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Rice University LGBTQ group cuts ties with campus Hillel over support for Israel

(JTA) — An LGBTQ student group at Rice University has cut ties with the school’s Hillel, in the latest instance of backlash from a progressive group against the Jewish campus organization’s support for Israel. 

The LGBTQ group, Rice Pride, announced the split last week in a statement on Instagram that said Hillel’s international umbrella group was “not reflective of the values of inclusion upheld by Rice Pride.” 

“Rice Pride’s ultimate goal is to provide a safe space for queer students of all backgrounds, and to recognize the intersectionalities between queer identity and race, ethnicity, and religion,” the statement said. The group did not respond to a request for comment and, on Wednesday, made its Instagram account private after drawing criticism from pro-Israel groups.

According to Rice Pride’s statement, Houston Hillel had provided funding for the group’s Queer Resource Center. The two campus groups have co-hosted 12 events since 2016. A Rice Pride leader told the campus newspaper, the Rice Thresher, that no student had said the local Hillel “has made them uncomfortable in any way.” 

But in the statement, the group said it opposed guidelines put forward by Hillel International, an umbrella group for campus chapters, that prohibit campus Hillels partnering with or hosting groups that advocate for a boycott of Israel or that deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. It also listed instances of Hillel chapters at other schools opposing pro-Palestinian activism.

“Hillel’s ‘Standards of Partnership’ are incompatible with Rice Pride’s mission to create an accessible and equitable space for queer students of all backgrounds,” the statement said. “Historically, these ‘Standards of Partnership’ have been used by Hillel International to cut ties and spark conflicts with any organization that seeks to engage in spaces that validate Palestinian and Arab experiences.”

Rice Pride joins a number of other student groups across the country distancing themselves from Hillel over its Israel policies. Last year, a Muslim student group at American University canceled its participation in a Passover seder organized by Hillel due to its positions on Israel, and in 2019, the Graduate Student Union at the University of Toronto refused to support a Hillel kosher food program, calling it “pro-Israel.” Campus pro-Palestinian groups have also condemned Hillel for its support of Israel, and Jewish students who oppose the guidelines have sought to build alternative organizations.

Rice Pride’s statement also comes as students at a range of universities have said that their support of Israel has made them feel uncomfortable or unwelcome on campus. Pro-Israel groups have helped students file a series of federal complaints alleging discrimination due to their views on Israel or Zionism. A recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League, which partners with Hillel, reported that anti-Israel activity on campuses doubled since the previous school year. 

In his own statement posted to Instagram on Friday, Rabbi Kenny Weiss, executive director of Houston Hillel, wrote that the Hillel “regrets” Rice Pride’s decision. When reached for comment, he referred the Jewish Telegraphic Agency back to his statement. 

“Houston Hillel does not accept that we live in a world where students need to pick only one part of their identity to celebrate,” Weiss wrote. “We believe in building communities where one group’s inclusion does not come at the expense of another’s. This decision by Rice Pride not only alienates queer Jewish students and leaves them unsure of their own acceptance in Rice Pride spaces, but also damages the campus climate for all Jewish students.”

The decision was made without a call for input from Rice Pride’s members, according to the student newspaper. Two days after the group made its announcement public, a member of its executive board stepped down from his position in protest.

One queer Jewish student, whom the Rice Thresher identified with a pseudonym, said that she felt the decision was poorly timed, coming just after Rosh Hashanah.

“This is certainly a decision that could have waited a single week,” the student said. “To make an announcement of this kind during the High Holy Days places a lot of extra stress on Jewish people, and shows there isn’t the level of cultural fluency I would like to see from Pride leadership.”

The group’s statement acknowledged that the decision could put Jews in an uncomfortable place. Rice Pride said it made the decision to cut ties with Hillel “with the consultation and support of trusted organizations and individuals (both Jewish and not)” and will turn to other Jewish groups for additional support, including Judaism On Our Own Terms, a group formerly known as Open Hillel that arose in protest of Hillel International’s Israel policies. 

“We have no intention of excluding Jewish students, regardless of their affiliation with Hillel,” Rice Pride’s statement said. “However, we acknowledge that this decision has likely weighed heavy on the hearts of queer Jewish students at Rice, and we empathize with that.”

Weiss said the group’s portrayal of his Hillel’s policies was not accurate. 

“We wish that Rice Pride’s leadership had pursued a conversation with Houston Hillel students or professionals during their internal discussions,” he wrote in the statement. “We feel that had they done so, Rice Pride’s leaders would have learned that the conclusions they drew from outdated sources and various Hillel websites do not reflect current Houston Hillel policies or practice.”


The post Rice University LGBTQ group cuts ties with campus Hillel over support for Israel appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israel, US Blast ‘Outrageous’ ICC Request for Netanyahu’s Arrest

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday issued blistering condemnations of the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor’s demand for arrest warrants for the Israeli premier, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Hamas terror chief Yahye Sinwar.

Biden said the move by Karim Khan was “outrageous” and “shameful,” adding, “Let me be clear: Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that the US “fundamentally rejects the announcement.”

In a video message, Netanyahu called the warrant application “absurd and false” and said it “was not directed only against the prime minister of Israel and the defense minister, but against the entire State of Israel and against the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers, who are fighting with otherworldly heroism against the depraved Hamas murderers who attacked us with savage butchery on the seventh of October.”

Addressing the chief prosecutor, Netanyahu continued: “With what chutzpah do you dare compare the monsters of Hamas to the soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world? With what audacity do you compare between Hamas that murdered, burned, butchered, raped, and kidnapped our brothers and sisters, and the IDF soldiers who are fighting a just war that is incomparable, with a morality that is unmatched?”

In addition to Sinwar, the request also called for the arrests of Hamas’ political leader in Qatar, Ismail Haniyeh, and the Palestinian terror group’s military head, Mohammed Deif, on charges of war crimes.

Blinken called the prosecutor’s equivalence of Israel with Hamas “shameful.”

“Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization that carried out the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and is still holding dozens of innocent people hostage, including Americans,” Blinken said.

He emphasized that the ICC had “no jurisdiction” over the war, and noted that both Israel and the US are not parties of the Rome Statute, the international treaty that established the court. The top US diplomat also called into question “deeply troubling processes” by Khan, who was supposed to send a team to Israel on Monday to coordinate his own visit next week.

“Israel was informed that they did not board their flight around the same time that the prosecutor went on cable television to announce the charges. These and other circumstances call into question the legitimacy and credibility of this investigation,” Blinken said.

An unprecedented majority in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset — 106 out of 120 MKs — signed a petition on Monday afternoon against what they said was an “unerasable historical crime.”

“The scandalous comparison by the Hague prosecutor between Israel’s leaders and the heads of terror organizations is an unerasable historical crime and a clear expression of antisemitism,” the petition read. “We reject this with revulsion. Eighty years after the Holocaust, no one will prevent the Jewish state from defending itself.”

Israel will likely lobby the US Congress to pursue sanctions against the ICC. Several Republican senators last month warned against issuing warrants, saying they would push for sanctions against Khan including barring entry to the US.

One of them, US Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said on Monday he will “feverishly work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both chambers to levy damning sanctions against the ICC,” adding that “Prosecutor Khan is drunk with self-importance and has done a lot of damage to the peace process and to the ability to find a way forward.”

Former US national security adviser John Bolton also called for the US to impose sanctions on the ICC, saying the Hague court had proved its “fundamental illegitimacy.”

“To aid our ally Israel, the US should take steps both in Congress and in the White House to condemn the ICC and impose sanctions,” he wrote on X/Twitter.

The ICC action also received strong criticism in Europe.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala called Khan’s decision “appalling and completely unacceptable.”

“We must not forget that it was Hamas that attacked Israel in October and killed, injured, and kidnapped thousands of innocent people,” he wrote on X. “It was this completely unprovoked terrorist attack that led to the current war in Gaza and the suffering of civilians in Gaza, Israel and Lebanon.”

Other European leaders, however, supported the ICC move.

“Crimes committed in Gaza must be prosecuted at the highest level, regardless of the perpetrators,” Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib wrote. “The fight against impunity wherever crimes occur is a priority for Belgium.”

The call for arrest warrants “is an important step in the investigation of the situation in Palestine,” she added.

The post Israel, US Blast ‘Outrageous’ ICC Request for Netanyahu’s Arrest first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Republican Jewish Coalition Unveils $50,000 Ad Buy to Woo Jewish Voters Ahead of 2024 Presidential Election

US President Joe Biden speaks at a Detroit Branch NAACP annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit, Michigan, US, May 19, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) will purchase $50,000 worth of digital ads in key battleground states with the purpose of targeting Jewish voters ahead of the 2024 US presidential election, according to a statement released by the group on Monday.

The RJC, an organization that seeks to build support for the Republican Party among Jewish voters, claimed it would release new ads underlining what it described as the deteriorating relationship between Israel and the United States during the Biden administration. The ads suggest that US President Joe Biden has undermined Israel’s military campaign in Gaza against Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that launched the ongoing war with its Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

As antisemitism spikes to record highs and America’s relationship with our ally Israel continues to reach new lows, the Jewish community is more energized than ever to turn the page from the failures, broken promises, and betrayals by Joe Biden,” RNC chair Norm Coleman and CEO Matt Brooks said in a statement.

The two ads will be deployed in states considered critical in the 2024 presidential election: Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Michigan. Both ads swipe at Biden over his decision to pause offensive arm shipments to Israel and suggest the president has “stabbed Israel in the back.” They also accuse Biden of not being “strong” enough to guarantee Israel’s security and urge voters to support Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

“Biden is siding with Hamas, Iran, and Hezbollah over Israel at the most crucial time, a blunder of historic proportions that will lead to more death and destruction,” one of the ads says. 

Biden expressed strong support for Israel following the Oct. 7 onslaught, and since then the US has sent significant amounts of munitions to the Jewish state for its war effort against Hamas. In recent weeks, however, he has adopted a much more critical posture toward Jerusalem, culminating with his decision earlier this month to withhold sending certain weapons to Israel due to disagreements over Israeli military operations in Gaza.

In the months following Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks on Israel, Republican politicians have attempted to capitalize on the growing tension between Democrats and Jewish voters. On May 9, Trump lambasted Jewish supporters of Biden.

“If you’re Jewish, and you vote for him, I say shame on you,” Trump said. 

Ammiel Hirsch, a rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week warning Democrats not to take Jewish voters for granted. 

“American Jews increasingly feel politically homeless. Liberal Jewish voters consider President Biden a longtime friend. At the same time, they are troubled by the growing influence of anti-Israel forces in the Democratic Party,” Hirsch wrote.

In his final statement before passing away earlier this year, former US Senator and Democratic Party vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman similarly warned Democrats and Biden about the political danger of turning against Israel.

“We are here to say that you can no longer simply count on our vote just because Jews traditionally have voted Democratic. We are here to say you must earn our vote,” the joint statement read. “We want to continue to support Democratic candidates, but you need to know that if you abandon Israel in order to garner the support of anti-Israel extremists within the Democratic Party, it will be difficult for us to support Democrats who are on the ballot this November.”

Lieberman, an ardent supporter of Israel, was the first Jewish candidate on a major party presidential ticket in the US.

The post Republican Jewish Coalition Unveils $50,000 Ad Buy to Woo Jewish Voters Ahead of 2024 Presidential Election first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Pro-Hamas Encampment at Drexel University Pushes School Into Lockdown

“Gaza Solidarity Encampment” at Drexel University. Photo: X/Twitter

A “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” was erected suddenly at Drexel University in Philadelphia over the weekend, forcing school officials to lock down the campus to protect it from a flood of non-students who joined the demonstration.

“This demonstration has already proved intolerably disruptive to normal university operations and has raised serious concerns about the conduct of some participants, including distressing reports and images of protesters subjecting passersby to antisemitic speech, signs, and chants,” Drexel University president John Fry said on Sunday in a letter to the campus community. “These kinds of hateful and intimidating acts must be condemned, and they cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Fry added that “it has become increasingly apparent that most of the encampment participants are outside individuals who are unaffiliated with Drexel.”

The group responsible for the demonstration, Drexel Palestine Coalition (DPC), is demanding that the school adopt the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and “terminate” its Hillel and Chabad chapters.

“These organizations must be replaced by non-Zionist Jewish ones that in no way support the ongoing genocide, occupation, or apartheid in Palestine,” DPC said in a statement posted on social media.

DPC also wants the university’s police force to be abolished, amnesty granted to any protester charged with violating school rules, and a “60 percent” reduction in Fry’s salary, the savings of which would be invested “into local community efforts such as affordable housing, co-ops, land trusts — specifically towards Black Bottom residents — and the rebuilding of Palestinian institutions such as hospitals and universities.”

Footage of the demonstration shows some aggressive behavior, including the protesters’ dismantling police barricades. According to the latest reports, there have been no arrests.

“Hillel continues to be grateful to have partners on campus who believe that a university experience should be filled with opportunities to engage thoroughly and thoughtfully around issues where there is both deep investment and deep disagreement while recognizing that a prerequisite for any such conversation is a demonstrated commitment to the safety, well being, and shared sense of belonging of all of the students, faculty, and staff who call our university home,” Drexel Hillel said on Sunday in a statement issued about the encampment.

The protesters’ demands are not the first assault on Jewish organizations at Drexel University this academic year.

Last month, the Raymond G. Perelman Center for Jewish Life was vandalized, with the culprits removing large channel letters spelling out Perelman’s name from a brick structure near the entrance to the building. The disturbing act, which occurred amid an explosion of antisemitic hate crimes across the US, was filmed by surveillance cameras, but the persons responsible cannot yet be identified because they wore masks.

“It bears repeating that vandalizing centers of Jewish life and learning, defacing property with antisemitic graffiti, or ripping mezuzot off doorposts in residence halls does not constitute any legitimate form of protests,” Fry said at the time. “Such acts are antisemitic in their intent to disrupt Jewish life and intimidate our Jewish communities, and have no place at Drexel or in our democratic society.”

Drexel University joins the list of over 100 schools where anti-Zionists have taken over sections of campus and refused to leave unless school administrators agree to condemn and boycott Israel. Other demonstrations timed to coincide with the end of the academic year petered out earlier this month, but at Drexel, which uses the quarter system, classes do not end until June 8. Because of this, the encampment there could last as many as three weeks.

In the interim, the school remains locked down, and on Monday, Fry ordered that all classes be conducted virtually.

“We will continue to provide updates regarding this situation or any changes to the university’s operations,” Fry said in Sunday’s letter. “I ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we work toward ensuring that our campus can soon return to normal.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Pro-Hamas Encampment at Drexel University Pushes School Into Lockdown first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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