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Leading Academic Group Denounces National Women’s Studies Association for Silence on Hamas Atrocities Against Women

Maayan Zin embraces her daughters Ela Elyakim, 8, and Dafna Elyakim, 14, former Israeli hostages, shortly after their arrival in Israel on Nov. 26, after being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, at Hatzerim military base in Israel, in this handout picture released by the Zin family on Nov. 26, 2023. Photo: Zin Family/Handout via REUTERS

A group of feminists and scholars at US universities has issued a searing open letter censuring the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) for not condemning the rapes and other sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas terrorists during their deadly rampage across southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The Section for Women Faculty of the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), a nonprofit that advocates academic freedom and open exchange in higher education, noted in its letter that since the Palestinian terror group’s onslaught, the NWSA has issued two statements attacking Israel’s military response, neither of which mentioned Hamas’ female victims or the 240 people abducted as hostages to Gaza. Beyond the kidnappings, Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and injured thousands more.

NWSA’s silence, AEN argued, is a seismic moral failure.

“We are outraged by the NWSA’s abandonment of women and girls who have experienced horrible atrocities and by its utter refusal to acknowledge the plight of Israeli women and girls in either its recent programming or public statements,” said the letter, which was shared with The Algemeiner. “The two statements that the NWSA released on Oct. 11 and Oct. 31 condemn Israel’s military response to the Hamas massacre yet fail to denounce the brutality of Hamas terrorists, who were given orders to rape.”

It added that in refusing to condemn Hamas, NWSA alienated Jewish academics and students of women’s studies — a problem, the group explained, that goes back to 2015, when NWSA endorsed the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The BDS movement seeks to isolate Israel from the international community as a step toward the Jewish state’s eventual elimination.

“We are deeply concerned that on account of this indefensible position, Jewish scholars and students are now thoroughly ostracized from the association, and by extension, from the discipline of Gender Studies,” the letter continued. “Jewish feminist engagement in the NWSA has been in decline for a number of years. The organization’s professional standing has truly been diminished by its antisemitism.”

Beyond the NWSA, women’s groups and sexual assault centers on university campuses and even within the United Nations have been noticeably silent on well documented cases of Hamas terrorists raping Israeli girls and women, as well as other acts of sexual violence, during their Oct. 7 onslaught.

On Friday, AEN executive director Miriam Elman stressed during a conversation with The Algemeiner that recognizing the traumas Israeli women endured does not exclude advocating for Palestinian women whom Hamas denies basic economic and political freedoms through its enforcement of Sharia law.

“You can show empathy for Palestinian women and girls — and please do — because they are oppressed through subjugation and honor killings,” Elman said. “Many in the section also want to say that they recognize that Palestinian women and girls are impacted by the war. You can do that and also recognize that Hamas systematically used rape as a weapon of war, condemn that, and call for the release women and girls who are still hostages Gaza.”

She added, “There are still young women in their 20s and early 30s still being held hostage. G-d knows what has happened to them since being taken into captivity. NWSA has released two statements that did not say one word about these atrocities.”

Feminist author Phyllis Chesler, a professor emerita of psychology and member of AEN’s Section for Women Faculty — called NWSA’s spurning of Jewish women “craven,” adding that “women’s studies has been more concerned with the alleged occupation of a country that never existed — Palestine — than with the real occupation of women’s bodies in Gaza and throughout the Arab world.”

Founded in 1977 with help from a grant awarded by the Ford Foundation, the National Women’s Studies Association is a professional academic society that claims to have over 300 members and institutional partnership with over 350 university academic departments. In recent years, its public statements have rarely addressed rising antisemitism in the US and across the world, doing so only after neo-Nazis marched through Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. The group has, however, issued statements in support of Asian Americans, African Americans, and Palestinians.

“Palestinian solidarity is a feminist issue,” NWSA said during Israel’s 2021 war with Hamas while alleging that Israel has “perpetrated” sex crimes against Palestinian women.

Anti-Israel bias in professional academic societies has increased in recent years. Within a year, both the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) and the American Anthropological Association (APA) endorsed the BDS movement, drawing criticism from scholars who condemned the decisions for being “shameful” and “profoundly destructive.”

The problem also exists in prestigious post-graduate academic programs, Elman told The Algemeiner. She noted that over 100 scholars organized by her group recently issued a second letter denouncing the Fulbright Program, as well as the Fulbright Association, for not issuing any statements denouncing Hamas’ atrocities on Oct. 7, despite Hamas abducting one of its alumni, Israeli academic Shoshan Haran, and murdering her husband, sister, and brother-in-law.

The doucment also denounced a separate letter signed by nearly 1,000 Millennial and Generation-Z Fulbright Scholars, all but one of whom participated in the program during the 21st century, that accused Israel of committing genocide and did not reference the Hamas atrocities.

“Haran was an accomplished alumnus of Fulbright, and you can’t say anything about her, you can’t speak out, you can’t say one sentence calling for her release? Their selectivity of empathy is unconscionable,” Elman said. Commenting on the tendency of young scholars to be virulently anti-Israel and to promote falsehoods about the Jewish state, she added, “It’s very concerning that all these young scholars are so morally confused.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Harvard Alumni File Lawsuit Claiming Campus Antisemitism ‘Devalues’ Their Diplomas

[Illustrative] Harvard University students displaying a pro-Palestinian sign at their May 2022 graduation ceremony. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

A group of ten Harvard University alumni filed a lawsuit against the institution on Wednesday, accusing it of “devaluing” their degrees through permitting and fostering an environment of antisemitism, support for terrorism, and anti-Israel sentiment. 

Filed in a Massachusetts federal court, the alumni claims that Harvard has breached an implicit contract with its graduates, promising to maintain the institution’s prestige, which they allege has been compromised due to a toxic campus environment. This, they argue, has led potential employers and prestigious law firms to distance themselves from Harvard alumni.

“Harvard has directly caused the value and prestige of plaintiffs’ Harvard degrees to be diminished and made a mockery out of Harvard graduates in the employment world and beyond,” the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit argues that the university’s administration has failed to combat campus anti-semitism, and has consistently overlooked assaults on Jewish students and calls by students and faculty for the annihilation of Israel. It highlighted, among other things, an open letter signed by more than thirty student organizations blaming Israel for the October 7 Hamas-led attack, and campus protests which included chants like “Long live the intifada!” and “There is only one solution: intifada revolution!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine is Arab!”

The suit also points to then-Harvard president Claudine Gay’s testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where she stated that calls for genocide against Jews would only violate bullying and harassment policies “depending on the context,” as indicative of the school’s tolerance of antisemitism.

The lawsuit is part of a growing dissatisfaction among graduates over what they perceive as rampant antisemitism on U.S. campuses, according to attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of legal aid group, Shurat HaDin, who is representing the alumni alongside New York-based lawyer, Robert Tolchin.

Darshan-Leitner criticized the colleges for becoming “hate centers” under the guise of academic freedom. 

The lawsuit, Darshan-Leitner said, reveals the “growing outrage and contempt that graduates all across the US are feeling over the wild antisemitism and hate speech being encouraged and explained away on the American campuses.” 

“This dangerous weaponization of higher education by radical faculty and students as well as the impotent administration response, all justified under the guise of academic freedom, has turned the colleges into hate centers which has greatly devalued their reputation and diplomas,” she said, adding that the suit could prompt similar actions from graduates of other institutions.

Tolchin accused the university of succumbing to “the flavor of the month, the lowest level of discourse.”

“Harvard’s seal proclaims “Light and Truth” in Latin and Hebrew–yes, Hebrew, the language spoken by the indigenous Israelites. Yet light and truth have been hard to find at Harvard. The darkness of antisemitism and the dishonesty, hate, and discrimination have cast a pall over Harvard so embarrassing that people do not wish to be associated with Harvard,” Tolchin said. 

Harvard has been accused of facilitating an educational environment that is unwelcoming to Israelis and Jews for years, with the lawsuit citing annual events such as “Israel Apartheid Week” and incidents targeting Jewish students and symbols on campus. 

Antisemitism expert Dara Horn, a Harvard alumnus who was asked to join Gay’s anti-Semitism advisory committee, authored a damning essay published this week in The Atlantic in which she detailed the Jew hatred on campus predating October 7. 

She noted that staff members “who grade Jewish students used university-issued class lists to share information about events organized by pro-Palestine groups;” In one instance, a professor continued teaching after rejecting the findings of an investigation by Harvard after he was found discriminating against several Israeli students. Last spring, a student was asked to leave because her identity as an Israeli was making her classmates “uncomfortable.”

She also pointed to courses themselves “premised on anti-Semitic lies”, pointing to one called “The Settler Colonial Determinants of Health”, and noted that lecturers invited to speak at the campus included some who peddled in blood libels that Israelis harvest Palestinians’ organs or that the IDF uses Palestinian children for weapons testing. 

“The mountain of proof at Harvard revealed a reality in which Jewish students’ access to their own university (classes, teachers, libraries, dining halls, public spaces, shared student experiences) was directly compromised,” Horn writes.  The alumni’s legal action comes alongside another lawsuit filed by six current Harvard students on January 10, claiming that the university has not done enough to combat antisemitism on campus which had become a “bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment.” It also comes a day after a professor at the university, Walter Johnson, resigned from two anti-Zionist campus groups after they posted antisemitic cartoons.

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Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7

Eden Alene, winner of the reality show “The Next Star to Eurovision,” during finals in Neve Ilan studio near Jerusalem on Feb. 4, 2020. Photo: Shlomi Cohen/Flash90.

Israeli Culture Minister Miki Zohar sent the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) a letter on Thursday urging them to approve Israel’s submission to the Eurovision song competition, after the EBU called it “too political.”

“As you know, the State of Israel is experiencing one of the most difficult and complex periods since its establishment. We lost our loved ones, and there are women, men and children who are still held captive by a terrorist organization,” Zohar said.

Israeli media reported that the broadcasting union would not approve the song, called “October Rain,” after a number of countries even issued threats to boycott the event if Israel participates. The EBU issued a statement saying “We are currently in the process of carefully examining the lyrics of the song – a process that is confidential between the EBU and the Public Broadcasting Corporation until a final decision is made. To all broadcasters, they have until March 11th to officially submit their songs. If a song does not meet the criteria for any reason, the corporation will be given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics, according to the contest rules.”

“The song that Israel sent to the Eurovision Song Contest was chosen by a professional committee made up of well-known names in the local music and entertainment industry,” Zohar added. “It is a moving song, discussing renewal and revival from a very fragile reality of loss and destruction, and describes the current public mood in Israel these days. We see now most clearly because our lives – as one, united society – manage to overcome even the greatest suffering. This is not a political song.”

Despite the news that the song by Israeli singer Eden Golan would not be approved, The CEO of KAN, Israel’s national broadcasting service, and the body that approves the song, Golan Yokhpaz, said “We will not change the words or the song, even at the cost of Israel not participating in Eurovision this year.” Adding “The Israel Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) is in dialogue with the EBU regarding the song that will represent Israel at Eurovision.”

Zohar said later in a television interview “The songwriters, KAN, and the singer will have to make the decisions at the end of the day… I do think that Israel should participate in Eurovision because it is important for us at this time to be represented there, and to express ourselves throughout Europe.”

Speaking to the EBU, he said, “We trust that you will continue in your important task of keeping the competition free from any attempt at political manipulation.”

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UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’

UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine Francesca Albanese, October 27, 2022 (Photo: Screenshot)

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories referred to Israelis as “colonialists” who have “fake identities” while quoting another Twitter/X account on Wednesday, raising questions about the impartiality of the international body.

Francesca Albanese responded to a long post by Alon Mizrahi, a far-left activist, arguing that the reason many Western nations support Israel is that they are colonial projects. 

She highlighted the following quote from Mizrahi: “free Palestine scares them [Westerners] bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities.”

” free Palestine scares them bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities..”

— Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur oPt (@FranceskAlbs) February 21, 2024

The original post claimed that “All colonial powers work together to guarantee the supremacy of made-up identities over genuine, native ones. Because if this model breaks anywhere, it will collapse everywhere.”

Mizrahi argued that “A Palestinian state would be a major, major moral blow to white, Western colonialism.”

The tweet was met with immediate condemnation.

David Friedman, who served as the US Ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021 under former President Donald Trump wrote that her tweet was “Exhibit A why the UN is a failure and why we no longer belong in that bastion of hypocrisy and corruption.”

An account documenting Hamas’ October 7 atrocities asked, “If Israel is indeed a ‘colonialist project’ Where should all the Israelis go if this project should be dismantled?”

The perception of UN bias against Israel has also been boosted by the fact that, in 2023, Israel was condemned twice as often as all other countries combined.

It is not the first time Albanese has made comments that raise eyebrows. Earlier this month, in response to French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron calling the October 7 attack “largest anti-Semitic massacre of the 21st century,” she said “No, Mr. Macron. The victims of October 7 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression.”

Following backlash, she wrote that she opposes “all racism, including anti-Semitism, a global threat. But explaining these crimes as anti-Semitism obscures their true cause.”

Hamas’ founding charter, in a section about the “universality” of its cause, reads: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Albanese has also argued that Israel should make peace with Hamas, saying that “It needs to make peace with Hamas in order to not be threatened by Hamas.” 

When asked about what people do not understand about Hamas, she added, “If someone violates your right to self-determination, you are entitled to embrace resistance.”

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