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Rabbi Art Green, prominent scholar of Hasidic Judaism, is barred from Hebrew College following sexual misconduct allegation

(JTA) — The founding dean of Hebrew College’s rabbinical school has been barred from its campus over the fallout from allegations of sexual misconduct brought by a faculty member who was previously his student.

Rabbi Arthur Green, a prominent scholar of Jewish mysticism, retired in May 2022 after two decades at the non-denominational Boston-area seminary. In separate email announcements on the same day, both Green and the college said a private matter concerning another member of the college’s community contributed to the timing.

Last week, however, Hebrew College’s leadership informed the community that the matter cited in 2022 involved “a report by a community member of an unwanted and distressing sexual advance” by Green, and that Green is no longer allowed to set foot on campus at all.

In an email to Green informing him of the ban last week, Hebrew College’s leadership mentioned “conduct by you in a recent interaction with an individual in Israel” that it called “concerningly similar” to the previous report of sexual misconduct. It also accuses Green of breaking a confidentiality agreement he made with the college.

In an interview with JTA, Green said he inappropriately kissed the faculty member but rejected the school’s claims that a second inappropriate incident had occurred or that he had violated his agreement with the school. Green also said that following the initial incident, he carried out several steps required by the school, but stopped short of taking part in a public “ceremony” that he said had been requested.

The ban, which was announced last week in an email to the Hebrew College community hours after Green was informed about it, marks an ignominious coda to a storied career for a rabbi who is widely considered a leader in neo-Hasidism or Renewal Judaism. The author of more than a dozen books, Green served as president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College before founding Hebrew College’s pioneering rabbinical seminary near Boston in 2003. As a teacher and administrator there, Green oversaw the seminary as it grew and contributed to a widespread disruption of the denominational rabbinical school model.

“Rabbi Art Green is no longer employed at Hebrew College nor welcome in the Hebrew College community because he engaged in sexual misconduct that caused significant emotional harm to a member of our community and was a serious violation of our institutional policies and our communal values,” the college’s president, Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

She added, “Rabbi Green’s conduct and communication since the reported incident have not reflected a genuine understanding of the harm he has caused, nor has he undertaken a good faith process of teshuva,” Hebrew for repentance.

Green insists that he has not crossed a line since striking a retirement agreement with Hebrew College. Anisfeld did not describe the incident in Israel, or when it occurred. A source affiliated with Hebrew College said the college did not take steps to verify the incident.

Green does acknowledge acting inappropriately with a male faculty member who was previously his student, and expressed regret about it.

“I did something wrong,” he told JTA. “So I’m aware of that. I take responsibility for that.”

He also said he believed the incidents did not merit his ouster and questioned whether the allegations were used as a pretense to eject him from the school he shaped.

Green detailed the allegations against him and the events leading to his being barred from campus in a draft email he shared with JTA on Friday and said he intended to send to his contacts. He sent an abbreviated version of the same email on Sunday afternoon.

In the email he sent, he wrote, “I am, and have always been, a bisexual man” and had “made the difficult decision to keep this private while still a rabbinical student nearly sixty years ago” in order to build a career in the Jewish world.

In the draft email, he had written that he had been looking for companionship after the 2017 death of his wife of 49 years.

“My admittedly inappropriate loss of control was an expression of affection by a lonely old guy, not an assertion of power to demand or force sex,” Green wrote in the draft.

He also said that he believed he had been wronged by Hebrew College’s handling of the incident.

“I consider myself a victim of the extreme ‘Me-tooism’ that has come to plague our society,” he wrote in the draft, referring to the movement to hold perpetrators accountable for sexual misconduct. He added that the faculty member “reported to Sharon he had ‘felt some sexual tension’ between us on prior occasions. I would just call it closeness.”

In the sent email, he acknowledged “another unwanted kiss by me” more than 30 years ago with a different person who he said was not a student.

“I take full responsibility for these encounters, my misjudgment of the situations, and the unintentional harm I caused to people for whom I cared,” he wrote. “I have communicated with them and sought to repair the harm. I am committed to ongoing awareness about this matter and exercising extreme caution in the future.”

Through representatives, the junior faculty member declined to speak about his experience. (JTA has spoken to two people with whom he shared his account.) He has retained attorneys, including Debra S. Katz, who is known for representing alleged victims of sexual assault such as Christine Blasey Ford, who accused now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

The attorneys said in a statement that the faculty member had “participated in a restorative justice process with Rabbi Art Green. As part of that process, our client and Rabbi Green agreed they would alert the other party before making any public statements. We are disappointed that Rabbi Green has failed to adhere to that commitment, forcing our client to hear through the grapevine of the narrative Rabbi Green is advancing.”

The first public sign of allegations against Green came in May 2022, when he and Anisfeld sent separate messages to the Hebrew College community announcing his retirement.

In Green’s email, sent first, he mentioned “a private matter concerning an incident that occurred some time ago, which involved an act on my part that deeply impacted a colleague in our community.” He added, “I feel badly about that situation, and that too has contributed to my decision to retire this year.”

Anisfeld’s email, arriving a little less than an hour afterwards, also referenced “a private personnel matter that deeply impacted another valued member of our Hebrew College community” as part of a “combination of factors” influencing the timing of Green’s retirement. But the email also lauded Green and his contributions to Hebrew College. “I know we will continue to be blessed by Art’s lasting influence as a teacher, mentor, scholar, and friend,” she wrote.

Neither email provided any details about the “personnel matter”; both emails said Green and another party were involved in a “restorative process” with the community member and had requested privacy.

The emails were referring to the faculty member who had previously been Green’s student. Green wrote in his email draft that he and the faculty member were “quite close” from the faculty member’s student days. He said he chose the student to be a research assistant on a large project and characterized his relationship with the then-student as a “growing friendship.”

In the fall of 2019, after the student had been ordained as a rabbi and joined Hebrew College’s faculty, Green allegedly made the first unwanted sexual advance, according to the two people with whom the faculty member shared his account. Green and the faculty member were among a group that had traveled to Uman, a city in Ukraine that is the burial place of the turn-of-the-19th century Hasidic Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, and is a major pilgrimage site for his followers. Green’s “Tormented Master,” published in 1979, is considered a definitive biography of Rabbi Nachman.

According to the friends with whom he shared his account, the faculty member — once the group had arrived at their hotel — found himself in a room alone with Green, who proceeded to make an unwanted sexual advance on him. One of the friends, a former classmate, told JTA, “They were there, and Art made a sexual advance toward my friend physically.”

The classmate added, “My friend stopped him and then has spent the next many years of his life trying to put it back together again.”

Green denies that he crossed any boundaries in Uman and said any accusation that he committed sexual misconduct on that trip is “absolute nonsense.” He said people in the group were pairing off to share hotel rooms, and that he had offered to split a room with the faculty member. Once it became clear that there was no need for the two to share a room, he claimed, they slept in separate places. He did not reference the Uman incident in either version of his Sunday email.

“Since this person … is an out gay man, I thought other people might be uncomfortable sharing a room with him,” Green told JTA. “So I said that I would. It then turned out there was an extra room and we did not share a room. That’s the end of the story. Nothing happened.”

The second incident occurred that December and, according to Green’s email draft, is the allegation that prompted Hebrew College to initiate disciplinary action against him.

Green acknowledged, in his email draft and to JTA, that he kissed the faculty member “in a way I shouldn’t have” while the two were in Green’s Boston-area home.

Green attributed his behavior to having smoked marijuana with the faculty member. He said the faculty member had given him the drug, which felt particularly strong.

He wrote in his email, “What began as an expression of genuine affection was completely inappropriate and out-of-bounds to our relationship.  I accept responsibility for my behavior and regret it deeply.”

But he added in the draft that had the faculty member felt any discomfort, Green expected him to resolve the situation privately. “I figured that if he was upset, he would let me know, but he didn’t,” Green wrote in the email draft.

Subsequently, Hebrew College administrators informed Green that he had been accused of misconduct.

According to Green, the college and the faculty member’s attorneys, the college attempted to resolve the issue through a private mediation and reconciliation process between Green and the faculty member. In the email she sent to the Hebrew College community this month, Anisfeld described the allegation as an “unwanted and distressing sexual advance, which was viewed as a breach of personal and professional boundaries.”

After learning of the alleged misconduct, Green said Anisfeld imposed several penalties, including suspending him from faculty meetings, asking him to engage in a guided conversation with the faculty member, and requiring that he sign a statement saying he would not be alone in a room with a student with the door closed. Green said he acceded to all of the penalties.

Then, at the end of 2021, Green says Anisfeld called him into her office and informed him that he was to retire in the coming year.

“I was, of course, close to retirement anyway, but I did not like this feeling of being pushed out of a program that I had created,” Green wrote in the draft. “Eventually, however, I agreed, frankly because dealing with this matter had become so painful and distressing.”

To JTA, Green said he had questions about the motivations behind his ouster. He said he had been distressed when a demand that he not attend faculty meetings in December 2021 was extended to the winter term in January 2022, when the Hebrew College community convened for a series of conversations about whether to change a policy that barred students with non-Jewish partners from attending the rabbinical school.

“I said to myself, ‘How far does this ‘He’s uncomfortable with my presence’ go?’” Green told JTA. “But then I thought, well, Sharon and I have different views on this intermarriage issue. She was very much for the change in policy, and she knew I was quite strongly against it. So, she might have found this was a convenient way to exclude me from that conversation.”

He added, “I can’t prove that. But she told me no, I could not participate in that Zoom conversation because [the faculty member] would be unhappy with my presence. And I think that was bullshit, shall we say.”

Anisfeld flatly rejected the allegation. “The intermarriage policy process is completely irrelevant and unrelated to this matter,” she told JTA by email. The school removed the ban on interfaith relationships in January 2023.

Green said Anisfeld and Hebrew College officials had escalated penalties against him over time. He said he had been barred from the two most recent Hebrew College graduations and had been kicked off a school listserv.

He also said Anisfeld had asked him to participate in a “public ceremony of confession,” but he declined.

“My generation doesn’t play that game and doesn’t do that kind of thing,” he told JTA. “I just found it distasteful.”

In recent years, a reckoning over sexual misconduct allegations has changed the norms and expectations for how institutions should respond to them, with a broad move toward greater transparency and increased understanding that misconduct can harm people beyond the direct victims. In a 2018 eJewishPhilanthropy essay, two advocates for “restorative justice” — a process for institutions to address sexual harassment allegations — described a “conference or circle with survivors, offenders, and their support people” as one possible avenue.

“Ideally, the person who has been harmed asks for restorative justice but, at times, offenders or people from the community inquire about convening a process,” Alissa Ackerman and Guila Benchimol wrote in the essay. “Inclusivity and collaboration are central because restorative justice recognizes that people belong to communities and that the harm they have caused or endured impacts wide networks.”

Anisfeld did not respond to a question about a public ceremony. In their email announcing Green’s campus ban, Anisfeld and the current and former chairs of Hebrew College’s Board of Trustees blamed his unwillingness to complete all that was asked of him.

“As an institution committed to the value — and the possibility — of teshuva, we have repeatedly asked Rabbi Green to engage in a communal process regarding this matter,” they wrote. “Rabbi Green has declined, and he therefore has been prohibited from visiting campus, or attending Hebrew College programs and communal activities.”

Last week’s email from the college leadership raised questions among some of those who received it. “One of the things that was curious to me is: Why do we need to know this?” said Shaul Magid, a Jewish studies professor at Dartmouth College who counts Green as a friend and teacher and also said he holds Anisfeld in high regard. “All the letter can do is really tarnish Art’s reputation at this point. He’s already retired.”

Green said in his email that relations between him and Hebrew College had become strained in the years since the initial allegation against him. “Although I agreed to all conditions as stipulated by Hebrew College I was surprised to find additional demands and restrictions that felt, and continue to feel, vindictive and unnecessary,” he wrote in the Sunday email.

In the email, he also said Anisfeld sent the letter announcing his ban following “an alleged additional incident that occurred recently in Israel, thus supposedly justifying publicity on Hebrew College’s part.”

In the letter from the Hebrew College leadership to Green last week, they wrote, “The College has also become aware of a report of conduct by you in a recent interaction with an individual in Israel that, as described to us, is concerningly similar to your admitted conduct during the Incident.”

Anisfeld did not offer details about that incident. Green and the two other men involved in what Green believes is the incident say it took place on Purim last year and involved an encounter at Green’s home following a party celebrating the holiday. Green said he was “very drunk” when he and another man began “touching each other, holding each other, not sexually, not genitally.” Both he and that man told JTA that their encounter was consensual.

A third man in the room, who was then an acolyte of Green’s, became alarmed. Through a representative, he told JTA that he felt violated when Green “revealed his physical desire for me and my friend’s bodies.” Previously, he had seen earlier requests for him to stay at Green’s home “as service to a holy rabbi, a kabbalist and theologian.” He said he soon left but experienced the night as “a soul-shattering crisis” because of the nature of his relationship to Green.

“I served him as one would serve Rabbi Nachman or the Baal Shem Tov,” two 18th-century Hasidic sages, the man said. He added, “Not once did warning bells ring in my head.”

Green has written about rabbis who have been accused of abuse. In 2004, when Marc Gafni, a prominent rabbi in the Jewish Renewal movement, was accused of a wide range of sexual offenses, including having sex with underage girls, Green vociferously defended him in a letter to the editor of the New York Jewish Week.

Praising Gafni as “a creative teacher of Torah,” he said that Gafni’s misdeeds were long in the past and that Gafni had been “been relentlessly persecuted for those deeds by a small band of fanatically committed rodfim,” a term that in traditional Jewish texts refers to a would-be murderer who himself must be murdered.

Two years later, multiple women in Israel said Gafni had lured them into sexual relationships using his power as a spiritual leader. Green, like other U.S. rabbis who had initially stood by Gafni, dropped his defense.

“The stories were from long ago, and he had rejected and outgrown that side of himself,” Green told the Forward at the time. “These are now new cases and new investigations.”

Green had also warned about the dangers inherent in relationships between spiritual teachers and students. In a 2010 book outlining neo-Hasidic theology by reinterpreting traditional Jewish edicts, including the Seventh Commandment prohibiting adultery, Green wrote that spiritual teachers “always need to be aware of human weakness, their own before that of all others.”

The book included a reminder for teachers: “Sexual energies are always there when we flesh-and-blood humans interact with one another, anywhere this side of Eden,” he wrote.  “Check yourself always. Be aware; know your boundaries. Precisely because good teaching is an act of love, the teacher is always in danger.”

He concluded, “Make sure that all your giving is for the sake of those who seek to receive it, not just fulfilling your own unspoken needs, sexual and other.”

The post Rabbi Art Green, prominent scholar of Hasidic Judaism, is barred from Hebrew College following sexual misconduct allegation appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israel Can Limit the ICJ’s Potential Damage

General view of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

JNS.orgIsraelis on Friday displayed what is called Jewish joy—they celebrated that the pogromniks only broke the windows, but did not kill anyone. The good news was the International Court of Justice did not effectively order us to wait to be tortured and murdered, by demanding a halt to the Gaza War. That is certainly good—but only in the twisted world where the ICJ is putting Israel, not Hamas, on trial for the absolutely absurd charge of genocide.

Otherwise, the decision was horrible. The court accepted South Africa’s argument that it has jurisdiction and that Israel could possibly be proven to be committing genocide. The case is not over and will go on for years. In the meantime, the court has made clear that it considers itself to have authority to review and superintend every aspect of Israel’s war for survival—and demands monthly reports. No other country receives such treatment, and it is designed to make the military constantly look over its soldiers’ shoulders.

The ICJ is not an independent body—it is an organ of the United Nations. Its justices serve a renewable nine-year term, further undermining their independence. The judges are elected by the General Assembly and Security Council, and their positions largely track the foreign policy of their home countries. Thus while we might get lucky sometimes, over the long run, the policy of the court will reflect the policy of the United Nations.

The General Assembly’s obsessive condemnation of the Jewish state is well known—Israel would never agree to have its fate determined by them. But agreeing to the jurisdiction of the court indirectly does the same thing. In Israel it is thought unacceptable to have judges appointed by democratically elected politicians decide the meaning of ordinary laws. Yet we have agreed to have judges elected by dictatorial regimes decide the basic question of whether we can exist—whether we can defend ourselves.

It does not have to be this way: The ICJ does not automatically have jurisdiction over countries—they must specifically agree, typically by agreeing that The Hague can decide a specific dispute or questions under a specific treaty. In this case, Israel signed the Genocide Convention, which provides that “disputes between the…parties” about the treaty can be decided by the ICJ. But that does not mean cases like this, where a totally unrelated state has brought a purely political complaint in a matter it has no relation to. The court should not have accepted jurisdiction, and by doing so it effectively claimed for itself power to supervise the conduct of wars around the world, so long as some country claims genocide is involved.

Israel did not have to agree to the ICJ jurisdiction to be a member of the Genocide Convention, and in retrospect, doing so was a major mistake. Countries are allowed to opt out of ICJ jurisdiction in various treaties, and very commonly do so. Indeed, 16 countries have opted out of the Genocide Convention minus the ICJ jurisdiction—including the world’s largest democracies, the United States and India. Even the world’s biggest superpowers did not trust the ICJ to hear cases involving the use of force in an apolitical way.

The United States also did not agree to the provision of the Genocide Convention that deals with speech, knowing the court can twist legitimate speech into supposed “incitement.” Indeed, those who think the statements of some Knesset members are what got Israel into trouble should consider the comments of President Obama, who spoke of “eradicating a cancer” in the campaign against Islamic State, or Biden, who once said, “We should never take anything off the table when we are in war.”

But Israel did not opt out, leaving itself exposed. The Genocide Convention was a response to the Holocaust, and it seemed appropriate that the Jewish state would be fully on board. Also, Israeli officials did not expect such a gross abuse of the court’s authority. But they should have. And the Genocide Convention which Israel so respected was turned into a farce, a platform to accuse the Jews of genocide even as they defend themselves from a systematic attempt to wipe them out.

The hearings in The Hague were a judicial Oct. 7—a completely unjustified surprise attack that shows us we must fundamentally rethink our defensive posture. In this case, the extraordinary work of the State’s lawyers, and good fortune, prevented disaster.

But we must see that mere sentimentalism, or some lingering faith in international institutions, cannot be allowed to leave us open to such attack again. Even a slight change in the composition of the court or the geopolitical climate would bring a disastrous result—and hostile states like South Africa can roll the dice as many times as they want, with no consequence if they lose and a huge payoff if they win.

Thus Israel must immediately end its acceptance of the ICJ’s jurisdiction concerning the Genocide Convention. This will not end the current proceedings, but it will prevent further such attempts in this or other conflicts. Moreover, Israel must review all of its treaties for provisions granting ICJ jurisdiction and opt out of those. The United States did just that when Iran used a long-forgotten treaty to bring America to The Hague a few years ago.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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War, Antisemitism and Free Speech: A Critical Dilemma

The Constitution of the United States. Photo: Wikicommons.

JNS.orgShould governments and public institutions take punitive measures against groups or individuals who promote antisemitism through such measures as cutting funding, criminalizing aspects of their speech or even proscribing them outright?

Here in the United States, such a discussion is purely theoretical because the First Amendment protects all forms of speech, including Holocaust denial, and racist and antisemitic barbs. Because freedom of speech is a natural right, the American tradition promotes debate, fostering the optimistic, if often misplaced, notion among some that better arguments and clearly presented facts will invariably overwhelm lies and conspiracy theories. But in Europe, there is no right of absolute free speech, and in most countries, antisemitic and racist speech, as well as declared sympathies for terrorism or violence, can run you afoul of the law.

The current European dilemma is whether to tighten and strengthen these measures in a bid to bring a greater sense of security to Jewish communities facing a wave of antisemitism unprecedented in its intensity for nearly a century. The proximate cause was, of course, the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in Israel, but the themes incorporated in this discourse are much older, even ancient. In part because of their frustration at the sheer stubbornness of these toxins, politicians who sympathize with the plight of their Jewish constituents are examining legal means to stem the flow of antisemitic tropes.

Two weeks ago, Berlin’s State Senator for Culture and Social Cohesion, Joe Chialo, attempted to introduce a new measure that would deny funding to artists who promote antisemitism, including antisemitic depictions of Zionism and Israel. In order to determine what is and isn’t antisemitic, Chialo urged the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which includes several examples of when anti-Zionism crosses the line into antisemitism.

Last week, Chialo was forced to withdraw his proposal. “I must take the legal and critical voices that saw this clause as a restriction on the freedom of art seriously,” he said in a statement. “Let there be no doubt: I will continue to fight for a Berlin cultural scene that is free of discrimination.” To be clear, the problem here was not the substantive argument of the IHRA definition that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are frequently the same. Rather, it centered on the issue of whether measures in Germany taken to combat Holocaust denial are—in terms of jurisprudence—appropriate when it comes to denial of Israel’s right to exist. “The denial of the Holocaust is about denying a fact, while Israel’s right to exist is about denying a right,” Professor Stefan Conen of the German Lawyers’ Association told the German parliament’s legal affairs committee last week. Another witness, Professor Michael Kubiciel, forecasted a series of procedural headaches should the proposal advance, which could only be resolved, he said, through the adoption of a “more open wording … for example by also recording the right to exist of states to which the Federal Republic has made a particular commitment, such as the E.U. member states.”

None of these objections invalidate the underlying claim of a symbiosis between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and nor should we conclude that Chialo will abandon his efforts to banish antisemitism from the German arts scene because of one setback. However, the uncertainty around his proposal has bolstered the argument that the IHRA definition is not so much a means of understanding antisemitism as a tool for censoring Israel’s adversaries.

Last Monday, the Berliner Zeitung news outlet interviewed one of the co-authors of the IHRA definition in the context of Chialo’s stalled initiative. “The definition has often been misused as a blunt instrument to label someone as antisemitic for a variety of reasons, including criticism of Israel,” said Ken Stern, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate at Bard College and a former American Jewish Committee (AJC) in-house expert on antisemitism.

Elaborating, Stern said that this “misuse” of the definition was more pronounced “not so much for disqualifying criticism of Israel as antisemitic, but rather, for pro-Palestinian attitudes. I may not agree with some of these attitudes or statements, but calling them antisemitic is wrong, even harmful.” Later in the interview, Stern clarified that while he opposed the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” campaign targeting Israel, he vehemently objected to calling anyone who supports it “antisemitic.”

“Do I think that supporting BDS makes you an antisemite? No, I don’t think so,” he said, before adding: “Although, of course, you can be an antisemite who supports BDS.” In other words, while the campaign may attract antisemites because of its obsession with the Jewish state, it is not inherently antisemitic.

I should say, at this point, that I knew Stern professionally some years ago when I worked with him on antisemitism issues at the AJC. My assessment, which hasn’t changed, is that his overarching goal was to persuade progressives to take antisemitism seriously, and he was willing to cut them all sorts of slack in order to achieve that. What he was unwilling to acknowledge is that making these allowances undermine the very definition he helped to write! Because while the definition doesn’t explicitly say that BDS is antisemitic, it does say that “[D]enying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is. That pretty much sums up the core philosophy of the BDS movement, which regards the boycott as an instrument to secure the eventual elimination of Israel as a sovereign state and makes no secret of this aim.

The most disturbing aspect of the interview was the sense that in his desire to mollycoddle progressive students and activists who regard as Israel as a colonial interloper, Stern has lost empathy with the actual victims of antisemitism. The atrocities and bestialities of the Hamas pogrom were straight out of the Cossack playbook of previous centuries, executed with the purpose of humiliating the enemy and denying their basic humanity because fundamentally, antisemites regard Jews as adjacent to, rather than belonging to, the rest of the human species. Yet all Stern could bring himself to say was that the conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism within the IHRA definition was a product of the tensions around the U.N.’s 2001 Durban anti-racism conference. “I’m not saying that every form of anti-Zionism is antisemitic, but that was the climate at the time,” he remarked—the bizarre implication being that the climate in the 2020s, in the wake of the worst outburst of antisemitic violence since the Holocaust, is, in fact, more benign.

What makes the present situation different is that antisemitism is surging against the background of a war in the Middle East that could easily intensify and expand, and whose most vulnerable front consists of Jewish communities around the Diaspora who cannot be protected by Israel’s military might.

In such an environment, when there is an unmistakable correlation between antisemitic memes spread on social media, anti-Jewish invective at pro-Hamas demonstrations and actual violence—I am thinking of the brutal assault last Saturday night on three Israelis walking through London’s West End by a mob of thugs yelling “Free Palestine”—tougher measures, including censorship, are warranted in those cases where such tools are legally available.

While we didn’t choose this outcome (as the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky said, “You don’t choose war; war chooses you”), we have no choice but to deal with it, as decisively as we can.

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A UN ‘Nakba’ Exhibit Goes Beyond the War of Words

Poster for a 2022 Seattle ‘Nakba Day’ rally.

JNS.orgWalk into the U.N.’s New York headquarters, graced with impressive sculptures, tapestries and an uplifting Marc Chagall stained glass, and one has a palpable sense of the U.N.’s mission to limit conflicts to wars of words. That is, until one witnesses an exhibition in the lobby marking the nakba—Arabic for “catastrophe”—the Palestinians’ name for a defamatory narrative of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

With Hamas’s Oct. 7 atrocities still raw, the timing of the exhibit—which opened on Nov. 29—could not be worse.  Nov. 29, 1947 was the day the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Partition Plan for then-Mandatory Palestine. In 1977, the UNGA desecrated this date by calling for Nov. 29 to be transformed into an annual observance of an “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”

The current 24-panel exhibit concentrates entirely on what it portrays as a vibrant Palestinian Arab society in pre-Israel “Palestine,” ignoring the fact that Jews lived there vibrantly as well. The exhibition begins with “Life Before the Nakba,” mostly consisting of images from Jaffa, and continues with “Life Upended,” “Longing: Life Uprooted,” “Belonging: Struggle for Life” and “Life: Against All Odds.” The pathos is so over-the-top as to verge on camp.

The “Palestine: A Land With a People” narrative begins with the premise that in 1948 “more than half of the Palestinians became refugees, tens of thousands were killed, and 500 villages and communities destroyed.” This tendentious narrative is not exactly how the Palestinians “became” refugees.

In fact, the Arab League made the Palestinians into refugees when it told them to leave the land, to which they could return after the Arab states had slaughtered the Jews of the Land of Israel and installed the Palestinian Arabs as supreme rulers.

As instructed, the Arabs left, but the Arab armies were defeated and their genocidal plans thwarted. The Arabs who defied orders and stayed in the new State of Israel became full citizens with equal rights. They are represented in all walks of Israeli life, serving as members of Knesset, mayors, judges and even in the army.

But multiple wars and intifadas later, the nakba narrative continues to underpin and justify the desire to destroy Israel “from the river to the sea.”

Indeed, the current exhibit’s narrative invokes a “mandate” given to the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat in support of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. It calls for an end to the “Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and of the two-state solution on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with an independent, sovereign and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel.”

The exhibit, of course, ignores the fact that the Palestinian leadership has consistently rejected such a state numerous times. The PLO and Hamas “covenants” calling for the destruction of Israel are still in place. Tens of thousands of missiles from Gaza and attacks by Hamas, Hezbollah and other jihadists prove that this ambition remains the same, culminating in the horrific Oct. 7 massacre.

In the end, one feels that the purpose of the exhibit is not to commemorate the nakba. It is intended to reemphasize and reinforce the U.N.’s obsessive dedication to hardline Palestinian nationalism.

This obsession regularly results in two-thirds approval of any anti-Israel resolution brought before the UNGA, which has occurred a stunning 79 times since 2010. It has also resulted in the corruption and politicization of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva and UNESCO in Paris and enables the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA to collaborate with terrorists and poison the minds of the next generation of Palestinians with murderous hatred of Jews.

The U.N. has even granted “Palestine” a bizarre “quasi-nation” status, even though there is no “Palestine” and even the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas have no identifiable borders beyond Area A of Judea and Samaria—a failed remnant of the Oslo Accords that the Palestinians themselves destroyed with a campaign of terrorism. “Palestine” might speak and act like a state, but it is not a state.

In the end, the purpose of this exhibit seems to be only somewhat about the Palestinian Arabs. First and foremost, it is about the U.N. It is an attempt to validate a jumble of words that justify a growing number of expensive and biased U.N. committees and investigations.

Future U.N. exhibits should refrain from self-serving and tendentious narratives. As the world contemplates “day after” scenarios to the Israel-Hamas war, perhaps the U.N. should consider a blank canvas.

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