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Many Jews criticized Harvard’s Oct. 7 response. Fewer are applauding President Claudine Gay’s resignation.

(JTA) — The pressure that built on Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, to resign began after what many thought was a tepid campus response to the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7. It mounted following a disastrous congressional appearance in which she and two other university presidents gave lawyerly answers in response to grilling about antisemitism on campus.

But by the time Gay actually did resign this week — following a flurry of plagiarism allegations that drained her support — the antisemitism debate was relegated largely to the sidelines. 

Instead, thanks to outside political actors — and deep-pocketed insiders with an array of ideological axes to grind — the resignation of Harvard’s first Black president took on wider significance than a campus dispute over antisemitism and free speech. As a result, Jewish concerns about antisemitism receded  — or have been attached to other issues in ways that are already heightening Black-Jewish tensions and drafting Jews into ideological battles many never signed up for

As a result, some Jewish groups appear to be laying low lest they get drawn into the discourse.

“We didn’t call for her head,” Laura Shaw Frank, the director of Contemporary Jewish Life at the American Jewish Committee, said in an interview. “What we want is to create campus spaces that are secure and positive experiences for Jewish students and Jewish faculty and Jewish members of the community. We are under no illusion that a president is the only person who dictates campus culture.” 

AJC did not issue a statement on Gay’s resignation. “That doesn’t mean we like what happened at the congressional hearing, which was absolutely horrible,” said Shaw Frank. “But the fact that there have been people who are calling for her resignation doesn’t mean that the entire Jewish people should be labeled as fighting for her resignation.” 

Among the Jews seeking Gay’s ouster — and shaping the discourse around her presidency — was Harvard grad Bill Ackman, a Jewish hedge fund manager and Harvard donor who tied her tenure to the fight against Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, or DEI, whose most vocal opponents are conservatives who say DEI programs instill a rigid leftist ideology. In a lengthy post on X after Gay stepped down, Ackman said Havard’s DEI office expresses a philosophy that is the “root cause of antisemitism at Harvard.”

“This is the beginning of the end for D.E.I. in America’s institutions,” agreed the conservative activist Christopher Rufo, who played a lead role in spreading the plagiarism allegations, in response to Gay’s resignation. In a Wall Street Journal essay Thursday, Rufo boasted about the “reputational, financial and political” campaign he orchestrated to “squeeze” Gay out.

Defenders of Gay in turn fired back against a campaign they saw as racist, sexist and whipped up by the anti-woke right. “So they’re using the guise of pretending that this is about concern over antisemitism, which is, of course, something that all of us should be concerned about. It’s really just furthering their propaganda campaign against racial equity,” Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times journalist who faced conservative attacks in a tenure battle at the University of North Carolina, told CNN.

Perhaps because the discourse around Gay had become so muddied — involving plagiarism, charges of misogyny and racism, conservative attacks on DEI, donor pressure, questionable leadership and antisemitism — many of the major Jewish groups were either silent or muted in the wake of her decision. One of the few statements forthrightly welcoming her resignation came from a group that didn’t exist before the war: the Harvard Jewish Alumni Alliance, launched in November to fight what it called “a toxic culture on campus.”

“In her repeated failures to condemn calls for complete and utter obliteration of Jews, Claudine Gay tacitly encouraged those who sought to spread hate at Harvard, where many Jews no longer feel safe to study, identify, and fully participate in the Harvard community,” spokesperson Roni Brunn said in a statement.

The most important of the groups fighting antisemitism, the Anti-Defamation League, issued a terse statement alluding to the plagiarism charges, saying “leaders at the highest level are accountable to the highest standards. Whoever emerges to lead the university must embody the highest ideals of integrity and demonstrate moral clarity and total commitment to fight antisemitism with #ZeroTolerance in a way we have not fully seen at Harvard.” (The ADL declined a request for further comment.)

Harvard Hillel was similarly circumspect in its statement. 

“The most important priority for Harvard Hillel is that our university is a safe and inclusive environment for Jewish students and for all students,” Getzel Davis, whose title at Hillel is campus rabbi, said in its statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with the next president of Harvard and the rest of the senior University administration, to ensure that Jewish students are able to safely express their identities on our campus.”

Davis said Thursday he did not have time in his schedule for an interview.

A woman prays aloud for the Israeli hostages outside the Harvard Divinity School, Oct. 25, 2023. (John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Such groups may have had good reason to be cautious in claiming Gay’s resignation as a victory, especially when some defenders of Gay were accusing Harvard of submitting to pressure from powerful Jewish and pro-Israel alumni, including Ackman, investor Seth Klarman, businessman Len Blavatnik and Lloyd Blankfein, former chief executive of Goldman Sachs.

How sad but predictable that the same figures and forces enabling the ethnic cleansing and genocidal attacks on Palestinians in Gaza — Ackman, Blum, Summers and others — push out the first Black woman president of Harvard!” wrote the African-American philosopher and presidential hopeful Cornel West, a former member of the Harvard faculty, on X.

West appeared to be referring to Edward J. Blum, a conservative Texas legal activist, and former Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers. Both are Jewish. Blum’s nonprofit led a successful challenge to Harvard’s affirmative action policies earlier this year but Blum has not appeared to weigh in on Gay’s current woes. Summers had tweeted on Oct. 9 that he was “disillusioned and alienated” over Harvard’s response to Oct. 7 but also did not call for Gay to step down. When she did, he issued a statement saying he admired Gay “for putting Harvard’s interests first at what I know must be an agonizingly difficult moment.”

West’s statement went on to connect charges of racism with support for Israel. “This racism against both Palestinians and Black people is undeniable and despicable!” he wrote. “I have experienced similar attacks from the same forces in academia with too many of my colleagues remaining silent! When big money dictates university policy and raw power dictates foreign policy, the moral bankruptcy of American education and democracy looms large!”

Conspiratorial sentiments like West’s — accusing wealthy pro-Israel donors of “dictating” both university and foreign policy — may not represent the Black mainstream. But even Black leaders who often ally with Jews and against antisemitism were disturbed that legitimate concerns about antisemitism and speech on campus morphed into a challenge to DEI and the credentials of the first Black president and only second woman president in Harvard’s history. 

“We start with the conversation about how to protect Jewish students and end up in a conversation about an assault on programs that benefit Black and brown people,” Cornell William Brooks, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and the former president and CEO of the NAACP, said Wednesday on CNN. “It’s really about an attack on higher education, anti-DEI, and the reason we know that is because her critics spend more time talking about DEI and affirmative action than they talk about the legitimate concerns about antisemitism.”

A Jewish communal leader who asked not to be named because they wanted to protect their relationships with colleagues in the community said they had heard similar comments from Black allies. Like Brooks, such allies are wondering where the defense of Jewish students ends and the attack on DEI begins, and are asking if Jews are more interested in a conservative agenda than the fight against antisemitism. 

As a result, many see signs of yet another clash between two groups with a history both of cooperation and deep tension.

“We already are seeing the backlash,” said Derek Penslar, a professor of Jewish history who directs Harvard’s Center for Jewish Studies. “With so many reasons for Jews and Blacks to work together, it is tragic to see these kinds of wedges driven between them.” 

Amy Spitalnik, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said people of color who have been allied with Jews believe that antisemitism was “weaponized” to bring down Harvard’s first Black president.

“That doesn’t take away from the ways in which [Gay] needed to be held accountable for Harvard’s failures,” said Spitalnik, whose organization’s affiliated Jewish “community relations” councils often do interfaith and intergroup work. “Two things can be true at the same time: The congressional testimony that the presidents gave was horrendous and certainly was indicative of a larger failure on their part in terms of protecting their students. And there were extremists who exploited this situation in a way that doesn’t make any of us safer.” 

Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee on Dec.5, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Jeremy Burton, who as CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston has advocated for Jewish issues on Harvard’s campus, said the focus on Gay — by donors, outsiders, DEI critics and Jewish activists — is a “false context” for addressing antisemitism. 

“She was president for about a month before Oct. 7, if you count her actual time in office on campus,” said Burton. “The problems at Harvard have been building for years, if not decades.” Burton cited reports of Israeli faculty and visiting students being harassed, Jewish students in certain departments not being welcomed if they are “insufficiently anti-Zionist” and professors investigated for hostility toward Jews and Israeli students. 

In her brief term,  Gay gave gave a speech at Harvard Hillel saying “Antisemitism has no place at Harvard,” and on Dec. 8 attended an interfaith vigil, organized by the Harvard Chaplains, including Rabbi Davis, grieving for all those killed on Oct. 7 and the subsequent war. The same day she also apologized for the pain she caused in her congressional testimony, saying she should have made clear that “calls for violence against our Jewish community — threats to our Jewish students — have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged.”

“That’s not to say that she didn’t make serious mistakes,” said Burton. “But her departure does nothing to get at the root causes on campus.”

At the same time, many are convinced that one of those root causes is DEI — or at least an interpretation that doesn’t make room for Jewish concerns. 

“I think buzzwords like DEI are a little imprecise,“ Jacob Miller, a math major and the Harvard Hillel president, told Fox News Channel. “But I do think that it’s true that there is a double standard when it comes to antisemitic hate speech at Harvard. I do think Jews are looked upon as the oppressors and our history of being oppressed is ignored.”

Others are wondering if the prominent role played by Jewish and pro-Israel donors will give fodder to antisemites.

Robert Reich, the former U.S. secretary of labor, wrote in The Guardian that pressure brought by wealthy donors at Harvard and other schools was “an abuse of power.” He also warned about the optics of Jewish and pro-Israel donors wielding their wealth and influence on campuses.

“As a Jew, I also cannot help but worry that the actions of these donors — many of them Jewish, many from Wall Street — could fuel the very antisemitism they claim to oppose, based on the age-old stereotype of wealthy Jewish bankers controlling the world,” wrote Reich. 

Ruth Wisse, who during and after her long tenure as a professor of Yiddish literature at Harvard criticized what she sees as the university’s tilt to the left, says such concerns are misplaced. “Antisemitism has nothing to do with the Jews. Antisemitism has to do with the antisemites,” said Wisse, author of the 2007 book “Jews and Power.” “Jews should never go on the defensive when they haven’t done anything wrong. It’s a great moral error.” 

Wisse said donors were only reacting to a “war against Israel” in academia, where Israel’s legitimacy is questioned and where “it’s being taken for granted that the Arabs and the Muslims could not accept the principle of coexistence.”

Gay’s critics, Wisse continued, “are not the ones who brought in DEI and they’re not the ones who brought in foul teachings to replace American teaching. When they act to try to improve the university, they act as Americans. And if we [Jews] have a special role now it’s because of the war against us.”

Wisse is famously conservative, but across the spectrum of Jewish opinion there has been an emerging consensus that since the war Jewish students feel under siege. The political storm swirling around Gay’s resignation, however, threatens to sweep away that consensus and force potential allies to take sides. 

Yes, we have a problem with antisemitism at Harvard, just like we have a problem with Islamophobia and how students converse with each other,” said Penslar, who describes himself as “left of center.” “The problems are real. But outsiders took a very real problem and proceeded to exaggerate its scope.”


The post Many Jews criticized Harvard’s Oct. 7 response. Fewer are applauding President Claudine Gay’s resignation. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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US ‘Strongly Opposes’ China-Brokered Deal to Form Palestinian Unity Government With Terrorist Groups

Mahmoud al-Aloul, Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of Palestinian organization and political party Fatah, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Mussa Abu Marzuk, senior member of the Palestinian terror movement Hamas, attend an event at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 23, 2024. Photo: Pedro Pardo/Pool via REUTERS

The US on Tuesday said it “strongly opposes” a Beijing-brokered declaration signed earlier in the day by the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah movement and the Hamas terror group, aimed at reconciling their longstanding divisions and establishing a unity government to manage Gaza after the war.

The declaration, which was also signed by more than a dozen other Palestinian factions, is seen as a symbolic win for China’s role as a global mediator, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing it as a “historic moment for the cause of Palestine’s liberation.” However, doubts linger about its effectiveness in addressing the years-long rift between the groups.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller responded to the announcement, saying Hamas had “blood on its hands, of Israelis and of Palestinians,” and could not be in any leadership role.

“When it comes to governance of Gaza at the end of the conflict, there can’t be a role for a terrorist organization,” Miller said.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) — which currently exercises limited self-governance in the West and has long been riddled with allegations of corruption and authoritarianism — should be in control of both the West Bank and Gaza, Miller said, adding that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), unlike Hamas, had renounced terrorism.

The PLO is a coalition of Palestinian factions, including Fatah.

“If you look at the death and destruction that Hamas’ decision to launch the attacks of Oct. 7 has brought on Gaza, they have — there’s no one that has brought more pain and suffering to the people in Gaza than Hamas through their decisions — first to launch the attacks of Oct. 7, and then their ongoing decision, which continues today, to hide among civilian communities and use civilians as human shields.”

Miller also addressed China’s role in the mediation, saying that the US has generally encouraged China to leverage its influence with regional countries, especially those where the US has less sway, to prevent conflict escalation. One example was the Chinese-mediated deal last year restoring ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The US also urged China to discourage both Iran from financing proxies attacking Israel and the Houthis from targeting commercial shipping. “We have asked China to use its influence to try to bring those attacks to an end, and we’ll continue to do that,” Miller said.

Tuvia Gering, a China and Middle East analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies, said the move is part of China’s effort to rival the US by building alliances with developing nations as well as the Arab and Muslim world to prioritize its interests and stifle Western dominance.

China is “challenging America in every space possible as a new type of major power that takes in the considerations of the Global South and the coalitions of those oppressed by imperialism and Western hegemony” to create “a new global order,” he told The Algemeiner.

Gering condemned Beijing’s move, saying it “normalized terrorism” and will embolden the Palestinians into further intransigence in talks for any future peace accord.

“Until today, China failed to criticize [the Palestinians] and put all the onus onto Israel. This means effectively that the Palestinians will only adhere to the most maximalist positions in negotiations for the two state solution [which] will become even more of a distant reality,” Gering told The Algemeiner.

Gering also predicted that the “golden age” of China-Israel relations, which burgeoned over the last decade with the inking of major bilateral deals, was over because of China’s decision to “legitimize terror” since Oct. 7. Gering warned that moving forward, Israeli strategy in the region must also take China into account.

Gering expressed doubts that the declaration signed on Tuesday would lead to any major developments, noting “a large amount of skepticism” in the Arab world.

Indeed, the declaration gave no outline for how or when a new unity Palestinian government would be formed.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, which was also a signatory on the declaration, issued a statement later in the day outlining its demand for all factions in any future unity government to reject recognition of Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz blasted the agreement, saying it underscored Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ embrace of “the murderers and rapists” of Hamas, which rules Gaza.

“In reality, this won’t happen because Hamas’ rule will be crushed, and Abbas will be watching Gaza from afar. Israel’s security will remain solely in Israel’s hands,” Katz said.

In his statement, Wang reiterated China’s commitment to a “comprehensive, lasting, and sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza and advocated for an “international peace conference” aimed at pursuing a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dina Lisnyansky, an expert in Middle East affairs and Islam, warned that while the deal may not come to fruition, China’s role is of growing concern for Israel. Egypt and Algeria — both mediators in failed past attempts at rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas — were far weaker than China as regional actors. “When China sets its sights on something it usually achieves its goals, so it should worry us greatly,” Lisnyansky told The Algemeiner.

Lisnyansky also said that Israel should sanction the PA for signing the declaration. “Israel should negate any entity that has any ties at all to Hamas, which needs to lose both its authority and legitimacy.”

The post US ‘Strongly Opposes’ China-Brokered Deal to Form Palestinian Unity Government With Terrorist Groups first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics

And who has the best chance of medalling in Paris.

The post Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Kamala Harris’s Record on Israel Raises Questions About Support for Jewish State if Elected US President

US Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS

Following US President Joe Biden’s stunning exit from the 2024 presidential race, allies of Israel are looking for clues as to how Vice President Kamala Harris, the new presumptive Democratic nominee, could approach issues affecting the Jewish state if she were to win the White House in November.

Harris’s previous statements reveal a mixed record on Israel, offering signs of both optimism and pessimism to pro-Israel advocates.

Though Harris has voiced support for the Jewish state’s right to existence and self defense, she has also expressed sympathy for far-left narratives that brand Israel as “genocidal.” The vice president has additionally often criticized Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

In 2017, while giving a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), then-Senator Harris delivered a 19-minute speech in which she showered praise on Israel, stating that she supports “the United States’ commitment to provide Israel with $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade.” Harris stated that America has “shared values” with Israel and that the bond between the two nations is “unbreakable.”

In 2020, while giving another speech to AIPAC, Harris emphasized that US support for Israel must remain “rock solid” and noted that Hamas “maintains its control of Gaza and fires rockets.”

Despite such statements of support, however, Harris has previously exhibited a degree of patience for those who make baseless smears against Israel. 

In October 2021, when confronted by a George Mason University student who angrily accused Israel of committing “ethnic genocide” against Palestinians, Harris quietly nodded along and then praised the student. 

“And again, this is about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard,” Harris told the student. 

Following Hamas’ slaughter of 1,200 people and kidnapping of 250 others across southern Israel on Oct. 7, Harris has shown inconsistent support for the Jewish state. Although she initially backed Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’ terrorism, she has also levied sharp criticism against the Jewish state’s ensuing war effort in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

During a call with then-Israeli war cabinet leader Benny Gantz earlier this year, Harris suggested that the Jewish state has recklessly imperiled the lives of Palestinian civilians while targeting Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

“Far too many Palestinian civilians, innocent civilians have been killed,” Harris said. 

The same month, while delivering a speech commemorating the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, Harris called the conditions in Gaza “devastating.”

“And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks,” Harris said.

While speaking with Israeli President Isaac Herzog to mark the Jewish holiday of Passover in April, Harris shared “deep concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and discussed steps to increase the flow of life-saving humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians and ensure its safe distribution.”

Harris also pushed the unsubstantiated narrative that Israel has intentionally withheld aid from the people of Gaza, triggering a famine. 

“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane. And our common humanity compels us to act,” Harris said. “The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid.”

The United Nations Famine Review Committee (FRC), a panel of experts in international food security and nutrition, released a report in June arguing that there is not enough “supporting evidence” to suggest that a famine has occurred in Gaza.

Harris has also expressed sympathy for anti-Israel protesters on US university campuses. In an interview published earlier this month, Harris said that college students protesting Israel’s defensive military efforts against Hamas are “showing exactly what the human emotion should be.”

“There are things some of the protesters are saying that I absolutely reject, so I don’t mean to wholesale endorse their points,” she added. “But we have to navigate it. I understand the emotion behind it.”

Some indicators suggest that Harris could adopt a more antagonistic approach to the Jewish state than Biden. For example, Harris urged the White House to be more “sympathetic” toward Palestinians and take a “tougher” stance against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Politico report in December. In March, White House aides forced Harris to tone down a speech that was too tough on Israel, according to NBC News.

Later, she did not rule out “consequences” for Israel if it launched a large-scale military offensive to root out Hamas battalions in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, citing humanitarian concerns for the civilian population.

Harris initially called for an “immediate ceasefire” before Biden and has often used more pointed language when discussing the war, Israel, and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. However, her advisers have sought to downplay the notion that she may be tougher on the Jewish state.

“The difference is not in substance but probably in tone,” one of Harris’s advisers told The Nation.

Meanwhile, Halie Soifer, who served as national security adviser to Harris during the then-senator’s first two years in Congress, said the current vice president’s support for Israel has been just as strong as Biden’s. “There really has been no daylight to be found” between the two, she told Reuters.

Still, Biden, 81, has a decades-long history of maintaining relationships with Israeli leaders and recently called himself a “Zionist.” Harris, 59, does not have such a connection to the Jewish state and maintains closer ties to Democratic progressives, many of whom have increasingly called for the US to turn away — or at least adopt a tougher approach toward — Israel

Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman suggested that Harris would be a far less reliable ally than Biden, pointing to her ideological alignment with the most progressive lawmakers in Congress. 

“Biden made many mistakes regarding Israel, but he is miles ahead of Harris in terms of support for Israel,” Friedman told The Jerusalem Post. “She is on the fringe of the progressive wing of the party, which sympathizes more with the Palestinian cause.”

“This will move Jewish voters to the Republican side,” the former ambassador argued. “Harris lacks any affinity for Israel, and the Democratic Convention will highlight this contrast. This could lead to a historic shift of Jewish voters to the Republican side.”

Meanwhile, J Street, a progressive Zionist organization, eagerly endorsed Harris the day after Biden dropped out of the presidential race, citing her “nuanced, balanced approach” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflictt.

“Kamala Harris has been a powerful advocate for J Street’s values in the White House, from the fight against antisemitism to the need for a nuanced, balanced approach on Israel-Palestine,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement. “She’s been a steadfast supporter of hostage families and Israel’s security, while also being a leading voice for the protection of Palestinian civilians and the need to secure an urgent ceasefire.”

The post Kamala Harris’s Record on Israel Raises Questions About Support for Jewish State if Elected US President first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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