(JTA) — After Oct. 7, Michael Kahana joined hundreds of his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania in signing an open letter condemning Hamas and expressing support for Israel and its right to self defense. But the psychology professor wanted to do more.
So Kahana sent an email to the 340 signatories on the letter, which came amid scathing criticism of Penn’s response to Hamas’ attack on Israel, and invited them on a trip.
This week, the 39 Penn professors who took Kahana up on the invitation spent three days traveling in Israel, in the first solidarity visit by faculty members of an Ivy League school since the outbreak of the war on Oct. 7 and the congressional hearing on campus antisemitism that led directly to the resignation of Penn’s president.
Many but not all of the professors on the trip were Jewish, and some were visiting Israel for the first time. During their 66-hour visit, they met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and families of hostages including Rachel Goldberg, the Israeli-American mother of Hersh Goldberg-Polin who has emerged as a stalwart voice advocating for the more than 130 people still held by Hamas in Gaza. In what has become a new rite of passage for visitors to Israel, they also visited devastated Gaza border communities where they heard accounts from survivors and first responders, according to a statement released by the mission’s tour operator, Israel Destination.
A significant focus of the mission was meeting with academic colleagues from major Israeli institutions, the statement said, including the Hebrew University, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Tel Aviv University, to allow for “deeper mutual understanding of the challenges posed to academia by war and conflict on one side, and antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments on the other.” The delegation also met with Penn alumni living in Israel and heard from Israeli officials, including Amir Yaron, the governor of the Bank of Israel who previously was a professor at Penn’s Wharton School of Business, during a banquet at Tel Aviv’s ANU Museum.
“I was truly surprised to see how much our visit meant to our Israeli colleagues and by my own overwhelming emotional response to hearing from Israelis firsthand,” cinema and media studies professor Peter Decherney, who worked with Kahana to organize the trip, said in the statement.
The delegation took place amid a backdrop of tension at Penn, which was already embroiled in an antisemitism controversy surrounding a Palestinian writers conference on campus when Hamas attacked Israel. President Liz Magill resigned in December shortly after being called to testify before Congress about campus antisemitism — and refraining from saying that calling for the genocide of Jews was a violation of the university’s code of conduct. (Penn’s board president also resigned and has been replaced temporarily by Julie Platt, who also chairs Jewish Federations of North America.)
While the group was in Israel, a second college president who took the same stance during the congressional hearing stepped down. Harvard University’s Claudine Gay also faced allegations of plagiarism that emerged as her critics took aim following the university’s initial response to Hamas’ attack.
Kahana pointed to the global academic community’s failure to express support to Israeli academics after Oct. 7.
“Academic communities are incredibly small, tight-knit families that span the globe,” Kahana said, according to the statement. “When the horrific trauma of October 7 struck the Israeli academic community, people awaited words of comfort from their close colleagues and friends, but for many, those words did not come.”
Kahana and Decherney barely knew each other prior to organizing the trip, even though they have worked on the same campus for years. In fact, many of the Penn professors, from varied disciplines like statistics, film, and orthopedics, had never met before the mission.
Now, the professors are “returning home with a greater understanding of how the U.S. academic community can support their Israeli colleagues during this traumatic time, and with renewed vigor to withstand the antisemitism and anti-Israel feelings prevalent on campus,” the statement said.
Decherney expressed his hope that the visit would “inspire more university communities to move past divisive cultures and come themselves.”
According to Yair Jablinowitz from Israel Destination, which specializes in educational tourism, since the Penn mission became public, the tour operator has received dozens of inquiries into similar visits from representatives at other universities, including Harvard, Columbia, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — many of which are, like Penn, facing federal Department of Education investigations over their handling of antisemitism complaints.
“There is definitely now a drive to go on these types of delegations,” he told JTA. “The Penn delegation had an influence not only on the academic world in Israel and the people of Israel that they met, but also on Ivy League schools throughout North America.”
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.
The post Montana Tucker “Bring Them Home” Grammy Tribute for Israeli Hostages Turns Heads first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
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.”
The post Israeli Bank Shutter Accounts of Settlers Sanctioned By Biden first appeared on Algemeiner.com.