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In fiery address, Netanyahu doubles down on judicial overhaul while calling for unity

TEL AVIV (JTA) — In a primetime address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to press on with his government’s effort to weaken Israel’s judiciary, accusing some of the legislation’s opponents of “endangering democracy.”

The nearly 10-minute televised speech came as Netanyahu’s coalition is pushing through a measure that will strip the Supreme Court of the power to strike down government decisions it deems “unreasonable.” The “reasonableness” clause was recently employed to invalidate the cabinet appointment of a close Netanyahu ally who has repeatedly been convicted of crimes.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is set to hold a final vote on the measure early next week. In response, opponents of the judicial overhaul effort have held mass protests, blocked major streets and engaged in other forms of civil disobedience. The overhaul’s critics say sapping the Supreme Court of its power and independence would endanger Israeli democracy by removing a curb on the government’s power.

While he bookended the address with calls for unity, Netanyahu defended legislation overhauling the “reasonableness” clause unequivocally, saying the current legislation is a scaled-back version of the original proposal. He blamed his political opposition for the failure of negotiations that had aimed to create a compromise proposal.

“All this talk of destroying democracy is just absurd,” he said, referring to the claims of the overhaul’s opponents. “This is just an attempt to make you scared of something that has no basis in reality. Fixing the reasonableness clause will only strengthen democracy. It will certainly not endanger democracy.”

This week, hundreds of reservists in the Israel Defense Forces, including doctors as well as more than 100 Air Force officers, pledged to refuse to serve in protest of the overhaul effort. The growing refusal movement has alarmed Israel’s security chiefs — in March, it was part of what prompted Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to call on Netanyahu to pause the legislation. On Wednesday, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said in remarks at a military base that the military has been “based on the reserve system since its inception” and that refusal pledges “harm the IDF.”

The refusal calls appear to have prompted Netanyahu’s speech.

“What will endanger democracy is refusal” to serve, Netanyahu said. “Refusal endangers the security of all of Israel’s citizens. In a democracy, the army is subordinate to the government, not superior to the government.”

The leader of the parliamentary opposition, Yair Lapid, accused Netanyahu of lying in his speech, and said that opposition leaders had also condemned pledges to refuse military service.

“What we saw tonight is a prime minister who is dismantling the state instead of uniting it,” Lapid, a centrist politician who briefly served as prime minister last year, wrote on Twitter. “Who lies instead of telling citizens the truth.”

Lapid added that the legislation Netanyahu is backing is “the erasure of one of the foundations of our democratic system and the destruction of the court and separation of powers.”

Netanyahu’s allies have also invoked the army in controversial ways in support of the overhaul. Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right national security minister, and others shared a video apparently meant to be a critique of the reservists’ refusals. In it, an actor playing a military pilot refuses to provide support to an infantry soldier without first knowing his position on the judicial overhaul. An IDF spokesperson condemned the video as stoking “internal incitement” in the military, according to the Times of Israel.

The post In fiery address, Netanyahu doubles down on judicial overhaul while calling for unity appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Williams College Rejects Divestment Proposal, Delivering Blow to Anti-Zionist Student Movement

Anti-Israel protesters outside Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City, April 22, 2024. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

Williams College in Massachusetts has rejected a proposal to divest from weapons manufacturers that sell their products to Israel, delivering a substantial loss to the anti-Zionist movement in the final days of the academic year.

The school’s Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) has been considering the proposal, put forth by a group which calls itself Jews for Justice (JfJ), since January. This month, it produced a report of recommendations that will be forwarded to the Williams College Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees.

In addition to rejecting JfJ’s demand that Williams College divest from weapons manufactures that do business with Israel, ASCR declined to make itself a permanent standing committee and to recommend adopting controversial Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles which have been pushed by far-left groups aiming to use the market as an accelerator of social change.

“The ACSR recommends to the Investment Committee that the college not divest from companies that sell weapons, reconnaissance tools, or vehicles used by the Israel Defense Forces, and that the college not divest from weapons manufactures,” the report says. “Having recommended that … in the absence of other specific requests for divestment, the ACSR recommends to the Investment Committee that the college not adopt a blanket, exclusionary approach to ESG investing.”

ASCR cited a number of reasons why the move would be disadvantageous to the college, including that some of its funds are potentially “commingled.” Divesting from them, it explained, “could have a negative impact on investment performance out of proportion to the negligible impact on the targeted company.” It also said that JfJ’s demands are “broad” and target companies such as Boeing, which “not only builds missiles, but also satellite systems and commercial aircraft.”

ASCR also explained that there is no “shared understanding” among scholars and experts, nor among its own community, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would make divestment from Israel as morally cogent as divesting from South Africa in the 1980s or, more recently, fossil fuels.

“The ACSR did receive feedback from some student groups, some faculty, and some staff in support of the Jews for Justice requests,” the report continued. “But oppositional perspectives within our community have also been expressed. The recent tumult on college and university campuses is but one reflection of the contentious nature of these complicated and emotionally charged issues.”

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — a group that has been linked to terrorist organizations — and Jews for Justice — an anti-Zionist organization that represents a minority segment of opinion in the Jewish community — voluntarily ended its occupation of Williams College’s Sawyer Quad on May 18, conceding defeat after a two and half week standoff with the university that resulted only in promises of two meetings with administrators in the next four months.

“We ended the encampment, but we do not consider the outcomes of our negotiations to be a victory,” SJP told The Williams Record. “We will continue pressuring the administration until full divestment and implementation of ethical investment standards.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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University of Toronto offers a deal to protesters, but the school refuses to participate in academic boycotts of Israel

Representatives for the pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Toronto were still deciding on the morning of Friday May 24 how to respond to an offer from the school to either end the demonstration or be issued a notice of trespass. The offer was given in the afternoon of May 23, and gave the encampment […]

The post University of Toronto offers a deal to protesters, but the school refuses to participate in academic boycotts of Israel appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Model Bella Hadid Wears Keffiyeh Dress in Cannes in Support of ‘Free Palestine Forever’

Bella Hadid attends the red carpet of the film ”L’Amour ouf” (Beating Hearts) at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 23, 2024. Photo: Daniele Cifalà via Reuters Connect

Model Bella Hadid used fashion to make a political statement at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday by wearing a dress made from a keffiyeh, a headscarf traditionally worn by Palestinians that has become a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel.

In between premieres at the film festival, the model and fragrance designer walked the streets in Cannes, France, sporting a vintage Michael and Hushi “keffiyeh dress” from 2001 that was made from red and white keffiyehs. “I made [the dress] out of the keffiyeh fabric, which I still have nightmares about, as it wasn’t easy,” designer Hushidar Mortezaie was quoted as saying. Michael and Hushi also designed a black and white keffiyeh halter top worn by Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Carrie Bradshaw in a season four episode of Sex and the City.

Hadid shared the meaning behind her outfit in a post that she uploaded late Thursday on her Instagram Story. She reposted an image of the original 2001 design, tagged the designers, and wrote in the caption, “Free Palestine forever.” She included an emoji of the Palestinian flag.

bella hadid’s wearing a vintage keffiyeh dress in cannes by michael and hushi

— ✭ (@badestoutfit) May 23, 2024

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war — which began after Hamas-led terrorists took around 250 Israeli and foreign hostages and killed 1,200 people in southern Israel on Oct. 7 — Hadid has repeatedly expressed solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In a lengthy statement shared on Instagram in late October, she condemned the Hamas attacks, and said she stands in solidarity with “Palestine” and the “innocent Palestinian civilians” affected by the war.

“I believe deep in my heart that no child, no people anywhere, should be taken away from their family either temporarily or indefinitely. That goes for Israeli or Palestinian people alike,” she added. She also called for humanitarian aid to help “the urgent needs of the people of Gaza.”

During the Israel-Hamas conflict in 2021, Hadid participated in a pro-Palestinian rally where she chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which has been widely interpreted as a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and for it to be replaced with a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. She has previously accused Israel of “colonization, ethnic cleansing, military occupation, and apartheid over the Palestinian people.”

Hadid’s father, Nazareth-born real estate developer Mohamed Hadid, recently criticized and sent racist messages to US Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) for supporting Israel. He has also accused Israel of occupation, colonialism, genocide, and apartheid. In March, he commented on the support US President Joe Biden has expressed for Israel after the Oct. 7 attacks, saying, “He will be in court with the rest of the Zionist criminals. We will hunt them down like they did the Nazis.” He also called Biden the “head of the Zionist project.”

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