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Jewish Students at Cornell Are Hurting — But No One Seems to Care

The clock tower at Cornell University. Photo: Clarice Oliveira.

From a young age, I learned to stand up for what I believe in with great pride. But I was also taught that actions have consequences, and that I would be responsible for what I did.

While I appreciate Cornell University’s strong commitment to freedom of expression, the administration must ask itself where the line is drawn between protected speech and unprotected speech; between what is permitted and what is not. While I cannot say with absolute certainty, my sneaking suspicion is that, if this type of rhetoric were directed at any other minority group, whether it be racial or ethnic, the response from the university would be astronomically different.

Students come to Cornell expecting to be protected from threats and harassment, and the administration has a responsibility to maintain a learning environment in which every student can feel comfortable going to class without fear of intimidation, and express their ideas without being attacked.

When we walk through a campus literally vandalized with spray painted profanity, and have our classes disrupted by loud chants for violence, many Jewish students feel as though Cornell is failing us in this regard.

The Community Belonging section of the Cornell Student Code of Conduct states that “students, faculty, and staff with different backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn, innovate, and work in an environment of respect…”

Below that, it details that “to assemble and to protest peacefully and lawfully are essential to academic freedom and the continuing function of the University as an educational institution.”

Furthermore, the code of conduct clearly states that disorderly conduct, harassment, misconduct related to student organizations, property damage, and disruption of university activities are forbidden.

Accordingly, I have a few questions I feel compelled to ask.

When Jewish students trying to learn in the classroom are distracted by their peers shouting “From the River to the Sea” just out the window, does this count as harassment and a disruption of university activities?

Do the students shouting those hateful words know the meaning behind them, regardless of their individual intent? Are they aware that those words are a rallying cry for the complete destruction of the State of Israel, and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the entirety of the land that is modern-day Israel, at the expense of the one Jewish state on planet earth? This phrase is used by terrorist organizations and was cited as a component of the US House of Representatives’ censuring of Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). Allowing students to shout this phrase and disrupt classes does not cultivate “an environment of respect.”

When students march on campus and call for the “globalization of the intifada” and shout that “resistance is justified,” are they actually protesting peacefully or are they calling for violence against Jewish and Israeli students?

We must consider the context where many, including a Cornell professor, are characterizing the murders, violence, and rapes of October 7 as “resistance.” Is that the type of resistance being called for on our campus? If so, using this term publicly would certainly be enough to cause “significant emotional or psychological harm,” which falls under the Assault and Endangerment clause of the student code of conduct.

The first and second Intifadas were periods of violence that claimed the lives of thousands of Jewish people as a result of indiscriminate terrorist attacks including stabbings and suicide bombings. Will the new Intifada include the brutal raping of innocent civilians or the kidnapping of the elderly from their homes and holding them hostage in underground tunnels like we saw on October 7?

At these very same protests that claim that “resistance is justified,” students, in the same breath, have also been calling for a ceasefire. One would think that resistance and ceasefire would be mutually exclusive, given that resistance implies action, and ceasefire lack thereof. It appears that these calls for a ceasefire are actually calls for a one-sided ceasefire. Do they suggest that there be no defense against violent “resistance?” Because if they do, they might actually be antisemitic. Holding Israel to a double standard, in which she has no right to defend herself against her attacking enemies, meets the criteria for anti-Zionism becoming antisemitism.

A few weeks ago, students vandalized our campus in the middle of the night by spray painting slurs like “F*ck Israel” and “Zionism = Genocide.” This not only costs the university time and resources to clean up, but also signals to Jewish students that our peers don’t believe that we have a right to self determination, like every other religious and ethnic group in the world.

Not only is it factually inaccurate that Israel is acting with an intent to kill all the people of Gaza, but supporting the notion that a movement of the Jewish people wanting self determination in their ancestral homeland is genocide is ludicrous.

What constitutes misconduct? Is hosting die-ins in academic buildings during the school day and disrupting classes for Jewish and non-Jewish students alike permitted?

Is hanging posters from Willard Straight Hall that read “From Ithaca to Gaza Intifada Intifada” and “Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism” not striking fear in a portion of the student body?

When Jewish students continue to be intimidated and feel there is no room for them and their beliefs on campus, the chasm between anti-Zionism and antisemitism begins to shrink rapidly. Inherently, anti-Zionism and antisemitism needn’t be inextricably linked. However, when a student, using the pseudonym “Hamas Soldier” on our campus publishes threats to “shoot up” the kosher dining hall and “rape and throw off a cliff any Jewish females” in the wake of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, anti-Zionism and antisemitism are, perhaps, more closely related than ever.

I am not sharing these heavy sentiments to inflame tensions further or to exacerbate anyone’s pain. The death of innocent civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli, Muslim or Jewish, Christian or Druze, is horrible. It is tragic. It is irreparable.

But inciting hate and violence on our campus does not honor anyone’s life. Intimidating and isolating students in Ithaca does not advance any cause or solve a complex and multifaceted conflict in the Middle East. I am using this strong language to convey the distress of the Cornell Jewish community. We are hurting. We are in distress. We want answers to our questions.

Zoe Bernstein is a senior at Cornell and the President of Cornellians for Israel.

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Obituary: Alexander Eisen, 93, a self-taught electronic engineer and passionate Holocaust educator

Alexander Eisen, a Holocaust survivor and beloved educator and speaker known for his soft-spoken warmth and keen intellect, died in Toronto on Feb. 17. He was 93. His turn as a sought-after Holocaust educator came in his later years, famously first speaking at his grandson Jared’s bar mitzvah. At the funeral, Alex’s son Doron recounted […]

The post Obituary: Alexander Eisen, 93, a self-taught electronic engineer and passionate Holocaust educator appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Creating a ‘Parallel Diplomatic Channel’ Between Israel and South Africa

Jewish and Christian South African leaders. Photo: South African Friends of Israel.

JNS.orgAs chief rabbi of South Africa, I undertook a recent diplomatic mission to Israel amidst the hostility of the South African government and a breakdown in communications between the two countries.

I met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and other senior government officials, assuring them of the support of the Jewish community and millions of non-Jews in South Africa.

The purpose of my trip was to establish a strong, parallel diplomatic channel between the people of South Africa and the Jewish state.

I conveyed a message to the government and the people of Israel on behalf of the South African Jewish community, as well as millions of our fellow citizens throughout the country. I told them that the African National Congress government does not speak in our name and we stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel in its battle against the forces of evil.

When I met with President Herzog, Foreign Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz and Minister of Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli, I reassured them that despite the ANC government’s morally repugnant support for Hamas and Iran, most South Africans have distanced themselves from the ANC’s position. Millions of South African Christians pray for and support Israel. Israel has many allies and friends here in South Africa who are ashamed of their government’s support for terrorist regimes and despots. Moreover, the ANC’s support has sunk to 40% and is still falling.

I sought to tell the government and people of Israel that the bond between the Jews of South Africa and Israel can never be broken, no matter what the ANC does.

As Jews, we speak the name of Jerusalem at every funeral, saying a special blessing to mourners: “May the Almighty comfort you amongst all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” At every wedding, we recite the immortal verse, “If I ever forget thee, O Jerusalem.” Three times a day in our prayers, we pray for the redemption of Israel and Jerusalem. When we pray, we face in the direction of Jerusalem.

Zionism is an essential part of our Jewish identity. It’s part of our soul. Our connection to Israel began almost 4,000 years ago when God spoke to Abraham at the dawn of Jewish history. As a nation, we have maintained an unbroken presence in the land for more than 3,300 years—since the time of Joshua. Our connection to our land is older than that of any people on earth. Our bond with Israel is unbreakable.

Going forward, great efforts will be invested in building this informal diplomatic channel between Israel and South Africa until such time as a sound official diplomatic relationship can be re-established. I undertake this task for the sake of our Jewish community, but also for the sake of South Africa, which will only benefit from a closer bond with the only democracy in the Middle East.

In numerous areas of life in which the South African government has failed its people, citizens have stood up and come forward to make a difference. Here, too, with the country’s connection to Israel under threat, we must come forward, speak up and reinforce our connection with Israel. Those who can should visit to express solidarity.

The current foreign policy of the ANC government, which associates our country with the world’s worst terrorist states and tyrants, is not in the interests of the South African people. South Africa can benefit greatly from Israel’s innovation, people, technology and economy. Most of all, it can benefit from the Divine blessings that flow into South Africa from Israel: The promise made to Abraham that those who bless Israel will be blessed.

In our time, we have witnessed these Divine promises fulfilled. After 2,000 years of exile—no nation on earth has ever survived such a protracted exile—we returned to our biblical homeland.

Just as promised in the book of Deuteronomy: “Then G-d will gather you in from all the nations. … If your dispersed will be at the ends of heaven, from there the L-rd your G-d will gather you in and from there He will take you … and bring you to the Land that your forefather possessed and you shall possess it.”

Our bond with Israel, forged in exile and sanctified by Divine promise, will never be broken. Am Yisrael Chai.

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Meet the Ethnic-Studies Antisemites

A taxi passes by in front of The New York Times head office, Feb. 7, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri / File.

JNS.orgThat the American educational system is thoroughly polluted with antisemitism has been obvious to many of us for some time. It became clear to all, however, after the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, when thousands of academics, students, teachers, administrators, and other denizens of the dictatorship of the professoriate erupted in full-throated celebration of the mass slaughter and rape of over 1,000 people.

What followed is well-known and even somewhat encouraging, given that—with the toppling of two university presidents who proved ambivalent about killing all the Jews—the professoriate is finally being held responsible for its atrocities for the first time in decades.

The problem, however, goes well beyond the universities. This, along with much else, was proven last week by The New York Times, which usually does its best to run interference for antisemitism.

The Times appears to have realized, somewhat late in the game, that “ethnic studies” programs in California high schools have a serious problem with antisemitism. Of course, a group of dedicated activists and skeptical politicians fought to revise the state’s ethnic studies curriculum for the better part of a decade, and with very good reason. The Times report, however, was prompted by the pushback they are now facing from a self-congratulatorily named “liberated ethnic studies” that restores the antisemitic material.

Like all such curricula, California ethnic studies is essentially an attempt to institutionalize a Manichean theology. The ancient Manicheans viewed the world as a battle between two metaphysical forces: Light and good versus darkness and evil. The new Manicheans’ theology is political in expression, but not a great deal more complicated. It holds that the world is a battleground between light and good in the form of the “oppressed” (usually people of color) and darkness and evil in the form of the “oppressor” (usually but not always white people).

Like many religious sentiments, this cult’s theology is unfalsifiable and thus impossible to prove or disprove. Two things, however, can be said with some certainty: 1) It is obviously inadequate as an account of the world in which we live, and 2) It is self-evidently racist.

Unsurprisingly, it is also bitterly antisemitic. In all its forms, this theology places the Jews firmly in the category of “oppressor.” In other words, it sees the Jews as a manifestation of metaphysical evil—quite literally satanic. If viewing the Jews as satanic is not antisemitism, then nothing is antisemitism.

None of this is surprising to critics of the proposed curriculum. But we should be grateful for the Times’ report because it provides us with some formidable evidence for the prosecution.

Given its proclivities, the Times probably did not wish to provide such evidence, but it had no choice because the antisemites appear to have been quite eager to give it to them.

The Times presents us, for example, with Guadalupe Cardona, a teacher of ethnic studies at a Los Angeles high school, who helpfully volunteers on the Israel-Hamas war: “If someone is going to teach that conflict from a true ethnic studies perspective, it’s going to be critiquing settler colonialism in Palestine.”

For his part, Professor Dylan Rodriguez firmly rejects giving equal time to Jewish perspectives on the conflict because “It creates false equivalences.” The Times states, “He then asked if creationism should be covered in biology classes, or climate change denialism in environmental science,” as if he were teaching a STEM course rather than a religious creed.

These are the least of the defamations chronicled by the Times. In one of many such examples, the paper tells us that “In November, several weeks after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, an ethnic studies teacher at Menlo-Atherton High School, in Silicon Valley, presented a lesson that inaccurately claimed the United Nations considered the creation of Israel illegal.”

That is lies enough for one class, even in California, but during the lesson “a slide depicted a hand manipulating a puppet,” which even the Times was forced to admit recalls “antisemitic tropes about secret Jewish control of government, the media and finance.”

One might wonder, of course, why this kind of hate speech is not only tolerated but literally institutionalized in California high schools. The Times, helpfully if inadvertently, supplies the answer:

Ethnic studies grew out of student activism at Bay Area colleges in the late 1960s, when Black, Latino, Asian and Native American students went on strike to demand more focus on their groups’ histories and cultures.

Some activists were part of the Third World Liberation Front, a student group that linked racial segregation and discrimination in the United States to colonialism, imperialism and militarism across the globe.

For early scholars and students of ethnic studies, pro-Palestinian activism was also crucial, said Keith Feldman, chair of comparative ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Whether the Times realized it or not—and it probably did not—this is the most powerful indictment of the ethnic studies movement as can be imagined. It provides firm historical proof that ethnic studies is not education. It is a political movement and a distinctly nasty one at that. Indeed, it appears that, on the issue of Israel and the Jews, it is nothing more than Palestinian nationalism dressed up as a kind of altruistic universalism.

This is of immense importance because while some nationalisms are liberal, democratic, and progressive, Palestinian nationalism is not. It is uncompromisingly reactionary, bigoted, tyrannical, revanchist, racist, and ultimately genocidal.

After the events of the last four months, no further evidence of this is required, not even from the Times. Thanks to Hamas, we now have definitive and absolute proof of it. Thanks to Hamas’s supporters in the West, we have equally definitive proof that the progressive left—the fountainhead of “ethnic studies”—supports this toxic nationalism with every fiber of its being and is willing to justify, excuse, and commit any atrocity necessary to further its ambitions.

What this means is quite simple: Palestinian nationalism and its supporters, whoever and wherever they may be—even in California high schools—have no place in the public discourse of any decent society. Their movement is fundamentally illegitimate. In a free society, of course, it must be allowed to exist, so long as it puts an end to its criminal activities. But it should be shunned, ostracized, and relegated to the far corners of the dark web and easily surveilled gated compounds in the Midwest.

At the moment, however, a generation of American children is being threatened by unscrupulous cultists who are determined to pound their ideology into the minds of those children at any cost. No sane society should allow such people anywhere near a classroom, but systemic hate cannot be ended overnight. In the meantime, the cultists should not be permitted to poison the hearts of thousands of students by teaching them that people who hate and kill Jews are the children of light.

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