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Dutch mayor refuses to be photographed with Israeli ambassador at Hanukkah event, setting off media frenzy

(JTA) — A Hanukkah celebration in the Dutch town of Enschede took a bitter turn after its mayor refused to be seen near the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands.

Jaap Hartog, chairman of the Enschede synagogue, invited Mayor Roelof Bleker to a celebration of Hanukkah and the synagogue’s 95th anniversary on Monday night. He reserved a seat for Bleker next to Israeli Ambassador Modi Ephraim, who was visiting Enschede for the occasion.

But hours before the event, Hartog received a call with preconditions from Bleker.

“The mayor didn’t want to sit next to the ambassador, didn’t want to shake hands with him and especially didn’t want to shake hands with a photographer present, so he wouldn’t have trouble with photos in the media,” Hartog told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Hartog responded by telling the mayor not to come at all. However, when Bleker insisted on joining, he was received and seated on the synagogue’s balcony between other guests.

Bleker said his intention was to keep a distance from the war in Israel and Gaza and avoid images that might stir controversy. But that effort backfired, as his stipulations prompted a media frenzy in the Netherlands over the last few days.

Enschede’s small community of Jews — about 45 in total — were already frustrated with Bleker, according to Hartog. He said that Bleker rejected their requests for increased security and surveillance after Oct. 7, despite a surge of antisemitic attacks across the country.

The Central Jewish Board of the Netherlands also criticized Bleker. Chairman Chanan Hertzberger chided him not only for conditioning his appearance at the synagogue, but also for sitting in the back instead of the front seat originally reserved for him.

“The mayor should sit at the front of such a celebration,” said Hertzberger in translated remarks. “We can only conclude that this mayor projects his criticism of Israel onto the Jewish residents of his city.”

Bleker said he regretted the controversy in a public statement on Tuesday, noting that he had called both Ephraim and Hartog to apologize. He is meeting with Hartog on Friday.

But Bleker appeared to stand by his desire for separation from the Israel-Hamas war. “I am there for all Enschede residents and therefore want to stay away from international conflicts,” he said.

Ephraim acknowledged the spat but emphasized his own appearance at the synagogue in posts on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Anyway it was an emotional Hanukkah celebration in Enschede, with hundreds of Christians and Jewish friends of Israel,” Ephraim wrote. “In my words I called to stand together against hatred and antisemitism.”


The post Dutch mayor refuses to be photographed with Israeli ambassador at Hanukkah event, setting off media frenzy appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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ACLU Threatens Lawsuit Against Columbia University

Anti-Israel students protest at Columbia University in New York City. Photo: Reuters/Jeenah Moon

The New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a far-left nonprofit, is threatening to sue Columbia University unless the school nullifies disciplinary sanctions which temporarily suspended anti-Zionist groups that staged unauthorized demonstrations on campus.

“The referenced ‘unauthorized event’ was a peaceful demonstration and temporary art installation advocating for the end of Israel’s current military campaign in the Gaza strip,” the group wrote in a letter to Columbia University president Minouche Shafik. “Columbia’s actions suggest impermissible and pretextual motives for sanctioning the student groups.”

The ACLU also accused the university, which is being sued for allegedly standing by while pro-Hamas students beat up Jews and screamed antisemitic slogans, of perpetuating “already pervasive dangerous stereotypes about Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims” and other minority groups.

“These student groups were peacefully speaking out on a critical global conflict, only to have Columbia University ignore their own longstanding, existing rules and abruptly suspended the organizations,” ACLU executive director Donna Lieberman said in a press release issued on Friday. “That’s retaliatory, it’s targeted, and it flies in the face of the free speech principles that institutes of higher learning should be defending.”

Columbia University suspended Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) in Nov., explaining in a statement that the groups had “repeatedly violated university policies related to holding campus events, culminating in an unauthorized event Thursday afternoon that proceeded despite warnings and included threatening rhetoric and intimidation.” Both SJP and JVP have been instrumental in organizing disruptive anti-Israel protests on Columbia’s campus since Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7 and killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

“Lifting the suspension will be contingent on the two groups demonstrating a commitment to compliance with university policies and engaging in consultations at a group leadership level with university officials,” a campus official said at the time, adding that the groups will be ineligible to hold events on campus or receive university funding for the duration of the punishment.

Even after being disciplined, however, SJP members continued their activities in front groups — such as Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), a non-campus affiliated group that supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement — staging more protests in flagrant violation of the terms of its suspension.

ACLU’s portrayal of pro-Hamas students as peaceful and artistic victims of racism is in tension with how Jewish Columbia students have described their behavior and the university’s response to it.

“F— the Jews,” “Death to Jews,” “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” they have chanted on campus grounds since Oct. 7, violating the school’s code of conduct, a lawsuit filed against Columbia University by last week says. In other incidents, they beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library and attacked another with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger.

Anti-Jewish violence and hatred became so common, the lawsuit alleged, that Columbia told Jewish students that campus security could no longer guarantee their safety.

SJP insisted in Friday’s press release that its members are the victims and suggested that those claiming to be advocates of social justice are beyond reproach.

“Columbia University likes to showcase itself to the world as a champion of student protest, equality, justice, and free speech — but the university’s actions in the lead up to our suspension, and its targeted punishment of our student groups, showed that it is all a farce,” SJP member Safiya O’Brien said. “As students of conscience, we know injustice when we see it. The university’s priorities are not with its student body — certainly not with its Palestinian students and the overwhelming number of those that advocate for them.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post ACLU Threatens Lawsuit Against Columbia University first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Low Expectations Ahead of Palestinian ‘Unity’ Talks in Moscow Convened by Russian Regime

Posters on a wall in Tel Aviv highlighting the plight of Israeli hostages seized by Hamas. Photo: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

Representatives of Palestinian factions are traveling to Moscow this week for talks aimed at forging a greater degree of unity, but analysts remained skeptical that the Russian initiative is likely to register progress.

The talks, which are scheduled to begin on Wednesday, will bring together officials of the Islamist terrorist organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) with representatives of PLO factions including Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Announcing the talks last week, Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov told pro-regime media outlets that “all Palestinian representatives who are located in different countries, in particular in Syria and Lebanon, other countries in the region,” would be invited to the Moscow parley, emphasizing at the same time that Russia’s rulers continue to regard the PLO — the main power in the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) — as “the sole legal representative of the Palestinian people.”

Several regional policy analysts argued that expectations from the talks should be necessarily limited, especially as Russia has failed in past efforts to bring rival Palestinian factions closer together.

“Russia does not have any road map for the Palestinian file, especially for the Gaza Strip as it would be necessary to have mediation functions and maintain good contacts with both Israel and the paramilitary wing of Hamas in Gaza,” Ruslan Suleymanov — an independent Middle East expert based in Baku, Azerbaijan — told the German broadcaster DW on Monday.

Suleymanov said that the talks were primarily an opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to showcase Russia’s geopolitical clout amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine and with elections — which Putin is expected to win easily — on the calendar in March.

“It’s really just dialogue for dialogue’s sake,” Suleymanov remarked.

Hugh Lovatt — senior policy fellow with the Middle East and North Africa Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations — offered a similar perspective.

“This Russian summit is a way to show that Russia has the diplomatic capacity to play a hands-on role in supporting Palestinian national unity,” he told DW. However, previous reconciliation talks that were hosted in Moscow, Algiers and Cairo have “also not succeeded in brokering a lasting reconciliation deal between the rivals,” he said.

A potential obstacle to the talks emerged on Monday with the resignation of the PA’s Prime Minister, Muhammad Shtayyeh, who had enthusiastically backed the Moscow talks in a speech at the Munich Security Conference earlier this month. The PA has been under increasing pressure from the US to form a more representative government that would be in a position to manage the Gaza Strip once hostilities end.

“The decision to resign came in light of the unprecedented escalation in the West Bank and Jerusalem and the war, genocide and starvation in the Gaza Strip,” Shtayyeh told PA President Mahmoud Abbas in a formal letter.

“I see that the next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the new reality in Gaza and the need for a Palestinian-Palestinian consensus based on Palestinian unity and the extension of unity of authority over the land of Palestine,” he added.

A Hamas spokesman told the Saudi channel Al Arabiya on Sunday that the terrorist group wants to form “an impartial national government based on the consensus of the Palestinian factions,” adding that the talks in Moscow would focus only on “a certain period and clear tasks.”

Separately, Hamas politburo member Muhammad Nazzal told the pro-Hamas website Middle East Monitor that the Moscow meeting was necessary because there had been “no official communication” with the PA on the subject of post-war planning.

Nazal claimed in the same interview that Hamas remained a powerful force in the Gaza Strip, where it continues to hold hostage more than 100 of the 240 people seized during its pogrom in southern Israel on Oct. 7. “Rumours of Rafah in the south of being the last stronghold of Hamas are false; the resistance exists across the entire Gaza Strip,” Nazzal said. “Moreover, the movement is fighting a fierce political negotiating battle, no less than the battle it is waging on the ground.”

The post Low Expectations Ahead of Palestinian ‘Unity’ Talks in Moscow Convened by Russian Regime first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Harvard Professor Resigns From Antisemitism Task Force

Demonstrators take their “Emergency Rally: Stand with Palestinians Under Siege in Gaza” out of Harvard University and onto the streets of Harvard Square, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., October 14, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Internal tension and disagreement have caused a member of Harvard University’s Presidential Task Force on Antisemitism to resign as co-chair, The Harvard Crimson reported on Monday.

Raffaella Sadun, a Harvard Business School professor, reportedly left the group —which was formed to issue recommendations for addressing anti-Jewish hatred on the campus — because the university would not guarantee that the task force’s guidance would be implemented as official school policy. Her aggravation has been mounting for “some time,” the paper added, but she declined to cite conflict as the reason for her departure.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help advance the vital work to combat antisemitism and believe that [interim Harvard University] President Garber has assembled an excellent task force,” Sadun said. “I will continue to support efforts to tackle antisemitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position.”

In a statement, interim president Garber told The Harvard Crimson that Sadun had “expressed her desire” to get back to “research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities.”

“I am extremely appreciative of Professor Sadun’s participating in the task over the past few weeks,” Garber said. “Her insights and passion for this work have helped shape the mandate for the task force and how it can best productively advance the important work ahead.”

Announced in January, the Presidential Task Force on Antisemitism is Harvard University’s response to years of antisemitic incidents that earned the school the distinction of being labeled the most antisemitic campus in American higher education by education watchdog AMCHA Initiative. A now defunct group had been created by former president Claudine Gay, the Antisemitism Advisory Group, amid an explosion of antisemitic activity on campus following Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Gay eventually resigned from her position after providing controversial answers to a congressional committee about her efforts to manage the problem and being outed as a serial plagiarist. In her absence, Garber pushed ahead with forming task forces for addressing both antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Since then, the antisemitism group’s membership have stirred controversy and speculation. In January, Jewish community activists and nonprofit leaders criticized its naming history professor Derek Penslar as a co-chair because, in his writings and public remarks, he had described concerns about rising antisemitism at Harvard as “exaggerated” and blamed Israel for fostering anti-Zionism. According to the Crimson, Penslar considered resigning but decided against doing so. In Jan., Rabbi David J. Wolpe stepped down from the group, saying in a statement on X that “both events on campus” and Gay’s congressional testimony “reinforced the idea that I cannot make the sort of difference I had hoped.”

Last week, the school issued a statement denouncing another antisemitic outrage, a faculty anti-Zionist group’s posting on social media an antisemitic cartoon which showed a left-hand tattooed with a Star of David containing a dollar sign at its center dangling a Black man and an Arab man from a noose. The group’s leader, professor Walter Johnson, has since resigned as a member.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Harvard Professor Resigns From Antisemitism Task Force first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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