrate Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israeli communities as a “counteroffensive.”
As for the latest anti-Israel initiative, the students noted going on a “tuition strike” could present financial problems to participants.
“If you are on a payment plan, you can cancel it … if you’re on full or substantial financial aid, it’s still possible for you to go on strike by withholding payments,” the organizers wrote. “If your parents are paying your tuition, we encourage you to have a conversation with your parents about the demands for the tuition strike and how we can organize to protect ourselves against retaliation.”
In an explanation of their motivations, the students acknowledged that refusing to pay the university carried risk.
“The only institutional consequences of late tuition payments is an inability to register for classes with outstanding fees exceeding $1,000,” they added. “We don’t anticipate the tuition strike lasting until Fall ’24 class registration, and we will cross that bridge if it comes to that.”
Columbia has become a hub of anti-Israel activism since the Oct. 7 massacre, coming under intense scrutiny for its response to the Hamas onslaught and resultant war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group. Several students and professors have released multiple letters seemingly blaming Israel for the current conflict and rationalizing the Hamas atrocities. One professor, Jospeh Massad, in a column published in Electronic Intifada called the Hamas attacks “innovative” and referred to the terrorists who para-glided into a music festival in Israel to rape and murder the young people there as “the air force of the Palestinian resistance.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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Together, We Are Winning
JNS.org – It’s challenging to remember life in Israel before the Simchat Torah massacre of Oct. 7., but it’s possible. We can remember the horrid Yom Kippur, just 12 days before the massacre, that required police to control and then stop a prayer service. For over a year beforehand, Israelis were at each other’s throats over proposed judicial reforms. Lines were drawn between right and left, religious and secular, north and south, the center and the periphery.
On Oct. 7, however, we realized that in a divided society everyone is distracted from keeping us safe and secure. Hamas saw an opening and took advantage of it.
Since Oct. 7, Israel changed in many ways. Most importantly, it changed from a divided to a united nation. Israelis from all walks of life came together to serve in IDF reserve units, send supplies to soldiers and refugees, and pray together in mass gatherings.
In early November, an iconic photo went viral on Israeli social media. It showed attorney Ran Bar-Yoshafat, the vice president of the Kohelet Policy Forum that advocated for judicial reform, standing with his arm over the shoulder of Gideon Segev, an activist with Brothers in Arms, the lead organization opposing judicial reform. They were both dressed in their IDF uniforms, rifles slung from their shoulders. They were united against Israel’s enemies.
This unity was refreshing and inspiring. Over multiple elections over the last several years, Israel’s political polarization seemed irreparable. Yet the impossible occurred: Politics gave way to unity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz even set aside their differences and created a landmark agreement to establish an emergency wartime government. Almost all Israeli politicians refused to play the blame game and focused on fighting the enemy together.
The war isn’t over yet, but the question of whether Israel can win is no longer being asked. It’s clear that Israel isn’t just winning the war; it’s crushing the enemy. The IDF has killed over 12,000 Hamas terrorists. Over 70% of Hamas’s fighting force has been demolished. There are few Hamas strongholds left and its leaders are on the run. Israel’s soldiers have experienced unprecedented success.
Israel isn’t only winning on the battlefield; it’s winning the diplomatic war as well. It has successfully staved off the usual demands for an immediate ceasefire. It has also won in the courts. South Africa’s charge of genocide and its request for a court order stopping Israel’s military operations were rejected by the International Court of Justice. There is bipartisan support for Israel in the U.S. Congress, with more than 20 Senate Republicans crossing party lines to vote for a Democratic bill that will help fund Israel’s war effort.
Just as Israel’s division resulted in its devastating losses on Oct. 7, its newborn unity has resulted in its military success. A unified nation is no longer distracted by the divisions that weaken it. It can focus its efforts, energies and resources on the country’s safety and security. Its leaders, soldiers and citizens can focus on preserving the nation’s values. It is strong.
It’s unfortunate that such a devastating tragedy was necessary to unite the people of Israel. It would be easy to allow regret to overcome the nation. Instead, it’s time for the Jewish people to redouble their efforts to preserve our newfound unity.
It won’t be long before Israel’s leaders and the IDF declare victory over Israel’s enemies and the end of the war. There will be celebrations of victory and memorials for the heroes we lost. The post-war recovery will be shortened by convening commissions of inquiry and holding new elections. That is when the Israeli people must apply the lessons of Oct. 7.
If Israel has learned its lesson, it will come together and hold a civilized election while maintaining its essential unity. Thus, Israel will remain strong and secure. But if Israel hasn’t learned its lesson and unity dissipates, it will be weakened and less secure.
To avoid this, the Israeli people must incorporate the lesson of unity into their national soul and ensure that it remains eternal.
A Strong Europe Benefits the US and Israel
JNS.org – When former President Donald Trump speaks, exploding heads tend to follow, often for good reason. His recent comments about NATO, saying he would not protect European countries that do not pay their dues to the alliance, set off alarm bells at home and across the Atlantic. In the case of Trump, however, one can despise the messenger and recognize that his message has some merit.
At a recent rally in South Carolina, Trump caused chaos by speaking of a conversation he had with a foreign leader when he was president. Trump claimed he told the leader that not only would he “not protect” NATO members that are delinquent in their payments or fail to meet their defense spending requirements, but he would also encourage Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” with them.
European Council President Charles Michel responded by saying that Trump’s statements “serve only Putin’s interest.” Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg said, “Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the U.S.”
These are valid concerns and point to real consequences that could result if Trump’s words become U.S. policy.
At the same time, however, Michel himself acknowledged that Trump’s statements underscore the importance of European investment in the continent’s “nascent efforts” to strengthen its “strategic autonomy” and defense capabilities. European nations have already started that process and well they should.
According to a 2023 NATO report, Russian and Chinese defense spending has increased 277% and 566% respectively since 2000, while European investment remained flat. Despite signing the 2014 Defense Investment Pledge following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, only two of the top five European NATO allies—Poland and the United Kingdom—kept their promise to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. According to 2023 estimates, they spent 3.9% and 2.07% respectively. Only 11 of the 31 NATO countries are expected to meet their defense obligations in 2024.
However, there has been some movement on this issue. Germany will reach its goal of spending 2% of its GDP on defense in 2024 and the E.U. has pledged $54 billion to Ukraine, relieving the United States of some of the aid burden.
The existing NATO-based global security apparatus can be understood as a triangle with the U.S. at the peak and NATO allies together with Israel forming a narrow foundation. Such a triangle is highly unstable. Russia’s war in Ukraine, China’s ongoing power plays and Iran’s malign behavior are proof of this.
The United States, Europe, Israel and all Western-aligned countries are better off with a militarily strong Europe. After decades of neglect, European nations must refortify their military capabilities and reassess their strategic partnerships in key areas such as defense, energy, security, supply chains of essential goods and technology.
European nations that understand this have been forging a deeper and broader relationship with Israel. Germany is now Israel’s largest defense trading partner and has acquired the Arrow missile-defense system.
Led by Poland, Central and Eastern European nations that fear Russian aggression are aligning with Israel due to shared strategic interests. European nations are looking to friendshore essential goods to Israel and the other Abraham Accords countries. There’s hope that Saudi Arabia won’t be too far behind.
What does all this mean for the Western alliance and the United States?
Assuming America maintains its status as the top military power in the world, it will remain at the peak of the global security triangle. However, if Europe and Israel align their strategic interests and invest commensurately in their respective defense and security capabilities, the base of the triangle widens, creating a more stable triad that can better withstand and confront global instability.
Moreover, strengthening Europe and Israel strategically and militarily reduces the burden on the United States.
Trump is often his own worst enemy, relying on over-the-top and insolent rhetoric as his preferred means of persuasion. In this case, however, his language, as outlandish as many consider it to be, contained an important warning.
That is, there may come a day when Europe can no longer depend on the United States to protect it. As a result, European leaders need to look after their own countries’ national interests.
At Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, IDF Achieves War Goals with Precision
JNS.org – On Feb. 15, the IDF announced formally that it had begun operating in Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, which like every other medical, educational and civilian site in Gaza served as a Hamas military hub.
As IDF special forces entered the complex, some 200 Hamas members surrendered without firing a shot.
The IDF began the operation with a call to the hospital’s director from Col. Moshe Tetro, head of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, who is responsible for the IDF’s humanitarian efforts throughout the war.
“In the past month, the IDF has asked the residents of Khan Yunis to evacuate to safer areas, in the humanitarian areas of Al-Mawasi [in southern Gaza] and Deir al-Balah [in central Gaza]. We have information that proves that the Hamas terrorist organization is continuing its military activity in the Nasser hospital compound, and that the compound was used to hold Israeli hostages,” Tetro told the director.
Tetro called on Hamas to exit the site, as well as for thousands of Gazan civilians who had set up camp in and around the hospital to leave.
Speaking to journalists last week, Tetro said the Nasser operation was “inevitable, since Hamas repeatedly and systematically uses hospitals for their terrorist activities.”
Out of an estimated 10,500 Gazan civilians in the compound, the IDF evacuated around 8,000 before forces entered, Tetro assessed.
Once Israeli forces entered the hospital, he said, the IDF continued to work with medical staff to protect patients and move them out of combat zones. A “large amount” of water and food, including baby food, was also delivered by the IDF to those remaining in the facility, he said.
The IDF was in “close touch” with hospital staff regarding medical supplies, “and it is our understanding that there is no shortage of medical supplies at the moment,” he said.
During the operation, the hospital also received a generator from the IDF to ensure continued power supply to the Intensive Care Unit.
On Saturday, Feb. 23, a fault unrelated to the IDF operations was discovered in the hospital’s electrical infrastructure, and the IDF has brought in technicians to address it, said Tetro.
“Finally, in the days since the operation we have coordinated several convoys of ambulances and assisted in transferring patients… to more suitable places to receive treatments,” he said.
The IDF’s raid on Nasser hospital would have likely been considered impossible by many observers prior to the launch of Israel’s ground operation in Gaza on Oct. 27.
Yet today, it has become the norm, and with roughly three-quarters of Gaza under IDF control, the military has demonstrated that despite predictions of doom, it can operate in the most challenging urban warfare environment in the world.
With more than 10,000 Hamas terrorists killed and several thousand more injured, and growing numbers of key Hamas tunnels taken out of commission (the military does not seek to destroy every tunnel under Gaza), the IDF has removed roughly half of Hamas’s terror army from the battlefield, including tens of Hamas battalion and company commanders.
The IDF is gradually moving into the more targeted mopping-up phase in the north and central Gaza. While there will always be terrorists in Gaza, the IDF is steadily achieving Israel’s war aim of shattering Hamas as an organized terror army and subsequently, as a political regime.
Despite the vast complexities of waging war in the Strip, the IDF has demonstrated that it has developed the tools to make consistent progress, while ensuring humanitarian supply lines and fully observing international laws of war.
Addressing the issue of humanitarian aid trucks entering Gaza, Tetro said that on the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom Crossing, there are “more than 450 trucks waiting for the international organizations to take the goods and to distribute them inside Gaza. We are ready and willing to facilitate the entrance of tens, if not hundreds of trucks every day.”
He added, “Unfortunately, today and yesterday, the United Nations didn’t show up to work. So as you probably have heard me say before, the bottleneck is not the Israeli side.”
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