(JTA) — As they prepared to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, leaders of U.S. Jewish organizations expected to ask him about his contentious effort to weaken the Israeli judiciary.
They didn’t expect to get an answer from Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.
But that’s what happened when Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism and an outspoken critic of the overhaul, asked about Netanyahu’s condemnation of the protest movement, which the prime minister recently accused of cooperating with Israel’s adversaries. Jacobs said he tied his question to Yom Kippur, which begins Sunday evening.
“I said it was almost Erev Yom Kippur, and I’m asking you about the way your government has demonized not only the protesters but so many of the people who are at risk,” Jacobs told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “And he gave an answer and Sara Netanyahu asked if she could follow up with asking me a question.”
Sara Netanyahu asked if Jacobs would condemn the death threats against her family.
“I heard the emotion,” Jacobs said. “She’s not wrong.”
He said he told her, “Absolutely, but the majority of people have been peaceful, but I would not condone that behavior.’’
At the meeting, attendees said Netanyahu raised the topics he preferred to discuss, such as the threat from Iran and prospects for a treaty with Saudi Arabia. And the American Jewish leaders brought up topics on their mind as well — among them the judicial overhaul; relations with the Palestinian Authority; Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners; and women’s rights in Israel.
The meeting at the Israeli consulate in New York City took place hours after Netanyahu’s address to the U.N. General Assembly, which focused on the potential Israeli-Saudi deal as well as the Iranian threat. Netanyahu met with President Joe Biden earlier in the week.
The meeting included 24 representatives of groups across the Jewish political and denominational spectrum. Most of the groups in attendance have voiced criticism of the judicial overhaul, which aims to sap power and independence from Israel’s Supreme Court, in addition to other Israeli government policies. The judicial overhaul has also sparked a mass protest movement in Israel that has offshoots abroad: In New York, a crowd of protesters demonstrated outside of the consulate on Friday.
“There were probably half a dozen questions that were asked and to be honest, everyone was answered whether or not people felt satisfied,” Jacobs said. “And I have to say that to me, it was more than I had expected.”
One Jewish leader brought up Netanyahu’s convivial meeting earlier in the week with Elon Musk, the tech mogul who has relentlessly attacked the Anti-Defamation League on his social media platform, X, formerly known as Twitter. Musk has also interacted with white supremacists on the platform.
Netanyahu and ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt joked about how Musk seems to like Netanyahu better than Greenblatt, one participant said.
Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, called the meeting “warm, actually.” Katz said she brought up concerns of increasing gender segregation in public spaces in Israel.
“I asked about the perception of things going backwards and what’s at risk, and toxic segregation,” she said. She said Netanyahu responded that he did not recognize that as happening.
Katz said she valued the opportunity to discuss their different perceptions.
“When we’re doing organizing, when we want to change hearts and minds, when we want to collaborate with other people — whatever it might be — you have to understand where people are,” she said.
The CEO of the American Jewish Committee, Ted Deutch, said in a statement that the meeting was productive. His statement mentioned the two-state solution, which would entail the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Large American Jewish groups have historically supported that outcome, though Netanyahu has said he is against it and partners with far-right politicians who vehemently oppose it.
“While the vision of a two-state solution too often seems out of reach, AJC stands firm in our dedication to pursuing a path toward peace and prosperity for all in the region,” Deutch said.
“The Abraham Accords once felt impossible – and look where we are today,” he said, referring to the normalization agreements with four Middle Eastern countries signed under a previous Netanyahu government. “We remain committed to expanding normalization and supporting programs that promote Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, knowing that these efforts will bring us closer to enduring peace.”
Penn president resigns amid criticism of her testimony on campus antisemitism
(JTA) — The president of the University of Pennsylvania announced her resignation on Saturday after facing growing backlash for declining to say outright that calling for the genocide of Jews violated the school’s code of conduct.
“I write to share that President Liz Magill has voluntarily tendered her resignation as President of the University of Pennsylvania,” Scott Bok, the chair of the school’s board of trustees, said in a statement. Bok subsequently said he would also be resigning.
Magill’s resignation is the most significant fallout so far from a congressional hearing on Tuesday in which she and the presidents of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were all asked whether calls for genocide of Jews would constitute harassment or bullying. All three responded that the answer depended on “context.”
Video of the exchange went viral and was highlighted by Jewish and pro-Israel activists as an illustration of how universities have failed to take campus antisemitism seriously in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s ensuing war against the terror group in Gaza.
“I hope this signals a new start for @Penn & a wake-up call for all college presidents,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Campus administrators must protect their Jewish students with the same passion they bring to protecting all students. They can’t hide behind language coached by their attorneys & look the other way when it comes to antisemitism.”
In the wake of the hearing, Magill in particular faced mounting criticism from Penn’s stakeholders. The board of the school’s Wharton School called for new leadership for the school and a donor threatened to pull a $100 million donation unless Magill stepped down. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, who is a non-voting member of the board of the private university, said Magill “failed” to create a safe atmosphere for students and urged the board to review her leadership.
In her own brief statement Saturday, Magill did not mention the reason for her stepping down, and said, “It has been my privilege to serve as President of this remarkable institution.” Bok said in his statement that Magill was “not the slightest bit antisemitic” but had faltered in the hearing because she had given “a legalistic answer to a moral question, and that made for a dreadful 30-second sound bite.”
Both Magill and Harvard President Claudine Gay walked back their comments to Congress in statements the day after the hearing, and Gay issued a subsequent apology in an interview with the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, saying, “When words amplify distress and pain, I don’t know how you could feel anything but regret.”
MIT’s board, meanwhile, is backing its president, Sally Kornbluth, who is Jewish. “I write now to let you know that I and the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation entirely support President Kornbluth,” MIT Corporation chair Mark Gorenberg wrote in an open letter on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Rep. Elise Stefanik, the New York Republican who asked the questions about genocide, celebrated Magill’s resignation and called for Gay and Kornbluth to follow suit.
“One down. Two to go,” Stefanik wrote on X. “This is only the very beginning of addressing the pervasive rot of antisemitism that has destroyed the most “prestigious” higher education institutions in America.”
At least one other elite university has taken the opportunity to signal that its approach to antisemitism is different. “In the context of the national discourse, Stanford unequivocally condemns calls for the genocide of Jews or other peoples,” Stanford University wrote in a social media post on Friday. “That statement would clearly violate Stanford’s Fundamental Standard, the code of conduct for all students at the university.”
The post Penn president resigns amid criticism of her testimony on campus antisemitism appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
University of Pennsylvania President Resigns Amid Massive Backlash Over Tepid Response to Campus Antisemitism
University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill resigned from her position on Saturday, ending a 17-month tenure marked by controversy over what critics described as an insufficient response to surging antisemitism on campus.
“It has been my privilege to serve as president of this remarkable institution,” Magill said in a statement. “It has been an honor to work with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members to advance Penn’s vital missions.”
Magill’s resignation followed growing calls from university leaders, donors, and students, as well as US lawmakers, for her to step down after refusing to say during a congressional hearing held on Tuesday that calling for the genocide of Jews would not constitute a violation of school rules.
“It is a context-dependent decision, congresswoman,” Magill said, responding to US Rep. Elise Stefanik (D-NY), who posed the question. “If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment, yes.”
“Conduct meaning committing the act of genocide?” Stefanik asked, visibly disturbed by Magill’s answer. “The speech is not harassment? This is unacceptable Ms. Magill.”
The following day, Magill apologized.
“In that moment, I was focused on our university’s longstanding policies aligned with the US Constitution, which say that speech alone is not punishable,” she said in a video posted on X/Twitter. “I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate.”
Appointed in July 2022, Magill, an alumnus of Yale University and the University of Virginia Law School, began her position at the school vowing to “shape Penn’s next great chapter.” By the time of Saturday’s announcement, however, two Jewish students had sued the school, alleging that it violated their civil rights by “selectively” enforcing rules that would punish those who harass and intimidate Jewish students, hiring radical anti-Zionist professors, and fostering a hostile learning environment.
Meanwhile, the US government began investigating accusations of antisemitism at the university, and a major donor threatened to rescind a $100 million gift if she remained in place.
Jewish students have said that antisemitism at Penn is an “institutional problem” that has been worsening for many years.
The problem became acute and first noticed by much of the public in September, when the school hosted an anti-Zionist festival that featured several speakers who called for violence against Israel and were accused of promoting antisemitic conspiracies. For weeks, the school would not condemn the event, and Magill recently apologized for not doing so — after it took place.
After Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, anti-Zionist protests at the university at times descended into demagoguery and intimidation of Jewish students, as speakers berated pro-Israel counter-protesters.
For roughly seven hours on Oct. 17, the protesters walked back and forth across Penn’s grounds chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — a slogan widely interpreted as a call for the destruction of Israel, which is located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The demonstrators also chanted “Israel, Israel, you can’t hide, we caught you in genocide.”
However, according to court documents viewed by The Algemeiner concerning the recent lawsuit by two Jewish students, such incidents were hardly new.
In March, for example, the anti-Zionist group Penn Against the Occupation (POA) hosted Mohammed El-Kurd during its “Israeli Apartheid Week.” Currently a columnist for the left-wing magazine The Nation, the 25-year-old el-Kurd has trafficked in antisemitic tropes, demonized Zionism, and falsely accused Israelis of eating the organs of Palestinians. Over the past two years he has widely toured across American university campuses, heightening concerns about rising antisemitism and harassment against pro-Israel students.
On Oct. 7, as scenes of Hamas terrorists abducting children and desecrating dead bodies in Israel circulated worldwide, POA members held an “Emergency Solidarity Rally” where one of its members congratulated Hamas on a “job well done.” According to the complaint, the student said, “When they woke up in the morning, and they found the field hands in the house, with a knife, ready to cut their f—king throats. I was late to the news but when I heard it, I smiled. I don’t want to hear that bulls—t, 250, 250, innocent Israelis are dead. F—k ’em. Again, I swear, I salute Hamas.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
Yemen’s Houthis Warn They Will Target All Ships Headed to Israel
Yemen’s Houthi movement said on Saturday they would target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality, and warned all international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports.
The Iran-aligned group is escalating the risks of a regional conflict amid a brutal war between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist Hamas.
The Houthis have attacked and seized several Israeli-linked ships in the Red Sea and its Bab al-Mandab strait, a sea lane through which much of the world’s oil is shipped, and fired ballistic missiles and armed drones at Israel.
Houthi officials say their actions are a show of support for the Palestinians.
Israel said attacks on ships was an “Iranian act of terrorism” with consequences for international maritime security.
A Houthi military spokesperson said all ships sailing to Israeli ports are banned from the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.
“If Gaza does not receive the food and medicine it needs, all ships in the Red Sea bound for Israeli ports, regardless of their nationality, will become a target for our armed forces,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The threat has an immediate effect, the statement added.
The Houthis are one of several groups in the Iran-aligned “Axis of Resistance” which have been hitting Israeli and U.S. targets since Oct. 7 when Hamas militants attacked Israel.
In one of the latest incidents, three commercial vessels came under attack in international waters last week, prompting a U.S. Navy destroyer to intervene.
The Houthis, which rule much of Yemen and its Red Sea coast, also seized last month a British-owned cargo ship that had links with an Israeli company.
The United States and Britain have condemned the attacks on shipping, blaming Iran for its role in supporting the Houthis. Tehran says its allies make their decisions independently.
Saudi Arabia has asked the United States to show restraint in responding to the attacks.
The post Yemen’s Houthis Warn They Will Target All Ships Headed to Israel first appeared on Algemeiner.com.