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Iran Executes Four Kurdish Political Prisoners Charged as ‘Zionist Spies’

A Feb. 2023 protest in Washington, DC calling for an end to executions and human rights violations in Iran. Photo: Reuters/ Bryan Olin Dozier

Iran on Monday executed four Kurdish political prisoners accused by the Islamist regime of planning a bombing attack in the central city of Isfahan that was supposedly orchestrated by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.

The four men — Mohsen Mazloum, Mohammad Faramarzi, Vafa Azarbar, and Pejman Fatehi — were charged by the Iranian authorities with having illegally entered Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan, for the purpose of bombing a factory in Isfahan that produces equipment for the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics.

“The death sentence of four members of a group affiliated with the Zionist spy organization … was carried out this morning,” the Iranian judiciary’s website Mizan Online reported.

The four Kurds were all members of the left-wing Komala Party, one of several Kurdish organizations banned by the Iranian regime, according to the Kurdish news website Rudaw.

The US government condemned the executions in a statement on Tuesday, excoriating Iran’s “blatant disregard for human rights” and emphasizing that it had received reports of “torture and unfair trials.”

News that the Iranian authorities were refusing to hand the bodies of the executed prisoners to their fsmilies sparked an angry reaction across Kurdistan.

General strikes were held in protest of the executions at bazaars in the cities of Mahabad, Dehgolan, Marivan, Divandarreh, Kermanshah, Bukan, Saqqez, Sanandaj and Sarvabad, according to photos and videos published on Kurdish social media in Iran. Videos also depicted large numbers of people visiting the houses of the executed prisoners’ families in Bukan, Dehgolan, Kamyaran, and Mahabad to pay their respects and express solidarity with them, Rudaw reported.

According to the Kurdish Hengaw Organziation for Human Rights, internet and telephone services have been disrupted in many of Iran’s Kurdish cities, and helicopters of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are patrolling the sky in several cities as well. A large number of security forces have been deployed to the areas where the strikes are being held.

In December, Hengaw reported that Iranian prisons had executed 144 Kurdish prisoners in 2023, a significant rise on the previous year, when Iran executed 52 Kurdish prisoners.

Many of those who are executed in Iran — which executes more prisoners annually than any other country bar China — are convicted based on confessions often obtained under duress, Hengaw stressed.

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An instructor at Vancouver’s Langara College was dismissed due to remarks made at a pro-Palestinian rally in October

A faculty member of Langara College in Vancouver who celebrated the Hamas attacks against Israel on Oct. 7 has been dismissed from her position, according to a statement released by the college on Jan. 26. Natalie Knight, an English instructor and Indigenous curriculum consultant at the college, had called the Hamas attacks, which killed close […]

The post An instructor at Vancouver’s Langara College was dismissed due to remarks made at a pro-Palestinian rally in October appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Jewish service can support recovery efforts in Israel and sustain Jewish life in North America

It’s not hard to feel a sense of despair in these extraordinarily difficult times for Jews in Israel and around the world following the horrors of Oct. 7, the upsurge in antisemitism close to home, and the continuing loss of human life.

In times of despair, Jewish tradition offers us a path to hope, repair, and connection: service. In times of brokenness, we are called upon to ask: “What can I do to make things better?” Through service, we can address the most pressing needs in our communities, build connections, and restore our own sense of purpose. 

Since Oct. 7, we have seen an unprecedented mobilization of mutual aid work in Israel. Volunteers are meeting urgent needs: identifying housing for people who have been displaced, running schools for displaced children, and supporting farms that have lost their agricultural workers. People are cooking meals for soldiers, displaced neighbors, and families impacted by the call-up of army reservists. In the early days of the war, numerous volunteers mobilized to collect, organize and distribute everything from food and toiletries to mobile phone chargers and clothing for those who needed it.

Service has a critical, long-term role to play not just in this time of crisis and in supporting recovery efforts in Israel, but in sustaining Jewish life and community in North America. 

American Jews, too, have turned to service as a meaningful response to the crisis. At Repair the World, the organization I lead, the number of Jews turning to Jewish service since the start of the war has surged. Some have organized supplies to directly support Israelis and others have contributed to their own communities. Some are seeking out Jewish community because they are feeling less comfortable in other spaces. Others cite the rise of antisemitism and the importance of building bridges with their neighbors. All are looking for a way to find meaning and purpose.

For almost 15 years, Repair the World has been mobilizing Jews to serve, grounded in the idea that through service we can both strengthen our Jewish community and also make social impact. Our research clearly demonstrates that meaningful acts of service, grounded in Jewish learning and designed to address true community needs, can transform people and communities.

In Israel, several organizations, most notably Birthright Israel, MASA and Yahel already have mobilized Jews from North America to volunteer in Israel. This work should expand dramatically in the coming months. We know that service is one of the most powerful ways to build bridges across lines of difference. By  volunteering in Israel in partnership with Israelis, American Jews can contribute to Israel’s recovery while building meaningful connections with their Israeli counterparts, deepening their own connection to Israel and providing a spiritual boost to Israelis by showing them that world Jewry is with them. Serving in Israel also can inspire an ongoing commitment to service once volunteers return home, which is a meaningful way for them to continue to live their Jewish values. 

Repair the World volunteers pack meal kits in Chicago. (Repair the World)

We must ensure that the American Jewish service in Israel holds true to what we at Repair the World have learned is most effective: that the service meets real needs, is done in partnership with those impacted and includes Jewish learning. Service is a universal value, but Jewish tradition has much to say about how we offer it, and participants should explore Jewish wisdom about how service should be approached. 

Service that combines these components — that actually contributes to relief and recovery efforts and cares about the experience of American Jewish volunteers — will have the biggest impact. 

Back in the United States, we’re seeing young American Jews who may be feeling alone or distressed seeking new ways to connect to Jewish life and Jewish community. We need to recognize that service is a form of deep Jewish expression and do everything possible to welcome these young Jews into our Jewish community of purpose that focuses its time and energy on making the world better. 

And at this time of rising antisemitism, there are young Jews expressing a newfound desire to be part of a movement that connects Jewish communities with other communities. Most of our organization’s service work is done in deep partnership with non-Jewish communities, including those that are low-income, largely immigrant, on the socioeconomic periphery or communities of color. We’re building bridges by working arm in arm in places like soup kitchens, food pantries, after-school programs and organizations supporting those experiencing homelessness. 

Finally, service gives those who participate a sense of well-being, purpose, and connection to their peers. Among volunteers who have served in our programs, 90% indicated that Repair programs contributed to their overall health and well-being. 

In these challenging times, service is a powerful statement of hope – a statement that our actions matter. Tikkun olam isn’t just about repairing the world, but repairing ourselves. 


The post Jewish service can support recovery efforts in Israel and sustain Jewish life in North America appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Princeton University Accused of Censoring Pro-Israel Journalists

People walk past Princeton University’s Nassau Hall in Princeton, New Jersey, November 20, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) partnered to implore Princeton University to stop issuing no-contact-orders (NCO) to pro-Israel student journalists who cover anti-Zionist demonstrations on campus.

At Princeton, a NCO, issued by the school’s Title IX office, is mostly aimed at protecting a sexual assault complainant against their alleged abuser. Issued upon request and before a thorough investigation of the claim that prompted it, the order prohibits the accused from contacting the complainant in any form, including by email or phone, and from being near them on campus —in a cafeteria or library, for example.

“No-contact orders are an important tool to ensure the safety of victims of physical violence, sexual misconduct, true threats, or discriminatory harassment,” ADL and FIRE said in a letter to Princeton University president Christopher L. Eisgruber sent on Thursday. “But Princeton is allowing students with ideological disagreements to transform no-contact orders into cudgels to silence the ‘lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation’ that Princeton promises all students.”

The letter noted that in Nov., Alexandra Orbuch, a writer for The Princeton Tory, a conservative student publication, was assaulted by a male member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) while filming a protest the group held on campus. The man allegedly followed Orbuch to obstruct her efforts, eventually stepping on her foot and pushing her. When Orbuch complained to a nearby public safety officer, the officer told her that she had “incited something.”

Despite the gendered nature of the assault —an issue Princeton has dedicated an entire office to dealing with — the university granted the male student a no-contact oder against Orbuch, explaining that any reporting she published which alluded to him would be considered a violation of the order and result in disciplinary charges. A similar incident occurred in 2022, when Tory reporter Danielle Shapiro attempted to report on the Princeton Committee on Palestine. After being notified of the order, Shapiro was told refer to a “Sexual Misconduct & Title IX” webpage, according to a guest column she wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

“This is at least the second time in the last two years that a Tory student journalist has been silence by a no-contact order at the behest of community members offended by his or her pro-Israel journalism,” Thursday’s letter continued. “This systematic weaponization of no-contact orders to silence pro-Israel journalism — or any journalism — cannot stand.”

The incidents involving Orbuch and Shapiro are two of numerous examples of universities subjecting conservative and pro-Israel campus community members to reputational smearing and denying them the same rights and protections as progressives and pro-Palestinian advocates. The issue has drawn attention from Congress, whose House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce is investigating whether universities such as Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) employed a self-serving interpretation of the US Constitution to avoid punishing students who committed antisemitic discrimination and harassment.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R), chair of the education and workforce committee, has noted in two letters that colleges have by and large punished conservative professors for being critical of policies supported by progressives, such as affirmative action, but argue for the importance of free speech to the academic community when, for example, pro-Palestinian students chant slogans widely interpreted as calling for a genocide of Jews in Israel — e.g. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — or proclaim that Hamas’ atrocities in southern Israel on Oct. 7, which included raping Israeli women, were justified.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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