Throughout December, campus BDS and antisemitism remained shaped by the ongoing war in Gaza.
The main event of the month was the appearance of the presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before a House committee investigating antisemitism on campus.
Most controversially, the presidents were asked if calls for genocide against Jews would be protected speech.
Then-UPenn president Liz Magill stated that “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment, yes,” adding that “It is a context dependent decision.” The answer was echoed by Harvard president Claudine Gay, who stated that “it depends on the context,” and MIT president Sally Kornbluth, who noted the school would act “if the speech turns into conduct.” Gay added that calls for intifada were “evil,” and “personally abhorrent,”and “at odds with the values of Harvard,” but declined to say whether they violated university policies.
The presidents’ inept responses provoked a firestorm of criticism from the White House, the public, lawmakers, and alums, and resulted in Magill’s and Gay’s resignations, along with the head of Penn’s board of trustees.
The donor revolt against academia that began in October when universities faltered in issuing statements condemning Hamas widened in December. Several elite institutions, especially Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, reported losing major gifts, missing fundraising targets, lowering the “donor door” for special consideration, and expressing the need to reestablish relationships with alumni.
At the same time, the Hamas attack and the BDS-inspired campus responses have made the larger problem of academia’s intellectual and political monoculture more broadly understood.
This situation has long been cast in terms of political parties, such as the near absolute dominance of Democratic voters and donors within the humanities and social sciences. But the intellectual aspect was fully revealed by support for Hamas’ atrocities from students and professors defending “decolonization” and violence.
In response to the donor revolt at the University of Pennsylvania, some 900 faculty members signed a letter expressing opposition to what was described as “attempts by trustees, donors, and other external actors to interfere with our academic policies and to undermine academic freedom.”
Donor objections to specific presidents and policies, above all Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and their powerful bureaucracies, have been in the open since October. Reports from Princeton and elsewhere have shown that concerns from Jewish students are dismissed and even ridiculed by DEI bureaucrats. As calls to dismantle DEI bureaucracies have increased, Jewish organizations have sought to integrate Jewish concerns within existing DEI initiatives. These run counter to the emerging political wave against DEI as a whole.
Faculty members remain at the forefront of “pro-Palestine” activities on campus. “Faculty for Justice in Palestine” chapters continue to be formed, including at Rutgers University, Princeton University, the University of Michigan, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Hawaii, and elsewhere. The groups are formed under the aegis of the leading BDS organization, the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
Faculty groups in December also shifted to issuing statements affirming their right to “academic freedom.” This was cast exclusively terms of “Israel/Palestine” and demands that faculty be given absolute impunity to explicitly politicize pedagogy.
UCLA faculty demanded the university, “Publicly reject the deliberately mendacious and misleading conflation of criticism of the Israeli state with antisemitism,” and “Offer resources, services and accommodations to students, faculty, and staff affected by the genocide in Palestine and mounting repression campaigns.”
University of Wisconsin faculty stated that, “using stereotypes about Jewish people in criticism of Israel would indeed be antisemitic, but simple critique (or even condemnation) of the state of Israel must be protected as part of a healthy educational discourse.”
Swarthmore College faculty claimed that, “The suggestion that the classroom is not a political space or that the College is a neutral institution that is in some way hermetically sealed from our broader geopolitical context contradicts the College’s commitment to rigorous scholarship that engages with the most pressing contemporary issues. This fantasy also obscures the College’s ongoing complicity with U.S. militarism.”
The notion that faculty are among the real victims in campus politics is also widespread. Middle East studies faculty continue to complain that they are being “silenced” and that “academic repression” surrounding “Israel-Palestine” is “widespread.”
Revelations also continue to emerge regarding the antisemitic content forced into K-12 education through ethnic studies curricula, which cast Israelis and Jews as oppressors.
Despite a stream of revelations regarding teachers effectively preaching jihad in the classroom, few have been removed, particularly in systems such as New York City, where union regulations make it nearly impossible. Reports also note the widespread presence of Democratic Socialists of America’ members in schools and on school boards providing protection for anti-Israel and anti-capitalist propaganda. Statements such as that from the Massachusetts Teachers Union accusing the US of complicity in “genocide” confirms the far left and anti-Israel orientation of these groups.
Fortunately in California, the epicenter of ethnic studies, a University of California committee narrowly decided to drop ethnic studies as an admission requirement for the state university system. This would have forced high schools across the state to present such courses, which are have been developed by anti-Israel faculty.
The impacts of anti-Israel sentiment in academia after October 7 has also been felt in informal boycotts of Israeli faculty and institutions. Publications, invitations, collaborations, and requests for sharing of materials and data have reportedly been slowed. These boycotts have the potential for harming Israel’s economic and academic standings, and may have an impact on global science, given Israel’s outsized contributions.
Campus protests continued during December. Sit-ins were undertaken at Swarthmore College, the University of Massachusetts, Vassar College, Stanford University, Harvard University, Occidental College, and New York University, among others.
Many protests were aimed at disrupting university operations. University trustees, presidents, and Jewish events were particular targets:
BDS supporters also undertook a variety of illegal activities. A student referendum on BDS at the University of Michigan was canceled by the administration after pro-Palestinian students illegally accessed a campus wide email system to send messages. At George Washington University, students illegally recorded the university president and edited the audio to make it appear she had expressed “anti-Palestinian” views.
Consistent with the explicit calls to “Globalize the intifada,” public protests and riots ostensibly in support of the “Palestinian cause” were widespread in December. Transportation was specifically targeted. Traffic was stopped on bridges in the New York City area, the 110 freeway in Los Angeles, and the Bay Bridge in Oakland, access roads to JFK Airport, O’Hare Airport, and countless other locations. Grand Central Station, Penn Station, and other rail links were also targeted. Numerous sites including the Lincoln Memorial were vandalized with Free Gaza graffiti.
Christmas and festive celebrations and shopping were disrupted in parks, malls, stores and public venues ,such as midtown Manhattan and London, by protestors declaring “Christmas is canceled.” Assaults and arrests were reported. Protests were also held on Christmas morning outside the homes of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and national Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Efforts to shut down New Year’s celebrations were made in major cities.
The situation in Gaza was the ostensible motive but the actions were undertaken by pro-Palestinian groups as well as a wide array of communist and social groups including The People’s Forum and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. The support for “Palestine” given by climate change personality Greta Thunberg demonstrated the unity of these and other far left causes.
Another direct reflection of “Globalize the Intifada” protests were hundreds of bomb threats and swatting threats called in to Jewish institutions, apparently from outside the US. Violent protests were held outside of Jewish owned business in cities including Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. Property crimes directed against Jewish owned businesses and other sites in New York City also rose 85% in December. S
Shabbat services at Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles were relocated for the first time in history after a pro-Hamas demonstration was scheduled in a park across the street.
The House of Representatives also passed a resolution condemning the October 7 attack and stating that anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism. The measure passed 311-14 but 92 Democrats voted “present.” The pro-BDS “Squad” comprised the no votes along with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY).
The increasingly wide distribution of Muslim communities in the US and their growing political action around the single issue of opposing Israel is a growing factor in future electoral calculations, particularly in states such as Michigan, Virginia, and New Jersey.
At the same time pro-Hamas activists have continued to target Democrats. In one incident a Michigan Democratic Party holiday event was disrupted when members of the Palestinian Youth Movement and Party for Socialism and Liberation entered the venue to harass Congresswoman Shri Thanedar (D-MI). The resulting fight sent several individuals to the hospital. Congressman Ritchie Torres (D-NY) was harassed by pro-Hamas protestors at the 92nd Street Y who shouted “Ritchie Torres, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.” Pro-Hamas protestors also vandalized the offices of several Democratic Congressmen. as well as the home of Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA). The willingness to attack politicians is a grave escalation in the war against Israel in the US.
The author is a contributor to SPME, where a version of this article was first published.
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French Government Will Hold Commemoration for Victims of Hamas Pogrom Amid Disquiet Over Far Left Party’s Participation
French President Emmanuel Macron will preside over a special ceremony on Wednesday to commemorate the French victims of the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas pogrom in Israel as a row over the potential presence of far left parliamentarians continues to fester.
A statement from the Elysée Palace on Monday confirmed Macron’s presence at Wednesday’s event, which will take place at Les Invalides in Paris, where the French National Assembly and other leading national institutions are based.
A spokeswoman for Macron’s office pointed out that 42 French citizens were among the more than 1,200 people murdered during the Hamas assault, with a further three still being held hostage in Gaza.
Answering a question from a reporter about whether a similar event would be held for French citizens killed during the IDF bombing of Gaza that followed the assault, she added that a separate memorial ceremony would be held at a date yet to be determined. “It is obvious that we owe the same emotion and the same dignity to the French victims of the bombings in Gaza, and this tribute will be paid to them at another time,” she said. It is not clear how many French passport holders have actually been killed since the French government announced the deaths of two Palestinian children who were French citizens on Oct. 31.
Wednesday’s ceremony will unfold “under the universal sign of the fight against anti-Semitism and through it, all forms of hatred, racism and oppression against minorities,” the official statement from the presidency declared. Each of the murdered victims will be commemorated through the display of a photograph with their name attached. Families of the victims will be present, many of them being flown in from Israel on a special flight chartered by the French government.
The event is already mired in controversy due the announcement of parliamentarians from the far left La France Insoumise (LFI -“France Rising”) that they plan to attend. LFI has been vocal in its support of Palestinians in Gaza, frequently drawing accusations of antisemitism because of its harsh rhetoric. Earlier this month, the daughter of two LFI MPs was arrested for allegedly antisemitic social media posts in the weeks following the Hamas attack, while another LFI MP faced condemnation over a posting on social media that invoked a popular Japanese manga meme appropriated by antisemites.
In a letter to Macron, members of five of the victims families demanded a ban on the participation of LFI MPs.
“We, families of victims of Hamas terrorists, solemnly demand that any presence of LFI at the national tribute that will be paid to the 42 Franco-Israeli victims of 7/10 be prohibited,” the letter stated.
However, that request is unlikely to be granted. Pointing out that parliamentarians are automatically invited to state-organized ceremonies, Macron’s office stated that “It is up to everyone to assess the appropriateness or not of their presence since the families spoke out and expressed strong emotion,” but notably did not accede to the ban request.
Mathilde Panot, the head of the LFI deputies in the National Assembly, said last week that she planned to attend the ceremony.
“I will be present and I have asked that a tribute be paid to all the French victims of this war in the Middle East, including the Franco-Palestinians killed in Gaza by the Israeli army,” she said.
Montana Tucker “Bring Them Home” Grammy Tribute for Israeli Hostages Turns Heads
Jewish singer and songwriter Montana Tucker showed her support for Israelis still being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza at Sunday night’s 66th Annual Grammy Awards, an annual ceremony held to honor the record industry’s most critically acclaimed artists.
Posing for photographers, Tucker walked the red carpet clad in a beige, diaphanous corset gown ornamented with a yellow ribbon that said, “Bring Them Home.” She also wore a Star of David necklace.
136 Israeli hostages remain imprisoned by Hamas in Gaza. They have been there since Oct. 7, when the terrorist organization committed a massacre of Jews across the southern region of Israel, the deadliest mass killing of Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas’ fighters brutally murdered and rape hundreds, and according to numerous reports, more are being sexually abused in captivity.
Tucker’s wasn’t the only statement made about the Israel-Hamas war. Ann Lennox, Scottish vocalist of the popular 1980s band Eurythmics — most known for its No. 1 song “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” — called for a ceasefire in Gaza in a speech delivered after she performed a tribute to Sinéad O’Connor.
Raising a “Black Power” fist before a much larger audience than Tucker was accorded, Lennox proclaimed, “Artists for a ceasefire. Peace in the world.”
Lennox was alluding to “Artists4Ceasefire,” a small group of entertainers who issued a letter calling on President Joe Biden to “end the bombing of Gaza” that did not mention that Hamas started the war or condemn rising antisemitism. The letter’s signatories include, among other B-list celebrities, Adam Lambert — who in 2009 won second place in the now-discontinued television series American Idol — Jennifer Lopez, Rosie O’Donnell, and Alyssa Milano.
The Algemeiner honored Montana Tucker in 2022 for being one of 100 people recognized for positively influencing Jewish life. A granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Tucker was dogged all her life by assertions that she does not “look Jewish.” Undeterred by the remarks, she committed to proudly representing the Jewish community, and in 2022 produced “How To: Never Forget,” a ten-part docuseries about her grandparents lives in Poland before the Nazi invasion.
“This has been my responsibility to do this, for me and my grandparents and everyone else,” Tucker said at the time, during an interview. “People are used to seeing my very light-hearted, fun dance videos and me collaborating with a lot of different people…It’s rare for me and my content, and rare for the platform in general, to have a docuseries on the Holocaust.”
Other pro-Israel activists wore apparel to the Grammy awards to show. Orthodox Rabbi-Rapper Moshe Reuven, whose song “You Are Not Alone” has amassed over one million streams on Spotify, sported a “Never Is Now” shirt distributed through partnership between civil rights nonprofit StandWithUs and Perspective Fitwear. The shirt’s designer is Karen Margolis.
Taylor Swift’s 2022 record, titled Midnights, won “Album of the Year,” and rapper Jay-Z implied during a speech for accepting the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award that his wife, multi-platinum artists and most-winning Grammy award winner ever Beyoncé, has never won “Album of the Year” because she is a Black woman. The moment was reminiscent of a 2009 incident in which Kanye West stormed the stage of the MTV Awards to denounce Swift’s winning “Best Video by a Female Artist.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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Israeli Bank Shutter Accounts of Settlers Sanctioned By Biden
The Israeli bank accounts of two of the Israelis sanctioned by the United States government last week were closed on Sunday and Monday. Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich spoke out against the action, saying “I will take action as the finance minister and do what I must. If need be, we’ll advance legislation on the matter.” He further called the instance “unthinkable” that it occurred.
The two Israelis, Yinon Levi and David Chai Chasdai, had their personal and business accounts closed by Bank Leumi and Bank Hadoar, respectively. The other two settlers listed bank with Bank Hapoalim, who also said they would close the accounts, saying “Bank Hapoalim respects the international sanctions and will comply with any legal order.”
The Bank of Israel announced their support for the move, saying “Banking corporations, by necessity of their international activities, are required to establish policies and procedures for the use of international sanctions lists and national sanctions lists of foreign countries and for entering into or carrying out operations with parties declared on such lists. Circumvention of sanctions regimes as mentioned, has the effect of exposing the banking corporations to significant risks, among them, compliance risks, money laundering and terrorist financing risks, legal risks and reputational risks.”
Chasdai, who denies any wrongdoing, said “The fact that a government bank decides in the middle of a bright day to seize the bank accounts of settlers solely because of pressure from extreme leftist organizations and a hostile American government is unimaginable, but the fact that this is happening under the tenure of a right-wing government just after the greatest massacre in the country’s history is a national disgrace first class.”
“We have gone through many oppressors who harmed the people of Israel over the generations, we will also go through the persecution of Biden and his aides,” he added.
US President Joe Biden approved the sanctions last week, saying “The situation in the West Bank – in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction – has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security and stability in the region.”
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