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Israel flexes its muscle as an up-and-coming sports host as 2023 European Athletics Under-20 Championships open in Jerusalem

(JTA) — The Israeli Athletics Association is preparing to host almost 2,000 athletes and officials from 48 countries for the 2023 European Athletics Under-20 Championships.

The biannual track and field competition, which features 44 different events, will be hosted at Jerusalem’s Givat Ram Stadium. Putting on such a tournament is no small feat, but Israel — and, increasingly, its capital city — has become a go-to host for a number of international competitions.

In 2019, the Women’s European Lacrosse Championship took place in Netanya. In 2021, Jerusalem hosted the men’s and women’s Flag Football World Championships. The European Athletics competition begins Monday, and later this month, Israel will also co-host the Men’s European Volleyball Championship in Tel Aviv. Next year it’s water polo, and in 2025, baseball.

Ami Baran, the president of the Israeli Athletics Association, said Israel hosting so many tournaments has broken a sort of glass ceiling in terms of Israel’s standing in the world, both politically and in sports.

“It’s very, very important,” Baran told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I think us hosting these kinds of tournaments sends a message throughout Europe that Israel is on the map.”

Baran said the trend is even more pronounced when it comes to Jerusalem, which is a flashpoint in Israeli-Palestinian politics.

“People are not politically worried anymore about having it [here], especially if we’re doing it in Jerusalem,” he continued. “Jerusalem is a place where things are happening. It’s a controversial area, where a lot of Europeans in the European Union have always sort of been hesitant. But here you get full support — total support of Israel, and Jerusalem.”

Israel hosted the European Athletics Under-18 Championship last year, which Baran said was a success. The Jerusalem government supported the effort, pouring 50 million shekels (about $13.5 million) into renovations for the Givat Ram Stadium.

Then for the U20 tournament this year, Romania was set to host until concerns emerged about its stadium size. One night, Baran got a late-night phone call from the head of European Athletics.

“He asked me, Ami, can you save Europe and do the tournament again in Israel for the under 20s?” Baran recounted.

Baran quickly got in touch with Jerusalem’s deputy mayor who oversees sports, who called up the mayor. The answer was yes. Baran said the city and Israel’s ministry of sport and culture helped finance the undertaking — which included arranging hotel rooms for the visitors, plus bringing in media production teams and Olympic-quality announcers.

David Wiseman, who tracks Israeli sports for his popular Facebook page Follow Team Israel, said he’s observed a considerable uptick in Israel’s participation and hosting of European and international tournaments. For one thing, Israel’s own sense of its place in global politics and sports has changed, he said.

“First and foremost, there may have been a cringe factor previously, where to prevent making waves, Israel didn’t even nominate to host events,” Wiseman told JTA. “Now that’s not the case. They’re putting their hand up. And not only putting their hand up, they’re winning the bids.”

Wiseman added that Israel’s success in international competitions has also likely increased its status as a host, and has generated more buzz among Israeli sports fans. In the past couple months alone, Israel finished third in the FIFA U20 World Cup and seventh in the World Lacrosse Championships.

“I think they’re more successful, and because they’re more successful, there’s a greater hometown sort of vibe and interest,” Wiseman said. “They wouldn’t want to host an event here if no one turned up.”

Baran said 3,500 tickets have already been sold for next week’s track and field competition.

Israel has also recently played host to global sports stars Novak Djokovic and Lionel Messi, as the Tel Aviv Open returned last year for the first time since 1996 and the powerhouse French soccer team Paris Saint-Germain played a Champions League match against Maccabi Haifa.

Israel’s involvement in global sporting events can sometimes be rocky. The U20 World Cup this year was originally set to be hosted by Indonesia, before being moved to Argentina because of the former’s objection to Israel’s participation. And this spring, an Israeli rugby team was removed from a tournament in South Africa. This year’s democracy protests in Israel — some of which took place at the Knesset, just blocks from Givat Ram — have landed on front pages around the world, potentially undercutting the appetite to plan events in the country.

But by and large, insiders say, Israel’s status as a member and host of international tournaments remains on the rise.

“It’s really important that we realize that everything is moving forward,” Baran said. “More tournaments will bring more recognition to Israel, and I think bring more recognition to our people in Israel who can see more sports.”

The post Israel flexes its muscle as an up-and-coming sports host as 2023 European Athletics Under-20 Championships open in Jerusalem appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Former ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Star Patricia Heaton: Every Human Being Should Be Against Antisemitism

One of the billboards erected in partnership between JewBelong and O7C. Photo: Instagram

Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton said this week that following the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, it should be a “natural” reaction among all humans to want to combat antisemitism, as well as support the Jewish people and Israel’s right to exist.

The “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Middle” star, who is a devout Catholic, made the comments during her guest appearance on the NewsNation show “CUOMO,” where she also advocated for Christians to voice solidarity with Jews and Israel after Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 people and took 250 hostages during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Heaton began by telling host Chris Cuomo that after the Oct. 7 atrocities, she was “confused by the lack of outcry from the churches.”

“I even posted on Instagram, ‘Did you ever have that thought that if you were in Germany during World War II, you hoped that you would be that good German that helped to hide your Jewish neighbors? Well, today you have that opportunity,’” she added.

Following the Oct. 7 attacks, Heaton founded a nonprofit called the Oct. 7 Coalition (O7C) to urge Christians to be visibly outspoken against antisemitism, and in support of Jews and Israel’s right to exist. Heaton’s O7C has since teamed up with the nonprofit JewBelong to launch a nationwide billboard campaign to raise awareness about antisemitism in the US.

Talking about why she wanted to get involved in rallying support for Israel and Jewish communities facing a rise in antisemitism in the US since the Oct. 7 attacks, Heaton said, “I think if you’re a human being, that should be your natural response to what we saw.” When asked about how people in the entertainment industry have reacted to her avid pro-Israel stance, she said Jewish friends in the business have called her “brave and courageous.”

“[But] I just think this is just a normal human reaction,” she said. “I have heard ‘We have projects we have to promote. We don’t want to bring politics into it.’ I guess if someone spent 50 or 100 million on a movie, they don’t want to introduce this subject matter and I guess you can understand that. But generally speaking I think Hollywood could do more to support our Jewish community.”

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‘Encampment Has Crossed a Line’: California State LA President Condemns Pro-Hamas Rioters

Protesters at California State University, Los Angeles, attempted to take over a second spot on the CSULA campus in Los Angeles, United States, on June 12, 2024. Photo: Shay Horse/Reuters Connect

The president of California State University, Los Angeles has issued a searing condemnation of a pro-Hamas riot that broke out on campus on Wednesday night and resulted in her being trapped inside her office for hours after activists led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) illegally occupied an administrative building.

“Last night, those involved with the encampment chose violence and destruction,” Berenecea Johnson Eanes wrote on Thursday in a note to the campus community. “The significant damage to [the Student Services Building] will affect student-facing services: including admissions, records, accessible technology, basic needs, new student and family engagement, Dreamer resources and educational opportunity programs. It will take time to restore all those spaces and divert significant resources that would otherwise go to academics.”

Eanes added, “I am saddened, and I am angry … I cannot and would not protect anyone who is directly identified as having participated in last night’s illegal activities from being held accountable. The encampment has crossed a line. Those in the encampment must leave.”

According to Eanes, as well as various local media outlets, a night of destruction unlike any in the school’s history began on Wednesday when a mob of students stormed the campus, overturning cars, vandalizing school property, and assaulting students and staff. They proceeded to take over the Students Services Building (SSB), which they barricaded with numerous objects they amassed from across campus, including — according to The Los Angeles Times — bikes, tables, umbrellas, and rope. They even used their own bodies, “chaining” themselves to various access points.

The mob’s takeover of SSB was sudden and swift, forcing the school to issue a “shelter in place” order which trapped Eanes and dozens of other administrative staff in their office. Four people, including one student, were assaulted during the attack on the building. When it cleared, police essentially quarantined the area, reportedly declaring it a crime scene.

Footage of the riot shows scenes unlike any that have taken place on US college campuses since earlier this year when pro-Hamas rioters began commandeering sections of school property and refusing to leave unless administrators agree to adopt the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel — an initiative aimed at isolating Israel from the international community as the first step towards its eventual elimination. Broken glass carpeted the building’s floor, the result of the students smashing through door glazings with blunt objects. Meanwhile, red paint stained its tiles, and graffiti displaying anarchist symbols and saying “Free Palestine” covered its interior walls.

“Campus community: Know that we will recover from this, but also know that I am committed to doing everything we can to ensure this will never be allowed to repeat,” Eanes said in Thursday’s statement. “A trust we had in the encampment to practice non-violence has been violated. Trust is a hard thing to restore, but we will do the work together.”

Meanwhile, Students for Justice in Palestine has hinted that more destruction is forthcoming, and the latest local reporting indicates that no one has been arrested.

“We will not back down!” the group said in a social media post. “We will remain steadfast for Palestine!”

Students for Justice in Palestine, which has resorted to intimidation, harassment, and even physical violence to pressure universities into severing ties with Israel, defended their actions in a press release issued on Wednesday. Noting that its members had camped on campus for 40 days, the group said that Eanes, whom they summoned to a meeting after blocking all of SSB’s exits, ran out of time to accede to their demands.

“This direct action is in response to the failure of President Eanes to continue to negotiate in good faith with the Popular University for Gaza Solidarity Encampment on campus,” SJP said. “She has refused to continue negotiations or make meaningful progress toward meeting the demands of the student body. Delaying negotiations past the end of spring semester at a commuter campus shows clear bad faith and an attempt to wait out students instead of actively working to reach an agreement.”

In a chilling statement which acknowledged the intentionality of their behavior, SJP said administrators who had been trapped inside SSB could only exit with “escorts.”

“We will not back down and we will rise again just like our comrades in Palestine,” SJP said after law enforcement reclaimed the campus, suggesting there will be violence next time rather than peaceful protests. “We will remain steadfast in our mission for disclosure, divestment, boycott, and for our university to call for the end of the occupation and bombardment of Gaza.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Judge Allows ‘Mandalorian’ Actress to Proceed With Disney Lawsuit After Being Fired for Nazi Germany Comments

Gina Carano as Cara Dune in “The Mandalorian” season two, exclusively on Disney+. Photo: Disney+

A US federal judge ruled on Wednesday that actress Gina Carano can proceed with her lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company and Lucasfilm, which fired her from the Disney+ television series “The Mandalorian” because of a social media post that compared political differences in the US to what Jews experienced in Nazi Germany.

“I look forward to this case moving forward and proving Disney’s blatant discriminatory actions,” Carano said after leaving court in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

“Disney should not have carte blanch authority to fire any actor just because Disney disagrees with something they say outside of work,” she added. “No actor would be free to have a voice if that were true.”

US District Judge Sherilyn Peace Garnett in Los Angeles ignored efforts by Disney lawyer Daniel Petrocelli to dismiss the lawsuit. Petrocelli claimed Disney has the “right not to associate with a high-profile performer on a high-profile show who’s imbuing” the Star Wars-based series with “views it disagrees with,” which could result in fans turning away from the show. He argued that Disney has the First Amendment right to sever ties with an employee who does not share the company’s values, even if the move violates state anti-discrimination laws. Disney purchased Lucasfilm, started by “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, in 2012.

“I’m not convinced there are no disputed facts,” Judge Garnett said in response to Petrocelli’s argument. The judge referred to allegations made by Carano that she was fired in 2021 to draw attention away from some of the controversies Disney was involved in at the time, including its contract dispute with actress Scarlett Johansson and critique of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act.

Carano starred as bounty hunter Cara Dune in the first two seasons of “The Mandalorian.” She was not under contract to appear in the third season of the show, according to court records.The actress claims in her lawsuit, which has received funding from X/Twitter and Tesla owner Elon Musk, that she was wrongfully terminated and discriminated against when she was fired from “The Mandalorian” in 2021 for expressing personal views on social media that Disney did not support.

Lucasfilms, which co-produces “The Mandalorian,” announced Carano’s firing after the former mixed martial arts fighter shared a post on social media that said: “Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors … even by children. Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?”

Disney argued that the state cannot force employers engaged in “expressive activity,” like Disney and LucasFilms, to work with someone who allegedly hinders its ability to properly express its values. Petrocelli claimed that the First Amendment entitles Disney to take action to make sure “The Mandalorian” is not associated with views that it and many viewers might find offensive and contrary to the company’s message.

“The messenger is part of the message,” Petrocelli said. “Imagine she made comments that she hates Jews or that there was no Holocaust.”

A final ruling in the lawsuit has not been made yet. Disney has not publicly commented on Garnett’s decision on Wednesday not to dismiss the lawsuit.

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