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The rising death toll in Gaza is tragic. But Holocaust scholars should know: It is not genocide.

(JTA) — Up in Broome County, New York, beneath a simple marker in a family plot in Hale Eddy Cemetery, I believe the Rev. Dr. Franklin Hamlin Littell is turning in his grave.

Littell, the son of a Methodist minister who also became one, was a towering figure in the study of the Holocaust and genocide. In postwar West Germany, he spent almost a decade as chief Protestant religious adviser to the High Commission on Germany, assigned to denazification. In 1958 at Emory University in Atlanta, he initiated the first U.S. graduate seminar on the Holocaust. Eighteen years later in Philadelphia, as chair of Temple University’s religion department, he started the world’s first doctoral program in Holocaust studies. And in 1998 at Stockton University in Pomona, New Jersey, he and his wife, Marcia Sachs Littell, established the first interdisciplinary master’s program in Holocaust and genocide studies.

My late mother, Halina Wind Preston, a Jewish educator who survived 14 months hiding from the Nazis in the sewers of Lviv, was a frequent attendee at an annual Holocaust scholars’ conference cofounded by Littell. I knew Littell, who died in 2009, and at his invitation in 2000 I traveled from Atlanta, where I was a senior editor at, to speak on “Professional Ethics After Auschwitz” at the 30th conference in Philadelphia.

So I can imagine Littell’s revulsion if he knew that the word “genocide” was being misused against Israel by scholars and activists — including an Israeli historian who now directs the Stockton program he started.

As Israel retaliates in the wake of the bloody rampage of Oct. 7 — in which Hamas killed 1,500 Israelis, including 260 people at a music festival and hundreds of civilians in nearby communities, and took more than 200 hostages — Raz Segal, the Israeli historian who directs the Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies program at Stockton University, has been attracting worldwide attention by blaming the victims.

On Oct. 18, at a vigil on the University of Pennsylvania campus, Segal called President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel “support for Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza.” On Oct. 13, Jewish Currents published “A Textbook Case of Genocide,” in which Segal wrote that “Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza is quite explicit, open, and unashamed” and that “Israel’s goal is to destroy the Palestinians of Gaza.”

Segal is far from a lone voice accusing Israel of genocide. At Penn, a student group that organized a rally Oct. 16 said it “unequivocally stands with Palestine in the face of ongoing genocide committed by the Israeli government, which has been assisted by other Western allies like the United States.” On Oct. 24 in Washington, D.C., students at George Washington University projected the message “Divestment from Zionist Genocide Now” onto a library facade.

And on Tuesday, Craig Mokhiber, director in the New York office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, resigned, citing Israel for a “textbook case of genocide.”

Littell understood that “genocide” was coined in 1944 by a Polish Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin to denote “the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group.” Lemkin wrote that genocide is intended “to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. ”

Historian Michael Berenbaum, distinguished professor of Jewish studies at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, said that Israel has no greater ambition than to coexist with the Palestinians as peaceful neighbors and that Littell would be appalled at the suggestion that Israel was committing genocide in its attempts to root out the fighters and sever the leadership of a group that killed and kidnapped Israelis.

“I knew and worked with and deeply respected Franklin Littell for the last 40 years of his life,” Berenbaum, who was a visiting distinguished professor at Stockton under Littell, told me. “These statements would be anathema to his values.”

Richard Libowitz, coauthor with Marcia Sachs Littell and Dennis B. Klein of “The Genocidal Mind,” agreed that the Israeli incursion does not constitute genocide.

Israel “has never advocated nor sought the total annihilation of an Arab population, whether in Israel proper, the West Bank or Gaza,” said Libowitz, who received a Ph.D. in religion under Franklin Littell at Temple and is retired from the faculties of Temple and St. Joseph’s University.

Indeed, since Israel’s founding in 1948, the Palestinian population in what now includes Israel, the West Bank and Gaza has risen from 1.4 million to 6.6 million, including 1.6 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Libowitz acknowledged the ferocity of the Israeli military strikes on Gaza in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks, as the Palestinian death toll as reported by the Hamas-run health ministry rose above 9,000.

“Civilian casualties in Gaza — especially the death of children — are tragic,” said Libowitz. “Hamas carried out the worst murder of Jews since the Holocaust and the outrage should be understood. Israel intends to destroy Hamas, but Magen David Adom [the Israeli Red Cross] personnel treated wounded terrorists after their attack. Gazans were warned to flee the northern part of the strip. This is human tragedy, but it is not genocide.”

He added: “The stated aim of Hamas — to wipe Israel from the Earth — is certainly a genocidal intent.”

Polly Zavadivker, an assistant professor of history at the University of Delaware, told me that Segal’s statements on genocide “threaten future attempts to identify, prevent, and prosecute that crime. It is equally damaging to the legitimacy of Holocaust and Genocide Studies as a field when such false claims are presented in the guise of scholarly expertise.”

Zavadivker, who teaches courses in antisemitism, the Holocaust, and comparative genocide, said that an accusation that Israel is committing genocide “renders the word meaningless.”

In 1973, after working on it for four years, Franklin Littell and 17 other Christian theologians released a 14-point statement on Israel. The statement, which appeared as an appendix in Littell’s book, seems strikingly relevant 50 years later.

“The charge is sometimes made that Israel is belligerently expansionistic as a result of its military triumphs in the Six-Day War,” it said in part. “Visitors to Israel, however, can easily discover that the overriding concern of the majority of Israelis is peace, not more territory. Israel’s anxiety about national defense reflects the age-old human yearning for security, the anxiety of a people whose history has been a saga of frightful persecution, climaxed by the Holocaust of six million men, women, and children.

“Against such a tormented background, is it surprising that the Jewish people should want to defend themselves?” they continued. “Criticism that would use the failure of Israel to live up to the highest moral standards as an excuse to deny its right to exist … would be a double standard, one not applied to any other nation on earth.”

The post The rising death toll in Gaza is tragic. But Holocaust scholars should know: It is not genocide. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Former ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Star Patricia Heaton: Every Human Being Should Be Against Antisemitism

One of the billboards erected in partnership between JewBelong and O7C. Photo: Instagram

Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton said this week that following the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, it should be a “natural” reaction among all humans to want to combat antisemitism, as well as support the Jewish people and Israel’s right to exist.

The “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Middle” star, who is a devout Catholic, made the comments during her guest appearance on the NewsNation show “CUOMO,” where she also advocated for Christians to voice solidarity with Jews and Israel after Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 people and took 250 hostages during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Heaton began by telling host Chris Cuomo that after the Oct. 7 atrocities, she was “confused by the lack of outcry from the churches.”

“I even posted on Instagram, ‘Did you ever have that thought that if you were in Germany during World War II, you hoped that you would be that good German that helped to hide your Jewish neighbors? Well, today you have that opportunity,’” she added.

Following the Oct. 7 attacks, Heaton founded a nonprofit called the Oct. 7 Coalition (O7C) to urge Christians to be visibly outspoken against antisemitism, and in support of Jews and Israel’s right to exist. Heaton’s O7C has since teamed up with the nonprofit JewBelong to launch a nationwide billboard campaign to raise awareness about antisemitism in the US.

Talking about why she wanted to get involved in rallying support for Israel and Jewish communities facing a rise in antisemitism in the US since the Oct. 7 attacks, Heaton said, “I think if you’re a human being, that should be your natural response to what we saw.” When asked about how people in the entertainment industry have reacted to her avid pro-Israel stance, she said Jewish friends in the business have called her “brave and courageous.”

“[But] I just think this is just a normal human reaction,” she said. “I have heard ‘We have projects we have to promote. We don’t want to bring politics into it.’ I guess if someone spent 50 or 100 million on a movie, they don’t want to introduce this subject matter and I guess you can understand that. But generally speaking I think Hollywood could do more to support our Jewish community.”

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‘Encampment Has Crossed a Line’: California State LA President Condemns Pro-Hamas Rioters

Protesters at California State University, Los Angeles, attempted to take over a second spot on the CSULA campus in Los Angeles, United States, on June 12, 2024. Photo: Shay Horse/Reuters Connect

The president of California State University, Los Angeles has issued a searing condemnation of a pro-Hamas riot that broke out on campus on Wednesday night and resulted in her being trapped inside her office for hours after activists led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) illegally occupied an administrative building.

“Last night, those involved with the encampment chose violence and destruction,” Berenecea Johnson Eanes wrote on Thursday in a note to the campus community. “The significant damage to [the Student Services Building] will affect student-facing services: including admissions, records, accessible technology, basic needs, new student and family engagement, Dreamer resources and educational opportunity programs. It will take time to restore all those spaces and divert significant resources that would otherwise go to academics.”

Eanes added, “I am saddened, and I am angry … I cannot and would not protect anyone who is directly identified as having participated in last night’s illegal activities from being held accountable. The encampment has crossed a line. Those in the encampment must leave.”

According to Eanes, as well as various local media outlets, a night of destruction unlike any in the school’s history began on Wednesday when a mob of students stormed the campus, overturning cars, vandalizing school property, and assaulting students and staff. They proceeded to take over the Students Services Building (SSB), which they barricaded with numerous objects they amassed from across campus, including — according to The Los Angeles Times — bikes, tables, umbrellas, and rope. They even used their own bodies, “chaining” themselves to various access points.

The mob’s takeover of SSB was sudden and swift, forcing the school to issue a “shelter in place” order which trapped Eanes and dozens of other administrative staff in their office. Four people, including one student, were assaulted during the attack on the building. When it cleared, police essentially quarantined the area, reportedly declaring it a crime scene.

Footage of the riot shows scenes unlike any that have taken place on US college campuses since earlier this year when pro-Hamas rioters began commandeering sections of school property and refusing to leave unless administrators agree to adopt the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel — an initiative aimed at isolating Israel from the international community as the first step towards its eventual elimination. Broken glass carpeted the building’s floor, the result of the students smashing through door glazings with blunt objects. Meanwhile, red paint stained its tiles, and graffiti displaying anarchist symbols and saying “Free Palestine” covered its interior walls.

“Campus community: Know that we will recover from this, but also know that I am committed to doing everything we can to ensure this will never be allowed to repeat,” Eanes said in Thursday’s statement. “A trust we had in the encampment to practice non-violence has been violated. Trust is a hard thing to restore, but we will do the work together.”

Meanwhile, Students for Justice in Palestine has hinted that more destruction is forthcoming, and the latest local reporting indicates that no one has been arrested.

“We will not back down!” the group said in a social media post. “We will remain steadfast for Palestine!”

Students for Justice in Palestine, which has resorted to intimidation, harassment, and even physical violence to pressure universities into severing ties with Israel, defended their actions in a press release issued on Wednesday. Noting that its members had camped on campus for 40 days, the group said that Eanes, whom they summoned to a meeting after blocking all of SSB’s exits, ran out of time to accede to their demands.

“This direct action is in response to the failure of President Eanes to continue to negotiate in good faith with the Popular University for Gaza Solidarity Encampment on campus,” SJP said. “She has refused to continue negotiations or make meaningful progress toward meeting the demands of the student body. Delaying negotiations past the end of spring semester at a commuter campus shows clear bad faith and an attempt to wait out students instead of actively working to reach an agreement.”

In a chilling statement which acknowledged the intentionality of their behavior, SJP said administrators who had been trapped inside SSB could only exit with “escorts.”

“We will not back down and we will rise again just like our comrades in Palestine,” SJP said after law enforcement reclaimed the campus, suggesting there will be violence next time rather than peaceful protests. “We will remain steadfast in our mission for disclosure, divestment, boycott, and for our university to call for the end of the occupation and bombardment of Gaza.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Judge Allows ‘Mandalorian’ Actress to Proceed With Disney Lawsuit After Being Fired for Nazi Germany Comments

Gina Carano as Cara Dune in “The Mandalorian” season two, exclusively on Disney+. Photo: Disney+

A US federal judge ruled on Wednesday that actress Gina Carano can proceed with her lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company and Lucasfilm, which fired her from the Disney+ television series “The Mandalorian” because of a social media post that compared political differences in the US to what Jews experienced in Nazi Germany.

“I look forward to this case moving forward and proving Disney’s blatant discriminatory actions,” Carano said after leaving court in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

“Disney should not have carte blanch authority to fire any actor just because Disney disagrees with something they say outside of work,” she added. “No actor would be free to have a voice if that were true.”

US District Judge Sherilyn Peace Garnett in Los Angeles ignored efforts by Disney lawyer Daniel Petrocelli to dismiss the lawsuit. Petrocelli claimed Disney has the “right not to associate with a high-profile performer on a high-profile show who’s imbuing” the Star Wars-based series with “views it disagrees with,” which could result in fans turning away from the show. He argued that Disney has the First Amendment right to sever ties with an employee who does not share the company’s values, even if the move violates state anti-discrimination laws. Disney purchased Lucasfilm, started by “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, in 2012.

“I’m not convinced there are no disputed facts,” Judge Garnett said in response to Petrocelli’s argument. The judge referred to allegations made by Carano that she was fired in 2021 to draw attention away from some of the controversies Disney was involved in at the time, including its contract dispute with actress Scarlett Johansson and critique of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act.

Carano starred as bounty hunter Cara Dune in the first two seasons of “The Mandalorian.” She was not under contract to appear in the third season of the show, according to court records.The actress claims in her lawsuit, which has received funding from X/Twitter and Tesla owner Elon Musk, that she was wrongfully terminated and discriminated against when she was fired from “The Mandalorian” in 2021 for expressing personal views on social media that Disney did not support.

Lucasfilms, which co-produces “The Mandalorian,” announced Carano’s firing after the former mixed martial arts fighter shared a post on social media that said: “Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors … even by children. Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?”

Disney argued that the state cannot force employers engaged in “expressive activity,” like Disney and LucasFilms, to work with someone who allegedly hinders its ability to properly express its values. Petrocelli claimed that the First Amendment entitles Disney to take action to make sure “The Mandalorian” is not associated with views that it and many viewers might find offensive and contrary to the company’s message.

“The messenger is part of the message,” Petrocelli said. “Imagine she made comments that she hates Jews or that there was no Holocaust.”

A final ruling in the lawsuit has not been made yet. Disney has not publicly commented on Garnett’s decision on Wednesday not to dismiss the lawsuit.

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