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The cancelling of culture: What happens when arts and politics collide in Canada during the Israel-Hamas war

A comedy show fundraiser in Toronto for Friends of the Israeli Defence Forces became the site of heated protests on Jan. 31, the latest flashpoint in a series of efforts to cancel cultural events related to the war between Israel and Hamas. About 100 protesters blocked the sidewalk to keep people from the front entrance […]

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Doorstep Postings: Touching grass, or touching the grassroots? Don’t ask the keffiyeh-wearing NHL anthem singer to understand Canada

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN. There’s no formal name for it, so, for the purposes of this column, I will call it the astroturf vs. grassroots problem. But rest assured: it is the most difficult problem in Canadian politics, and has […]

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El Al Not Returning Flights to Ireland, Morocco Due to War

Illustrative: The Israeli flag carrier El Al’s airliner lands at Abu Dhabi International Airport, United Arab Emirates August 31, 2020. WAM/Handout via REUTERS

Israel’s national airline El Al has decided not to restart nonstop routes from Tel Aviv to Dublin and Marrakesh. The move comes as relations between Israel and Ireland and Morocco have soured since the war.

“Since the outbreak of the war, El Al has made sure to strengthen the network of routes to the desired destinations in order to continue to preserve air bridge,” said VP of commercial and aviation relations Shlomi Zafarani. “In view of the situation, we frequently monitor the changes in customer preferences and the intensity of demand, and as part of adjusting our mix of destinations, we have decided not to renew the routes to Ireland and Morocco for the upcoming summer season. The improvement of the flight schedule allows us to add during the summer season about 500 flights on popular routes others in Europe, and to connect Israel to a wide variety of destinations around the world, while exploring new possibilities,” he continued.

The Dublin route was relatively new, having only launched in March 2023 and slated for summer flights only. Among many flight routes operating at the onset of the war, the Dublin flight was postponed until the situation became more clear. Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has been vocal about calling for a ceasefire to the current war, saying “I think the European Union has lost credibility because of our inability to take a stronger and more united position on Israel and Palestine… to a new peace process and Palestinian statehood, which is the only way to secure justice and security for everyone living in the region.” Their President Michael D. Higgins has called the European Union’s approach to the war “thoughtless and reckless.”

There is widespread popular support within Ireland for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), that calls for boycott goods and services originating from Israel. The movement is widely seen as a delegitimizing tactic against the Jewish state and according to the ADL, it “believes that many of the founding goals of the BDS movement, which effectively reject or ignore the Jewish people’s right of self-determination, or that, if implemented, would result in the eradication of the world’s only Jewish state, are antisemitic

The Morocco route was more historic, as it was opening between the Jewish state and an Arab country. The first flights, launched in July of 2021, caused much fanfare as a tangible result of the 2020 Abraham Accords, a landmark peace deal brokered by the United States between Israel, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. It also allowed the estimated 900,000 Israeli Jews with Moroccan descent to visit a country that was otherwise a relic of the past to those who immigrated to Israel after the state’s establishment in 1948.

Since the war began, hundreds of thousands Moroccans have protested in support of the Palestinians, and have called on their government to cut ties with Israel. The government has taken an anti-Israel stance, though not as forceful as other Arab states. The government has called Israel’s war: “Israel’s persistence in its blatant aggression against unarmed civilians.” It further has not condemned Hamas’s attack, with claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Israelis and resulted in over 240 taken hostage.

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Anti-Zionists at Brown University Threaten to Starve Themselves Unless School Considers Anti-Israel Resolution

More than 200 Brown University students gathered outside University Hall where roughly 40 students sat inside demanding the school divest from weapons manufacturers amid the Israel-Hamas war. Photo: Amy Russo / USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

Brown University President Christina H. Paxson has rejected the demands of anti-Zionist students who are threatening to go on hunger strike in an effort to force the Brown Corporation to vote on a boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) resolution against Israel and make other concessions, according to a report first published by The Brown Daily Herald.

Paxson, who has continuously refused to adopt proposals endorsing the BDS movement, notified the campus community of her decision just hours after members of the Brown Divest Coalition (BDC) amassed on Friday inside an administrative building and proclaimed that they will continue their demonstration until the school accedes to three demands: putting their BDS resolution on the agenda of the Brown Corporation’s annual meeting on Feb. 8, allowing them to lecture the Corporation about it, and announcing publicly that a vote on the measure will take place in their presence.

BDC’s resolution falsely accuses Israel of committing a genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. Israel is currently undertaking military operations to eradicate Hamas, an anti-Zionist terrorist organization which deliberately wages war in and attracts retaliatory responses to areas comprising large populations of noncombatants, from the territory.

“We consistently reject calls to use the endowment as a tool for political advocacy on contested issues,” Paxson said, in a letter to the students. “Our campus is a place where difficult issues should be freely discussed and debated. It is not appropriate for the university to use its financial assets — which are there to support our entire community  — to ‘take a side’ on issues on which thoughtful people vehemently disagree.”

Paxson added that the students’ method of protest is possibly contravenes school rules proscribing demonstrations that endanger “personal safety” and that they are making their “own choices.” Additionally, she has directed directed the school’s Campus Life office to monitor their well-being and a school doctor has already assessed their fitness to endure prolonged periods of self-deprivation.

“I will not commit to bring a resolution to the February 2024 Corporation meeting or any future meeting of the Corporation,” she concluded.

According to The Brown Daily Herald, Brown Divestment Coalition buttressed their case for BDS by citing a 2020 report University’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices — now renamed the Advisory Committee on University Resource Management — which recommended “divesting [Brown’s] endowment from companies that enable and profit from the genocide in Gaza and the broader Israeli occupation.”

Paxson rejected the report for breaching the body’s mission statement.

Last February, Paxson denounced antisemitism and “boycotts against any country,” an implicit reference to the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement, during a speech delivered at the 2023 Hillel International Israel Summit.

Explaining that she often experiences “pressure to choose sides,” with both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian advocates voicing concern when speakers from either camp speak on campus, she said she cannot choose between them and is obligated to promote free expression so long as it does not promote hate.

Addressing the exclusion of Jewish students from progressive clubs and movements, which notably happened in Feb. 2022, when SUNY New Paltz student Cassie Blotner was expelled from a sexual assault awareness group for supporting Israel, Paxson also affirmed the right of Jewish students participate in fighting discrimination and inequality and called for “defining the gray zone between criticism of Israeli policies that are not antisemitic, and anti-Israel expressions that reflect and normalize anti-Jewish behavior.”

Anti-Zionist protests at Brown have been a source of disruption since Hamas massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7. In Dec., campus police arrested dozens of protesters were arrested for staging an unauthorized protest in the University Hall administrative building. According to The Brown Daily Herald, the protesters, members of Brown Divest Coalition, were taken into custody while spectators chanted “shame on Brown, shame on Brown.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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