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Swiss Authorities Wrestle With Ban on Pro-Hamas Demonstrations

Pro-Hamas demonstrators in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Screenshot

The Swiss authorities are debating whether to ban pro-Hamas demonstrations after thousands of protesters took to the streets of Zurich and Geneva over the weekend to rally against Israel.

Around 2,000 people assembled in Geneva, brandishing Palestinian flags and calling for an end to the “genocide” which Israel is alleged to be carrying out in Gaza, while another 1,000 took to the streets of Zurich, chanting the slogan “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free” — widely interpreted as a call for Israel’s destruction as a sovereign Jewish state.

The Zurich demonstration took place despite appeals from Mario Fehr — the director of security for the Zurich canton — for a ban. More than 50 antisemitic incidents have been reported in Switzerland — which has a Jewish community of 20,000 — since the atrocities carried out by Hamas terrorists in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

A statement from the Zurich city government ahead of the demonstration noted that bans are implemented not on the basis of the political content of a demonstration, but on whether public safety can be guaranteed.

In an interview last Friday with the NZZ news outlet, Fehr described the rise of antisemitism in Switzerland over the last five weeks as “rampant” and “unbearable.”

“Jewish friends tell me about abuse and hostility. On house walls I read slogans like ‘Death to the Jews.’ We cannot allow that in a tolerant, peaceful country,” Fehr said.

Pro-Hamas demonstrations across Europe had demonstrated “that antisemitism is more widespread in certain cultures,” Fehr said. “Especially in parts of the Arab world, children learn from an early age to hate Jews and Israel. We have to be careful that we do not give room to this hatred.”

Fehr emphasized that he wanted to avoid the present situation in Germany, where Islamist organizations have staged angry demonstrations in support of Hamas, to be repeated in Switzerland.

“We also have anti-Israel demonstrations, which are increasingly being hijacked by extremists. They aim to wipe out Israel and all Jews,” he argued. “The danger that Islamists from Germany or other countries will now move to Switzerland and spread their hatred is real.”

Fehr said that he had advised the Zurich city authorities to prevent any further pro-Hamas demonstrations. “Such demonstrations can degenerate quickly and are difficult to control,” he said. “The municipalities responsible for demonstration approvals in the canton of Zurich should be aware of their responsibility.”

While demonstrations are still permitted in Geneva and Zurich, the city of Berne has said that such gatherings will not be permitted between Nov. 17 and Dec. 24, the eve of the Christmas holiday.

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‘We Stand Together’: US Jewish Groups to Hold Major Pro-Israel Rally in Washington, DC on Tuesday

Pro-Israel rally in Times Square, New York City, US, Oct. 8, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

Tens of thousands of people are expected to participate in a “March for Israel” in Washington, DC on Tuesday to demand the release of hostages held captive by Hamas in Gaza and to show solidarity with both the Jewish state and the Jewish community amid a global surge in antisemitism that has followed the Palestinian terror group’s Oct 7. massacre across southern Israel.

Since last month’s terror onslaught, and amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, there has been a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents worldwide, especially across the US and Europe.

A report published by the Anti-Defamation League on Monday recorded 832 outrages targeting American Jews between Oct. 7 and Nov. 7 — an average of 28 incidents per day and a 316 percent increase on the same period in 2022. The majority of these incidents have been tied to the Hamas atrocities and protests over Israel’s military response to them.

Such a tense climate for the Jewish community has made necessary a mass demonstration showing unity among Jews — Orthodox and secular, conservative and progressive — “in these crazy times,” organizers of the march told The Algemeiner. 

“As antisemitism began increasing in the United States, there was a strong desire for the Jewish community and supporters of Israel to come together and make a very strong and powerful statement and say we stand together with each other, with Israel, and against antisemitism,” said Gil Preuss, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. “I think it’s important for everyone to understand that the Jewish community is strong and united in its support for Israel, is strong and united that Hamas free the hostages, and is strong and united in its fight against antisemitism in all of its forms.”

Preuss added that the American Jewish community is also calling for support from US leaders and policymakers, a plea that has increased in volume in recent weeks.

Jews around the world have become a target amid the Israel-Hamas war, not just the Jewish state, according to Natan Sharansky, the famed refusenik and international campaigner against antisemitism.

“Immediately after the [Oct. 7] attack we found that all of us were being attacked, and so the world Jewry is feeling like one family, supporting one another, because I hear from so many who say they never imagined that they would be afraid in their countries,” Sharansky told The Algemeiner. “We all have to rally quickly to turn into one fighting family, and I think that’s what Jews are doing now and why this demonstration is happening.”

In a recent article for Tablet magazine, Sharansky highlighted the pressing need for a mass pro-Israel rally and drew a comparison with marches in 1987 attended by hundreds of thousands to support Soviet Jewry.

“If there is to be a future for America in America, it is time to step up in defense of its core values, and in this American Jews can play an important role,” Sharansky wrote. “Let us start with a March of One Million: students, parents, Jewish organizations, and allies coming together in support of academic freedom and against a primitive ideology that silences truth and justifies murderous rampages as a form of liberation.”

Sharansky, a Jewish leader and human rights activist, told The Algemeiner that unity in the Jewish diaspora is crucial, noting that political polarization in Israel that resulted from the government’s proposed judicial reforms has all but disappeared. 

“Disagreements look much less important in view of this huge challenge and tragedy in which we have to go out of it winning, and the idea of course for marching on Washington was motivated by a sense that we must strengthen the feeling of unity,” he added. “My students themselves feel lonely in this struggle. It’s very important that they see themselves as part of a huge movement. The idea is uniting and empowering. We felt differently in Moscow. There we felt we were part of a huge movement of Jewish people.”

Reports of harassment, intimidation, and violence targeting Jewish students and pro-Israel advocates have spiked on US college campuses, which have become hubs of the ongoing surge in antisemitism.

This week’s rally, which is being co-organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is set to take place at 1 pm at the National Mall in Washington, DC. Road closures begin Monday ahead of gates opening Tuesday at 10 am. Organizers reportedly expect up to 100,000 people to show up.

The march gives students who have been targeted for denouncing Hamas’ atrocities a chance to participate in an event of “historical significance,” Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUS, told The Algemeiner.

“Not since the Holocaust have the Jewish people suffered a vicious pogrom like this, coupled with the daily torment of knowing that Hamas abducted and still has 240 men, women, and children,” Rothstein said. “The Jewish people and their allies are gathering to support Israel in its fight against terrorism and demand the safe return of all the hostages.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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The Unlikely Organization Helping Israel’s Children During War

Bartender and survivor of the Nova Festival, May Hayat, takes cover as rocket sirens sound, during her first visit to the scene of the attack, on the one-month anniversary of the attack by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas on Oct. 7, near Re’im, Israel, Nov. 6, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Masa Israeli is not used to working in times of war. During peacetime, the organization brings Israeli students, soldiers, and professional groups around the country for trips to help deepen their Jewish and Israeli identities. However, since the outbreak of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, Masa Israeli has shifted its focus in the short term to assisting the young boys and girls currently displaced across the country.

Dror Hamawy, the group’s director of education, told The Algemeiner that the “dramatic situation” in the country pushed the educational nonprofit to act. Normally, Masa Israeli’s trips are six days, and the group will take children on masaot (“journeys” in Hebrew) to showcase the deep Jewish connection to Israel, allowing them to “understand they are a part of the Jewish people,” said Hamawy.

Now the trips are just for one day.

Since the outbreak of the war, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been displaced because their homes were either destroyed or constant targets of rocket fire from Hamas in Gaza and both Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israeli civilians have been placed in different parts of the country, such as Eilat, the Dead Sea, and the Jerusalem area, mainly in hotels — though some have been fortunate to relocate temporarily in homes of gracious hosts.

Sivan Dinar, who directs Masa Israeli’s summer camp programming, said that children “are stuck in small rooms 24/7,” explaining that these trips finally give them the opportunity to “get out and to speak.”

She said the kids and their parents have been enthusiastic about the programming, and that “it is exactly what they were looking for.”

The trips, fully funded by private donors, are organized in the surrounding area of where the kids are staying and are accompanied by Masa Israeli’s trip facilitators. They go into nature and allow the children to “clear their minds” and calm down from the ongoing war.

As of now, the Israeli government has said that evacuees will have their hotels paid for until the end of year, although it is likely to be extended if the war drags on.

Masa Israeli has already started planning longer trips for the kids, including a “winter camp” that will be five days long and allowing for over-nighting at their facilities.

Hamawy said the children who participated have been “very sweet” while dealing with the trauma of the war in their own ways. The trips leave in 15-20 person groups and are back for dinner time.

Part of the trip allows the children to “speak about what happens and to process it,” according to Dinar. Given that the children range from very young to near the end of high school, how they speak about Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre and the subsequent war takes different forms. All in all though, she said “nature calms them.”

Masa Israeli wants to continue its work as long as is needed to support the evacuees and the survivors of Hamas’ brutal attack. Their work, though tough, has been necessary and important, organizers argued.

“We are doing something unique for them,” said Hamawy.

Troy O. Fritzhand, who goes by Osher in Hebrew, is a Jerusalem-based journalist covering Israeli politics, culture, and technology. An immigrant from New York, Troy is an entrepreneur and Hebrew thinker who helps oversee the start-up ecosystem in Jerusalem with Made in JLM. You can learn more about him at He previously served as the Politics and Knesset reporter at The Jerusalem Post and has been published in Jewish News Syndicate (JNS).

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The Academy Promotes Hamas

New York University students stage a protest in Washington Square Park in Manhattan to oppose Israel and call for a ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 25, 2023. Photo: Gordon Donovan/NurPhoto via Reuters Connect – Do academic organizations represent intellectual values—above all objectivity? Or do they represent the current state of their communities and those communities’ prejudices and obsessions?

Hamas’ horrific Oct. 7 massacre is a litmus test for human decency. So, how did academics and intellectuals react?

The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) has made its position known, saying, “There can be no justification for the targeting of civilians. Many of our members have been directly affected and we join them in grieving.”

But the next 845 words of MESA’s statement did not focus on Hamas, but instead excoriated Israel’s response to the Hamas massacre, accusing Israel of “indiscriminately bombarding [Gaza’s] population and infrastructure” and committing “ethnic cleansing” by calling on civilians to leave Hamas-controlled territories lest they “face certain death in a ground invasion.” MESA also emphasized Israel’s “broader political, administrative and legal system of racial discrimination and domination—regularly enforced through violence.”

No additional thoughts were spared for Israelis until the last sentence, which stated, “the only path forward on the ground is one premised on the equal rights of Palestinians and Israelis to live in dignity and safety,” which implies a magical “one-state solution” that will certainly not be called “Israel.”

MESA’s fall into moral decrepitude is emblematic of most of academia. Founded in 1966, the organization represents over 2,000 academics specializing in the Middle East. Like many academic associations, it sponsors a journal and conference.

The number of individual members has dropped, however, since MESA chose to boycott Israel in 2022. It has a diminishing number of institutional members as well, since universities do not want to be seen as adopting policies of discrimination based on racial, ethnic or national origin. George Washington University, which housed MESA until this year, was one of those that broke their association. The organization is now homeless and its conference has become biannual due to lack of interest.

But MESA is far from the only group of academics to cheer Hamas, let alone adopt Israel boycotts. At the University of Michigan, over 1,000 faculty members signed a letter blaming the “decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestine and the structural apartheid Palestinians residing both within Israel and the Occupied Territories endure on a daily basis” for Hamas’s genocidal violence. Apparently, the signatories believe that Hamas and the Gaza civilians who followed them on their rampage have no moral capacities whatsoever and can only behave like utter barbarians, including live-streamed dismemberment.

New York University’s Faculty for Justice in Palestine condemned “the brutal killing of civilians that occurred in Israel on October 7th, which constitutes a war crime,” but excoriated Israel for “occupation, expropriation, ethnic cleansing and the denial to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza of the most basic human and civil rights,” as well as “colonial racial violence.”

The statement also accused the university of bending to “immense pressure from trustees, alumni and donors to be perceived as ‘pro-Israel,’ even at the cost of tolerating or promoting violations of academic freedom and free speech rights.” The signatories appear to believe that academics can never be questioned or criticized. Such beliefs are typical of totalitarian states, but have little to do with “academic freedom” or “free speech.”

At the notoriously bigoted City University of New York, the faculty union escalated the hatred in emails to its 23,000 members decrying what it called a “Zionist genocidal campaign.” The union encouraged members “to channel your grief and rage over the nearly 1,000 Palestinians martyred, including nearly 300 children, into upcoming rallies across CUNY campuses and New York City.” The faculty, it seems, embraces the Islamic fundamentalist concept of the “martyr,” just as Hamas does.

Perhaps the most deranged statement was from Oxford University’s University and College Union, which claimed the war was “a direct consequence of decades of violent oppression of the Palestinian people by the Israeli state” and that “only a mass uprising on both sides of the green line and across the Middle East can free the Palestinian people.” This call for a massive war that would consume the entire region is a horrific one, but has been echoed by many other academics.

Reflexively anti-Israel and anti-American biases in academia are partially the work of the tenured radicals of the 1960s and 1970s, steeped in fetishization of the Third World and vicarious admiration for hideously violent and often terrorist “liberation movements,” the “Palestinian cause” and “struggles against colonialism.” These academics have now trained generations of students who have assumed leading roles in numerous universities.

Moreover, fields like Middle East studies are increasingly dominated by individuals from communities in the US and abroad that have imbibed the prejudices of their cultures of origin, which are then confirmed by their teachers.

Thus, wide swaths of academia now see themselves as scholar-activists, saviors working for “liberation.” But who and what to “liberate” is an open question. So, for them, evil needs a specific name and location. In this Manichean theology, saving Palestinians take first place, with the Jews cast as metaphysical villains, giving license to overt antisemitism. This is not scholarship; it is political religion. It is an apocalyptic fundamentalism in which the downtrodden must be saved, evil defeated and the empty lives of activists given new meaning.

None of this has anything to do with an objective understanding of the world. It is a crusade to wrestle the future into a particular shape, one in which Israel does not exist.

It would be possible to dismiss all this if the crusaders were confined to the ivory tower, but they are not, and people are getting hurt. The consequences of their bigoted ideology have resulted in ugly demonstrations on campus and in the streets, as well as acts of antisemitic violence.

Students, along with allies on the far-left, including Antifa and BLM, have applauded Hamas’s slaughter of Israelis or denied it occurred at all. They lie relentlessly, blaming Israel for a “genocide” that is not happening and for bombing a hospital Israel did not bomb. As a direct result, Jewish individuals, institutions and neighborhoods have been targeted.

There are no easy solutions to this problem except for holding bigoted academics and their equally bigoted students responsible for their hatreds. Exposing their words and forcing them to act within the bounds of normal human decency is a good start.

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