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Cornell University President Resigns Amid Pro-Hamas Demonstrations

Cornell University anti-Israel protesters set up encampment on the University’s Arts Quad, May 3, 2024. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

Cornell University president Martha Pollack has resigned amid weeks of convulsive protests and disruptions on campus caused by mobs of pro-Hamas students and faculty.

Pollack made the decision in December, according to a statement she issued on Wednesday, and will formally leave office in June.

“Continued delay is not in the university’s best interests, both because of the need to have sufficient time for a smooth transition before the start of the academic year, and because I do not want my announcement to interfere with the celebration of our newest graduates at commencement in just a few weeks,” Pollack said.

She continued, “I understand that there will be lots of speculation about my decision, so let me be as clear as I can: this decision is mine and mine alone. After seven fruitful and gratifying years as Cornell’s president — and after a career in research and academia spanning five decades — I’m ready for a new chapter in my life.”

Pollack’s departure makes her the third Ivy League president to quit the job in just the past six months. Elizabeth Magill left the University of Pennsylvania in December after telling a US congressional committee there are circumstances in which she would not punish students for clamoring for a genocide of Jews in Israel, and Claudine Gay resigned from Harvard University after being outed as a serial plagiarist by a series of investigative journalists.

The explosion of antisemitism that Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel set off on college campuses across the US has been the one constant variable in all three resignations.

“President Martha E. Pollack, who oversaw the creation of significant interdisciplinary programs, including a new school of public policy; expanded the affordability and accessibility of a Cornell education; and whose navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic made Cornell a role model for institutions around the world, will retire on June 30, after serving more than seven years as the university’s 14th president,” the university said in a statement extolling Pollack’s tenure.

Other assessments of Pollack’s presidency have been opprobrious, arguing that she implemented policies that lowered academic standards and fostered left-wing extremism and antisemitism.

“Martha Pollack was the architect of Cornell’s disastrous race-focused [diversity, equity, and inclusion] initiative that balkanized the campus and inevitably led to targeting of Jewish and pro-Israel students,” Legal Insurrection writer and Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson tweeted. “While I wish her well in her personal life, it is time for the Cornell Trustees to turn the ship around, to eliminate DEI programming as is taking place elsewhere, and to refocus the campus on the inherent dignity of each individual without regard to group identity.”

US Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) was also critical of Pollack, saying she was “slow to condemn the rampant antisemitism on Cornell’s campus and has failed to protect Jewish students from vile terrorist sympathizers.” Tenney added, “Her resignation is no surprise, as she lacks the courage to lead during these difficult times.”

Antisemitism at Cornell University has presented numerous challenges to Pollack since Oct. 7. Less than three weeks after the tragedy, a student posted on a social media a desire to murder Jewish men, rape Jewish women, and attack the campus’ kosher dining hall. Faculty have uttered extreme rhetoric too. Days earlier, history professor Russell Rickford publicly said that Hamas’ atrocities were “energizing” and “exhilarating.”

Disruptions on campus have peaked in recent weeks with the installment of an illegal “encampment” where, since April 25, pro-Hamas students have lived and protested the university’s investments in companies linked to Israel. Pollack has overseen at least four full and temporary suspensions of the protesters and issued ultimatums to those who refuse to leave, according to reports by The Cornell Daily Sun. As of Wednesday, student demonstrators remain there, along with some faculty.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad Releases New Propaganda Video of Israeli Hostage

Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov as seen in a propaganda video released by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Photo: Screenshot

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group on Tuesday released a short propaganda video featuring Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov, 28, who was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists during Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

The 30-second undated video shows Trufanov, an Amazon employee, identifying himself and saying that he will soon discuss what has happened to him and other hostages in Gaza.

Similar videos have been released by terrorists groups in Gaza. Israel has lambasted them as psychological warfare.

Trufanov’s mother said in a video released by the family that she was happy to see her son after all this time, but “it was heartbreaking” that he had been a hostage for so long.

Trufanov was an engineer at the Israeli microelectronics company Annapurna Labs, which Amazon owns.

Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists abducted over 250 people during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Trufanov was kidnapped alongside his mother, grandmother, and girlfriend.

All three were released as part of a temporary ceasefire agreement negotiated in November. His father, Vitaly Trufanov, was one of the 1,200 people killed during the Hamas massacre.

“The proof of life from Alexsander (Sasha) Trufanov is additional evidence that the Israeli government must give a significant mandate to the negotiating team,” the Hostages Families Forum, which represents the families of the hostages, said in a statement.

More than 120 hostages remain in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. Islamic Jihad is a separate but allied terrorist organization in the Palestinian enclave. Both are backed by Iran, which provides them with money, weapons, and training.

Negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt, and the US to reach a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have been stalled for weeks.

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Gal Gadot’s Action Movie Nabs Second Place on Netflix List of Most Watched Films in Second Half of 2023

Gal Gadot as Rachel Stone in a scene from the trailer for “Heart of Stone.” Photo: YouTube screenshot

Netflix released its engagement report that details the films with the most views from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2023, and Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s action thriller Heart of Stone secured the number two spot with 109.6 million views.

The film — starring Gadot alongside Jamie Dornan and Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt in leading roles — was the runner-up to Leave the World Behind, the drama starring Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, and Ethan Hawke that garnered 121 million views on Netflix.

Heart of Stone, directed by Tom Harper, was released on the streaming giant on Aug. 11 of last year. The action film is about international intelligence operative Rachel Stone, played by Gadot, who goes on a mission to protect an artificial intelligence system, known as The Heart, from falling in the wrong hands. The film was produced by Pilot Wave, a company founded by Gadot and her husband Jaron Varsano.

Gadot also stars in Netflix’s most popular film of all time, Red Notice, alongside Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds.

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