Shanie Reichman hosts Neri Zilber for a wide-ranging discussion on the state of the Israel-Hamas war.
GOP candidates spar in debate over whether to send US troops to Gaza
WASHINGTON (JTA) – Candidates sparred over whether to send U.S. troops to Gaza and Vivek Ramaswamy endorsed a conspiracy theory that has inspired antisemitic violence at the Republican primary debate last night.
The debate, held at the University of Alabama less than six weeks before the Iowa caucuses kick off the nominating contest, did not include the frontrunner, Donald Trump. The former president, who leads polls by a wide margin, has skipped every debate thus far.
Haley, the former United Nations ambassador who is rising in the polls and has received an infusion of donor money, was the prime target of the other three candidates on stage: former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Ramaswamy, an investor and political newcomer.
Israel came up almost immediately in the debate, hosted by the small cable network News Nation. Moderators asked whether candidates would send troops into combat to free the eight Americans who are among the more than 100 hostages still held by Hamas, which launched the current war when its terrorists attacked Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7.
Christie said, “You’re damn right, I’d send the American army in there to get our people home and get them home now.”
DeSantis said “We have to look out for our people when they’re hostages” and segued into attacking President Joe Biden for not doing enough to confront Iran. He later said he wouldn’t accept Gazan refugees into the United States “because of the antisemitism and because they reject American culture.”.
Haley also didn’t answer the question about U.S. troops directly, also attacking Biden for not being aggressive enough toward Iran. She added that Russia, Iran and Hamas are linked and pose a threat to global stability, an argument Biden has also made.
“You’ve got to punch them, you’ve got to punch them hard and let them know that — that’s the only way they’re going to respond, so the way you do that is you go after their infrastructure in Syria and Iraq where they’re hitting our soldiers,” Haley said of Iran. “That’s what you do, and then that’s when they’ll back off.”
Ramaswamy attacked Haley for comments she has previously made where she called Hamas’ invasion of Israel an “attack on America.”
“If you can’t tell the difference between where Israel is and the U.S. is on a map I can have my three year old son show you the difference,” he said. “That is irresponsible, because it has major consequences, because that doesn’t leave room for what actually is an attack on America.”
Late in the debate, Ramaswamy leaned into promoting conspiracy theories that Trump had embraced — including the false claim that Trump won the 2020 election; that the Jan. 6, 2021 mob at the U.S. Capitol, aimed at keeping Trump in power, was an “inside job;” and that the George W. Bush administration covered up the real perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks;
He also said that “the Great Replacement Theory” is the policy of the Democratic Party. The theory in its original form claims falsely that Jews are orchestrating the mass immigration of people of color into Western nations in order to replace their white populations.
The theory fueled the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, when a gunman murdered 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, as well as other violent mass killings.
“The Great Replacement Theory is not some right wing conspiracy theory, but a basic statement of the Democratic Party’s platform,” he said. He did not directly mention Jews.
Ramaswamy also attacked Haley for accepting the backing of wealthy donors. The most significant of these is the Koch network, named for the industrialist brothers who are not Jewish; Ramaswamy named only Jewish backers, including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink.
He called Hoffman “George Soros Jr.,” referring to the liberal Jewish financier and philanthropist who has become a bogeyman of the right and who frequently appears in antisemitic conspiracy theories. DeSantis also namechecked Soros, noting that he had removed two prosecutors in Florida whom he said Soros backed.
Haley said her greatest concern about porousness on the U.S.-Mexico border was that it could facilitate the entry into the United States of Iran-backed terrorists.
She also took a question about a confrontation in Congress Tuesday between Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik and the presidents of three elite universities who declined to say outright that calling for the genocide of Jews would violate university anti-harassment policies. Two of the presidents have since partially walked those statements back.
Haley called the remarks of the university presidents “disgusting” and said she would alter President Joe Biden’s strategy to combat antisemitism by making clear that anti-Zionism is antisemitism. Congress just passed a resolution to that effect as well.
She also pivoted to one of her key talking points, which is to fault the Chinese-owned TikTok social media app as a potential tool of the Chinese government.
“For every 30 minutes someone watches TikTok every day they become 17 percent more antisemitic,” she said, apparently referring to an analysis posted on Twitter last week by an investor, Anthony Goldbloom, who posted that the data “suggests TikTok is a meaningful driver of a surge in antisemitism.”
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Meta oversight board will rule — at unusual speed — on two deleted posts related to Israel-Hamas war
(JTA) – The independent panel that rules on disputes at the world’s largest social media company is taking up two challenged posts about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, in cases with potential ramifications for how users will be able to talk about the war online.
The cases are the first to be taken on under a new expedited process adopted by the oversight board at Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, earlier this year.
The two appeals relate to posts about the war from both sides of the conflict. One is about a Facebook video appearing to show a Hamas militant kidnapping a woman during the terror group’s Oct. 7 attacks in Israel. The other was an Instagram video appearing to show the aftermath of a strike outside Al-Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip.
Meta had initially removed both of the videos, claiming they violated the company’s terms of service, which specifically prohibit sharing violent content. But the company has since changed its mind, restoring both with tags warning of graphic content. The oversight board said it would issue a decision on the matter within 30 days, and the company is bound to follow the board’s decisions.
Social media has become the primary way most of the world has engaged with the war, as more and more images and videos purporting to be from Israel and Gaza circulate online — joining a stew of content that includes a large amount of misinformation and doctored or mislabeled images. Meta and other social media companies X/Twitter and TikTok have struggled with how to balance allowing freedom of expression on their platforms with curbing violent imagery or the spreading of terror propaganda.
In the case of the disputed posts, Meta initially claimed both violated its rules on sharing violent and graphic content. The company has also designated Oct. 7 as a terrorist attack, subject to rules that any content showing “identifiable victims” of such an attack is forbidden from its platforms. It has updated its own rules frequently since Oct. 7, most recently determining that hostage footage shown “in order to raise awareness and condemn the attacks” is permissible.
“Meta’s goal is to allow people to express themselves while still removing harmful content,” the company wrote in an update to its policies Tuesday. “If the user’s intent in sharing the content is unclear, we err on the side of safety and remove it.”
The disputed Oct. 7 Facebook video was posted by a user who appeared to be condemning Hamas and “urge[d] people to watch the video to gain a ‘deeper understanding’ of the horror that Israel woke up to on October 7, 2023,” according to the oversight board’s description of the post. The board did not share the post itself, but the description suggests that the video showed Noa Argamani, who became an early symbol of the hostage crisis after being abducted with her boyfriend from the Nova music festival. She remains a hostage in Gaza.
The video purporting to show the hospital bombing, meanwhile, was posted by a user who referred to the Israeli army as the “usurping occupation” and tagged various human rights organizations, the board said. The Al-Shifa hospital has become an epicenter of both Israel’s military operation and the larger information war, as Israel targeted the hospital while claiming that Hamas was using it as a command center — a claim that Israel later backed up by taking media outlets on a tour of a tunnel network connected to the hospital.
Even though both posts were restored, the oversight board’s rulings on them could affect how Meta moderates content about the war, and how permissive the company will be about images depicting its victims. Meta’s oversight board has taken up other Jewish issues in the past, including the company’s failure to remove a Holocaust-denying post and its decision to remove a post of a journalist criticizing Kanye West’s praise of Hitler.
“Crisis situations are not an excuse for social media platforms to suspend rules or default to censorship, they’re a reminder to double down on efforts to protect voice and safety,” Thomas Hughes, director of the Oversight Board Administration, said in a statement. “The Israel-Hamas conflict underscores the many challenges to content moderation during crisis situations. The Board looks forward to reviewing how Meta is following through on its human rights commitments, as well as past recommendations from the Board on how to manage crises.”
Jewish former Meta executive Sheryl Sandberg has also become ensnared in an information war related to the conflict, as her claim that Hamas raped female Israeli victims of Oct. 7 has been disputed on the very platforms she used to oversee.
Both TikTok and X have faced intense criticism for allowing antisemitic content to spread on their platforms, and — in X’s case — for owner Elon Musk’s own engagement with antisemitic content.
Under fire, Harvard and UPenn presidents condemn calling for genocide of Jews
Penn’s president, Liz Magill, promised to launch a process to clarify and evaluate the school’s policies regarding speech on campus. She said calls for genocide of Jews are “evil, plain and simple.”
The statements by Magill and Harvard President Claudine Gay follow a congressional hearing on Tuesday in which Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York, asked them whether calling for the genocide of Jews would constitute harassment under their school’s code of conduct. Gay and Magill, along with Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth, all responded under oath that the answer depends on “context.”
In a statement Wednesday, Gay said students would face consequences if they called for genocide.
“There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students,” Gay said. “Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.”
Video of the exchange at the congressional hearing has gone viral and has prompted criticism of the three leaders from Jewish groups, students, donors and elected officials, including the Biden administration. White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement that calls for the genocide of Jews are “dangerous and revolting.”
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, “Opposing calls for genocide against Jews shouldn’t be difficult or controversial.”
Kornbluth, who is Jewish, does not appear to have publicly addressed the exchange.
Magill has taken flak for her statement from the board chair of Penn’s business school as well as Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, who called on the university’s board to discuss her remarks and come to a “serious decision.” As governor, Shapiro is a non-voting trustee of the university, which is private.
Following Shapiro’s remarks, Magill released a video statement in which she said that she had answered Stefanik’s question based on the broad free speech protections laid out by the U.S. Constitution. She said, however, that she should have answered differently and, invoking the long history of antisemitism, said that she personally viewed a call for the genocide of Jews as “harassment or intimidation.”
She stopped short of saying such a call would violate university policy, but said that Penn’s leadership would begin a process to conduct “a serious and careful look at our policies.”
“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,” she said. “It’s evil, plain and simple. I want to be clear: A call for genocide of Jewish people is threatening, deeply so. It is intentionally meant to terrify a people who have been subjected to pogroms and hatred for centuries and were the victims of mass genocide in the Holocaust.”
She concluded, “As president I’m committed to a safe, secure and supportive environment so all members of our community can thrive. We can and we will get this right.”
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