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Sheryl Sandberg joins Jewish women in calling out lack of concern about sexual assault of Israelis

(JTA) — In a world divided over the Israel-Hamas war, Sheryl Sandberg — the former Meta COO and author of “Lean In,” the bestselling book about women’s equity in the workforce — offered up an idea that she thought could bring everyone together.

“No matter which marches you are attending — or if you are attending none at all; no matter which flag you are flying — or if you are flying none at all; no matter what religion you practice — or if you practice none at all, there is one opinion that everyone can agree on: Rape should never be used as an act of war,” she wrote on Monday in a graphic and emotional op-ed for CNN. Sandberg posted a video to Instagram on Monday with a similar message.

That Sandberg felt the need to make the argument reflects the simmering resentment felt by many Israeli and Jewish advocates over widespread skepticism or even rejection of claims that Hamas terrorists raped Israeli women during their assault on Israel on Oct. 7. The response she got on social media — including on the platforms she helped create — underscored their anxiety.

“[A]nd so where’s the evidence?” reads the most-liked reply on Instagram which, alongside Facebook, is part of Meta. (Sandberg left the company last year after 14 years.)

Whether women were raped during the Hamas assault has been debated since the attack occurred, when video emerged of Hamas terrorists bundling an Israeli woman with what appeared to be blood on her pants into a vehicle in Gaza. Since then, Israeli police, military investigators and emergency responders have gathered testimony from people who witnessed sexual assault on Oct. 7 and documented evidence of assaults on the bodies of some who died.

Israeli police said they have “multiple witnesses for several cases” of sexual abuse, but did not disclose the number of witness testimonies or active sexual assault cases being investigated, the Times of Israel reported. Police also have video evidence, testimony from interrogations, and photographs of victims’ bodies that suggest sexual assault took place on Oct. 7, according to the report.

Yet six years after the #MeToo movement aimed to change the global conversation about believing women, some say the silence — or worse, open disbelief — about what happened to Israeli women suggests that progress has been uneven.

“It was not called out to the extent it should have been,” Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council for Jewish Women, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “And organizations that have long spoken out against sexual assault and against war crimes seem to have been comfortable being silent as this happened to Israeli women.”

The Me Too International movement in its initial statement on the war on Nov. 13 said that the organization “recognizes that sexual violence often functions as a weapon of war and imperialism” and called for a ceasefire in Gaza, without mentioning the sexual violence that had occurred in Israel. A clarifying statement sent out two days later specifically mentioned the sexual violence experienced by Israeli women in October.

“We received some feedback from survivors asking for clarity about our statement,” the updated MeToo statement said. “We stand unequivocally with ALL survivors of sexual violence in this moment, including Israeli women who have given horrific accounts of gender-based violence in the last month.”

Some are reserving particular outrage for UN Women, the United Nations’ women’s organization that has issued multiple statements and reports about the state of Palestinian women and children in Gaza since Oct. 7, but has not issued any reports about sexual violence against Israeli women during that time.

“In their silence, these organizations have rendered themselves irrelevant,” Rotem Izak, an Israeli journalist at Yediot Ahronot and Ynet, wrote in an essay condemning UN Women for staying silent on sexual violence perpetrated against Israelis.

“Not because they shouted the cry of the Gazan women who pay with their bodies and lives for the deeds of Hamas. This is a fact; a painful fact,” Izak said. “However, ignoring the crimes of October 7 that led to this terrible war is an additional form of violence.”

Late last month, NCJW and more than 140 other women’s groups also called on UN Women to condemn the Hamas attack and “do everything in their power to expose and recognize these atrocious and horrific acts of violence against women and girls and to bring the release of all hostages immediately.”

Katz said it had been painful just to make the ask.

“We shouldn’t have to convince people who claim to be our friends and allies that raping Israelis is wrong,” she added. “Using rape as a tool of war is something that we should all agree is bad. The end, full stop. The fact that the United Nations and UN Women haven’t been able to say that is egregious.”

Entrepreneurs Danielle Ofek and Nataly Livski launched a petition last week that has so far collected a quarter-million signatures criticizing UN Women. Called “#MeToo_UNless_UR_A_Jew,” the campaign seeks to provide a voice for the women still held hostage or missing in Gaza. The associated hashtag has also trended on X, formerly known as Twitter.

While the UN group has not addressed the rape allegations, others have gone further and openly cast doubt on them. In Canada, a letter calling on a political leaders to stop broadcasting “the repeated and unverified accusation that Palestinians were guilty of sexual violence” drew thousands of signatories. One of them was the head of a campus sexual assault center who was subsequently fired.

Sandberg, who is Jewish and had previously expressed pain over Oct. 7 and its aftermath, said her decision to make the video statement on Instagram was fueled by understanding just how widespread such dismissal had become.

“We have come so far in believing survivors of rape and assault in so many situations, yet this time, many are ignoring the stories that these bodies tell us about how these women spent the last moments of their lives,” Sandberg wrote in the CNN op-ed. “Not loudly condemning the rapes of October 7 — or any rapes — is a massive step backward for the women — and men — of the world. The ground gained was hard-fought and must not be lost.”


The post Sheryl Sandberg joins Jewish women in calling out lack of concern about sexual assault of Israelis appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Harvard Alumni File Lawsuit Claiming Campus Antisemitism ‘Devalues’ Their Diplomas

[Illustrative] Harvard University students displaying a pro-Palestinian sign at their May 2022 graduation ceremony. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

A group of ten Harvard University alumni filed a lawsuit against the institution on Wednesday, accusing it of “devaluing” their degrees through permitting and fostering an environment of antisemitism, support for terrorism, and anti-Israel sentiment. 

Filed in a Massachusetts federal court, the alumni claims that Harvard has breached an implicit contract with its graduates, promising to maintain the institution’s prestige, which they allege has been compromised due to a toxic campus environment. This, they argue, has led potential employers and prestigious law firms to distance themselves from Harvard alumni.

“Harvard has directly caused the value and prestige of plaintiffs’ Harvard degrees to be diminished and made a mockery out of Harvard graduates in the employment world and beyond,” the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit argues that the university’s administration has failed to combat campus anti-semitism, and has consistently overlooked assaults on Jewish students and calls by students and faculty for the annihilation of Israel. It highlighted, among other things, an open letter signed by more than thirty student organizations blaming Israel for the October 7 Hamas-led attack, and campus protests which included chants like “Long live the intifada!” and “There is only one solution: intifada revolution!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine is Arab!”

The suit also points to then-Harvard president Claudine Gay’s testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where she stated that calls for genocide against Jews would only violate bullying and harassment policies “depending on the context,” as indicative of the school’s tolerance of antisemitism.

The lawsuit is part of a growing dissatisfaction among graduates over what they perceive as rampant antisemitism on U.S. campuses, according to attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of legal aid group, Shurat HaDin, who is representing the alumni alongside New York-based lawyer, Robert Tolchin.

Darshan-Leitner criticized the colleges for becoming “hate centers” under the guise of academic freedom. 

The lawsuit, Darshan-Leitner said, reveals the “growing outrage and contempt that graduates all across the US are feeling over the wild antisemitism and hate speech being encouraged and explained away on the American campuses.” 

“This dangerous weaponization of higher education by radical faculty and students as well as the impotent administration response, all justified under the guise of academic freedom, has turned the colleges into hate centers which has greatly devalued their reputation and diplomas,” she said, adding that the suit could prompt similar actions from graduates of other institutions.

Tolchin accused the university of succumbing to “the flavor of the month, the lowest level of discourse.”

“Harvard’s seal proclaims “Light and Truth” in Latin and Hebrew–yes, Hebrew, the language spoken by the indigenous Israelites. Yet light and truth have been hard to find at Harvard. The darkness of antisemitism and the dishonesty, hate, and discrimination have cast a pall over Harvard so embarrassing that people do not wish to be associated with Harvard,” Tolchin said. 

Harvard has been accused of facilitating an educational environment that is unwelcoming to Israelis and Jews for years, with the lawsuit citing annual events such as “Israel Apartheid Week” and incidents targeting Jewish students and symbols on campus. 

Antisemitism expert Dara Horn, a Harvard alumnus who was asked to join Gay’s anti-Semitism advisory committee, authored a damning essay published this week in The Atlantic in which she detailed the Jew hatred on campus predating October 7. 

She noted that staff members “who grade Jewish students used university-issued class lists to share information about events organized by pro-Palestine groups;” In one instance, a professor continued teaching after rejecting the findings of an investigation by Harvard after he was found discriminating against several Israeli students. Last spring, a student was asked to leave because her identity as an Israeli was making her classmates “uncomfortable.”

She also pointed to courses themselves “premised on anti-Semitic lies”, pointing to one called “The Settler Colonial Determinants of Health”, and noted that lecturers invited to speak at the campus included some who peddled in blood libels that Israelis harvest Palestinians’ organs or that the IDF uses Palestinian children for weapons testing. 

“The mountain of proof at Harvard revealed a reality in which Jewish students’ access to their own university (classes, teachers, libraries, dining halls, public spaces, shared student experiences) was directly compromised,” Horn writes.  The alumni’s legal action comes alongside another lawsuit filed by six current Harvard students on January 10, claiming that the university has not done enough to combat antisemitism on campus which had become a “bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment.” It also comes a day after a professor at the university, Walter Johnson, resigned from two anti-Zionist campus groups after they posted antisemitic cartoons.

The post Harvard Alumni File Lawsuit Claiming Campus Antisemitism ‘Devalues’ Their Diplomas first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7

Eden Alene, winner of the reality show “The Next Star to Eurovision,” during finals in Neve Ilan studio near Jerusalem on Feb. 4, 2020. Photo: Shlomi Cohen/Flash90.

Israeli Culture Minister Miki Zohar sent the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) a letter on Thursday urging them to approve Israel’s submission to the Eurovision song competition, after the EBU called it “too political.”

“As you know, the State of Israel is experiencing one of the most difficult and complex periods since its establishment. We lost our loved ones, and there are women, men and children who are still held captive by a terrorist organization,” Zohar said.

Israeli media reported that the broadcasting union would not approve the song, called “October Rain,” after a number of countries even issued threats to boycott the event if Israel participates. The EBU issued a statement saying “We are currently in the process of carefully examining the lyrics of the song – a process that is confidential between the EBU and the Public Broadcasting Corporation until a final decision is made. To all broadcasters, they have until March 11th to officially submit their songs. If a song does not meet the criteria for any reason, the corporation will be given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics, according to the contest rules.”

“The song that Israel sent to the Eurovision Song Contest was chosen by a professional committee made up of well-known names in the local music and entertainment industry,” Zohar added. “It is a moving song, discussing renewal and revival from a very fragile reality of loss and destruction, and describes the current public mood in Israel these days. We see now most clearly because our lives – as one, united society – manage to overcome even the greatest suffering. This is not a political song.”

Despite the news that the song by Israeli singer Eden Golan would not be approved, The CEO of KAN, Israel’s national broadcasting service, and the body that approves the song, Golan Yokhpaz, said “We will not change the words or the song, even at the cost of Israel not participating in Eurovision this year.” Adding “The Israel Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) is in dialogue with the EBU regarding the song that will represent Israel at Eurovision.”

Zohar said later in a television interview “The songwriters, KAN, and the singer will have to make the decisions at the end of the day… I do think that Israel should participate in Eurovision because it is important for us at this time to be represented there, and to express ourselves throughout Europe.”

Speaking to the EBU, he said, “We trust that you will continue in your important task of keeping the competition free from any attempt at political manipulation.”

The post Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7 first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’

UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine Francesca Albanese, October 27, 2022 (Photo: Screenshot)

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories referred to Israelis as “colonialists” who have “fake identities” while quoting another Twitter/X account on Wednesday, raising questions about the impartiality of the international body.

Francesca Albanese responded to a long post by Alon Mizrahi, a far-left activist, arguing that the reason many Western nations support Israel is that they are colonial projects. 

She highlighted the following quote from Mizrahi: “free Palestine scares them [Westerners] bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities.”

” free Palestine scares them bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities..” https://t.co/N1wkOPgKJs

— Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur oPt (@FranceskAlbs) February 21, 2024

The original post claimed that “All colonial powers work together to guarantee the supremacy of made-up identities over genuine, native ones. Because if this model breaks anywhere, it will collapse everywhere.”

Mizrahi argued that “A Palestinian state would be a major, major moral blow to white, Western colonialism.”

The tweet was met with immediate condemnation.

David Friedman, who served as the US Ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021 under former President Donald Trump wrote that her tweet was “Exhibit A why the UN is a failure and why we no longer belong in that bastion of hypocrisy and corruption.”

An account documenting Hamas’ October 7 atrocities asked, “If Israel is indeed a ‘colonialist project’ Where should all the Israelis go if this project should be dismantled?”

The perception of UN bias against Israel has also been boosted by the fact that, in 2023, Israel was condemned twice as often as all other countries combined.

It is not the first time Albanese has made comments that raise eyebrows. Earlier this month, in response to French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron calling the October 7 attack “largest anti-Semitic massacre of the 21st century,” she said “No, Mr. Macron. The victims of October 7 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression.”

Following backlash, she wrote that she opposes “all racism, including anti-Semitism, a global threat. But explaining these crimes as anti-Semitism obscures their true cause.”

Hamas’ founding charter, in a section about the “universality” of its cause, reads: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Albanese has also argued that Israel should make peace with Hamas, saying that “It needs to make peace with Hamas in order to not be threatened by Hamas.” 

When asked about what people do not understand about Hamas, she added, “If someone violates your right to self-determination, you are entitled to embrace resistance.”

The post UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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