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In antisemitism discourse around Jamie Foxx’s ‘Jesus’ post, evidence of a ‘culture clash’

(JTA) — When Shawn Harris saw that Jamie Foxx had written “They killed this dude name Jesus… What do you think they’ll do to you???!” on Instagram on Saturday, she thought, “Let’s see what happens next.”

Harris, a Black Jewish artist and educator in Virginia, weighed the possibility that the Oscar-winning actor was echoing the age-old antisemitic charge that the Jews killed Jesus. But she also considered that, in this case, “they” did not refer to Jews.

So when Foxx deleted the post and clarified his statement in an apologetic post on Sunday, Harris felt reassured. Foxx wrote, “I want to apologize to the Jewish community and everyone who was offended by my post,” explaining that he was “betrayed by a fake friend and that’s what I meant with ‘they’ not anything more.”

But if Harris wasn’t upset with Foxx, she was troubled by the social media conversation surrounding his posts. Multiple antisemitism watchdogs criticized Foxx for the post, implying despite his clarification that his initial post was antisemitic. Other users on the network popularly known as Twitter denied that the post suggested anything antisemitic. Still others posted explicitly antisemitic comments in response to the debate.

“What was distressing to me was the conversation happening around it,” Harris said. “As often happens, the initial incident is a relatively minor thing, and it gets blown out of proportion by a whole bunch of people, and it encourages loud, ignorant people to come out of the woodwork.”

She added, “To me it looked like a basic kind of culture clash that was taken in all kinds of directions by people adding their two cents about it and not really listening to the substance.”

Foxx’s posts, and the responses to them, showcase the delicate nature of adjudicating accusations of bigotry in real time. The posts also resurface questions that have circulated as both antisemitism and social media have become increasingly prominent in American public life.

When should audiences read prejudice into ostensibly anodyne statements? How should advocates react when they detect signals of hate? How should the public judge apologies against the statements they have come to apologize for? How much does context matter — and which context counts?

“Either way you slice it, this is a perfect storm of cultural competency failures in multiple directions,” Rabbi Shais Rishon, a Black Jewish writer who goes by the name MaNishtana, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. In a subsequent tweet, he wrote, “Multiple things can be true at the same time… Multiple things can be wrong at the same time.”

In the immediate aftermath of Foxx’s posts, multiple Jewish groups called him out. StopAntisemitism, a watchdog with 72,000 Twitter followers, posted a screenshot of the “Jesus” post and wrote, “Did Kanye hack Jamie Foxx’s Instagram account?” That was a reference to the rapper and fashion mogul formerly known as Kanye West, who went on an antisemitic tirade last year.

After Foxx apologized, StopAntisemitism tweeted, “Words matter. And those with massive audiences on social media have a responsibility to be careful with their content to not incite more hatred than already exists.”

On Saturday, the American Jewish Committee released a statement referencing the initial post and the apology. It praised Foxx’s apology — and conveyed that the “Jesus” post was antisemitic, regardless of his intent.

“The deicide charge, falsely implicating Jews in Jesus’ death, has fueled antisemitic hatred for centuries,” the statement said. “Jamie Foxx did the right thing by apologizing for this statement. It is important for everyone, including Foxx’s millions of followers, to know why his post was harmful.”

The condemnation spread beyond Jewish activists. The actress Jennifer Aniston, who had initially liked Foxx’s first post, wrote on Instagram: “This really makes me sick” and “I do NOT support any form of antisemitism.”

Several Twitter users wrote that what Foxx had initially posted was a phrase understood among many Black Americans to refer to betrayal among friends, rather than to an antisemitic dog whistle. Yvette Nicole Brown, the actor and comedian known for her roles on the TV show “Community” and a range of other shows and films, tweeted that Aniston “owes Jamie an apology.”

“The phrase ‘They killed Jesus, what you think you got coming?’ Has been a phrase in Black churches & homes FOREVER,” Brown tweeted on Monday. “It has ALWAYS been about #FakeFriends. It is NEVER said as a dig against Jewish people. NEVER!”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted on Saturday, “We welcome @iamjamiefoxx’s apology and thank him for his clarification.” The group also wished him health following a recent hospitalization. Greenblatt tweeted on Sunday that he had spoken to Foxx and that Foxx confirmed “privately what he also said publicly. His message of love for the Jewish community is crucial in this time of rising hate.”

The groups that criticized Foxx have stood by their statements. In an email to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a spokesperson for the American Jewish Committee wrote that the group’s reaction was warranted because Foxx’s post could have been read as antisemitic regardless of what he meant.

“It is important to continue to educate and explain why something may be interpreted as antisemitic,” the spokesperson wrote. “Foxx has 16.7 million followers; we do not know how they will interpret and internalize the comment, so it is imperative to call out statements that can be antisemitic.”

Liora Rez, StopAntisemitism’s executive director, told JTA that while the group appreciated Foxx’s apology, antisemitism “must be called out each and every time no matter who it is from.” She added, “Words matter and it’s important for Jews to be able to define and identify what we consider to be antisemitism.”

The discourse around Foxx’s posts did lead to explicit antisemitism. Some of the more than 150 people who shared StopAntisemitism’s post included their own antisemitic statements. One wrote that Jews find the deicide charge offensive “because the Jews know better than anyone who killed Jesus.” Another, whose account supports West’s supposed 2024 presidential campaign, wrote: “They spread more hate than anyone that they complain about.”

Harris said one possible takeaway from the discourse — the idea that Foxx had intentionally said something antisemitic — did not sit well with her, especially as some critics seemed to liken Foxx to other Black public figures who have been accused of bigotry toward Jews.

“It was a bunch of people trying to make Jamie Foxx the latest Black face of antisemitism, which got on my nerves because Jamie Foxx is not advocating hatred of Jewish people or giving people who hate Jewish people a platform,” she said. At the same time, she added, “Some people did kind of get very dismissive of the concerns about antisemitism.”

MaNishtana wrote that one way to lessen misunderstandings of this kind is to seek out the perspectives of African-American and Caribbean Jews, “Because we live in BOTH worlds and speak BOTH languages, and we’re CONSTANTLY watching our worlds talk past each other.”

The upshot of the incident, Harris said, is that Foxx apologized exactly how she would have wanted him to. “He did exactly what we wish everyone did in that situation,” she said, “which is [say] like, ‘OK, I get it now, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.’”

The lesson, she said, is “Listen a little better, be a little more sensitive.”

The post In antisemitism discourse around Jamie Foxx’s ‘Jesus’ post, evidence of a ‘culture clash’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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The Implications of Rafah’s Cross-Border Tunnels

Israeli soldiers operate at the opening to a tunnel at Al Shifa Hospital compound in Gaza City, amid the ongoing ground operation of the Israeli army against Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, Nov. 22, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

JNS.orgAn estimated 50 cross-border tunnels link Gaza to Egypt’s Sinai, enabling Hamas to smuggle weapons, funds and personnel, and black-market traders to import a range of goods to the Strip.

Yoni Ben Menachem, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said that since the Israel Defense Forces has not yet captured all of Rafah and the Philadelphi Corridor, aka the Philadelphi Route or the Saladin Axis (the narrow strip of land along the 8.7-mile border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt), the estimate for the number of tunnels could easily rise.

The current IDF operations have focused on specific points such as the Rafah crossing and parts of the Philadelphi Corridor, as well as eastern Rafah, but they are due to expand shortly.

According to Ben Menachem, the tunnels serve purposes beyond smuggling weapons. These include the transportation of “prohibited goods such as luxury goods, cigarettes and pornographic materials, which are then sold on the black market in Gaza at high prices,” he noted, highlighting the financial aspect of the smuggling operations.

He also said there was likely high-level corruption at the Rafah crossing, where bribes are paid to Egyptian security officials to facilitate smuggling.

“According to Palestinian reports, bribery of senior officials at the Rafah crossing and Egyptian military officers on the Philadelphi Route enabled the transport of goods and weapons,” he said, underscoring the extensive network supporting smuggling activities, which he said has been occurring both over and underground.

As such, Ben Menachem said, the tunnels are part of a larger industry that includes the transfer of residents of Gaza into Egypt and beyond.

Ben Menachem referred to reports that claim Mahmoud el-Sisi, the son of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is heavily involved in these operations.

“According to Palestinian claims, Mahmoud el-Sisi, the powerful figure in Egyptian intelligence, is behind a front company named Hala, which organizes the passage of Gaza residents into Egypt,” he said. Gazan families pay thousands of dollars to leave Gaza, he added.

“I believe we are at this stage of still fighting in a limited area of Rafah, and have yet to conduct the large operation there. Israel is preparing to stay in Rafah, and wishes to destroy these tunnels. Israel cannot at this stage risk a direct diplomatic clash with Egypt over this, so the Americans will, I believe, deal with this on Israel’s behalf,” Ben Menachem assessed, referring to smoothing over security ties.

“The Egyptian army will have an financial problem, because they are being disconnected from the smuggling, an important income source,” he added.

Resolute in its fight

Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay, a senior research fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University in Herzliya, served as deputy head of the National Security Council of Israel between 2007 and 2009.

He told JNS that the Gaza-Sinai tunnels have been a longstanding issue, particularly active during the rule of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the brief presidency of Muslim Brotherhood figure Mohamed Morsi. “It is likely that many tunnels were operational during Mubarak’s era and certainly during Morsi’s short rule,” Shay explained.

Since the elder el-Sisi came to power as deputy prime minister in 2013 and then as president in 2014, Egypt has made significant efforts to combat terrorism and reduce the number of tunnels. Shay said, “El-Sisi’s government has been resolute in its fight against Islamist terrorist groups, including the Islamic State in Sinai and the Muslim Brotherhood, and part of these efforts included tackling the tunnel networks.”

Despite these efforts, “achieving 100% success is improbable,” Shay added.

He highlighted the strategic importance of maintaining good relations between Israel and Egypt, particularly in the context of the ongoing conflict against Hamas and humanitarian efforts.

“There is a clear strategic interest for both Israel and Egypt to maintain good relations, as evidenced by the cooperation on humanitarian activities through the Rafah crossing and Egyptian mediation regarding hostages,” Shay said.

The tunnels, he added, represent a concern for both countries, necessitating cooperative efforts.

“The IDF must decide on its next steps carefully to avoid jeopardizing relations with Egypt,” Shay cautioned, emphasizing the necessity for joint efforts to curtail the smuggling and promote regional stability.

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Erdoğan and the Essential Hypocrisy of Antisemitism

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 3, 2022. Photo: Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

JNS.orgIt often feels as if a global contest is underway over who can engage in the most depraved antisemitic invective. The competition is fierce. Everyone from celebrity activists to Hamas terrorists to campus thugs is in the running. The resulting pyrotechnics have been impressive. Indeed, one has rarely seen a group of human beings so enthusiastic about diving headfirst into raw sewage. As yet, however, no clear frontrunner has emerged.

But there does seem to be one who stands out from the rest. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had not covered himself in glory before the Israel-Hamas war started. The venerable Islamist antisemite has dominated Turkish politics through populist Jew-hatred for a generation.

The laundry list of Erdoğan’s demented ravings is too long to detail here. Suffice it to say that he regularly accuses Israel of innumerable crimes against humanity. He has called Israel’s leaders Nazis and, at times, asserted that they are worse than the Nazis. He has a particular obsession with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he regularly burns in rhetorical effigy.

This orgy of racist invective has been underway for years, but it hit a new peak of defamation and incitement during Israel’s current war.

In this, Erdoğan is not unusual. The blood libel is perhaps more popular today than it ever was. But Erdoğan may be the foremost example of it because he is so paradigmatic. In many ways, he literally personifies today’s antisemitism. In particular, he embodies perhaps its most essential aspect: hypocrisy.

Antisemites used to be fairly open about the fact that their attitudes were evil. They reveled in the race hatred to which they freely confessed. This is not the case today. Our era’s antisemites always couch their genocidal seethings in the language of peace, justice, human rights and so on. Even when pinned down, the best they can muster up is a wan moral equivocation. Back then, Louis-Ferdinand Céline could proudly declare, “A pile of a million dead stinking yids is not worth the life of a single Aryan.” Today, his heirs simply mumble, “It depends on the context.” Celine was a monster, no doubt, but at least he had the courage of his hideous convictions.

In Erdoğan’s case, hypocrisy does not just typify his antisemitism, it defines it. He falsely accuses Israel of Nazism (which is antisemitic in and of itself) while he engages in regular antisemitic demonization. He does so while supporting Hamas, which is as inspired by Nazism as by radical Islam. He accuses Israel of infinite crimes against humanity because of a war Israel launched in response to a rampage of crimes against humanity committed by the group he proudly supports.

Erdoğan clearly thinks that his defamation helps delegitimize Israel. In fact, it delegitimizes nothing so much as his own country. Because whether Erdoğan likes it or not, Turkey is a nation with a long history of heinous crimes against humanity.

Turkey, we should not forget and Erdoğan surely knows, is the rump of what was once the Ottoman Empire. That empire was one of the most brutal and rapacious of its kind in history. Emerging out of the steppes of the East, it rampaged westward, conquering enormous swaths of territory in the Middle East and North Africa. It then turned towards Europe, slaughtering its way through the Balkans before finally being turned back at the gates of Vienna.

Along the way, the Ottomans exterminated the Christian Byzantine Empire and committed cultural genocide by conquering Constantinople and forcibly converting the centuries-old Hagia Sophia church into a mosque. The Ottomans also sponsored mass piracy in the Mediterranean and one of the world’s most brutal slave trades. Perhaps unsatisfied with mere forced labor, the Ottomans subjected many of their slaves to mass castration.

Lest one labor under the misapprehension that all this ended along with the Ottoman Empire, modern Turkey was, in many ways, built on genocide. While the extermination of the Armenians is well-known—though still denied by the very Turkish government led by Erdoğan—there was also mass slaughter of the Anatolian Greeks and other minorities. As for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, they have been the target of decades of attempts at cultural genocide and innumerable state atrocities.

In one of the Turkish government’s few concessions to common decency, Hagia Sophia was transformed into a secular space rather than an exclusively Muslim house of worship. Erdoğan, however, recently reversed that policy, apparently believing that he has the right to appropriate what centuries of Christian labor brought into being.

All of this reveals the heart of the modern antisemite: Erdoğan accuses Israel of infinite crimes while standing on ground stolen from Greeks, Armenians, and other non-Muslims. He does so while continuing to deny the historical crimes his own country has committed. He does all this while supporting genocidal terrorists. He is, in other words, a hypocrite on a world-historical scale.

There is hardly a country in the world without skeletons in its closet. All empires are built and maintain themselves by ugly and often reprehensible means. As Balzac said: Behind every great fortune lies a crime. What makes Erdoğan and indeed all of today’s antisemites so particularly obnoxious is not that they have a sinister past but that they refuse to admit it. Instead, they project their own crimes onto Israel and the Jews. Convinced of their own infinite sainthood, they feel no compunctions about committing any atrocity necessary to expiate themselves of their own unacknowledged sins. Nothing soothes pain more effectively than inflicting it.

Erdoğan is not alone in this. The Arab world was also partly built on imperialism, settler-colonialism and genocide. The radical left has tens of millions of deaths on its conscience thanks to Stalin, Mao and others. This, again, does not make them historical anomalies. However, it ought to give them pause. It might be better if they acknowledged their past crimes and did the work necessary to make amends rather than spend their time defaming others.

This world-historical hypocrisy teaches us that whatever the antisemites’ absurd pretensions to sainthood, we do not have to accept them. It is unlikely that saints actually exist, but if they did, they would not be guilty of genocide, imperialism, setter-colonialism or antisemitism for that matter. The saints of antisemitism can howl and wail, but their hypocrisy proves that we are under no obligation to listen to a word they say.

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IDF Locates Rocket Launching Parts in Gazan School

Palestinians gather at the scene where senior commander of Islamic Jihad militant group Khaled Mansour was killed in Israeli strikes, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 7, 2022. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

i24 NewsThe Israel Defense Forces said the 98th Division discovered dozens of components needed to launch rockets in a warehouse within a school complex in Jabaliya, the northern Gaza Strip, according to a press release Sunday.

Using military intelligence, the 460th Brigade raided a school complex in Jabaliya and located a military warehouse where the rocket parts were found, providing further proof of Hamas using civilian infrastructure for terrorist use, the military said.

Meanwhile in Rafah, the Nachal, Givati, and 401st brigades killed terrorists who tried killing Israeli soldiers and located several tunnel shafts. Assault rifles, RPGs, grenades, and other explosives were found.

The 99th Division is likewise continuing to operate in the center of Gaza, eliminating several terrorists.

Fighter jets and various aircraft attacked and destroyed more than 50 terrorist targets throughout the Gaza Strip over the past day.

Among the targets that were attacked were military buildings, IDF sites and warehouses, rocket launchers, observation posts, terrorist squads and other military infrastructure.

Two rocket launchers were attacked in the Rafah area, aimed at the Kerem Shalom area.

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