(New York Jewish Week) — At least two protesters brandished signs with swastikas at an anti-Israel protest targeting the annual Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday night.
One demonstrator held a sign with the Nazi symbol and the words “Israeli military.” The protester was forcibly ejected from the event by other participants who shouted at him and trampled his sign, prompting police to separate the two sides.
Another protester carried a sign that compared Jews to Nazis via a blood-spattered swastika intertwined with a Star of David and the words, “The irony of becoming what you once hated.”
The protest took place at 47th Street and 6th Avenue, near but not at the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which was attended by New York City Mayor Eric Adams and featured performances from Cher, Barry Manilow and others. More than 1,000 protesters instead crowded onto the block next to another massive Christmas tree at the News Corp. company headquarters. The protest coincided with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on Wednesday. Dozens of police cordoned off the crowd on the sidelines of the event as tourists passed by, and traffic was blocked off on adjacent streets.
The organization that led the protest, Within Our Lifetime, has led near-daily protests of Israel during its war against Hamas in Gaza. The group calls for Israel’s destruction and endorsed the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel in which terrorists killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped some 240, along with committing other atrocities. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims 14,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s counter-offensive, a figure that is not verifiable and does not distinguish between combatants and civilians or denote casualties from misfired Palestinian rockets.
The leader of Within Our Lifetime, Nerdeen Kiswani, indicated her support for Hamas on Instagram last week, posting a picture of a boy kissing a Hamas fighter under the caption “Do you condemn Ham-.”
“We must defend the Palestinian right to resist zionist settler violence and support Palestinian resistance in all its forms. By any means necessary. With no exceptions and no fine print,” the group said on Instagram on Oct. 7.
Within Our Lifetime billed Wednesday’s protest as “Flood the tree lighting for Gaza,” evoking Hamas’ name for the Oct. 7 attack, “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.”
A passerby who questioned protesters about the Hamas attack was berated and driven away from the rally, with police intervening between the two sides.
“NYPD, KKK, IDF they’re all the same,” the protesters chanted at police.
After protesters started marching, scuffles broke out between demonstrators and police. The NYPD said seven people had been taken into custody for one felony, five misdemeanors and one juvenile report.
In addition to the swastikas, other rhetoric and signs at the demonstration employed antisemitic imagery. Signs at the event said, “Zionist donors and trustees hands off our universities,” and showed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding President Joe Biden on a dog leash, evoking stereotypes about Jewish money and power.
Protesters also lashed Biden for his support of Israel, chanting, “Genocide Joe has got to go.”
Protesters explicitly called for the destruction of Israel, chanting, “End the settler Zionist state” and “We don’t want no two states, we want all of it.” Signs in the crowd read “Victory to the Palestinian resistance” and “Globalize the intifada,” which protesters also chanted, a reference to a campaign of terror attacks 20 years ago that killed an estimated 1,000 Israelis.
The crowd also chanted in favor of a ceasefire. A temporary ceasefire, agreed upon in exchange for Hamas releasing Israeli hostages, was in effect at the time of the protest.
Organizers claimed Jesus — a Jew who, according to Christian scripture, was born in Bethlehem in what is today the West Bank, and lived in the Galilee in what is presently Israel — as a Palestinian. They called to “suspend Christmas celebrations” due to the war alongside a protest by some churches in Bethlehem.
“Palestine is the birthplace of Christianity, Jesus was a Palestinian, how can celebrations go on as normal when his birthplace is being attacked,” Within Our Lifetime said in a post announcing the event. One protester carried a sign saying, “Jesus was a Palestinian Jew.”
The group sparked backlash earlier this month by posting maps online showing the location of Jewish and pro-Israel organizations in New York and encouraging its followers to target the institutions.
Jews are consistently targeted in hate crimes more than any other group in New York City, with over 230 antisemitic incidents reported to police so far this year. Anti-Jewish hate crimes have surged since Oct. 7, according to NYPD data.
Montreal’s Jewish Public Library moves books by local children’s author Elise Gravel to closed stacks in response to her series of illustrated messages criticizing Israel
Montreal’s Jewish Public Library has relocated renowned Montreal children’s author Elise Gravel’s books to the closed stacks after Jewish advocacy groups singled out some of her social media posts as antisemitic. Gravel is “one of Quebec’s most beloved children’s book authors. Her work is vibrant, thoughtful, funny, and educational,” said a statement from the Jewish […]
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‘I’m Speaking Up Against Evil’: Israeli Columbia University Professor Addresses Smear Campaign
Columbia University professor Shai Davidai, a Jewish Israeli, defended his right to condemn Hamas’ atrocities on Thursday after learning that an anonymous group of graduate students has accused him of anti-Palestinian racism and demanded a professional association of which he is a member to publicly censure him.
Anti-Zionist TikTok influencer Jessica Burbank first reported the accusations the graduate students lodged in a letter to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), an organization founded in 1974 to promote the social psychology field and its usefulness to society. Comprising over 7,500 student and faculty members, it provides invaluable funding and networking opportunities.
Accusing Davidai of “targeting individuals — especially Palestinians and students of color,” the students’ letter describes his efforts to hold pro-Hamas student groups accountable for harassing Jewish students and defending terror as “decolonization” as “blatant dereliction of duty with respect to his responsibilities and ethical standards as a professor and faculty member of SPSP.” The students additionally accused him of promoting “doxxing” and “misrepresenting” the views of pro-Hamas groups, all of whom have defended Hamas’ atrocities on Oct. 7 while calling for a ceasefire, a strategy they have employed to portray themselves as a pro-peace movement.
On Thursday, Professor Davidai told The Algemeiner that the man depicted in the letter is not someone his community, students, and peers would recognize, and he accepts that enduring assaults on his character is a consequence of defending the Jewish people wherever they are, be it Israel or New York City.
“Look, I’m speaking up against evil, and against the support of evil,” he said. “I’m willing to take the reputational hits because people that won’t like me for saying what I’m saying — I don’t need them to like me. This isn’t about the performative virtue signaling that is en vogue right now. This is about having a moral compass and standing up for what’s right.”
Davidai went on to express concern that his colleagues in the field have not defended him, a silence which suggests that criminating pro-Israel activists with baseless accusations will not be denounced or resisted even by moderates holding nuanced views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel’s war against Hamas.
“If I have to pay the price, I’ll pay the price. Thousands and thousands of Jews and non-Jews contact me to say that calling out pro-Hamas support on US college campuses is the right thing to do,” he continued. “And the irony is that I won’t be silenced. They might take away my reputation. They might take away my job and my career. But I’m not the kind of person who will be quiet now that there’s a personal cost for telling the truth. They’re just proving my point.”
Davidai first achieved national notoriety after delivering a thunderous speech before a crowd of students and others gathered on campus in which he called the school’s president a “coward” for refusing to condemn Hamas apologists and anti-Zionist demonstrations on campus.
“I’m talking to you as a dad, and I want you to know we cannot protect your children from pro-terror student organizations, because the president of Columbia University will not speak out,” Davidai said to the students, whom he asked to film and send the remarks to their parents. “Citizens of the US are right now kidnapped in Gaza, and yet the president of the university is allowing — is giving — her support to pro-terror student organizations.”
In many ways, becoming a public figure has been a detriment, Davidai said. His email is flooded daily with notes from antisemites accusing him of being an “Elder of Zion” and a “genocidal baby killer.”
His colleagues, furious that his exposing antisemitism and left-wing radicalism at Columbia University has caused important donors to pull their support from the school, have never commented on the hate mail even though they are always copied as recipients of it, he alleged.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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‘We Have Lost All Confidence’: Bipartisan Letter Urges Blinken to Demand Top UN Officials Resign
A bipartisan group of 12 US legislators sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week urging him to demand that United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and the head of UNRWA — the UN agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees — Philippe Lazzarini resign over the recent revelation that UNRWA employees were involved in Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack.
“We have lost all confidence in Secretary-General António Guterres’ ability to ensure that the U.N. is not actively supporting terrorism or giving refuge to known terrorists. Therefore, we ask you to demand that Secretary-General Guterres and UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini immediately resign from their posts,” the letter states.
The signatories were Democratic Representatives Josh Gottheimer, Don Davis, Jared Moskowitz, Brad Schneider, Haley Stevens, and Ritchie Torres — along with Republican Representatives Don Bacon, Anthony D’Esposito, Brian Mast, Max Miller, Michelle Steel, and Claudia Tenney.
The letter laments what the legislators say was an inappropriate response to October 7 by the UN, pointing out that “While innocent blood was still fresh on the ground, the UN’s first response to these atrocities was to draw a moral equivalency between the Hamas terrorists and Israel, who acted in her own self-defense and the defense of innocent civilians, including Americans.”
“UN Women,” the letter continued, “also failed to condemn the heinous attacks on women in a timely manner — even after widespread, well-documented cases of sexual assaults, rape, and genital mutilation.”
It then turned its attention to UNRWA, the UN agency dedicated solely to Palestinian refugees. Recent reports have revealed that at least twelve UNRWA employees — including teachers — took part in Hamas’s October 7 attack. Seven infiltrated Israel itself along with Hamas terrorists, others helped to kidnap Israelis and provide ammunition.
Not only that, but the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza has exposed that “Hamas has stored weapons in UNRWA buildings, used UNRWA resources for terrorist activities, and built tunnels under UNRWA facilities,” the letter says. The reps ask: “How long before we acknowledge the truth and label UNRWA as a tool for Hamas and others to recruit and train?”
A recent Wall Street Journal report estimates that around 10% of UNRWA employees are terrorist-linked — about 1,200 of the 12,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza.
Blinken has not yet responded to the letter. But after the initial allegations against UNRWA were made, he wrote in a statement that The United States is extremely troubled” by them and that “The Department of State has temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them.”
The reports, based on evidence gathered and shared by Israel, caused more than a dozen countries to pause funding to the agency.
However, the statement also noted that “UNRWA plays a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians, including essential food, medicine, shelter, and other vital humanitarian support. Their work has saved lives, and it is important that UNRWA address these allegations and take any appropriate corrective measures, including reviewing its existing policies and procedures.”
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