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South Carolina school district to return Bernard Malamud’s ‘The Fixer’ to shelves after yearlong removal

(JTA) – A school district in South Carolina will return Bernard Malamud’s “The Fixer,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about antisemitism, to shelves nearly a year after it was removed following a parental complaint.

The decision made Wednesday by a review committee for the Beaufort County School District concludes another episode in which a Jewish book has gotten caught up in a national book-ban push by conservative parents.

The district pulled “The Fixer” and books from school libraries last fall, citing safety concerns for school employees. Malamud’s novel had been on a long list of nearly 100 books challenged by a parent affiliated with Moms for Liberty, an activist group powering the book-ban movement., a ratings site often cited by Moms for Liberty chapters, says “The Fixer” contains “controversial religious and racial commentary; hate involving racism; violence including self harm; and profanity.”

The committee voted Wednesday to return “The Fixer” and four other books  to school library circulation, according to records of the meeting a district spokesperson shared with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The school board must sign off on the decision, but the board has so far signed off on all of the committee’s recommendations. (One other of the reviewed books was removed permanently, while another was placed back in the review process.)

“I’m relieved the committee found the text was appropriate and hope the board agrees to replace it back on the shelves,” Emily Mayer, a Jewish former Beaufort County educator who has been lobbying against the book bans, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 

But, she added, “I don’t believe it should’ve been questioned to begin with, as I can’t imagine many students had checked ‘The Fixer’ out of the library as of late anyway. Allowing students access to texts that give them diverse perspectives of historical events helps us make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.”

“The Fixer” is not the first Jewish book to be removed following a parental challenge in schools, nor was it the first time such a removal was overturned. A school district in Texas quickly reversed a decision to remove an illustrated version of Anne Frank’s diary following public outcry last year, while a district in Missouri recently voted to keep Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust graphic memoir “Maus” in schools despite concerns that a state law could put educators in legal jeopardy for doing so.

But restorations are not always the outcome. That same illustrated edition of Frank’s diary, along with “Maus,” a Holocaust novel by Jodi Picoult and a children’s book about Purim featuring LGBTQ parents, have been permanently removed from other districts, in all cases because of concerns from parents or officials that their content was inappropriate for children.

“The Fixer” holds special historical significance in this battle, as the novel was also at the center of a 1982 Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of school library book bans. That case ended without a clear precedent from the court.

The novel fictionalizes a 1911 case of a Jewish laborer in Kyiv, Mendel Beilis, who was charged with murdering a Christian boy and using his blood to make matzah — a classic example of the blood libel, an antisemitic accusation that Jews murder children and use their blood for religious rituals. 

Beilis’ own family has heavily criticized Malamud over the years for his portrayal of Mendel, even alleging that the author plagiarized his diaries. Yet grandson Jay Beilis, who has long campaigned against the book, told JTA, “I’m not going to celebrate the book being banned.”

Malamud himself, who won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Fixer” in 1967, commented on book bans in the lead-up to the 1982 Supreme Court case. “I wish those school board members and others who want to ban books would make an effort to understand them before shoveling them off library shelves,” he said in 1976, a decade before his death. “If they read ‘The Fixer,’ they might be clamoring to have more students read it.”

The post South Carolina school district to return Bernard Malamud’s ‘The Fixer’ to shelves after yearlong removal appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Flip through the digital edition of the Summer 2024 print magazine from The Canadian Jewish News

We’ve produced a collection of feature articles four times a year since 2022. A special edition of this magazine will appear in mid-September—with reflections on the Jewish year that was. And in December, look out for a reimagined publication with a name of its own. Get future copies delivered to your door as a thank-you […]

The post Flip through the digital edition of the Summer 2024 print magazine from The Canadian Jewish News appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Top US Official Calls Hamas Leader Sinwar a ‘Psychopath,’ ‘Messianic’ as Ceasefire Talks Swirl

Yahya al-Sinwar, head of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, attends a meeting with people at a hall on the seashore in Gaza City. Photo: Yousef Masoud / SOPA Images/Sipa via Reuters Connect

A senior US official said that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is the Palestinian terrorist group’s ultimate decision maker and has little interest in reaching a ceasefire deal with Israel, in testimony before a US Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, there’s one guy 10 stories below the ground: a psychopath, messianic in his own belief that he has established himself in history, and [he believes that] there’s a sunk cost of having lost thousands of fighters and carnage in Gaza,” said Barbara Leaf, the US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs.

Sinwar, the top Hamas official in Gaza and the mastermind behind the terrorist group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, has reportedly been hiding in Hamas’ extensive network of underground tunnels during Israel’s ongoing military campaign in the coastal enclave.

Leaf’s comments echo others made by Biden administration officials.

In April, a US official told reporters that Sinwar is single-handedly holding up any progress on a potential hostage deal.

The senior Biden administration official said that while Hamas’ political bureau has shown some willingness to compromise on the terrorist group’s most hardline positions, Sinwar’s maximalist demands continuously win out.

“Sinwar has made the decision he’d rather hold [the hostages seized by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7] than secure a ceasefire, and that’s just the truth of the situation,” the official said.

Leaf, in her testimony on Tuesday, said that Qatar — where many top Hamas political officials are based — has been “squeezing” the group — though to little effect, according to a report from Axios.

“There’s a cadre of political officials of Hamas in Doha, and boy do they squeeze them, I can assure you they squeeze them,” Leaf said.

Israel has described Hamas’ response to the new US ceasefire proposal as total rejection. But efforts to secure an agreement are still continuing, according to mediators in Qatar and Egypt, backed by the United States.

The Axios report added that Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani met on Tuesday in Doha — Qatar’s capital — with senior Hamas officials in an attempt to reach a breakthrough in the talks about the hostage and ceasefire deal.

Egypt and Qatar — which along with the United States have been mediating between Hamas and Israel — said on June 11 that they had received a response from the Palestinian groups to the US plan, without giving further details.

The post Top US Official Calls Hamas Leader Sinwar a ‘Psychopath,’ ‘Messianic’ as Ceasefire Talks Swirl first appeared on

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Blinken Confirms US Pausing Bomb Shipment to Israel After Netanyahu Calls for End to ‘Inconceivable’ Weapons Halt

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hold a joint news conference in Jerusalem, May 25, 2021. Photo: Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday confirmed the US was still withholding a shipment of bombs to Israel, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Washington to remove restrictions on arms deliveries to the Jewish state and asserted that the top American diplomat had assured him the Biden administration was working to lift any halts on weapons.

The Biden administration is “continuing to review one shipment that President [Joe] Biden has talked about with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah. That remains under review,” Blinken said at a news conference at the US State Department.

However, he added, the administration is committed to making sure “that Israel has what it needs to effectively defend itself.”

Blinken’s remarks came after Netanyahu posted a video online earlier in the day in which he lamented that the US recently paused a weapons shipment to Israel and threatened to block more but said Blinken told him that Washington was seeking to end any halts on arms deliveries.

“When Secretary Blinken was recently here in Israel, we had a candid conversation. I said I deeply appreciated the support the US has given Israel from the beginning of the war,” Netanyahu said.

“But I also said something else. I said it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel,” he continued. “Israel, America’s closest ally, fighting for its life, fighting against Iran and our other common enemies.”

The Israeli premier then asserted that Blinken told him the issue would be addressed.

“Secretary Blinken assured me that the administration is working day and night to remove these bottlenecks,” Netanyahu said. “I certainly hope that’s the case. It should be the case. During World War II, Churchill told the US: ‘Give us the tools; we’ll do the job.’ And I say, ‘Give us the tools, and we’ll finish the job much faster.’”

Following Netanyahu’s comments, both the White House and the US State Department refuted his apparent claim that Washington was withholding more than a single shipment of bombs.

“Everything else is moving as it normally would move, and again, with the perspective of making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against this multiplicity of challenges,” Blinken said.

The White House echoed Blinken’s comments, saying that only one shipment of 2,000-pound bombs had been withheld and nothing else.

“We genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “We just don’t.”

Jean-Pierre added that the US and Israel have been having discussions about the release of the shipment but that there was no update at this time.

“There are no other pauses, none,” Jean-Pierre said. “No other pauses or holds in place.”

On Monday, unconfirmed reports in both Israeli and German media said that during Netanyahu’s meeting with Blinken in Jerusalem last week, the Israeli premier urged the US to return the frequency of its arms shipments to the level immediately after Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas launched the war in Gaza with its massacre across southern Israel. According to the reports, Blinken said that Washington would remove all restrictions on weapons transfers to Israel in the coming days.

Netanyahu also reportedly warned Blinken that the slowing of aid and the perception of America’s weakened support for Israel benefits Iran and its terrorist proxies across the Middle East, including Hamas, emboldening them to intensify attacks against Israel and potentially resulting in a broader regional war.

The Biden administration has been under intense pressure from Democrats, especially those on the progressive left, to condition if not outright withhold US military support for Israel. Critics of Israel have argued the Israeli military campaign in Gaza has killed too many civilians and led to a humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian enclave. Israel has said Hamas is to blame for starting the war, stealing aid, and intentionally placing its operation centers inside or underneath civilian sites.

Hamas started the war with its surprise invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, when the terrorist group murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped over 250 others as hostages. Israel responded with its ongoing campaign aimed at freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas, which rules Gaza.

In recent months, the Biden administration has become increasingly critical of Israel’s operations both in public and private, pressuring Jerusalem to change its military strategy and seek a ceasefire.

The issue came to a head last month, when Biden announced that it would cease a bomb shipment to Israel and threatened to halt more weapons deliveries if the Israeli army launched an offensive in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza and Hamas’ last major military stronghold.

I made it clear that if they go into Rafah – they haven’t gone in Rafah yet – if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities — that deal with that problem,” Biden told CNN.

Israeli officials and experts have said operating in Rafah is essential to eliminating the last remaining Hamas battalions. Netanyahu said the Jewish state appreciates US support but “will stand alone” if necessary.

The post Blinken Confirms US Pausing Bomb Shipment to Israel After Netanyahu Calls for End to ‘Inconceivable’ Weapons Halt first appeared on

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