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House passes resolution equating antisemitism with anti-Zionism, despite many abstentions

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. House of Representatives approved a nonbinding resolution saying that anti-Zionism is antisemitism, with support from all but one Republican and a substantial minority of Democrats.

The resolution was introduced by the two Jewish Republicans in the House, Max Miller of Ohio and David Kustoff of Tennessee. It was notable for the number of Jewish Democrats who voted “present,” effectively abstaining, in part because they did not agree with the resolution’s contention that all forms of anti-Zionism were antisemitic.

The resolution passed 311 to 14, with 92 members voting “present,” among them eight of the 24 Jewish Democrats in the House. Democrats voting in favor numbered 95. Of the 14 who opposed, 13 were Democrats, most associated with the “Squad,” a small grouping of far-left progressives. The other was Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie, a libertarian who opposes nonbinding resolutions and has previously said antisemitism-related legislation restricts free speech.

Miller and Kustoff introduced the resolution to affirm U.S. support for Jews in the wake of the spike in antisemitic rhetoric and actions spurred by the Israel-Hamas war, which began when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

“Whereas, since the massacre of innocent Israelis by Hamas, an Iran-backed terrorist organization, on October 7, 2023, antisemitic incidents of harassment, vandalism, and assault in the United States have spiked 388 percent over the same period last year, according to reports from the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Center on Extremism,” the resolution says.

The resolution comes in the wake of efforts by Jewish members, including Republicans and Democrats, to present a united front in the wake of the war, and a week after all but two members voted to approve a resolution affirming Israel’s right to exist. It also comes as Israel faces increasing criticism, including from members of Congress, over its handling of its war in Gaza.

The debate Monday on the House floor soon turned to the resolved section of the Miller-Kustoff resolution, and its determination that the House “clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the longest-serving Jew in the House, and a leader in advancing past denunciations of antisemitism, delivered a speech delineating instances in which anti-Zionism does not constitute antisemitism.

“The resolution suggests that all anti-Zionism is antisemitism,” said Nadler, who attended an Orthodox day school growing up. “That is either intellectually disingenuous or just factually wrong. And it unfairly implicates many of my Orthodox former constituents in Brooklyn, many of whose families rose from the ashes of the Holocaust.

“While most anti-Zionism is indeed antisemitic, the authors, if they were at all familiar with Jewish history and culture, should know about Jewish anti-Zionism that was, and is, expressly NOT antisemitic,” Nadler said. “This resolution ignores the fact that even today, certain orthodox Hasidic Jewish communities — the Satmars in New York and others — as well as adherents of the pre-state Jewish labor movement have held views that are at odds with the modern Zionist conception.”

Nadler and his Jewish colleagues, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Dan Goldman of New York, this week introduced a separate resolution condemning antisemitism, tying it to the Biden administration’s antisemitism strategy, which the resolution approved on Tuesday does not mention.

The trio also were behind a letter in October supporting the Biden administration for its backing for Israel in its war with Hamas; all 24 Jewish Democrats signed onto that letter, but some have since broken away, calling on Biden to press for a ceasefire.

Kustoff in his floor speech linked anti-Israel and antisemitic biases, alluding to Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who has used the phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which some Jewish groups see as antisemitic.

“We have seen an explosion, an absolute explosion, of antisemitic incidents, attacks, and harassment, in Israel, here in our own nation, and across the world,” Kustoff said.

“More Jews were murdered on October 7th than on any other single day since the Holocaust. Let that sink in,” Kustoff said. “We have even seen members of this very body repeat blatantly antisemitic rhetoric and spread lies about Israel and her right to exist.”

Nadler said Republicans were playing politics with the resolution. “I cannot help but note that, although this resolution strongly condemns and denounces antisemitism, its authors carefully avoided mentioning any of the obvious instances of antisemitism coming from their own leaders,” Nadler said, listing a number of instances in which Donald Trump, the former president and likely 2024 presidential nominee, has been accused of antisemitism.

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Meet the Ethnic-Studies Antisemites

A taxi passes by in front of The New York Times head office, Feb. 7, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri / File.

JNS.orgThat the American educational system is thoroughly polluted with antisemitism has been obvious to many of us for some time. It became clear to all, however, after the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, when thousands of academics, students, teachers, administrators, and other denizens of the dictatorship of the professoriate erupted in full-throated celebration of the mass slaughter and rape of over 1,000 people.

What followed is well-known and even somewhat encouraging, given that—with the toppling of two university presidents who proved ambivalent about killing all the Jews—the professoriate is finally being held responsible for its atrocities for the first time in decades.

The problem, however, goes well beyond the universities. This, along with much else, was proven last week by The New York Times, which usually does its best to run interference for antisemitism.

The Times appears to have realized, somewhat late in the game, that “ethnic studies” programs in California high schools have a serious problem with antisemitism. Of course, a group of dedicated activists and skeptical politicians fought to revise the state’s ethnic studies curriculum for the better part of a decade, and with very good reason. The Times report, however, was prompted by the pushback they are now facing from a self-congratulatorily named “liberated ethnic studies” that restores the antisemitic material.

Like all such curricula, California ethnic studies is essentially an attempt to institutionalize a Manichean theology. The ancient Manicheans viewed the world as a battle between two metaphysical forces: Light and good versus darkness and evil. The new Manicheans’ theology is political in expression, but not a great deal more complicated. It holds that the world is a battleground between light and good in the form of the “oppressed” (usually people of color) and darkness and evil in the form of the “oppressor” (usually but not always white people).

Like many religious sentiments, this cult’s theology is unfalsifiable and thus impossible to prove or disprove. Two things, however, can be said with some certainty: 1) It is obviously inadequate as an account of the world in which we live, and 2) It is self-evidently racist.

Unsurprisingly, it is also bitterly antisemitic. In all its forms, this theology places the Jews firmly in the category of “oppressor.” In other words, it sees the Jews as a manifestation of metaphysical evil—quite literally satanic. If viewing the Jews as satanic is not antisemitism, then nothing is antisemitism.

None of this is surprising to critics of the proposed curriculum. But we should be grateful for the Times’ report because it provides us with some formidable evidence for the prosecution.

Given its proclivities, the Times probably did not wish to provide such evidence, but it had no choice because the antisemites appear to have been quite eager to give it to them.

The Times presents us, for example, with Guadalupe Cardona, a teacher of ethnic studies at a Los Angeles high school, who helpfully volunteers on the Israel-Hamas war: “If someone is going to teach that conflict from a true ethnic studies perspective, it’s going to be critiquing settler colonialism in Palestine.”

For his part, Professor Dylan Rodriguez firmly rejects giving equal time to Jewish perspectives on the conflict because “It creates false equivalences.” The Times states, “He then asked if creationism should be covered in biology classes, or climate change denialism in environmental science,” as if he were teaching a STEM course rather than a religious creed.

These are the least of the defamations chronicled by the Times. In one of many such examples, the paper tells us that “In November, several weeks after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, an ethnic studies teacher at Menlo-Atherton High School, in Silicon Valley, presented a lesson that inaccurately claimed the United Nations considered the creation of Israel illegal.”

That is lies enough for one class, even in California, but during the lesson “a slide depicted a hand manipulating a puppet,” which even the Times was forced to admit recalls “antisemitic tropes about secret Jewish control of government, the media and finance.”

One might wonder, of course, why this kind of hate speech is not only tolerated but literally institutionalized in California high schools. The Times, helpfully if inadvertently, supplies the answer:

Ethnic studies grew out of student activism at Bay Area colleges in the late 1960s, when Black, Latino, Asian and Native American students went on strike to demand more focus on their groups’ histories and cultures.

Some activists were part of the Third World Liberation Front, a student group that linked racial segregation and discrimination in the United States to colonialism, imperialism and militarism across the globe.

For early scholars and students of ethnic studies, pro-Palestinian activism was also crucial, said Keith Feldman, chair of comparative ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Whether the Times realized it or not—and it probably did not—this is the most powerful indictment of the ethnic studies movement as can be imagined. It provides firm historical proof that ethnic studies is not education. It is a political movement and a distinctly nasty one at that. Indeed, it appears that, on the issue of Israel and the Jews, it is nothing more than Palestinian nationalism dressed up as a kind of altruistic universalism.

This is of immense importance because while some nationalisms are liberal, democratic, and progressive, Palestinian nationalism is not. It is uncompromisingly reactionary, bigoted, tyrannical, revanchist, racist, and ultimately genocidal.

After the events of the last four months, no further evidence of this is required, not even from the Times. Thanks to Hamas, we now have definitive and absolute proof of it. Thanks to Hamas’s supporters in the West, we have equally definitive proof that the progressive left—the fountainhead of “ethnic studies”—supports this toxic nationalism with every fiber of its being and is willing to justify, excuse, and commit any atrocity necessary to further its ambitions.

What this means is quite simple: Palestinian nationalism and its supporters, whoever and wherever they may be—even in California high schools—have no place in the public discourse of any decent society. Their movement is fundamentally illegitimate. In a free society, of course, it must be allowed to exist, so long as it puts an end to its criminal activities. But it should be shunned, ostracized, and relegated to the far corners of the dark web and easily surveilled gated compounds in the Midwest.

At the moment, however, a generation of American children is being threatened by unscrupulous cultists who are determined to pound their ideology into the minds of those children at any cost. No sane society should allow such people anywhere near a classroom, but systemic hate cannot be ended overnight. In the meantime, the cultists should not be permitted to poison the hearts of thousands of students by teaching them that people who hate and kill Jews are the children of light.

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Murder in the Gulag

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a court hearing in Moscow, on February 20, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov.

JNS.orgWhile Tucker Carlson was marveling over the opulence of Moscow’s subways, Alexei Navalny died in the “Polar Wolf” prison camp in northern Siberia.

Navalny was Russia’s most prominent dissident, the only serious opponent to Vladimir Putin who, for more than 20 years, has held this vast and troubled land in a tightening stranglehold.

Navalny’s supporters called him the “hero of the new era.” That era is now, at best, very far off.

Earlier this month, Carlson conducted a two-hour interview with Putin. What did the Russian strongman have to say about the charismatic rival he incarcerated 40 miles above the Arctic Circle in the sunless winter?

Not a word, because Carlson—formerly a Fox News talk show host, now an idiosyncratic commentator on X, formerly Twitter—didn’t bother to ask.

To paraphrase a quote attributed to Stalin: A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths are a statistic.

The number of deaths for which Putin is responsible, already in the hundreds of thousands, could soon reach that mark. His forces re-invaded Ukraine two years ago this week, having first invaded in 2014.

His generals deliberately target civilians. Many of his troops are conscripted from the ethnic groups of Russia’s Central Asian possessions. He uses them as cannon fodder.

The grim statistics of the war against Ukraine do not appear to trouble Carlson.

Following his amicable interview with Putin, he filmed himself touring a Moscow subway station (where, like Bernie Sanders on his 1988 honeymoon, he was wowed by the chandeliers) and shopping at a Moscow grocery store where, he said in wide-eyed wonderment, a family of four can buy enough food for a week for only $104!

Apologies for the digression ahead but I think Navalny would have wanted you to know the facts about Putin’s Russia.

The average monthly wage for a Russian is less than $800. The average monthly wage for an American is more than six times that. Average Russians spend more than 50% of what they earn on food. Average Americans spend less than 12%.

Are grocery stores in the boondocks—say in Grozny or Irkutsk—as well-stocked as those in the capital? Carlson did not investigate. (But I bet you can guess the answer.)

Inquiring minds also might want to know that one in five households in Russia lacks indoor plumbing. In rural areas the ratio is two out of three.

And a smidgen of history: Stalin built Moscow’s subways in the 1930s to glorify Russia’s socialist dictatorship. He used slave labor from the Gulag, his archipelago of prison camps, and British engineers, some of whom he later imprisoned for “espionage.”

In this same period, Stalin manufactured a famine in Ukraine to punish “kulaks,” farmers resisting collectivization. In the Holodomor, as it became known, more than four million men, women and children perished.

Does this atrocity help explain why Ukrainians are adamant that never again will they be ruled by Moscow? That’s another question Carlson did not raise.

Littering in a Moscow subway may be strictly verboten, but with impunity have Putin and his cronies appropriated Russia’s natural resources, thereby making themselves spectacularly rich.

This corruption was one of Navalny’s major themes. The “party of swindlers and thieves,” he called the Kremlin cabal.

He opposed Putin’s war against Ukraine, and his strengthening alliance with the anti-American dictators in Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang.

The son of a Red Army officer, Navalny entered politics around the time Putin was rising to power.

In 2013 he unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Moscow. In 2018, he attempted to run for president. Putin had him thrown in jail and then disqualified his candidacy based on his criminal record.

In August 2020, shortly after boarding a domestic flight, Navalny became ill. Poisoning by Putin’s agents was suspected.

In a comatose state, Navalny was flown to Berlin, where German doctors determined that he had been exposed to Novichok, a Soviet-era, military-grade nerve agent not available in Russian pharmacies.

He was treated, he recovered, and, in January 2021, he returned to Russia where, upon arrival, he was promptly arrested.

Why did he come back? Because he was a man of unfathomable courage and conviction. The fight for a new Russia was his life’s work.

“I don’t have another country,” he once said. “I have nowhere to retreat to.”

He also was confident that, working through his lawyers and allies, he could continue his struggle against the dictatorship in ways not possible from exile abroad.

Last Thursday, a video of Navalny in a courtroom was posted on X. He appeared to be in good health and even good spirits. He was 47 years old.

On Friday, Russian prison authorities announced: “The inmate A.A. Navalny started to feel unwell after a walk and almost immediately lost consciousness at correctional facility No. 3 on Feb. 16. Medical staff arrived immediately, an ambulance was called. None of the resuscitation efforts yielded positive results.”

“He was murdered,” Bill Browder, once the most important foreign investor in Russia, told a reporter. “He was murdered at the hands of Vladimir Putin” who wanted to demonstrate that he “can cross every red line and get away with it.”

There are other red lines—in Ukraine, in Europe and beyond. So long as Putin continues to get away with murders at home and abroad, he will cross them.

Tucker Carlson is among those who doesn’t see that as an American problem. That demonstrates an astonishing lack of awareness.

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Who Is a Jew? Who Is a Kohen?

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the priestly blessing for Kohenim during the intermediate days of the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover on April 02, 2018. Photo: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.

JNS.orgWho is a Kohen, a Jewish priest? Technically speaking, of course, the Kohen is a member of the priestly tribe of Israel descended from Moses’s brother Aaron and Aaron’s sons—the first Kohanim. Today, scientists claim to be able to detect the “Kohen gene” in those descendants’ DNA. It’s mind-boggling that, well over 3,000 years later, we can identify the descendants of a certain family and determine who is a Kohen through genetics.

But this is not only a question of discovering our biological lineage. There are often important halachic issues at play if one is a Kohen. As a member of the priestly tribe that once served in the Holy Temple, the Kohen is held to a higher standard in a number of areas of life. He may not act as a pallbearer at funerals and must keep his distance from graves. Nor is he permitted to marry a divorcee or a convert. Other rules apply as well.

As a rabbi, I’ve had my fair share of trying to establish with certainty whether someone is a Kohen or not in order to confirm, for example, whether he is allowed to marry a divorcee. I’ve done identity checks and genealogical searches, including trying to locate the tombstones of great-grandparents.

This week, in Parshat Tetzaveh, we read about the sacred vestments of the High Priest, the Kohen Gadol, and the ordinary priests. The High Priest looked quite majestic in his regalia. His ornamental garments included a decorative robe, tunic, turban, breastplate, apron and gold headband. He cut a very impressive figure indeed when he entered the Temple.

But believe it or not, according to Maimonides, every Jew is a Kohen.

Just before the Ten Commandments and the great Revelation at Sinai, God told Moses that He had a mission for the Israelites: “You will be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

So, the entire Jewish people was given a mission on the mountain. We are all expected to be singular people with a particular mission. We have been made messengers of God, a “light unto the nations,” and to make the world a better place in every way we can. We are all part of the “kingdom of priests” and together we are called upon to be a “holy nation.”

But what does “holy” mean? The dictionary definition is “sacred, dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose.” Personally, I have always preferred translating “holy” as “distinctively different.”

Not every Jew is a genetic Kohen. The vast majority are not. But according to Maimonides, we can all be a Kohen spiritually.

In his magnum opus Mishneh Torah, at the end of the Laws of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, Maimonides states:

What differentiated the tribe of Levi [which the priestly tribe comes from] was that they were designated and set apart from the ways of the world. They do not receive land, nor do they acquire for themselves through their physical power. Instead, they are the Legionnaires of God.

And not only the tribe of Levi exclusively, but anyone whose spirit generously motivates him and he understands with his wisdom to set himself aside and stand before God to serve Him. … Proceeding justly as God intended, removing from his neck the yoke of the many material schemings which people seek, such a person is sanctified as holy of holies.

So, figuratively speaking, everyone can be a Kohen. By dedicating our lives to a higher purpose, to more noble pursuits, we become part of the “kingdom of priests” whether our father was a Kohen or not.

If you weren’t convinced that Israel and the Jews have a special place in the world, all you need to do is read the headlines. That the whole world is so preoccupied with Israel, that they ignore the real atrocities and genuine genocides around the world in China, Russia, Syria, Iran and elsewhere, actually proves that we are distinctly different.

Why do we attract the world’s undivided attention? It’s not normal. As Douglas Murray put it recently, “Israel is the only country who isn’t allowed to win a war.” Clearly, we are an exceptional people.

Many times in the past, however, Jews have been described as “a messenger who forgot the message.”

If we did, then Oct. 7 reminded us. It was a horrible wake-up call, but the mission is now well remembered. We got the message loud and clear. Even secular, unaffiliated Jews have woken up to the eternal reality of their true, inner identity; their separateness from the mainstream and their distinctive differentness.

But we must never allow that distinctiveness to be defined by victimhood. We must be what we were meant to be: Nothing less than the moral conscience of the world.

In the book of Kings, seeking to guarantee that her son Solomon will inherit the throne, Bathsheva says to her husband King David, “The eyes of all of Israel are upon you.”

Eighty years ago, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, then the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe, told his troops just before D-Day, “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”

So it is with our brave defenders today. And not only our valiant warriors, but all of us must remember the message and the mission.

With faith and fortitude, we must recommit ourselves to our national calling of being “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

And as G-d promised to look after the tribe of Levi, his “legionnaires,” so will He keep all of us—especially our soldiers and the hostages—safe and secure, forever enveloped by His loving and protective embrace. Amen.

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