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Some Jewish musicians are asking Jewish critics of Israel to stop singing their songs at protests

(JTA) — When the Jewish group IfNotNow asked educator and musician Shoshana Jedwab whether it could include her song “Where You Go” in its songbook, Jedwab offered a cautious yes.

The year was 2018, and the song, which Jedwab had officially released on the first anniversary of then-President Donald Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, had taken off at progressive protests.

The lyrics were easily adaptable to the most pressing issues of the moment, including immigration, women’s rights and Indigenous rights — all issues that IfNotNow, which had been founded in 2014 to press American Jews to more harshly criticize Israel, was widening its scope to tackle. Jedwab knew that IfNotNow was further to the left on Israel issues than she was, but she decided to grant permission nonetheless.

“I thought, ‘I need to open up, I need to be braver, I need to reach out here and give my blessing to people who put energy into the anti-occupation movement,” she said. “I had my father ringing in my ears, a Holocaust survivor and an ex-Palmachnik who looked at the occupation in the West Bank and said this is a shame, this is a shanda, we cannot be occupiers. So that’s why I did it.”

Five years later, Jedwab has changed her mind. She recently asked IfNotNow to remove “Where You Go” from its literature. The trigger for that reversal, she said, was the group’s claim that Israel is committing a “genocide” in its war against Hamas in Gaza. Some protests trumpeting that accusation have also featured her song.

“I gave them permission. I trusted them,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It breaks my heart thinking that this organization that thinks it’s doing good is putting Jews in danger by saying a falsehood, an incredibly dangerous falsehood.”

Jedwab isn’t the only Jewish musician to demand that IfNotNow stop using their songs in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,400 people, took hundreds hostage and began the current war.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor declared on social media over the weekend that he disavows the group’s use of his song “Olam Chesed Yibaneh,” citing its genocide accusation and its alignment with Jewish Voice for Peace, an explicitly anti-Zionist group.

“I’ve been struggling for a long time with the use of my song by IfNotNow and wanted to give them every chance to express themselves with different Jewish eyes,” Creditor told JTA. “But again and again, they have effectively unmoored themselves from our people and are acting in ways that will be destructive to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel.”

In asking IfNotNow to stop using their work, the musicians are taking a page from the likes of Sting, Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M., all of which have barred politicians from playing their songs at rallies.

The Jewish musicians are also opening a window into a dramatic reordering within the progressive Jewish left since Oct. 7, as some progressive Jews have realized that despite sharing an outlook with the members of far-left Jewish groups on many social issues, their differences of opinion on Israel now feel like an uncrossable gap.

IfNotNow represents a notable laboratory for those tensions because of its posture at the intersection of Jewish expression and progressive politics. The group was founded during the last major war in Gaza by young Jews who said they were dissatisfied with what they had learned about Israel at their Jewish day schools and summer camps. Its activities have long drawn on and featured Jewish ritual and objects.

Like Jedwab, Creditor, now the rabbi in residence at UJA-Federation of New York, had expressed admiration about IfNotNow’s use of his work in the past, even if he did not endorse its outlook on Israel. In 2016, he said on Facebook that he was inspired by the group as it protested against Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon, previously the chair of the hardline right-wing news site Breitbart, as chief strategist.

“That their live streamed marching on the Republican party offices in Boston had them singing my ‘Olam Chesed Yibaneh’ is, perhaps, most humbling of all,” he wrote at the time. The song’s title means “The World Is Built on Kindness” and is drawn from Psalm 89.

In addition to “Olam Chesed Yibaneh” and “Where You Go,” IfNotNow also recites the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer and sings traditional Jewish songs such as “Lo Yisa Goy,” based on a Biblical passage with an antiwar message, at its rallies. Other actions have featured Jewish prayer shawls or the shofar.

“Turning to ritual and song is one of the most basic, ancient things that Jews do,” said Ilana Lerman, who helped compile the IfNotNow songbook that features Jedwab’s song. “This is a very ancient and brilliant technology: We use song and ritual to call people, to mourn, to praise, to act, to join in solidarity, to learn, to mark time. These are all things that we are going to want to do as a movement together.”

IfNotNow told Jedwab that it would remove her song from its literature in the future, said the songwriter, who also teaches Jewish studies at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York City. But she said friends have let her know that “Where You Go” is still being sung at the group’s rallies. And the group’s national spokesperson, Eva Borgwardt, declined on Sunday to answer questions about whether it plans to curb the singing of “Olam Chesed Yibaneh,” which Creditor wrote after 9/11.

“We want to build a world of love and peace, where no Palestinians or Israelis need to fear for their lives. We cannot build a world of love through more bombing and death,” Borgwardt said in a statement.

“We will continue to call for ceasefire, the release of all hostages, deescalation, and addressing the root causes that brought us here, and we are proud to draw on the rich Jewish tradition that gave us the words of Psalm 89:3,” she added.

Lerman said on Tuesday that her understanding was that the group would in fact stop using Jedwab’s and Creditor’s songs in its national actions. But she said it could take some time for the songs to disappear completely — because they have been such mainstays of IfNotNow’s activism up to this point, and it might take some time for local chapters to get the message.

“We’re definitely going to follow their request,” she said. “We won’t sing their music, and we’re really sad about it, because the messages from their music really come from the part of Judaism that is about love and not about vengeance.”

Creditor said he had gotten offers of pro-bono legal assistance to press IfNotNow to carry out his request, but he isn’t interested.

“I think that gives too much oxygen where I just simply want them to stop,” he said. “If they have spiritual integrity, they’ll respect my wishes.”

Some critics of IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace have gone much further, announcing in recent weeks that they no longer consider the groups’ members to be Jewish. Avi Mayer, the editor of the Jerusalem Post, said as much in a column last week, quoting a Oct. 27 thread on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, by Dan Elbaum, the North American head of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Saying that he was “talking about American Jews who call Israelis Nazis and accuse them of acts of genocide — knowing full well and even relishing the hurtfulness of those terms,” Elbaum specifically called out members of IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace.

“I have reached a sad conclusion. As much as I would not like to give up on a single Jew, I have given up on them. For me, they are deserving of “cherem” (formal exclusion from the Jewish people),” Elbaum wrote, adding, “Unlike Hamas who would have joyously murdered them on October 7, I do not consider them Jews.”

Creditor shared Elbaum’s thread, writing, “I grieve as I add my amen to this sad but necessary conclusion.” But he told JTA that he would not actually go as far as Elbaum or Mayer.

“I’ll make a delineation between IfNotNow and the individuals who are caught up in it,” he said. “I’m not willing to say they’re not Jewish. But what they are doing is anti-Jewish.”

That kind of thinking is an “an unfortunate pattern” that has emerged in this moment of political realignment, said Rabbi Miriam Grossman of Brooklyn’s Kolot Chayeinu synagogue, who has participated in IfNotNow rallies.

“Jewish leaders, sometimes rabbis and sometimes organizations, are saying that various elements of Jewish life are no longer usable or fair game anymore in the hands of Jewish folks who are organizing and calling for ceasefire,” she said.

“As a rabbi, I just want to publicly disagree with that,” Grossman said, adding about IfNotNow protesters, “They’re so clear that they’re proud of their Judaism. They want to show up in Jewish community and to fight for life together. … And so it just makes me sad when people are looking at that and saying that it’s not Jewish.”

Rallies in support of Israel and its response to Oct. 7 have also featured Jewish songs — most frequently “Am Yisrael Chai,” written by Shlomo Carlebach in 1965 for the movement to free Soviet Jewry. (Creditor is married to Carlebach’s daughter Neshama, herself a Jewish songwriter who has performed “Olam Chesed Yibaneh” in venues as varied as Auschwitz, Japan and a memorial concert for her father.)

Both Creditor and Jedwab said they recognized they could not put their songs back in the bottle.

“I’m not asking people not to sing it. I believe that people’s hearts are basically good,” Jedwab said about “Where You Go.” “But I cannot condone that organization using my song officially.”

“It’s hard to control the use of your art when it’s already been created,” Creditor said. “But it hurts me the worst when I see my song weaponized against my own family’s heart.”

And Lerman said that even as “Olam Chesed Yibaneh” and “Where You Go” recede, other songs will fill their place.

At each protest, she said, some IfNotNow members are deputized as song leaders — including 40 at the recent protest at the U.S. Capitol where many demonstrators were arrested. Their goal, she said, is to keep the singing going for as long as the rally lasts.

“We Rise,” a newer song by the musician Batya Levine, has been a feature of Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow rallies, and was sung in the rotunda of the Capitol. (Levine, who has taught the song at JVP events, did not respond to a JTA request for comment.) And “Ceasefire Now,” a two-word song by Sol Weiss, has also gained traction over the last month.

“New music is born inside of moments that call for new music,” Lerman said.

The post Some Jewish musicians are asking Jewish critics of Israel to stop singing their songs at protests appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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The ‘Hanukkah Erotica Book Club’ aims to connect Jews — with romance novels

(New York Jewish Week) — First things first: Despite its name, there is no erotica and sometimes no Hanukkah in the Hanukkah Erotica Book Club.

Instead, the “book club” is actually a biweekly podcast about Jewish romance novels. Hosted by close friends and stepsisters Malya Levin and Rachel Mintz — who goes by her “Hebrew” name, Raizel, on the show — the duo discuss a different Jewish-themed romance novel each episode while simultaneously unpacking their Jewish identities and their experiences dating in New York City.

The podcast’s name, Hanukkah Erotica, came from a nickname Mintz coined for a genre that she didn’t even know existed until one year ago. That’s when she read her first-ever Jewish romance novel, “I’ll Be Home for Hanukkah” by KK Hedrin, about a big-city Jewish girl named Shayna Adler who finds herself living out a bizarre Hallmark Christmas-movie fantasy with a Jewish colleague when they get stuck in North Pole, Alaska over the holiday.

“I was very connected to the material,” Mintz told the New York Jewish Week. “It felt very nostalgic to the early 20s Malya and I experienced.”

Levin concurs. “Our relationship really formed during our early 20s on the Upper West Side, when we were coming into our own Jewish identities and having a lot of funny, stereotypical young single Jewish woman experiences,” she said.

Mintz and Levin, both 38, met shortly after they graduated college, when their parents started dating. They quickly became close as Mintz was looking to move to the Upper West Side. Levin was already living there, and as they became involved in the Jewish communities in the neighborhood, their social circles began to intertwine.

Now married with children — Brooklynite and elder abuse lawyer Levin has four and New Jersey-based Mintz has two — the podcast gives them an opportunity to spend time with each other, bonding over their mutually beloved book genre.

Jewish romance novels are a burgeoning genre that are written about Jewish protagonists, usually by Jewish authors. Like other publishing categories, romance has become more diverse in recent years, with novels centering on people of color, gay and lesbian characters and the neurodivergent. Authors like Elissa Sussman — author of “Funny You Should Ask” — and Jean Meltzer — author of “The Matzah Ball” and “Kissing Kosher” — have released best-selling novels in the last few years about Jewish protagonists seeking love. Jewish romance authors have attempted to change the narrative about Jewish stories to include joy and positivity — as the genre rule of romance is that there always has to be a happily ever after.

Then there’s The Ripped Bodice, a romance-only bookstore owned by Jewish sisters Leah and Bea Koch with locations in Brooklyn and Culver City, California. “We’re very passionate about fostering diverse narratives in romance novels,” Leah told the New York Jewish Week. “Highlighting Jewish representation in this genre is so important, especially for a group of people that is almost entirely represented by stories of tragedy. We love to introduce people to Jewish stories of love and joy.”

To that end, the Brooklyn bookstore is hosting Hanukkah Erotica’s first-ever live show on Dec. 13. Leah Koch calls the Hanukkah-themed event “a celebration of Jewish identity and inclusivity.”

“For us, it’s brought about a lot of thinking about our Jewish identity, Jewish practice,” Mintz said of the Hanukkah Erotica Book Club. “It sounds silly, but these books have made us think about a lot of aspects about Jewish identity and Jewish peoplehood.”

Mintz, a preschool director and adjunct professor, told the New York Jewish Week she has read romance novels for as long as she can remember; she treated the genre as “a palate cleanser between ‘great books,’” she said.

Levin, meanwhile, had never read a romance novel when Mintz convinced her to read “I’ll Be Home for Hanukkah.” She admits she had many preconceived notions about the genre and was surprised by how much the novel resonated with her — right down to the protagonist bringing packets of tuna with her on vacation.

“Was this written for anyone except for me?” Levin recalls thinking. “That’s what it felt like.”

Mintz was shocked by the amount of feedback she got from friends after sharing passages and quotes from Jewish romance novels on Instagram — they were fascinated by these novels and wanted to know more about them, she said.

“It seemed like people were coming out of the woodwork and seemed interested in engaging in this conversation about this Jewish romance book,” Mintz said. “And I know Malya and I kind of banter and have this rapport. So when she said ‘this book is speaking to me,’ I knew we needed to book club this together and do it on a podcast.”

Now 38, the stepsisters and close friends, shown here in 2010, met as young women in the Upper West Side. (Courtesy)

Levin and Mintz give the impression of being in conversation with their audience, almost as if one is not listening to a podcast, but rather chatting with old friends.

That’s by design: The duo wanted “Hanukkah Erotica” to resemble a book club that discusses the books in the context of their lives. Both Mintz and Levin go into rambles about previous jobs, dating experiences and different segments of the romance community, giving listeners an insight into their lives. Their dynamic is casual and funny without trying to be.

“I don’t know that we could talk about these books without weaving our own personal experiences in, because that’s part of why we like these books,” Mintz said. “If they’re speaking to us, they’re probably speaking to other people.”

The stepsisters, while sharing a similar sense of humor and interests, grew up in very different Jewish communities: Mintz grew up Orthodox in Brooklyn and Passaic, New Jersey, while Levin was a member of a Conservative synagogue in Great Neck, New York. As Mintz and Levin draw upon their Jewish backgrounds, each host has moments when she can connect to aspects of a book that the other cannot.

On the podcast, which is produced by Levin’s husband, William, the pair often debate the novels’ depictions of Judaism and whether they find them to be accurate. They’ve taken on topics like whether an author took creative license when describing a Jewish deli that serves brisket and latkes with sour cream, or whether or not anyone goes to a Wednesday night Torah reading as a social event. (Turns out, said Levin, that some of their listeners do.)

One year and 25 episodes after starting “Hanukkah Erotica,” many aspects of the podcast have changed. What was initially conceived as a short-term podcast only focusing on Hanukkah romance evolved into a broader discussion about the Jewish romance genre.

“Once we finished Hanukkah, we didn’t feel done,” Mintz added. “Once we realized there was more out there in Jewish romance, we still wanted to have this conversation.”

They’ve since delved into High Holiday romances, Purim romances and Jewish summer camp romances. In the process, Mintz and Levin have realized that the world of Jewish romance extends into all the subgenres and tropes that non-religious romance does.

The podcast has also devoted episodes to Jewish romantic movies and television, featuring guest stars like Aleeza Ben Shalom from the Netflix reality show “Jewish Matchmaking” and Jonah Platt, star of Hulu’s 2022 holiday film, “Menorah in the Middle.”

With Hanukkah beginning on Thursday evening, Dec. 7, the pair are planning for their live Hanukkah episode to be about “Eight Kinky Nights” by Xan West, a novel described as “kinky polyamorous Chanukah f/f romance.” (F/f stands for “female/female.”) They also plan to cover “Round and Round,” the new Hallmark Hanukkah movie starring Bryan Greenberg — who they hope to get on the podcast — as well as “Eight Dates and Nights,” a new teen romance by Betsey Alderedge.

“For us, it’s brought about a lot of thinking about our Jewish identity, Jewish practice,” Mintz said of the Hanukkah Erotica Book Club. “It sounds silly, but these books have made us think about a lot of aspects about Jewish identity and Jewish peoplehood.”

“The idea that Jewish Jewish readers like us can find themselves in any of these books, I think, is exciting. And we want to kind of broadcast that and highlight it,” Mintz said.

The post The ‘Hanukkah Erotica Book Club’ aims to connect Jews — with romance novels appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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An IDF soldier killed a civilian who shot at terrorists, raising hard questions about vigilante culture in Israel

TEL AVIV (JTA) — When he spoke with a news anchor on Thursday night, Israeli reservist Aviad Frija was hailed by right-wing politicians and commentators as a hero for his role in responding to a terror attack at a Jerusalem bus stop earlier that day.

By Monday, Frija was arrested by the IDF and under investigation. The man he had shot was not a suspected terrorist but an Israeli civilian who had himself played a role in halting the attack.

According to video from the scene, Frija had shot the man, a 38-year-old lawyer named Yuval Doron Castleman, after Castleman had gotten on his knees, dropped his gun and put his hands in the air to show that he was not a threat. Castleman, a former police officer turned lawyer, was initially left bleeding on the ground and later died of his wounds, a day shy of his 38th birthday.

Castleman “did everything he needed to do so they could identify him. He went down on his knees, opened his jacket to show he didn’t have any explosives on him, yelled at them, ‘Don’t shoot, I’m Jewish, I’m Israeli,’ and they continued to shoot him,” his father, Moshe Castleman, said on Israeli Army Radio.

Castleman’s death has drawn scrutiny to the ways in which Israel’s right-wing government has encouraged everyday Israelis to own guns and fight terror themselves — a gambit to boost security that, critics say, has instead led to the spilling of more Israeli blood. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who already faces widespread public disapproval over his handling of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel — has come in for more criticism in recent days over what some say was a flippant response to Castleman’s death.

“This has allowed a jungle in terms of everything related to distributing weapons, using weapons,” Eran Etzion, a former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council, said on Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster. “This is a terrible thing that will have far-reaching consequences… an atmosphere where everyone will take a weapon, and use it.”

The family of Israeli Yuval Castleman mourns at his house in Kiryat Tivyon, in northern Israel, on Dec. 3, 2023. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images)

Castleman’s family is also castigating officials for their response. His father and sister Shaked have called his death an “execution,” while his sister Noga said the family did not hear from the police until several hours after the incident and did not get the chance to comfort Castleman in his final hours of life.

“We carried on with our lives as he was fighting for his life,” Noga said, according to Kan. “We weren’t there to caress him, to call to him. I wouldn’t wish upon anyone that they hear what happened to a loved one in such an unclear way.”

After his death, said Shaked, “instead of mourning, we find ourselves in a war for justice.”

For more than a year, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s far-right national security minister, has encouraged private citizens to own guns and has made Israel’s historically strict gun-control requirements more lenient. He has also pushed to loosen open-fire regulations for police officers, whom he oversees. Earlier this year, he praised an Israeli settler who killed a Palestinian in an altercation. (Frija is a member of the Hilltop Youth, a group of young extremist settlers, as well as a reservist in the IDF.)

Since Oct. 7, Ben-Gvir said in a recent government hearing, more than 260,000 people have applied for gun licenses. “When the war started, we knew that we were right when we said that every place that has a weapon can save a life,” he said at a recent meeting of his party, Otzma Yehudit or Jewish Power.

But Ben-Gvir’s policies have faced backlash. In recent weeks, Israeli media reported that U.S. officials were threatening to stop supplying guns to Israel if they continued to wind up in the hands of civilians. (The Department of State declined to comment, with an official telling JTA the department does not comment as a matter of policy on “the status of licensed direct commercial defense sales activities.”) On Monday, the head of Israel’s Firearm Licensing Department resigned in protest of the loosened gun ownership requirements.

And critics of Netanyahu’s government have drawn a link between Ben-Gvir’s policies and Frija’s shooting of Castleman, even though Frija was in uniform at the time.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s minister of national security, attends the scene of a terror shooting attack at the entrance to Jerusalem, Nov 30, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Moshe Yaalon, a former Netanyahu ally and defense minister, posted online that Ben Gvir’s “populist calls” to loosen open-fire regulations “contributed to the tragic result.” Yaalon and others also linked the shooting to a 2016 incident in which IDF soldier Elor Azaria shot dead a disarmed Palestinian terrorist who was lying on the ground. Azaria was tried and convicted but also became a hero to some on the right.

Netayahu’s critics have also chided him for his initial response to the incident, in which he defended Ben-Gvir’s policy though he acknowledged that it posed potential dangers.

“We know that in the waves of terror in the last decade and earlier, the presence of armed civilians often saves the situation and has prevented a huge disaster,” he said. “I think that in the present situation we need to continue this policy. I fully support that. It may be that we will pay a price for this, and that’s life.”

The “that’s life” comment particularly irked critics, and on Sunday, Netanyahu offered a more sympathetic message in a video shared to his social media in which he said he had spoken to Castleman’s father.

“Yuval Doron Castleman is a hero of Israel. In a supreme act of bravery, Yuval saved many lives,” Netanyahu said. “However, unfortunately, a terrible tragedy occurred there – and the man who had saved others was killed. There must be a thorough inquiry.”

Yuval Castleman, 37, died after an IDF soldier shot him as he responded to a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, Nov. 30, 2023. (Courtesy)

In the days following the incident, the IDF has released several statements indicating that its rules of engagement forbid firing upon suspects with their hands raised, and announced on Monday that Frija is being detained and questioned in what is called a “preliminary arrest.” Since his initial interview, Frija has subsequently claimed that he was acting out of fear for his own life.

Critics of the shooting on the left do not see it as an isolated incident, but as the result of a culture that has been nurtured for years on the Israeli right. Avner Gvaryahu, director of the Breaking the Silence, an anti-occupation group focused on the experiences of combat veterans, described a “years-long campaign led by the right-wing politicians, organizations, spokespeople, and journalists to ‘not tie the hands of our soldiers’” when they face a threat — though he noted that it was impossible to know what Frija was thinking in the moment.

Gvaryahu, whose organization leads tours in the West Bank, said he sees that culture taking hold there as well. He said, from what he’s witnessed, rules of engagement for soldiers are “becoming more flexible, basically, making it easier to shoot.”

In the face of the criticism, Ben Gvir and others on the right have portrayed the incident as a horrible accident. In an online post, right-wing journalist Yotam Zimri called the shooting a “terrible tragedy” and implied that it was wrong to place blame on Frija.

“There are no bad guys in this story except for the two Arab murderers,” he said, referring to the two Hamas-affiliated terrorists who perpetrated Thursday’s attack. “If you’re looking for other bad guys, there’s something wrong with you.”

But during a visit with Castleman’s family on Monday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog acknowledged that the state bore some responsibility for his death.

“I have come here not as a private citizen but as the president of the state of Israel, to ask forgiveness and express great appreciation for a hero of Israel who did something great and courageous,” Herzog said, adding that Castleman “paid with his life in what I see as the worst and most outrageous way possible.”

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Anti-Israel Students at Cornell University ‘Convict’ School President of ‘Genocide,’ ‘Apartheid’ in Mock Trial

A student walks past a Palestinian flag drawn in chalk on the Cornell University campus, Nov. 5, 2023. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

Anti-Israel students at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York occupied a campus building and held a “mock trial” in which they convicted school president Martha Pollack of complicity in “apartheid” and “genocide against Palestinian civilians” due to the university’s links to Israeli institutions and companies that do business with the Jewish state.

The Cornell Coalition for Mutual Liberation (CML) occupied an administrative building from Friday until Sunday, by which time the administration had acceded to their call for a meeting with the university’s chief financial officer to discuss their demands, according to the Cornell Daily Sun, a campus newspaper.

Among the demands were adopting a controversial definition of antisemitism with restrictive standards around when anti-Israel speech and activity are antisemitic and divesting from companies linked to and supportive of the Jewish state.

The group promoted their demonstration with a flyer that read, “Martha Pollack on trial for Cornell’s investment in the genocide of Palestinians…We need a crowd!”

During the “trial,” in which speakers said they were “prosecuting” Pollack, CML denounced the university’s collaboration with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and investments in Tata Motors, Hewlett Packard, and Raytheon, alleging those connections make Cornell complicit in what they falsely described as Israeli “genocide” and “war crimes” against the Palestinians.

“Cornell is complicit in genocide! Martha is complicit in genocide” the students chanted. After “convicting” Pollack, they chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — a slogan widely interpreted as a call for the destruction of Israel, which is located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

One speaker told the crowd that all global resistance movements are connected.

“I think the sea is narrow, and I think our blood is near,” the student said. “The waterway that connects Southeast Asia, that connects South Asia, that connects the [Middle East and North Africa] region — that connects us to Europe — are deeply, deeply tied. We are not far from each other.”

Eventually, CML met with Ryan Lombardi, Cornell’s vice president of student campus life, who agreed to contact the school’s chief financial officer Christopher Cowen for a meeting about their demands. However, he was reluctant to agree to their demands about adopting the Jerusalem Declaration of Antisemitism, which has been much less widely accepted by experts, governments, and civic institutions around the world than the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

“The institution is not typically in the practice of adopting outside definitions that aren’t ours, and I am trying to stay out of that. But that’s something that would require an additional discussion,” Lombardi was quoted as saying. “I don’t know what the process would look like and I would need a lot of time to think about that and talk with others [in the administration] to see what that might look like.”

By Sunday, after refusing to end their occupation until a date and time for a meeting with Cowen was announced, the students claimed victory. Lombardi confirmed they would have a meeting and that eight members of CML would be allowed to attend it. Cheering the outcome, they chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Martha, Martha, you can’t hide, you’re silent on genocide.”

Cornell has made headlines for the community’s response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. After the atrocities, history professor Russell Rickford called the terror group’s invasion of Israel “exhilarating” and “energizing” at a pro-Palestinian rally. He has since taken a leave of absence for the remainder of the semester. Later, several posts calling for murdering Jews and raping Jewish women emerged on a popular social media forum used by Cornell students.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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