WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. House of Representatives censured Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the Palestinian American Democrat, for her rhetoric in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel, including using the term “from the river to the sea.”
The 234-188 vote late Tuesday night saw 22 Democrats vote to censure Tlaib, and was sure to sharpen divides among Democrats over Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza. Some Democrats vehemently defended Tlaib’s right to free speech and others said the “From the river to the sea” term signifies the elimination of Israel. The vote was largely on party lines, reflecting the Republican majority, though four Republicans voted against censuring Tlaib.
Tlaib said she would not be intimidated by the censure vote, which will require her to stand in the well of the House chamber and listen to House Speaker Mike Johnson explain why she is being censured. “I will not be silenced and I will not let you distort my words,” she said.
The censure resolution was initiated by Rep. Rich McCormick, a Georgia Republican, and focused on statements by Tlaib since Hamas launched the war. It noted that Tlaib used the phrase on “from the river to the sea” Nov. 3 on social media and argued that “it is widely recognized as a genocidal call to violence to destroy the state of Israel and its people to replace it with a Palestinian state extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”
Tlaib in her Nov. 3 post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, said she used the phrase to describe a democratic outcome for all in that region. “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate,” she said. “My work and advocacy is always centered in justice and dignity for all people no matter faith or ethnicity.”
A number of Jewish Democrats decried the use of the phrase, but said limiting her speech set a dangerous precedent.
“As I have repeatedly made clear, I disagree vehemently with the comments made by Rep. Tlaib and condone no rhetoric that rejects the Jewish people’s right to self determination,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat who is the dean of the House’s unofficial Jewish caucus. “I also defend the freedom of speech that each and every American is granted by our Constitution, even when I find that speech to be reprehensible, as I do in this case.”
Other Jewish Democrats said Tlaib’s offenses were serious enough to merit censure, which most recently was used on California Rep. Adam Schiff, a Jewish Democrat targeted by republicans for his work investigating former President Donald Trump.
“I recognize this censure resolution is not a perfect resolution in its language or form, but unfortunately it is the only vehicle available to formally rebuke the dangerous disinformation and aspersions that Rep. Tlaib continues to use and defend,” said a statement from Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider, who, like McCormick’s resolution, also cited the weeks during which Tlaib promoted a claim that Israel was responsible for hitting a hospital early in the conflict. A range of reporting and intelligence assessments determined the hospital was hit by a misfired Palestinian rocket. “I feel that I have no other recourse but to vote to censure her.”
Other Jewish Democrats joining Schneider in censuring Tlaib include Rep. Kathy Manning of North Carolina, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel and Jared Moskowitz of Florida, Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Rep. Daniel Goldman of New York , Rep. Greg Landsman of Ohio, Rep. Kim Schrier of Washington and Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee.
At one point Tlaib grew emotional. She was surrounded by progressives associated with the “Squad,” a group of representatives known in part for harshly criticizing Israel. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, put her hand atop hers. “Palestinian people are not disposable, we are human beings like anyone else,” Tlaib said.
Tlaib is leading an effort to get Congress to urge President Joe Biden to pressure Israel into a ceasefire, something that Biden and Israel reject. Israel is determined to keep fighting until Hamas returns the more than 200 hostages it abducted into the Gaza Strip, and until the terror group is dismantled.
“Trying to bully or censor me won’t work because this movement to a ceasefire is bigger than one person,” she said.
Tensions over the ceasefire and how best to deal with the war are roiling Democrats. Earlier in the day, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat who is the minority leader, did not recommend a vote either way, but said the “River’ phrase was unacceptable discourse. “Echoing slogans that are widely understood as calling for the complete destruction of Israel — such as from the River to the Sea — does not advance progress toward a two-state solution,” he said. “Instead, it unacceptably risks further polarization, division and incitement to violence.”
It was the second attempt to censure Tlaib since the war started; a resolution advanced by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, another Georgia Republican, failed in part because it packed in condemnations of the prosecution of rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in a bid to overturn Biden’s election.
Tlaib said that calling her antisemitic was a means of censoring her. “The idea that criticizing the government of Israel is antisemitic sets a very dangerous precedent,” she said.
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Menorahs in Brooklyn Stolen and Vandalized, NYPD Investigating as Hate Crime
Multiple public menorahs in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York were stolen and vandalized, according to a spokesman for the Chabad Jewish movement.
The stolen menorah was seen on Sunset Park Center lawn on Wednesday evening, according to Yaacov Behrman, a spokesperson for Chabad. On Thursday, it was found broken.
In a separate incident captured on video, a man is seen riding up to a menorah in Sunset Park on a bicycle and pushing it over.
“The holiday hasn’t begun, and the vandalism has already started,” Behrman said on X/Twitter.
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is investigating the incidents as hate crimes.
The post Menorahs in Brooklyn Stolen and Vandalized, NYPD Investigating as Hate Crime first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
More than 500 staffers of Jewish groups, most of them progressive, appeal to Biden to press for ceasefire in Israel-Hamas war
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Hundreds of staffers for 140 Jewish organizations, most of them progressive, signed a letter to President Joe Biden and Congress urging them to press Israel to agree to a ceasefire in its war with Hamas, citing their work “building thriving Jewish communities.”
The letter, which does not necessarily reflect the views of the signatories’ employers, is the latest sign that differences among American Jews regarding Israel’s response to Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 invasion are becoming more public and pronounced. A number of Jewish Congress members now back a ceasefire, after having initially presented a unanimous voice in support of Biden’s backing for Israel.
“We are individuals who work for a wide array of Jewish organizations across the United States, coming together across the broad range of beliefs, practices, backgrounds and identities that make up the rich fabric of the American Jewish community,” said the letter, first reported Thursday by NBC.
“We are uniting together in this moment to call for a ceasefire, the release of all hostages, and a commitment towards a long-term political solution that ensures the freedom and collective safety of Israelis and Palestinians,” the letter said.
The letter comes just weeks after a mass pro-Israel rally on the National Mall, during which speakers enthusiastically endorsed Israel’s refusal to halt its military campaign until Hamas is dismantled and all the hostages it abducted on Oct. 7 are returned home. Hamas released more than 100 hostages in exchange for hundreds of security prisoners during a seven-day ceasefire that ended last week
The letter suggests to the president that the vocal Jewish groups that have opposed the war are also representative of a wide swath of American Jews. Biden prides himself on being attuned to Jewish sensibilities; he has cited his decades of closeness to Israel and to the American Jewish community in resisting calls from the left to press Israel into a ceasefire.
“As a group of professionals from a wide spectrum of Jewish organizations, many of us have devoted our life’s work to building thriving Jewish communities,” said the letter. “Our organizations may or may not join the call for a ceasefire themselves, but we feel moved to speak as individuals to demonstrate broad support within the Jewish community for a ceasefire.”
Most of the organizations listed as affiliates of the signatories are on the left of the political spectrum, among them Bend the Arc, Jews For Racial and Economic Justice, and Workers Circle and its affiliates, all of them social justice advocacy groups. Some of the social justice groups themselves have not endorsed a ceasefire, in part because their focus is on domestic issues. (A Boston spinoff of Workers Circle is an exception, and so is JFREJ.)
There are also staffers from the two leading groups that have mobilized Jewish opposition to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and backed a ceasefire: IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace, which is anti-Zionist. Left-wing activists point to Tthe visible presence of activists for these groups at antiwar protests to assert that there is Jewish backing for a ceasefire.
But some of the signatories come from groups focused on Israel that have opposed a ceasefire, including J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group. But in another sign of shifting sentiments, J Street said in a press release Thursday that it was reconsidering its position on the war.
There are also staffers for synagogues, some but not all known for their liberal outlook, that have not taken a position on a ceasefire.
More than 80 of the staffers signing asked for anonymity but listed their employers, which include mainstream groups that have backed Israel’s war effort, among them the Reform and Conservative movements. The list includes three anonymous staffers for UJA-Federation of New York, which has raised millions for Israel during the war.
“I signed this letter because all decisions at this fragile moment must be made with lasting peace and safety in mind for all people in the region,” the group’s press release quoted one of the unnamed UJA staffers as saying. “I call on President Biden to take immediate action for a permanent ceasefire, release of all hostages, and a just resolution to this brutal war.”
Heather Booth, a consultant for Jewish groups who did not sign the letter, urged the mainstream Jewish groups employing some of the signatories not to retaliate.
“Those who have signed the letter are responding to their values,” Booth told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We may or may not agree with what they’re signing and saying and I didn’t sign this myself for many reasons. But I support their right to share their passionate commitment to their values.And it’s a sign of these times at some on the list fear retribution for signing.”
In a press release, a Boston-area rabbi said her support for a ceasefire stemmed in part from her revulsion from Hamas.
“For the sake of defeating the insidious ideology of Hamas, for the sake of returning all of the hostages to their homes, for the sake of the wellbeing of all of the Israelis and Palestinians caught up in this war, I urge the Biden administration to do all it can to bring about a ceasefire as a first step to a lasting, political solution to the conflict,” said Rabbi Tovah Spitzer of Dorsey Tzedek, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Newton.
The letter comes as a number of Jewish Democrats in Congress have in recent days called for a ceasefire, or have called for restrictions on emergency aid Biden has requested for Israel that has yet to be approved. One of the Democrats, Rep. Becca Balint of Vermont, made a statement in support of the letter.
“Thousands of Palestinians, including thousands of children, have been killed. Many more have been displaced, without water, food, medical supplies, and fuel,” she said. “This is inhumane. What is needed is a negotiated bilateral ceasefire that ensures the release of all hostages and paves a path toward peace, security and safety for Israelis and Palestinians.”
Hamas killed more than 1,200 people and wounded thousands on Oct. 7, most of them civilians. Since Israel launched counterstrikes and a ground invasion of Gaza, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry has reported that some 17,000 people have been killed, including thousands of children. What portion of that number are combatants, and what portion were killed by misfired rockets aimed at Israel, is not known. Israel has estimated that twice as many civilians as militants have died in its counteroffensive.
Shots fired fired at Albany synagogue with preschool, suspect in custody
(New York Jewish Week) — Shots were fired at Temple Israel in Albany on Thursday, the first night of Hanukkah, as U.S. Jews grapple with a surge in antisemitism following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the Israeli military’s military campaign in Gaza.
There were no injuries in the shooting on the premises of the Conservative synagogue in New York’s capital, Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement, adding that she had spoken with the congregation’s rabbi. She said in a press briefing, however, that the synagogue has an on-site early learning center, “with at least two dozen children, preschoolers, who were on the premises.” She added that the facility went into lockdown but that all children have been released safely to their parents.
A 28-year-old male is in custody, said Hochul’s press secretary, Avi Small.
The suspect shouted “Free Palestine” during the incident, Albany’s Times Union reported, citing police and another source.
Hochul said she had directed the New York State Police and the state’s national guard to be on high alert and step up patrols of at-risk sites for Hanukkah, such as synagogues, yeshivas and community centers throughout the state — including New York City, which is home to the largest Jewish population in the United States.
“Any act of antisemitism is unacceptable, and undermining public safety at a synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah is even more deplorable,” Hochul said. “We reject hate, antisemitism and violence in all forms.”
Hochul visited the synagogue on Oct. 7 in a show of solidarity amid Hamas’ attack.
The governor said that, following Thursday’s incident, she contacted Temple Israel’s Rabbi Wendy Love Anderson, and “assured her that the state of New York will do everything possible to restore the sense of security her congregation needs at this time,” adding that she plans to attend Shabbat services there this Friday evening.
In the briefing, Hochul noted that the synagogue had been one of several targeted with bomb threats in September.
There was no immediate public comment on the incident from the synagogue or the Albany police department.
Law enforcement and Jewish community security groups have reported a surge in antisemitism since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.
In New York City, the NYPD reported 62 antisemitic hate crimes last month and 69 attacks in October, a steep increase. Anti-Jewish incidents made up 65% of all hate crimes reported to police last month. There is no comparable data available for antisemitic hate crimes in upstate New York.
Synagogues and other Jewish institutions have been targeted in the wave of hate crimes. On Friday, bomb threats were made against 15 synagogues in New York State, including five in upstate areas.
The threats were made as part of a campaign intended to interrupt synagogue operations by forcing law enforcement to go to a location, and there did not appear to be any actual danger to the targets, said the director of the Jewish security group the Community Security Initiative, Mitch Silber.
“The bottom line is this: The safety of Jewish New Yorkers is non-negotiable,” Hochul said in the briefing. “Every act, whether it’s verbal or physical, any act of antisemitism is unacceptable, and undermining the public safety at our synagogue, on the first night of Hanukkah, is even more deplorable.”
“I remind everyone: As New Yorkers, this is not who we are. This must stop, ” she added. “We reject hate, antisemitism, Islamophobia. All hate crimes must stop, and all violence in every form must cease. We have no tolerance for these acts of evil that have now permeated our society.”
Ahead of questions, the briefing concluded with the lighting of Hanukkah candles, led by Eva Wyner, the state’s deputy director of Jewish affairs.
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