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Israeli cops and firefighters barred by far-right minister from Wexner fellowships at Harvard University

(JTA) – Israel’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is barring government employees under his supervision — including police officers, firefighters and prison officials — from participating in a longstanding and prestigious fellowship program for Israeli civil servants at Harvard University.

Ben-Gvir issued the ban due to what he calls the left-wing political bent of the program’s funder, the Ohio-based Wexner Foundation.

A far-right member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, Ben-Gvir tweeted Monday that he made the decision to sever ties between the police and the foundation because of the foundation’s “involvement and cooperation with distinctly left-wing groups like Breaking the Silence.”

Both the Wexner Foundation and Breaking the Silence, an advocacy group that publishes testimonies by Israeli combat soldiers of alleged human rights abuses in the West Bank, have long been targets of the Israeli right.

The foundation has rejected Ben Gvir’s allegation of ideological bias. “We are not now nor have we ever been associated with any political party or ‘movement,’” a foundation spokesperson told the news outlet eJewishPhilanthropy.

Israel’s right-leaning Channel 14 news station reported Tuesday that the ban also applies to firefighters and prison officials. Five police officers who were slated to attend the fellowship program at Harvard next year will no longer be able to do so, according to eJewishPhilanthropy.

The foundation’s money comes from American Jewish philanthropist Les Wexner, a billionaire who made his fortune off retail brands including Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. The foundation has lately faced backlash over Wexner’s personal and financial ties to the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, even as it continues its many activities focused on the development of Jewish leaders in a wide range of fields.

More than 250 Israelis have graduated from Wexner’s leadership programs, which involve a period of study at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The list of alumni features former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi; Ami Ayalon, a former head of the Shin Bet security agency; and Yair Golan, a  former top-ranking general and left-wing lawmaker; in addition to many mid-level officials in Israeli’s police and security establishment.

Ben Gvir is not the first on the Israeli right to target the foundation. Some of his political allies say that the fellowships work to spread progressive ideas imported from the United States across Israel.

Skepticism of programs serving Israelis but funded by American Jewish philanthropy has manifested regularly since Netanyahu’s most recent government, which includes far-right partners in senior roles, took office last year. One Netanyahu ally hoped to block a large cross-section of mainstream American donors from involvement in Israeli education but resigned from office before implementing the plan.

Ben-Gvir’s concern over the effect of American ideas on senior Israeli officers in some ways mirrors the criticism from some on the American left. The anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace has long campaigned against official trips to Israel taken by U.S. police officials, saying that these exchanges bolster a kind of policing that leads to brutality toward civilians. Israeli officials and the U.S. police delegations, as well as the trip organizers, deny those allegations, saying the trips do not teach physical tactics and mostly consist of lectures, meetings and tours.


The post Israeli cops and firefighters barred by far-right minister from Wexner fellowships at Harvard University appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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‘Crisis at Columbia’: Elite University Spirals Into Chaos Against Backdrop of School President’s DC Testimony

Demonstrators take part in an anti-Israel demonstration at the Columbia University campus, in New York City, US, Feb. 2, 2024. REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

Columbia University exploded into a welter of anti-Israel protests while its president, Minouche Shafik, was in Washington, DC on Wednesday testifying before US lawmakers about antisemitism on the New York campus, where law enforcement had to be called to pacify the ongoing demonstrations on Thursday.

A group that calls itself Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) commandeered a section of campus on Wednesday afternoon and, after declaring it a “liberated zone,” lit flares and chanted pro-Hamas and anti-American slogans, according to reports. When the New York City Police Department (NYPD) arrived to disperse the unauthorized gathering, hundreds of students reportedly amassed around them to prevent the restoration of order.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, a wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!” they shouted, words that reinforced the theme of Wednesday’s US congressional hearing: “Crisis at Columbia.”

NYPD officers began making arrests on Thursday morning, although it was unclear how many of those apprehended were Columbia University students and what success they have had in regaining control of the “liberated zone.” Video from the campus showed officers loading dozens of protesters onto police buses.

“Out of an abundance of concern for the safety of Columbia’s campus, I authorized the New York Police Department to begin clearing the encampment from the South Lawn of Morningside campus that had been set up by students in the early hours of Wednesday morning,” Shafik said in a statement, adding that the protesters had “violated a long list of rules and policies.”

Founded in 1754, Columbia University has reached an inflection point in its history as critics strive to hold it to account. Since Oct. 7, anti-Zionist agitators have beaten up Jewish students, stolen posters of missing Israelis who have been taken as hostages into Gaza, called for a genocide of the Jewish people, and invited members of a terrorist organization to speak at events on campus. Critics have alleged that no one has been punished for these violations of the school’s code of conduct.

While Columbia spiraled into chaos, Shafik was in Washington, DC telling lawmakers on the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce that she has done all she can to address the severity of antisemitism fueled by anti-Israel animus.

“Trying to reconcile the free speech rights of those who wanted to protest and the rights of Jewish students to be in an environment free of discrimination and harassment has been the central challenge on our campus and numerous others across the country,” said Shafik, who admitted she prepped many hours for Wednesday’s hearing. “Regrettably, the events of [Hamas’ invasion of Israel on] Oct. 7 brought to the fore an undercurrent of antisemitism that is a major challenge, and like many other universities Columbia has seen a rise in antisemitic incidents.”

At one point, Shafik claimed that over a dozen students have been suspended for antisemitic conduct and holding an unauthorized event, titled “Resistance 101,” to which a member Palestine Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was invited. However, committee chair Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), responded that since Oct. 7, only Jewish students have been suspended for allegedly spraying an “odorous” fragrance near anti-Zionist protesters, an incident mentioned by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to seemingly undermine the verbal and physical abuse to which Jewish students at Columbia have been subjected.

On Thursday, Miriam Elman, a Columbia University alumna and executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, told The Algemeiner that Shafik was outshone by three of her colleagues who were also called to testify before the committee and discussed the presence of antisemitism among the school’s faculty: Professor David Schizer — co-chair of the school’s antisemitism task force — Claire Shipman, and David Greenwald, both of whom are members of the board of trustees.

“Shipman was right to say that professors need to be held to a higher standard than students,” Elman said. “The Columbia official who delivered the best performance at the hearing, however, was David Schizer. He compared what Jewish students are facing on campus to the long history of anti-Jewish hate and to experiences that his own grandfather faced when he was nearly lynched by antisemitic thugs. His powerful and personal opening statement was pitch perfect for the moment.”

Columbia University is under investigation by the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce and is preparing to defend itself against a civil lawsuit alleging that school officials intentionally ignored antisemitism and left Jewish students exposed to numerous physical and emotional injuries inflicted on them by students and faculty.

For many in the Jewish community, what is happening at Columbia is a microcosm of a problem plaguing colleges and universities everywhere.

“Yesterday’s hearing is a recognition of the growing atmosphere of hate that continues to target students around the country,” said Brooke Goldstein, founder and executive director of The Lawfare Project, which is representing one of the students who is suing Columbia. “We want to thank Chairwoman Foxx and the committee for their work to hold higher education institutions and their leaders accountable for protecting against antisemitism.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post ‘Crisis at Columbia’: Elite University Spirals Into Chaos Against Backdrop of School President’s DC Testimony first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Doorstep Postings: Doug Ford scarfs it down after some of his party members support the house speaker keeping keffiyehs out of Queen’s Park

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN. It’s a shame that our Palestinian friends have spent so much time and gotten so good at pointing out the contradictions that underlie and undermine our political systems. I say it’s a shame because they never […]

The post Doorstep Postings: Doug Ford scarfs it down after some of his party members support the house speaker keeping keffiyehs out of Queen’s Park appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘A Time for Vigilance’: FBI Director Says Agency on Alert for Threats Against Jewish Community During Passover

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Approbations Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, April 11, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

The director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Wednesday said his agency was on alert for threats posed to the Jewish community during Passover, which begins on Monday night.

Christopher Wray told a group of Jewish community security officials about the FBI’s state of alertness during an event titled, “Passover Without Fear: Preparedness and Security Considerations in Today’s World.”

Wray said the FBI was “particularly concerned” that lone-wolf attackers may target Passover gatherings, high-profile events, and/or religious locations. 

At the same time, he said that while “I’m not providing these updates in any way to alarm you, because this is not a time for panic,” it was “a time for continued vigilance.” 

The Jewish holiday of Passover, which celebrates the Biblical story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt, will begin next Monday evening and end the following Tuesday.

The national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network — the organization Wray was speaking to and that describes itself as “the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America” — said he was not aware of any specific threats at this time.

Taking a step back, Wray said that even before the Hamas terror group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, “the threat to Jewish Americans had already elevated.” However, he continued, “in the six months since then, we’ve seen those threats elevated” even further.

In December, the FBI said there had been a 60 percent spike in antisemitic hate crime investigations since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. Then on Wednesday, Wray said the probes into antisemitic crimes tripled in the months following Oct. 7.

“Between Oct. 7 and Jan. 30 of this year, we opened over three times more anti-Jewish hate crime investigations than in the four months before Oct. 7,” he explained.

Last year, the FBI found that 63 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes were directed against Jews.

There have been a number of mass shooting, bomb, and other threats against synagogues across the US since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terror group killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages to Gaza.

Wray’s latest comments came one day after the the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released its annual audit of hate incidents that targeted the Jewish community.

The ADL recorded 8,873 antisemitic incidents in 2023 — an average of 24 every day — across the US, amounting to a surge of 140 percent compared to the prior year and the most such outrages since the organization began tracking such data in 1979.

The vast majority of the antisemitic incidents — 5,204 — occurred after the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7.

“Since Oct. 7, anti-Zionism is impossible to separate from the Hamas attacks,” the ADL said. “These rallies have a dramatically different impact on the Jewish communities that have felt demonized and harassed because of this sustained level of intense anti-Zionist street activism.”

Beyond outrages such as assault, vandalism, and harassment, the ADL included in its tally “rallies that include support for Hamas or justify its attacks, calls to ‘globalize the intifada’ or ‘by all means necessary,’ and expressions of anti-Zionism such as the phrases ‘Zionism is terrorism,’ or ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’”

The post ‘A Time for Vigilance’: FBI Director Says Agency on Alert for Threats Against Jewish Community During Passover first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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