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Feds to investigate Teaneck, NJ, school district where students held pro-Palestinian walkout

(JTA) – The U.S. Department of Education has opened an investigation into a New Jersey school district that has come under fire for what Jewish parents allege is an antisemitic climate since Oct. 7.

The case at Teaneck Public Schools, a diverse district in a heavily Jewish suburb of New York City, adds to a growing slate of federal Title VI civil rights investigations involving alleged discrimination of Jewish or Arab students in the months since Hamas attacked Israel. Other investigations have been opened at universities and K-12 school districts across the country.

The education department does not say why it has opened an investigation, and the district superintendent’s office did not return Jewish Telegraphic Agency requests for comment.

Teaneck, which has significant Jewish and Muslim populations living in unusually close proximity, has been divided since Oct. 7. “I have been here for 35 years, and I have never seen this type of tension,” Noam Sokolow, the proprietor of a local kosher deli, told the Washington Post in November, shortly after debate over a resolution condemning Hamas divided the town’s governance committee, spurred skirmishes and and led to the resignation of most members of a municipal inclusion committee.

The tensions rippled through the local school district starting with the superintendent’s response to Hamas’ attack on Israel, continuing with a contentious board meeting at which Jewish speakers say they were unfairly silenced, and culminating in a pro-Palestinian student walkout that administrators sent mixed communications about.

“I think that the superintendent’s actions, the first letter that he wrote, and the fact that he allowed this walkout where there was hate speech on school grounds, it shows a complete lack of understanding about what antisemitism is,” Hillary Kessler-Godin, a Jewish parent who filed a Title VI complaint against the district, told JTA.

Local Jewish leaders, including rabbis and officials at the Jewish federation, encouraged parents to file the complaints with the federal education department’s Office of Civil Rights.

Naomi Knopf, chief impact officer at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, told JTA that she didn’t know which complaint the department took up in its investigation. But she said the federation was heartened that an inquiry had been opened.

“Jewish Federation is very pleased that the Department of Education is taking these incidents seriously,” Knopf said. “The rights of Jewish students matter just as much as everyone else’s, and it‘s our job and the federal government’s job to make sure that all students have access to a safe educational environment.”

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on criteria including “shared ancestry.” The department, which does not comment on active investigations, focuses its inquiries on whether the school should have done more to protect students. It has said that opening an investigation does not mean the complaint has merit.

Days after the Oct. 7 attack, Teaneck Superintendent Andre Spencer emailed out a message of support that did not include mention of Israel, Hamas or terrorism, instead employing phrases such as “unfortunate situation” that Jewish parents felt did not match the severity of the moment.

At a subsequent school board meeting, Jewish parents and community members who attempted to describe the barbarity of the Hamas attacks were shut down, with the school board informing them that there were children present. The same board did not stop speakers who used in some cases identical language to describe Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, prompting a complaint by the free-speech group FIRE.

Tensions came to a head in November, when the superintendent appeared to at first endorse a planned student “walkout for Palestine.”

“It is essential to recognize that our scholars have the First Amendment right to express themselves,” Spencer wrote in an initial communication about the walkout.

Local Orthodox rabbis, responding to the walkout organizers’ allegation that Israel was committing “genocide” in Gaza, issued a statement opposing the demonstration, calling it “grotesque and overt antisemitism” and a “blood libel.” Hundreds of local Jews — including several Orthodox community leaders with no children in the district — organized a pro-Israel rally the night before the walkout. (Most local Jewish parents send their children to Jewish day schools.)

Following the criticism, Spencer issued a second statement condemning antisemitism and noting that any students who participated would be given zeros for the classes they missed. About 100 students ultimately walked out.

Another Title VI civil rights investigation was announced this week at Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District in Orange County, California. A district representative did not disclose details of the investigation to JTA, citing student privacy concerns, but said in a statement, “Unequivocally, our school district condemns all forms of discrimination and does not tolerate this kind of behavior on our school campuses.”

The post Feds to investigate Teaneck, NJ, school district where students held pro-Palestinian walkout appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Gallant: Seizing Internal Hamas Documents Brings Hostage Deal Closer

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meeting with IDF commanders, including members of the elite Shayetet 13 marine commando unit, in Atlit, Israel, Jan. 17, 2023. Photo: Ariel Hermoni (Israel’s Ministry of Defense)

i24 NewsIsraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant provided a review to fellow ministers of weapons and documents belonging to Hamas, which were collected by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Document and Technical Means Collection Unit (Amshat) operating in the Gaza Strip.

“This morning we are hosting the government meeting at the IDF, in the defense establishment, to show the ministers exactly how we are achieving and deepening our achievements and what is coming out of the Gaza Strip,” Gallant explained.

“You can see a small part of the things here – missiles, explosive charges, mines, a great many maps, means of communication, documents, computers, drives, all these things which the IDF uses now on as intelligence, and not only that,” the defense minister continued.

“These demonstrate that we penetrated into the heart of the most sensitive places of Hamas and use their intelligence against them,” Gallant described the process of attaining the documents and weapons, hinting at some of the locations from where it was found.

“We are using their weapons against them, detonating them in the field, all this leads to the consequence of deepening and penetrating the heart of Hamas’ capabilities,” the defense minister said.

“The more we deepen our operations, the closer we get to a realistic deal in order to return the hostages,” Gallant concluded.

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UNRWA Chief Urged to Resign After ‘Absurd’ Pledge of Ignorance

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

i24 NewsIsraeli diplomatic leaders called for the resignation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, following denial of knowing about a Hamas data center under the agency’s headquarters in Gaza.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) revealed on Saturday night that Hamas built a vast network of tunnels under the UNRWA headquarters, with a base directly underneath that was even hooked up to its grid.

“The exposure of UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters’ deep involvement with Hamas, including its use for terror activities and as an access point to terror tunnels, requires immediate action,” the Israeli foreign minister, Israel Katz, posted on X.

“Philippe Lazzarini’s claim of unawareness is not only absurd but also an affront to common sense. His prompt resignation is imperative,” Katz concluded.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, also called for the UNRWA Commissioner-General to resign, responding “it’s not that you didn’t know, it’s that you didn’t WANT to know.”

“We exposed terror tunnels under UNRWA schools and supplied evidence that Hamas’ exploits UNRWA. We implored you to carry out a comprehensive search of all UNRWA facilities in Gaza. But not only did you refuse, you chose to stick your head in the sand,” Erdan added in a detailed post on X.

.@UNLazzarini it’s not that you didn’t know, it’s that you didn’t WANT to know. We exposed terror tunnels under UNRWA schools and supplied evidence that Hamas’ exploits UNRWA. We implored you to carry out a comprehensive search of all UNRWA facilities in Gaza. But not only did…

— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) February 10, 2024

“Take responsibility and resign today!” the Israeli ambassador said, “Every day we find more proof that in Gaza the UN=Hamas and vice versa. Anything the UN says or claims about Gaza cannot be trusted.”

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Preparing for the Next ICJ Debacle

The UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ). Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgIn the theater of the absurd commonly known as the International Court of Justice, judges are again preparing to ignore history and facts. Having weaponized the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide against the Jewish state, the judges are now preparing to hear oral arguments on the next oxymoron: The “legal consequences” of the “Israeli occupation” of “Palestinian territory.”

The glaring problem with this is that there is no such entity as the “Palestinian territories.” The term is an invented one used to define areas allocated by the international community to the Jewish state, which were then illegally invaded by Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Any discussion anchored on this false terminology should immediately be ignored and scorned.

In December 2022, the United Nations General Assembly, prompted by the Palestinian Authority, adopted a resolution to request from the ICJ an advisory opinion on the following question:

“Considering the rules and principles of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, relevant resolutions of the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the Human Rights Council, and the advisory opinion of the Court of July 9, 2004:

“a) What are the legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, from its prolonged occupation, settlement, and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character, and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures?

“b) How do the policies and practices of Israel referred to in paragraph 18 (a) above affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all States and the United Nations from this status?”

Following the request, the ICJ set a July 25, 2023 deadline for initial written statements to be submitted, with responses to be submitted by Oct. 25, 2023 and oral arguments to be made starting Feb. 19, 2024.

The underlying assumption of this debacle is that Israel is in some way “occupying” “Palestinian territory.” But is that really the case?

In reality, never in history has an independent country called “Palestine” ever existed.

In reality, the area the UNGA claims and has asked the ICJ to consider as “Palestinian territory” was controlled for 400 years by the Ottoman Empire.

In reality, after World War I, the international community repeatedly allocated the entire area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, from Lebanon to the Red Sea, for the sole purpose of reconstituting the Jewish homeland.

In reality, the 1923 division of the geographical area called “Palestine” into two separate areas, one to be called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the other remaining Jewish Palestine, was the real “two-state solution.”

In reality, in 1947, the United Nations offered the Arabs an opportunity to create another Arab country to the west of the Jordan River alongside Israel, but the Arabs refused. Instead, five Arab armies attacked the nascent Jewish state with the stated and express goal of throwing the Jews into the sea.

From 1948 to 1967, Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip and Jordan controlled Judea and Samaria, which it renamed “The West Bank.” During that time, no U.N. resolution of the General Assembly or the Security Council demanded that Egypt and Jordan retreat and desist from occupying those areas. No such request was made of Jordan since Jordan saw Palestine as an integral part of Jordan.

In reality, even U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, from November 1967, does not mention, even once, the notion of occupied “Palestinian” territory.

In fact, the idea that a State of Palestine ever existed and that Israel is occupying “Palestinian territory” seems to prove the billboard advertisement that “Palestine” is the only country in the world that did not exist before it was “occupied.”

Sadly, as the judges demonstrated with their shameful decision on the false claim of South Africa against Israel when it comes to the Jewish state, history, facts and the truth are just not relevant.

Originally published by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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