In October, after anti-Israel protesters menaced visibly Jewish students at The Cooper Union college library, The New York Times was among the many news outlets to cover the incident. Two months later, on Dec. 18, the newspaper again reported on the disturbance — this time, to recast the agitators who caused Jews to fear for their safety as the situation’s real victims.
What stands out from the incident, the Times tells readers, isn’t the harassment of students, or the disruption of studies — and certainly not the radicalization that has led so many students to align with campus groups that celebrated the Oct. 7 massacre and march against the target of the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.
Rather, insists reporter Sharon Otterman, “the episode at the library and its aftermath show how a brief moment, free of context or nuance, can be repurposed by partisans in service of broader political rhetoric during a war in which information is an important weapon.”
When a Cooper Union student is quoted lamenting that frightened students were forced “into this awful position,” it wasn’t about the besieged Jews. It was about the protest leaders.
Jewish students at Cooper Union are in the library as protestors pound on the door.
Listen with sound on. pic.twitter.com/pwYRo5KA9X
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) October 25, 2023
The paper’s apologia for those who marched on the library is consistent with how it has treated other anti-Israel extremists since Oct. 7.
The Times recently came to the defense of those tearing down posters of men, women, and children abducted by Hamas, casting the heartless act by profanity-spewing vandals as a “release valve” for the “anguished.” Another recent piece was dedicated to whitewashing the slogan calling for a Palestine “from the river to the sea,” saying it is not necessarily a call for a Palestine from the river to the sea. (That geography requires the elimination of Israel.)
One piece goes so far as to listing ways to wear kaffiyehs, or Middle Eastern head scarfs, included “wrapped around the face” — in the manner of Palestinian terrorists or the pro-violence, anti-Israeli protesters who mimic them — as just another run-of-the-mill way of fashioning the scarf. (It is traditionally worn over the head, not as a disguise.)
In its Cooper Union reprise, the Times craftily slants the report to bolster its preferred narrative. The piece wastes little time before downplaying the incident as follows:
The pro-Palestinian protesters had dispersed just a few minutes later and no one was injured or arrested, but the story seemed to grow more dire the further it traveled. Posts that went viral falsely claimed that the library had been barricaded to protect the students inside from an angry mob, and that the police were afraid to get involved.
It is true that there were no objects were used to “barricade” the library doors. Instead, as the piece acknowledges 15 paragraphs later, “a security guard shut [the library’s] large gray doors and stood outside them.” The effect was the same, leading protesters to later say they were “angry about being kept out,” as the newspaper admits.
And if the college, which acknowledges that the library was closed for 20 minutes, isn’t willing to say it was closed to protect the students inside, there is nonetheless video footage in circulation in which someone can be heard telling a student, “I wouldn’t recommend leaving right now.” (He replies, “I wasn’t planning on it.”)
One of the Jewish students told CBS, “The librarians ran over to us and they were like, ‘We tried to warn you, but we just got notice that they’re coming down.’”
So if viral posts indicated that the library was barricaded to protect students, these claims were incorrect only on the margins.
After suggesting concerns about the Jews in the library were excessive, the newspaper then shifts attention from them, with the first quotation in the article serving to re-frame the story to cast those banging on the library glass as imperiled:
“Off-campus groups are very motivated to weaponize these protests,” said Angus Johnston, a historian of student activism at Hostos Community College in the Bronx. But the stakes of campus activism are now perilous. “What, 20 or 30 years ago, could have been an incident that nobody would find out about unless they were actually there has now become one that can be circulated globally and be a life-changing experience.”
Readers are left to believe Johnston is a dispassionate scholar of activism, though he is far from a neutral observer on this topic. On Oct. 7, as Hamas was mowing down Israeli civilians in their homes an at a music festival, Johnston took to social media to express indignation. Not about Hamas’ rampage — but about those distressed by it. “Lots of folks expressing moral outrage about Palestinian tactics today who I’ve never seen expressing similar outrage about Israeli tactics, ever,” he wrote on X.
If his first sentiment — during an invasion by an antisemitic terror organization known for murderous suicide bombings of city buses and restaurants — is to criticize those upset by the invasion, it should hardly be surprising that his main problem after Jewish students were intimidated by an angry mob was with those alarmed by the angry mob. That’s what The New York Times wanted. So that’s what the newspaper set out to get.
After focusing extensively on the distress of one of the anti-Israel activists, the newspaper continued downplaying the distress of the Jewish students. One sentence did made mention of the students being “visibly worried.” Another noted, “There is nervous laughter, and also concern.” And the reporter shares that a student “asks if the police were there.” But the piece neglects to share that there were six calls to 911 over concerns for the student’s safety. (Elsewhere, the reporter author cited an article that mentions these calls, so she would have been aware of it.)
And when the newspaper did eventually get around to sharing that a pro-Israel student “had felt threatened ‘when there were chants calling for the murder of Jews being chanted at me from my fellow students,’” the reporter immediately follows with doubts:
During the protest outside the school, students chanted various slogans, including the disputed phrase, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” but they denied they were calling for violence.
That others of the “various slogans” more explicitly endorsed violence apparently wasn’t fit to print. “Resistance is justified when people are occupied,” shouted students, who by the time of their October 25 demonstration would have known the murderous, horrifying extent of the “resistance” they were justifying. Another chant called for an intifada, the name given to bouts of deadly anti-Israel violence. The anti-Israel crowd continued its “intifada” calls while besieging the library, the Forward reported.
Instead of giving readers the opportunity to understand what the besieged students might have meant when referencing the threatening chants, the reporter chose to cast doubt on their truthfulness. That, apparently, is what it takes to defend anti-Israel extremists.
Gilead Ini is a Senior Research Analyst at CAMERA, the foremost media watchdog organization focused on coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, where a version of this article first appeared.
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ACLU Threatens Lawsuit Against Columbia University
The New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a far-left nonprofit, is threatening to sue Columbia University unless the school nullifies disciplinary sanctions which temporarily suspended anti-Zionist groups that staged unauthorized demonstrations on campus.
“The referenced ‘unauthorized event’ was a peaceful demonstration and temporary art installation advocating for the end of Israel’s current military campaign in the Gaza strip,” the group wrote in a letter to Columbia University president Minouche Shafik. “Columbia’s actions suggest impermissible and pretextual motives for sanctioning the student groups.”
The ACLU also accused the university, which is being sued for allegedly standing by while pro-Hamas students beat up Jews and screamed antisemitic slogans, of perpetuating “already pervasive dangerous stereotypes about Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims” and other minority groups.
“These student groups were peacefully speaking out on a critical global conflict, only to have Columbia University ignore their own longstanding, existing rules and abruptly suspended the organizations,” ACLU executive director Donna Lieberman said in a press release issued on Friday. “That’s retaliatory, it’s targeted, and it flies in the face of the free speech principles that institutes of higher learning should be defending.”
Columbia University suspended Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) in Nov., explaining in a statement that the groups had “repeatedly violated university policies related to holding campus events, culminating in an unauthorized event Thursday afternoon that proceeded despite warnings and included threatening rhetoric and intimidation.” Both SJP and JVP have been instrumental in organizing disruptive anti-Israel protests on Columbia’s campus since Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7 and killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
“Lifting the suspension will be contingent on the two groups demonstrating a commitment to compliance with university policies and engaging in consultations at a group leadership level with university officials,” a campus official said at the time, adding that the groups will be ineligible to hold events on campus or receive university funding for the duration of the punishment.
Even after being disciplined, however, SJP members continued their activities in front groups — such as Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), a non-campus affiliated group that supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement — staging more protests in flagrant violation of the terms of its suspension.
ACLU’s portrayal of pro-Hamas students as peaceful and artistic victims of racism is in tension with how Jewish Columbia students have described their behavior and the university’s response to it.
“F— the Jews,” “Death to Jews,” “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” they have chanted on campus grounds since Oct. 7, violating the school’s code of conduct, a lawsuit filed against Columbia University by last week says. In other incidents, they beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library and attacked another with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger.
Anti-Jewish violence and hatred became so common, the lawsuit alleged, that Columbia told Jewish students that campus security could no longer guarantee their safety.
SJP insisted in Friday’s press release that its members are the victims and suggested that those claiming to be advocates of social justice are beyond reproach.
“Columbia University likes to showcase itself to the world as a champion of student protest, equality, justice, and free speech — but the university’s actions in the lead up to our suspension, and its targeted punishment of our student groups, showed that it is all a farce,” SJP member Safiya O’Brien said. “As students of conscience, we know injustice when we see it. The university’s priorities are not with its student body — certainly not with its Palestinian students and the overwhelming number of those that advocate for them.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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Low Expectations Ahead of Palestinian ‘Unity’ Talks in Moscow Convened by Russian Regime
Representatives of Palestinian factions are traveling to Moscow this week for talks aimed at forging a greater degree of unity, but analysts remained skeptical that the Russian initiative is likely to register progress.
The talks, which are scheduled to begin on Wednesday, will bring together officials of the Islamist terrorist organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) with representatives of PLO factions including Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Announcing the talks last week, Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov told pro-regime media outlets that “all Palestinian representatives who are located in different countries, in particular in Syria and Lebanon, other countries in the region,” would be invited to the Moscow parley, emphasizing at the same time that Russia’s rulers continue to regard the PLO — the main power in the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) — as “the sole legal representative of the Palestinian people.”
Several regional policy analysts argued that expectations from the talks should be necessarily limited, especially as Russia has failed in past efforts to bring rival Palestinian factions closer together.
“Russia does not have any road map for the Palestinian file, especially for the Gaza Strip as it would be necessary to have mediation functions and maintain good contacts with both Israel and the paramilitary wing of Hamas in Gaza,” Ruslan Suleymanov — an independent Middle East expert based in Baku, Azerbaijan — told the German broadcaster DW on Monday.
Suleymanov said that the talks were primarily an opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to showcase Russia’s geopolitical clout amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine and with elections — which Putin is expected to win easily — on the calendar in March.
“It’s really just dialogue for dialogue’s sake,” Suleymanov remarked.
Hugh Lovatt — senior policy fellow with the Middle East and North Africa Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations — offered a similar perspective.
“This Russian summit is a way to show that Russia has the diplomatic capacity to play a hands-on role in supporting Palestinian national unity,” he told DW. However, previous reconciliation talks that were hosted in Moscow, Algiers and Cairo have “also not succeeded in brokering a lasting reconciliation deal between the rivals,” he said.
A potential obstacle to the talks emerged on Monday with the resignation of the PA’s Prime Minister, Muhammad Shtayyeh, who had enthusiastically backed the Moscow talks in a speech at the Munich Security Conference earlier this month. The PA has been under increasing pressure from the US to form a more representative government that would be in a position to manage the Gaza Strip once hostilities end.
“The decision to resign came in light of the unprecedented escalation in the West Bank and Jerusalem and the war, genocide and starvation in the Gaza Strip,” Shtayyeh told PA President Mahmoud Abbas in a formal letter.
“I see that the next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the new reality in Gaza and the need for a Palestinian-Palestinian consensus based on Palestinian unity and the extension of unity of authority over the land of Palestine,” he added.
A Hamas spokesman told the Saudi channel Al Arabiya on Sunday that the terrorist group wants to form “an impartial national government based on the consensus of the Palestinian factions,” adding that the talks in Moscow would focus only on “a certain period and clear tasks.”
Separately, Hamas politburo member Muhammad Nazzal told the pro-Hamas website Middle East Monitor that the Moscow meeting was necessary because there had been “no official communication” with the PA on the subject of post-war planning.
Nazal claimed in the same interview that Hamas remained a powerful force in the Gaza Strip, where it continues to hold hostage more than 100 of the 240 people seized during its pogrom in southern Israel on Oct. 7. “Rumours of Rafah in the south of being the last stronghold of Hamas are false; the resistance exists across the entire Gaza Strip,” Nazzal said. “Moreover, the movement is fighting a fierce political negotiating battle, no less than the battle it is waging on the ground.”
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Harvard Professor Resigns From Antisemitism Task Force
Internal tension and disagreement have caused a member of Harvard University’s Presidential Task Force on Antisemitism to resign as co-chair, The Harvard Crimson reported on Monday.
Raffaella Sadun, a Harvard Business School professor, reportedly left the group —which was formed to issue recommendations for addressing anti-Jewish hatred on the campus — because the university would not guarantee that the task force’s guidance would be implemented as official school policy. Her aggravation has been mounting for “some time,” the paper added, but she declined to cite conflict as the reason for her departure.
“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help advance the vital work to combat antisemitism and believe that [interim Harvard University] President Garber has assembled an excellent task force,” Sadun said. “I will continue to support efforts to tackle antisemitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position.”
In a statement, interim president Garber told The Harvard Crimson that Sadun had “expressed her desire” to get back to “research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities.”
“I am extremely appreciative of Professor Sadun’s participating in the task over the past few weeks,” Garber said. “Her insights and passion for this work have helped shape the mandate for the task force and how it can best productively advance the important work ahead.”
Announced in January, the Presidential Task Force on Antisemitism is Harvard University’s response to years of antisemitic incidents that earned the school the distinction of being labeled the most antisemitic campus in American higher education by education watchdog AMCHA Initiative. A now defunct group had been created by former president Claudine Gay, the Antisemitism Advisory Group, amid an explosion of antisemitic activity on campus following Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.
Gay eventually resigned from her position after providing controversial answers to a congressional committee about her efforts to manage the problem and being outed as a serial plagiarist. In her absence, Garber pushed ahead with forming task forces for addressing both antisemitism and Islamophobia.
Since then, the antisemitism group’s membership have stirred controversy and speculation. In January, Jewish community activists and nonprofit leaders criticized its naming history professor Derek Penslar as a co-chair because, in his writings and public remarks, he had described concerns about rising antisemitism at Harvard as “exaggerated” and blamed Israel for fostering anti-Zionism. According to the Crimson, Penslar considered resigning but decided against doing so. In Jan., Rabbi David J. Wolpe stepped down from the group, saying in a statement on X that “both events on campus” and Gay’s congressional testimony “reinforced the idea that I cannot make the sort of difference I had hoped.”
Last week, the school issued a statement denouncing another antisemitic outrage, a faculty anti-Zionist group’s posting on social media an antisemitic cartoon which showed a left-hand tattooed with a Star of David containing a dollar sign at its center dangling a Black man and an Arab man from a noose. The group’s leader, professor Walter Johnson, has since resigned as a member.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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