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Israel Is Fighting to Defend Western Values, Not Just Itself

The funeral of Marcel Frielich, one of the seven victims from Kibbutz Beeri, following a deadly infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters/Rami Amichay

I am currently in Israel, and I recently visited some of the sites of the October 7 massacre.

I walked through an army base where IDF soldiers were slaughtered, burnt, shot, and mutilated. I smelt and saw what Hamas burned. I saw fresh blood, and other things that I don’t wish to speak of.  These things are beyond the pale of one’s imagination.

I visited Kibbutz Beeri, and saw other horrors there. I saw the homes that toddlers were kidnapped from. I will never ever forget what I saw. Do we still say “Never Again”? It happened again. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and we lost many family members there.

This is the most brutal war and threat that Israel has ever faced. Just like the Nazis, we are facing a genocidal enemy that wants to see us all murdered.

But this is about more than Israel.

October 7, 2023, marked the start of a war of civilization. This war began with an attack on sleeping people, on young people dancing at a festival, on the State of Israel simply because we are Jewish. Now a month later, it continues worldwide with rallies against us in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere. The Jews are the first to be targeted. But we will not be the last.

You cannot support terrorism, rape, and intentional massacres of civilians in Israel, and oppose them anywhere else.

Evil has happened in Israel, but there has also been incredible hope, strength, and courage to come out of the Jewish state.

Am Israel Chai. The battle between Israel and Hamas is a battle of good vs. evil, and a battle that is necessary for the future of Western civilization. And we will win.

Ronn Torossian is a public relations executive.

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Columbia University and Other Schools Allow Incitement to Violence, and Silence Jewish Voices

Anti-Israel students protest at Columbia University in New York City. Photo: Reuters/Jeenah Moon

In 2016, while studying at Columbia Law School, I attended a closed Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) meeting organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Columbia’s campus. What I experienced there left me terrified till today.

After forbidding any recordings, the organizers presented lies and racist descriptions about Jews. They then asserted that terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians were justified, as “that is what you get when you choke a people for 69 years.” This statement was greeted by a standing ovation from more than 50 students in the room.

I was left shaking, terrified by the support for the killing of innocents, and fearing for my safety on campus. My fellow students and I alerted the president of Columbia that these official student meetings were used to incite violence and antisemitism.  The administration, however, refused to act and to protect us because they said there was not a “clear and present danger of bodily harm.”

We are now seeing nonstop violence, and incitement to violence, on college campuses across the country. Columbia did belatedly act to temporarily pause some of these student groups, but it’s not clear how serious they are to combating this hatred in the long-term. They also have not acted against any of the more than 100 professors who justified terrorism against Jews.

The writing was on the wall, but unfortunately, many universities did not address the rise in antisemitism on campuses. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2021, 53% of American Jews said they personally felt less safe than they did in previous years. A Brandeis Center survey in 2021 showed even more alarming results, with 65% of the Jewish students feeling unsafe on campus and 50% actively hiding their Jewish identity.

According to the Anti-Defamation League’s Audit of Antisemitic Incident Report, there was a dramatic increase in antisemitic incidents during 2022 in almost all categories, specifically a 41% increase in antisemitic incidents on college campuses.

Since Hamas’ horrific terror attack on October 7, Jewish students have been subject to an alarming increase in hate crimes and antisemitic incidents on campuses, including death threats, physical attacks, dangerous and inflaming rhetoric, and hostility from faculty. Recently, at Cornell, this violent rhetoric became a reality when a student was arrested for making online threats to kill Jewish students. This incident is just one example of the many violent incidents happening today on US campuses, leaving Jewish students alone in a hostile environment.

As a result, a few universities started taking action to limit student organizations that are promoting violence and antisemitism. Brandeis University announced its decision not to recognize the SJP chapter at the university due to its support of Hamas. The aforementioned Columbia decision temporarily suspending SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) for repeatedly violating university policies is “too little too late,” since it’s only valid until the end of the fall term.

Across the US, many university administrations have not learned much during the last few years, and are continuing to implement a policy of non-intervention in the anti-Israel and hate-mongering rhetoric and activities of their students, claiming they are protected by freedom of speech.

Indeed, students who are critical of Israel’s actions have as much right to express that criticism as those who defend Israel. However, groups like SJP, which are promoting antisemitism and violence on campuses, are harming other students on campus — and taking away their freedom of speech, while hiding behind the concept.

During my studies at Columbia, we hosted Israel’s then-ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon. As expected, BDS activists decided to protest the event. Further compounding our dismay, the university’s response was to restrict the number of guests that we, the organizers, could include. Ironically, the BDS activists could turn out without limitation. The start of the event was marked by dozens of BDS protesters blocking people from entering, and verbally abusing those who made it inside. The ambassador’s speech was then subjected to repeated and coordinated disruption — a total of seven interruptions during a 22-minute speech. It made the speech into a farce, a game of cat and mouse. In order to protect the BDS activists’ freedom of speech, ours was trampled upon at our own event. These examples are not rare; Jews and Israel supporters are shouted down and pushed out more and more.

Universities must wake up from the misconception that a policy of non-intervention protects freedom of speech for all. First of all, this protects hate speech and incitement to violence. Second, the inevitable outcome of this so-called neutral policy is that only the most aggressive groups enjoy freedom of speech, because they drown out opponents conducting a more respectful discourse. There must be a complete policy change in many universities that will be unforgiving towards antisemitism and incitement, and actively protect freedom of speech for all.

Assaf Weiss is a Columbia Law School graduate, former board member at Student Supporting Israel at Columbia, and Director of the American Jewish Congress. He also recently served as the Chief of Staff to the Speaker of the Knesset.

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George Washington University Suspends Students for Justice in Palestine Chapter

One the messages projected onto the Gelman Library at George Washington University.

George Washington University in Washington D.C. on Tuesday became the third private university in the United States to suspend its Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, citing the group’s unauthorized projection of pro-Hamas messages on a library named after deceased Jewish supporters of the school as cause.

The news was first reported by The GW Hatchet, a campus newspaper, which added that the suspension has two phases, first a 90-day period in which SJP is banned from sponsoring and holding events on campus, and a second, beginning on Feb. 12, 2024 and lasting for the remainder of the academic year, in which the university will “continue to restrict” its activities.

“GW is continuously proving, as they have proven time and time again for many, many years, that they will always align with the Zionist lobby and against the right to free speech and the right to assembly of their own students,” a representative for SJP, whom the paper granted anonymity, told the Hatchet, accusing the school of “repressive tactics” and vowing that the group will seek ways to circumvent its suspension.

Two other universities have suspended their SJP chapters. On Friday, Columbia announced that it had suspended SJP and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) as official student groups on campus through the end of the fall semester. Days earlier, Brandeis University in Massachusetts revoked recognition of its chapter of SJP over its support for Hamas, saying that its decision “was not made lightly, as Brandeis is dedicated to upholding free speech principles.”

George Washington University Students for Justice in Palestine has been battling administration to push the boundaries of its campus activities since Hamas’ terror invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, an attack that resulted in 1,400 deaths of mostly civilians including incidents of rape and torture.

Five days after the attack, President Ellen Granberg censured in strong terms any support on campus for the war crimes Hamas committed, acts that SJP had cheered during numerous demonstrations.

“I not only condemn terrorism, but I also abhor the celebration of terrorism and attempts to perpetuate rhetoric or imagery that glorifies acts of violence,” Granberg wrote in an open letter. “Such messages do not speak on behalf of me, our administrators, or GW.” Granberg also expressed concern for all affected by the week’s events in the Middle East, calling on the campus community to “reach out to a friend, colleague, or classmate and show your support.”

Later that month, on the evening of Oct. 22, students walking through the campus’ Kogan Plaza and down H Street stopped to behold a projection of messages on the eastern perimeter of the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library.

“Free Palestine from the river to the sea,” “GW the blood of Palestinians is in your hands,” “Divest from Zionist genocide now,” and “Glory to our martyrs,” the messages said. The scene attracted dozens of students, Jewish and Muslim, who spectated while the GW Police Department and a campus official negotiated terms for an end to the demonstration, which had not been authorized by the university.

The conversation, observed by The Algemeiner, was tense. In hushed tones, SJP members accused Granberg of bias against Muslims.

Students told The Algemeiner that night that the act was laden with symbolism. Before her death in 2009, Estelle Gelman was a GW board of trustees member and board member of the United States Holocaust Museum and other Jewish nonprofits. Her husband, Melvin, was an endowed chair in GW’s Judaic Studies Program.

Last month, Florida’s state university system, in consultation with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, directed colleges to “deactivate” SJP chapters for defending Hamas following the terrorist group’s invasion of Israel and massacre of civilians.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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How the Media Skews the Narrative: Israelis ‘Died,’ Palestinians ‘Killed’

An aerial view shows the bodies of victims of an attack following a mass infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip lying on the ground in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, in southern Israel, Oct. 10, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ilan Rosenberg

According to The Los Angeles Times on November 4, some 1,200 Israelis “died” in the Israel-Hamas war while some 9,000 Palestinians were “killed.”

Just like that, with a few casual clicks of the keyboard, a major US paper whitewashed Hamas’ ISIS-like atrocities, including the mass slaughter of primarily civilians and also soldiers, beheadings, rapes, mutilations, torture, parents killed in front of children and vice versa.

What President Joe Biden decried as “pure, unadulterated evil,” Los Angeles Times staff writer Ashley Ahn passed off as a “surprise offensive.”

In her Nov. 4 article, (“Hundreds rally at Israeli consulate in L.A., calling for cease-fire in Gaza,” page B1 in the Nov. 5 print edition), the Los Angeles Times fellow and former editor of the University of Pennsylvania’s campus paper intoned:

The protests come amid an escalating war between Israel and Hamas militants, who launched a surprise offensive from neighboring Gaza on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Since then, more than 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, with Palestinian militants continuing to hold about 220 people hostage. More than 9,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

New to the LA Times newsroom, the young Ahn might be forgiven for concealing the nature of the gruesome terror attacks murdering hundreds of civilians at a dance party and countless families in their homes, including children slaughtered in their bedrooms or cowering with their parents at safe rooms.

But what about editors who reviewed and approved the story for publishing? What about deputy editor for California, Hector Becerra, who shared Ahn’s story on X, formerly Twitter?

According to the paper’s website, The Los Angeles Times’ fellowship program in which Ahn participates, includes:

… six weeks of instruction on how to operate, navigate and succeed in a major newsroom, with training geared toward their specific interests. The next stage of their program includes multiweek rotations across the newsroom, where they will write, produce, edit, create visual projects and more, with coaching from seasoned members of The Times’ staff.

But what training can we expect from a staff which includes nine journalists who signed an open letter penned by journalists against ethical journalism calling for reporting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the false lens of “Israel’s military occupation and its system of apartheid”?

In a recent Los Angeles Times opinion piece, Jonah Goldberg highlighted the critical role of the editor (“Will the media get coverage of the crisis in Israel and Gaza right? It all depends on the editors“):

What do good editors do? Beyond all of the meat-and-potatoes grammar and style stuff, editors slow the process down as a necessary part of quality control. They tell reporters that an unverified rumor is not printable without adequate verification. They tell opinion columnists that a histrionic argument that ignores contrary evidence needs to be shelved or reworked. They stand against the tide of momentary collective passion or the irrepressible ambition of individual journalists to maintain a higher standard for the institution as a whole.

What if those establishing the higher standard for the institution as a whole include Sara Yasin, the paper’s managing editor, who has apparently embraced the Hamas narrative on X, reposting material accusing Israel of “mass ethnic cleansing” and a “genocidal assault”?

Can we count on such an editor to instruct young journalists not to cover up Hamas’ horrific barbarity? Will she point out the unacceptable double standard of covering up these innocent civilian victims’ horrific murders (they “died”) even as the report manages clearly to state that the perpetrators of the atrocities were “killed”?

(Indeed, the casualty totals released by Hamas’ “Health Ministry” includes the estimated 1,500 Hamas terrorists who were killed as they carried out the massacre within Israeli).

And what if the daughter of the paper’s owner takes an active role in the paper, “advocat[ing]” for her interests, as Nika Soon-Shiong has acknowledged she does? And what if those interests include her sentiment, shared on X, that “It’s not journalistic malpractice to describe the state of Israel as an Apartheid state. This is well-established in international law”?

If Soon-Shiong’s egregiously baseless position represents the “higher standard for the institution as a whole,” what hope is there for the paper to get coverage of the crisis in Israel and Gaza right? Ethical journalism dies alongside some 1,200 Israelis.

Tamar Sternthal is the director of CAMERA’s Israel Office. A version of this article previously appeared on the CAMERA website.

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