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Free Speech Is Being Threatened — and Jews Will Pay the Price

Facebook policy director Neil Potts testifies before a Senate Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee hearing titled “Stifling Free Speech: Technological Censorship and the Public Discourse.” on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, April 10, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Jeenah Moon.

In my youth, I always regarded free, reasoned, civilized speech to be one of the most important and positive features of Western societies. My education at school, university, and beyond, was always predicated on the freedom of expression and listening to another point of view. These days, you can offend people or make them feel insecure simply by expressing a different opinion.

This is a world that I neither recognize, nor feel comfortable in. Ever since Spinoza and then Karl Marx attacked religious dogma, I sympathized with their critiques. But Marxism in particular, so innovative in its day, introduced just as much dogma and intolerance as religion ever did. The pious certitude of this dogma became just as much a threat to society as did any other form of totalitarianism. Karl Popper’s magnificent book, The Open Society and its Enemies, became one of my seminal texts at a time when we were recoiling from both fascism and Stalinism, then as now.

An earlier influential book was The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, who showed how an advanced great society could rise and fall when it lost its moral compass. A period of phenomenal rise is often followed by a dramatic decline. It happened to Rome, it happened to Spain, and unless the current trends are reversed, it could happen to both Europe and the United States.

Indeed, one can see similar cycles in Jewish history. Periods of growth, expansion, and cultural and spiritual Jewish flourishing, were interspersed and often destroyed by corruption and ignoring criticism, rebuke, and blaming others instead of looking internally.

In Judaism’s case, catastrophic failure led in turn to a reappraisal of values and methods that encouraged Talmudic discussion and encouraged disagreement. It was said of the great disagreements between the schools of Hillel and Shammai that arguments never got personal, “That did not stop them from marrying each other “(Yevamot 14 a&b).

Listening to another point of view, respectfully, and allowing them to finish without interruption is lauded in the Mishna.

I recall a debate at YAKAR in London over 25 years ago, when civilized disagreement was sometimes possible. Two Israeli reservists, typically secular, who refused to serve in the West Bank, were putting their point of view in a forum for discussion. And I agreed with some of their points.

The opposing point of view was ably and forcefully put by a representative of the Israeli right wing. Occasionally he had to be brought to order for his excitability.

But his arguments were impressive, too. I found myself, as I often do, in the middle. As often happens, there was neither consensus nor agreement.

But we now inhabit a different world. One in which intellectually blinkered cliques call for the destruction of Jews, and no one bats an eyelid. We expect nothing from politicians — and Lord knows Israeli politics is no paragon of good practices — but almost everywhere, hatred of Israel as a political tool is now the norm.

Thanks to the technological progress we have, such as the Internet and social networks, we have more access to ideas than ever before, and yet there are more closed minds and less of an ability to hear, let alone consider, another point of view.

We are regressing towards chaos. Will the so-called civilized world now sink back to totalitarianism or barbarism? There is a real danger. I pray we see the signs and do something before it is too late.

The author is a writer and rabbi, currently based in New York.

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Assault charge laid, arrest made related to incident near the University of Toronto encampment—while its president speaks in Ottawa on antisemitism, and the school seeks a removal injunction

Toronto Police have arrested and charged a man for assault over an incident May 9 near the protest encampment at the University of Toronto’s King’s College Circle on its downtown campus.  Toronto Police Services (TPS) say they responded at 3:45 p.m. that day to a call for assault in the area of the road around […]

The post Assault charge laid, arrest made related to incident near the University of Toronto encampment—while its president speaks in Ottawa on antisemitism, and the school seeks a removal injunction appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘Any Chance the Media Would Cover This?’ New Video Shows Terrorists in Gaza Using Humanitarian Aid to Help Prepare Rockets

Terrorists in Gaza using humanitarian aid bags to prop up rockets. Photo: Screenshot

Terrorists in Gaza have been using humanitarian aid bags to prop up rockets they were preparing to shoot at Israelis, new video circulating on social media reveals, underscoring the challenges of delivering aid to Palestinian civilians in the Hamas-ruled enclave without it being stolen.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade — which is the armed wing of Fatah, the political party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbasused bags from Turkey and UNRWA — the UN agency responsible for the Palestinians — to prop up the rockets, according to the video.

At least three of the bags say they contain “wheat flour,” and the bag from Turkey specifically says it is supposed to go “to the Palestinian people.” It is unclear whether the bags had previously been opened to extract the food and then refilled with sand, for example, or if it still contained the food that was intended to feed Palestinian civilians.

“Any chance the media would cover this, yet another violation of international humanitarian law?” pro-Israel commentator Hen Mazzig wrote on X/Twitter while sharing the video.

Rafah, Gaza: Hamas is using UN humanitarian aid bags as rocket launchers today.

Any chance the media would cover this, yet another, violation of International Humanitarian Law?

— Hen Mazzig (@HenMazzig) May 29, 2024

Almost every day for the past seven months, Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist organizations have been shooting rockets into Israel from civilian areas, which is a war crime. Tens of thousands of Israelis are internally displaced and unable to return to their homes as a result.

There is mounting evidence that Hamas has also operated in civilian clothing and in civilian infrastructure such as hospitals. However, these violations of international law are rarely noted by much of the media.

The latest video of terrorists using humanitarian aid for military purposes underscores the issue of making sure such aid gets to Palestinian civilians. 

The US built a pier to deliver 2,000,000 meals daily to Palestinian civilians, but after a few weeks of operation, the Pentagon said none of the aid unloaded from the pier had made it to those who needed it. On one occasion, about 70 percent of the aid has been stolen while en route to a UN warehouse. In other cases, it just never showed up.

Israeli estimates suggest approximately 60 percent of the aid that has gone into Gaza has been stolen — either by Hamas or other groups and individuals. Oftentimes, that aid is then sold to the population at high prices, making it difficult to impossible for most Gazans to gain access to it. 

According to Ehud Yaari, an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Hamas has made more than $500 million in profit from selling humanitarian aid since Oct. 7.

The terror group began the war last October by massacring 1,200 people in Israel and taking more than 250 people hostage, about half of whom have still not been released.

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Columbia University Anti-Zionist Group Endorses Hamas

Demonstrators take part in an anti-Israel demonstration at the Columbia University campus, in New York City, US, Feb. 2, 2024. REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

Columbia University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has endorsed Hamas, a US-designated terrorist organization, the latest sign of its growing extremism and willingness to embrace antisemitic violence.

“The Palestinian resistance is the only force materially fighting back against isr*el [sic],” the group said in a series of posts shared by Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus, a social media account which exposes antisemitism on college campuses. “There is no way to eliminate the resistance without ending the occupation. When you see a video of a young palestinian [sic] boy traumatized in a hospital talking about how iof [the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF] shot his pregnant mother in cold blood in front of his own eyes, do not question how he chooses to resist years later.”

.@Columbia and @BarnardCollege, @ColumbiaSJP is actively promoting terrorism and anti-Israel rhetoric on their social media channels. They are sounding more and more like Hamas spokespeople every day. When is the university going to permanently ban this “student group”?

— Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus (@CampusJewHate) May 26, 2024

Campus Reform, a higher education watchdog which first reported Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus’ posts, noted that Columbia SJP has added an “inverted red triangle” to its social media biography, further indicating its support for Hamas. The Palestinian terrorist group has used an inverted red triangle in its propaganda videos to indicate an Israeli target about to be attacked, and anti-Israel protesters on university campuses have been using the symbol in their demonstrations.

Columbia SJP, a group that has reformed under multiple organizations since being suspended by school administrators during the fall semester, has been central in staging a slew of riotous demonstrations in which anti-Zionist activists verbally assaulted Jewish students with antisemitic epithets, clamorously expressed support for terrorism and Hamas, and caused thousands of dollars in damages to school property.

The group’s behavior after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the StandWithUs Center for League Justice (SCLJ).

The complaint alleges that after bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on their people, the pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library, according to the lawsuit. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.

Following the incidents, pleas for help allegedly went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while SJP held its demonstrations. The school’s apparent powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP continued to host events while no one explained the inconsistency.

The explosion of end-of-year protests held by the group forced Columbia officials to shutter the campus in April and institute virtual learning. Later, the group occupied Hamilton Hall, forcing President Minouche Shafik to call on the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for help, a decision she hesitated to make. According to The Columbia Spectator, over 108 arrests were made.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!”

Amid the chaos, a prominent rabbi at the school urged Jewish students to leave the campus for the sake of their safety. Ultimately, the university cancelled its main commencement ceremony.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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