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The College Protests Are About Chaos, Violence, and Politics — Not Peace

Pro-Hamas demonstrators at Columbia University in New York City, US, April 29, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

One of the most fascinating ethical narratives of the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) recalls an engaging exchange between Hillel the Elder and a potential convert to Judaism. The non-Jewish inquirer challenges Hillel to summarize the entire Torah as he listens while balancing on one foot, a seemingly impossible task given the vast and intricate nature of the Torah’s teachings.

Hillel’s response is both profound and concise: “Do not treat others in a way that you would find hateful. This is the essence of the Torah — the rest is simply commentary. Now, go and study it.”

Hillel’s principle, which he presented as a condensation of the entire Torah, is a derivation of the Biblical directive in Parshat Kedoshim: “Love your neighbor as [you love] yourself!” (Lev. 19:18). This fundamental ideal of Judaism establishes the core value of reciprocity and mutual respect.

Indeed, Hillel’s interpretation should serve as the cornerstone of ethical consistency in any and every socio-political movement that seeks to improve the lives of the underdog and those on the margins of society. This raises the question: if ideological activists advocate for actions against others that they would deem objectionable if done to them, is this not blatant and fundamental hypocrisy?

This question is particularly pertinent regarding modern neo-Marxist advocates, who often suggest or actively employ extreme tactics to dismantle systems they perceive as oppressive or exploitative. Neo-Marxism is the modern iteration of Marxism and communism, now reimagined and reformulated in the context of present-day socio-economic structures. It expands on Marxist ideology by assimilating concepts from diverse areas of academic study to underscore the significance of culture and ideology as potent tools of control.

Neo-Marxist ideology suggests that capitalist societies not only deliberately sustain economic disparities, but that they also exploit cultural and political establishments to reinforce these inequalities. Neo-Marxists push for the proactive disintegration of these structures in order to establish a social system that dovetails with their radical egalitarian ideology — which, according to them, is the only just form of society. What is so strange is that, to achieve this end, they resort to aggressive and disruptive methods, such as militant civil disobedience, rather than peaceful means.

Over the past few weeks, we have all witnessed the blatant manifestation of ruthless neo-Marxist tactics in the brazen establishment of tent encampments on prestigious college campuses throughout the United States. These encampments, masquerading as displays of solidarity with the Palestinian people, are nothing more than a calculated ploy. Under the guise of advocating for Palestinian rights in the aftermath of Israel’s incursion into Gaza after the Hamas massacre of 1,200 Israelis last October, these encampments are in reality the visible instruments of well-funded Neo-Marxist organizations orchestrating the unrest from behind the scenes.

The ultimate goal of this current neo-Marxist protest spasm is to sow chaos and discord, using the Israel/Palestinian conflict as a Trojan Horse to infiltrate and normalize their radical, anti-Western ideologies. The insidious strategy is to subvert traditional democratic values and impose a dangerous and extremist progressive agenda.

With the current high-profile conflict in Gaza being used as a distraction, Neo-Marxist forces seek to influence those on the left who sympathize with the plight of Palestinians to join forces with their radical agenda, using a clever combination of bait-and-switch manipulation tactics and outright deceit.

Their target audience — hapless students and well-meaning social activists — must not allow themselves to sleepwalk into this trap. And the key to exposing the ugly nature of those behind this campaign must be Hillel the Elder’s ethical maxim, which promotes a universal standard of behavior and empathy above all. In his words: “Do not treat others in a way that you would find hateful.”

Clearly Hillel’s principle stands in stark contrast to current Neo-Marxist tactics — intimidation, disruption, discrimination, and violence. While the protester cheerleaders justify their actions as necessary tools against oppressive systems, would they not find these same tactics reprehensible if used against them?

The exploitation of the Israel-Palestine conflict to propagate Neo-Marxist ideals in Western democracies has revealed a blatant inconsistency. While some “useful idiot” campus activists may see the tent encampments as a legitimate form of protest against what they perceive as injustice against Palestinians, the fact that the leaders of these protests have allowed these protests to descend into anarchy and open Jew-hatred should be the red flag that wakes them up to the true purpose of the campaign.

People who genuinely care for the suffering of the underdog cannot allow themselves to be used as pawns in an ideological war that seeks the destruction of the very freedoms they claim to uphold.

Clearly, there is a profound dissonance between the professed aims of the Neo-Marxists and their tactics. The irony of protesting “occupation” while occupying college campuses is just too obvious not to notice. Utilizing strategies such as force and coercion while advocating against the alleged aggression of Israel towards Palestinians exposes a clear moral inconsistency.

Calling for the destruction of the State of Israel while claiming to care for the establishment of a Palestinian state exposes a clear moral inconsistency.

Accusing Israel of racism and prejudice against a minority population while discriminating against Jewish students on campus who refuse to join their cause exposes a clear moral inconsistency.

The targeting of Jewish individuals or symbols under the banner of anti-Zionism exposes a clear moral inconsistency. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Consistency is crucial when it comes to the ethical grounding of socio-political movements. Hillel the Elder’s straightforward yet profound guidance, “Do not treat others in a way that you would find hateful” is a timeless measure for evaluating the morality of those who claim to care for others, particularly in the realm of activism. Neo-Marxist strategies, particularly in recent months, have exposed a significant failure to uphold this ethical standard. And the inconsistencies not only undermine the credibility of the protests, but also hinder their potential to bring about the meaningful and enduring change they claim to represent.

If these social justice protesters were truly interested in being constructive and helping the Palestinians, they would adopt methods that align closely with their own declared ideals – namely, promoting dialogue over confrontation while ensuring the tactics they employ do not mirror the injustices they claim to want to abolish. Critically, they would foster an environment where self-criticism is valued, and ethical consistency is prioritized.

If pro-Palestinian activists held themselves to the same standards they demand of others, they would not only bolster their own moral standing but would also enhance their persuasiveness and appeal. So far, the protesters have rejected any such approach, which only confirms that their true motives — and the motives of their insidious Neo-Marxist paymasters — is anarchy and chaos, and the downfall and destruction of those they have deemed oppressors. In short, we are witnessing a replay of the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary ideals that caused so much misery and suffering in the 20th century, and that we erroneously thought were a thing of the past. Sadly, the fight is far from over — and the sooner we recognize that reality, the better.

The author is a rabbi in Beverly Hills, California.

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‘Israel Is Not Jewish People,’ New York Times ‘Daily’ Guest Really Wants You to Know

Anti-Israel protesters outside Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City, April 22, 2024. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

When producers from the New York Times podcast “The Daily” posted on social media looking for “Jewish students who represent a range of feelings and experiences, from being enthusiastically pro Palestinian to enthusiastically pro Israel, and everything in between,” I replied, “This is a trap! They’ll use the ‘pro-Palestinian’ (the polite term they use for the ones who want to wipe Israel off the map) ones to make it sound like the Jewish community is divided and give listeners the illusion that the anti-Israel protests aren’t antisemitic.”

Sure enough, the Times podcast episode that finally aired, headlined, “The Campus Protesters Explain Themselves,” included three students.

Mustafa Yowell, of Irving, Texas, said his mother was from “Nablus, Palestine” and described himself as a Palestinian Arab. He’s a student at the University of Texas, Austin who complained to the Times that “two IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers had infiltrated the campus.” By “IDF soldiers” he meant Israeli students at the university who had, like many Israelis, served in the army before college.

The second student interviewed, Elisha Baker, a student at Columbia University, described himself as a proud Zionist and a graduate of Jewish day school.

And the third student, Jasmine Jolly, a student at Cal Poly Humboldt, described herself as the daughter of a Catholic father and “of Ashkenazi descent on my mom’s side.” Jolly showed up at protests with a sign that said “in honor of my Jewish ancestors, I stand with Palestine.” Jolly also chanted “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.”

“There’s nothing that has come across to me as antisemitic if you are able to pause and remember that Israel is not Jewish people and Zionism is not Jewish people,” Jolly explained to the Times audience.

Jolly read an email from her Jewish grandfather claiming, “Israel is an increasingly apartheid state.”

This is just such a misleading view of reality on campus and in American Jewish life. Even polls like Pew that use an expansive definition of who is Jewish find overwhelming Jewish support for Israel and negligible support for Hamas, including among younger Jews 18 to 34.

In reality, a lot of the anti-Israel protesters aren’t even Palestinians; they are European or Asian students or white or black Americans who either have been brainwashed by their professors or who have underlying, pre-existing antisemitic attitudes. Few of them have been to the Middle East and many of them are ignorant about basic facts about it — remember the Wall Street Journal piece, “From Which River to Which Sea?

“The Daily” episode made it crisply concrete, with the Times representing Jews as being split 50-50, with one normative Jew and one Jew chanting “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.” That’s ridiculous, yet a similar approach contaminates other Times coverage of the Jewish community, misleadlingly portraying American Jewry as deeply divided rather than unified around the goals of getting the hostages back, eliminating the threat of Hamas, and making American college campuses safe for Jewish students.

The Times was at this game well before Oct. 7, 2023, proclaiming “the unraveling of American Zionism” and trotting out old chestnuts such as the Reform movement’s Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 and the New York Times‘ favorite Jew, Peter Beinart.

I find myself rolling my eyes at such depictions, but there is clearly some audience for them among the Times readership and top editorial ranks. The Times executive editor, Joe Kahn, told Semafor’s Ben Smith in a May interview, “I’m not an active Jew.” Maybe the New York Times can sell sweatshirts: “Inactive Jew.” Who, exactly, is supposed to find that distinction between “active” and “inactive” Jews reassuring? Maybe they can put it on top of the front page in place of “All the News That’s Fit to Print”: “Edited by someone who wants the public to know he’s not an active Jew.”

Of all the moments to choose to distance oneself publicly from the Jewish people, this is sure quite one to choose.

This “Daily” episode seems calculated to appeal to the inactive Jews, and to others who want justification to believe it’s not antisemitic to set up on Passover and falsely accuse Israel of genocide. It’s nice for the Times to include a Zionist voice on the program, but he wound up sandwiched in between a Palestinian and an “only one solution, intifada revolution” person. It’s fairly typical for the New York Times these days, but it isn’t pretty.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here. He also writes at

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad Releases Second Video of Israeli Hostage Sasha Troufanov

Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov as seen in an undated propaganda video released by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on May 30, 2024. Photo: Screenshot

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group on Thursday released a second propaganda video this week featuring Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov, 28, who was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists during Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

In the video, Trufanov says he is doing well and criticizes Israel’s prime minister and government in remarks that were likely scripted by his captors.

There was no information about when the video was filmed. However, Trufanov refers to Israel’s decision on May 5 to order the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network to close, indicating he may have been filmed in the last few weeks.

The latest video came just two days after Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed Palestinian terrorist group in Gaza, released its first video featuring Trufanov.

The 30-second undated video shows Trufanov, an Amazon employee, identifying himself and saying that he will soon discuss what has happened to him and other hostages in Gaza.

Similar videos have been released by terrorists groups in Gaza. Israel has lambasted them as psychological warfare meant to torture the Israeli public, especially the families of the hostages being held in Gaza.

Trufanov’s mother said after the first video was released that she was happy to see her son after all this time, but it was “heartbreaking” that he had been a hostage for so long.

“Seeing my Sasha on my TV was very cheering, but it also breaks my heart that he’s still been in captivity for so long,” she said in a video released by the family. “I ask everyone, all the decision-makers: Please do everything, absolutely everything, to bring my son and all the hostages home now.”

Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists abducted over 250 people during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Sasha was kidnapped alongside his mother, grandmother, and girlfriend. All three women were released as part of a temporary ceasefire agreement negotiated in November. His father, Vitaly Trufanov, was one of the 1,200 people killed during the Hamas massacre.

“The proof of life from Alexsander (Sasha) Trufanov is additional evidence that the Israeli government must give a significant mandate to the negotiating team,” the Hostages Families Forum, which represents the families of the hostages, said in a statement.

More than 120 hostages remain in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. Islamic Jihad is a separate but allied terrorist organization in the Palestinian enclave. Both are backed by Iran, which provides them with money, weapons, and training.

Negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt, and the US to reach a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have been stalled for weeks.

Trufanov was an engineer at the Israeli microelectronics company Annapurna Labs, which Amazon owns.

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Israel’s Kafkaesque Ordeal at the ICC

Proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, February 16, 2021. Photo: ICC-CPI/Handout via Reuters.

Israel is facing unprecedented and bizarre proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC), crescendoing with a request by Prosecutor Karim Khan for arrest warrants against its sitting Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant.

These events are the result of a multi-faceted and long-developing campaign by anti-Israel activists that has largely advanced under the radar.

Firstly, Israel is not a member of the Court and does not recognize ICC jurisdiction over its actions. In the late 1990s, Israel was initially a strong backer of the ICC, but during the drafting of the Court’s governing Rome Statute, the Arab League blocked efforts to include terrorism as an international crime and helped invent a new crime that would specifically target Israeli activity across the 1949 armistice lines. For these reasons, Israel refused to ratify the Rome Statute and join the Court.

In any other situation, this would be the end of the matter. However, beginning in 2009, the Palestinian Authority (PA), acting in collaboration with UN Rapporteurs and European-funded NGOs linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, attempted to join the Court.

Rather than dismiss the PA’s effort immediately because the PA is not a state — and ICC membership is only available to states — the ICC Prosecutor at the time, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, launched a PR campaign to ostensibly “debate” the issue. Three years later, he rejected the PA’s application, but instead provided a blueprint facilitating the Palestinians’ ability to circumvent the clear standards of the Rome Statute.

In November 2012, the Palestinians succeeded in upgrading their status at the UN to “non-member observer state.” Merely on the basis of this semantic, rather than substantive change, ICC officials allowed the Palestinians to game the system and join the Court.

Despite these machinations and exploitation of the Court, the next Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, filed a request with the Court’s Pre-Trial chamber (PTC) in December 2019 seeking authorization to open an investigation into crimes allegedly committed on the territory of the “State of Palestine,” despite the fact that this state does not exist and has no defined territory. Moreover, she argued that the Court could proceed against Israelis, regardless of whether it was a member of the Court.

This action, endorsed by the PTC in February 2021 in a controversial 2-1 opinion, essentially eviscerated the Oslo Accords, the agreement mutually agreed to between Israel and the PLO in the mid-1990s, which lays out governance of the West Bank and Gaza.

A key provision of the Accords is that the PA would not have any authority to exercise or delegate any criminal jurisdiction over Israelis to the Court. The Prosecutor and the Court completely ignored this issue.

In yet another unbelievable move, the Court next also allowed the Palestinians to retroactively assign temporal jurisdiction going back to June 13, 2014, precisely the day after the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers, which triggered the war that summer. This meant that Hamas’ brutal murder and kidnapping of Jews, a preview of what Israel would experience on a larger scale on October 7, would get a free pass from the Court.

Fast-forward to Khan’s move to file for arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant. Here, too, the Prosecutor’s office engaged in highly questionable conduct. Khan could have already issued indictments against Hamas leaders on October 7 itself, when their flagrant crimes were broadcast around the world. Instead, he chose to wait until after manufactured allegations of “starvation” could be crafted against Israeli officials. He also inexplicably ignored thousands of other war crimes, including each rocket attack on Israel, committed by Palestinians since 2014.

In yet another outrageous move, at the time of the announcement, Khan’s team had been scheduled to attend meetings in Israel. However, the planned trip appears to have been a bad faith ruse. Instead of the team boarding the plane, Khan went on CNN to tell Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview about the arrest warrant requests. It doesn’t take an expert in communications to know that such a step would generate a storm of PR almost solely focused on Israel, meaning attention on the Hamas atrocities and real crimes committed on October 7 would be virtually ignored.

One also wonders if any mind was paid to what this action might mean for any hope of a ceasefire to secure the release of the hostages.

Egregiously, Khan’s actions offended another cornerstone of the Rome Statute, that of complementarity. The ICC is only supposed to act as a court of last resort in situations where a judicial system is unable or unwilling to investigate international crimes. As he himself acknowledged on a visit to Israel in early December, Israel has robust investigatory mechanisms and judiciary — one that has never shied away from intervening in military matters, nor in going after the most senior officials, including prime ministers.

Instead of giving the Israeli system a reasonable time to proceed, however, the Prosecutor disregarded the complementarity requirement and decided to bulldoze forward. In contrast, although Khan has had for years the jurisdiction to act against President Maduro in Venezuela, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and military junta in Myanmar — authoritarian governments responsible for horrific atrocities — no cases have been filed.

Multiple procedural irregularities and political maneuverings of the Office of Prosecutor have been well-documented, and there are several other disturbing aspects to the “Situation in Palestine” not mentioned here. For years, the ICC has been under intense criticism for its lack of accomplishments in its more than 20 years of operation. Khan was brought in to serve as a sober and responsible actor to right the ship. The actions of his office the past few months now call this assessment into question.

In an interview published with the Times of London a few days after his inexplicable actions, Khan stated, “if we don’t hold on to the law, we have nothing to cling onto.” The Prosecutor would be wise to reflect on his Office’s history and follow his own advice.

Anne Herzberg is the Legal Advisor of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research organization.

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