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Thoughts and Observations as the War Continues

US President Joe Biden holds a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the 78th U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 20, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

JNS.orgIt has been a great zechut (“merit”) to be in Israel these months during “Operation Swords of Iron.” Yes, a zechut, as part of the dream of Israel is being here not only in the good times but the bad times.

Dreams have their ups and their downs. Ultimately, we believe—we know, we just know—that good will prevail, and Israel will be victorious.

As the war grinds on, I offer some humble thoughts and observations.


For years many have asked: What is a cause that would unite us as we were united in the movement to free Soviet Jewry? In the darkness of this war, we are living the answer. Jews with different political agendas and religious leanings have come together as never before, standing with Israel.

The unity is reactive, emerging as it has in response to the greatest assault against our peoplehood since the Holocaust. Nothing reactive endures and so the prayer that it becomes a proactive unity after the war is won.


Today, Jews worldwide are wearing an army uniform. For hundreds of thousands in Israel, it’s the Israel Defense Forces’ green fatigues. For Jews in the Diaspora, it’s the blue-and-white Israeli flags waved by hundreds of thousands before the seat of government in Washington, D.C.; indeed, in cities throughout the world. For others, it’s calling friends and family in Israel to express support, or sending food and gear to IDF soldiers, or opening homes to Israeli residents of the south and north who seek shelter.

In the midst of the darkness, we, as a people, are emanating light. We are all on our own front, writing the illuminating manual on endless giving.


Just a few months ago, we were commemorating the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In many of those 50th-anniversary ceremonies, there was an undertone of invincibility. We (and much of the world) thought Israel was invincible and could never be taken by surprise again.

But feeling invincible is the pathway to disaster. Now we see that we, like all people, are vulnerable. And recognizing vulnerability—even as we understand the strength of the enemy while still believing in our power—is, with the help of God, the pathway to victory.


The United States has stood shoulder to shoulder with Israel. In the spirit of hakarat hatov, “acknowledging the good,” we say: “Thank you, thank you!” The United States and its president, Joe Biden, deserve our deepest gratitude.

Still, we wonder, will the United States pressure Israel as it did on the eve of the Yom Kippur War? Israel’s bowing to that pressure led to catastrophe. As the rabbis say, kabdeihu ve’chashdeihu—“give credit with caution”—a motto echoed by President Ronald Reagan, “Trust and Verify.”


The goal of Hamas on Oct. 7 was not only to murder Israelis but attack Jews; forever shattering the canard that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. If Hamas could have, they would have savagely murdered every Jew of all ages—man, woman, senior and child. We must feel, as the Passover Haggadah proclaims, as if we were personally butchered.

And so, we must beware of anyone in the streets of New York and Los Angeles or on college campuses who support Hamas. Such support poses an imminent threat to every Jew. Hamas’s slogan, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” is not simply a political cry; it is a genocidal slogan calling for wiping out a people from a land, which can inspire attacks. Words can lead to fatal deeds.


Too often, those who seem to have the best academic credentials to know don’t know. During World War II and the Holocaust, many in the intelligentsia—professors, elite composers and artists—argued the righteousness and ethical superiority of the Third Reich. Today, too, elite faculty on North American college campuses can be heard justifying Hamas’s murders of Jews.

We must find the courage to speak truth to power, declaring for one and all to hear: “The emperor has no clothes.”


It’s not simple to be a minority voice and speak up against anti-Semites. Many Jews are scared and concerned that fighting anti-Semitism will attract more attention to the Jewish community, thus inspiring more antisemitism.

The reverse is true. The more we speak out, the stronger we are; by showing strength, we are more protected rather than rendered vulnerable.


These days, many Jews are afraid. There is no shame in feeling fear as fear is a feeling, and feelings are neither right nor wrong; they just are. While we cannot control what we feel, we can control how we act. Counterintuitively, if we act and do and stand up for Israel, our fear will dissipate.

Today, more than ever, on campuses throughout America, students should openly wear their kippahs and chai necklaces, and make sure that their organizations proudly display Israeli flags on their campus buildings. Day schools should remain open, never bowing to threats. Jewish Community Centers and synagogues should be more welcoming than ever before. Yes, we must take precautions, working with police and our own Community Security Services. But we dare not cower to fear. Doing so grants victory to the enemy.


During the war, my wife Toby and I have been inspired by so many, but none like our precious soldiers; may they all stay safe and come home in peace. Tragically, there have been many funerals—too many shiva homes where parents are mourning their heroic sons and daughters. The term used to describe an IDF soldier killed is chayal nafal, a “fallen soldier.”

In the same breath, those fallen soldiers have ascended, reaching higher and higher as they gave their lives for Israel. Much like police and firefighters in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 who did not die falling but climbing the Twin Towers to save the innocent, IDF soldiers have done the same. They are soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the State—masaru nafsham al haganat ha’aretz.

Today, Jews in Israel and all over the world are not studying history, but living history: the history of barbaric attacks against our people, when Jews were slaughtered, decapitated, raped, tortured and taken hostage simply because they were Jews. This time, however, there is a difference. Today, there is a State of Israel, an IDF, and Jews and people of moral conscience everywhere who will never again be guilty of the sin of the silence that prevailed during the Shoah.

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Treasure Trove: How loans and taxes helped Israel build in the lean financial years after 1948  

In the first few years after Israel’s independence, it incurred significant expenses to defend itself in the 1948 war, absorb 800,000 immigrants and build the state. Although significant financial support came from outside of Israel (including through the sale of Israel Bonds starting in 1951), a large portion of the costs were borne directly by […]

The post Treasure Trove: How loans and taxes helped Israel build in the lean financial years after 1948   appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Texas University Plans to Close Qatar Campus Amid Scrutiny of Hamas Ties

A Qatar 2022 logo is seen in front of the skyline of the West Bay in Doha. Photo: REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo

On Thursday, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents voted 7-1 to end its contract with the Qatar Foundation, which will result in the college’s Qatar campus shutting down over the next four years.

Texas A&M said it decided to reassess its relationship with Qatar after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, in which the terrorist group murdered 1,200 Israelis and took more than 240 more hostage. It cites regional instability as one of the reasons for its decision. The Qatari government also has extensive ties with Hamas’ political and military leadership.

The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is funded by the Qatari government and is the institution that funds Texas A&M’s Qatar campus.

The Chair of the university’s Board of Regents said it “has decided that the core mission of Texas A&M should be advanced primarily within Texas and the United States.” He continued, explaining that “By the middle of the 21st century, the university will not necessarily need a campus infrastructure 8,000 miles away to support education and research collaborations.”

The decision also comes amid heightened scrutiny of Qatar’s role in American higher education — as it spent almost $5 billion on American universities between 2001 and 2021 — as well as its role in funding terrorist groups such as Hamas. 

In an article for The Free Press in October, Eli Lake outlined what he saw as the significant influence Qatar is having on American higher education. He lists the universities that have gotten significant donations from Qatar, such as Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, and Northwestern. He also notes that Qatar’s influence goes beyond money, affecting policies and programs within specific academic departments as well. For example, the Qatar campus of Northwestern, which is home to the U.S.’s best journalism program, had an agreement with the terrorist-sympathetic Al-Jazeera that it would help train its students.

The significant attention paid to these relationships is likely driven by the steep increase in anti-Israel and pro-terrorist sentiment in the U.S., particularly on college campuses. 

A 2023 report from the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy also concluded that concealed donations from foreign governments to U.S. educational institutions are associated with an increase in antisemitic incidents on campus and the erosion of liberal norms. 

However, the Qatar Foundation believes the decision was made for political reasons. In a statement, it wrote: “It is deeply disappointing that a globally respected academic institution like Texas A&M University has fallen victim to such a campaign and allowed politics to infiltrate its decision-making processes. At no point did the Board attempt to seek out the truth from Qatar Foundation before making this misguided decision.”

There have been no indications thus far that other universities that receive a significant amount of Qatari funding, or operate campuses in Qatar, are reconsidering their relationship.

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Antisemitic Vandals Strike Hillel Building at University of Leeds in UK

Antisemitic message graffitied on Hillel House of University of Leeds. Photo: Union of Jewish Students/X

The Hillel House of University of Leeds was vandalized on Thursday night, raising further concerns about a hateful campus climate and rising antisemitism across the United Kingdom, particularly since Hamas’ October 7 attacks.

The vandals, according to pictures shared online, graffitied “FREE PALESTINE” on the building and additional scribble on two window panes.

“We are heartbroken and angry that after an uplifting and inspiring Challah Bake, our JSoc Hillel House was defaced with antisemitic graffiti,” Leeds JSoc, which uses the building for club meetings, said in a statement also signed by the Union of Jewish Students, an advocacy group. “It is shocking and outrageous that those who hate us would stoop to this level.”

The groups noted that a University of Leeds professor may be responsible for leading anti-Zionist to the building, alleging that he shared its address “for the sole purpose of intimidating Jewish students on campus.”

“We are working with CST and the police to ensure that those who committed this crime get the consequences they deserve,” the group added.

Anti-Zionists extremists struck elsewhere on Thursday, storming University of Birmingham with socialists and other far-left groups while holding signs that said, “Zionists off our campus” and “75 years of illegal occupation!” Many concealed their faces, covering them with keffiyeh.

“Jewish students are feeling less and less safe at university because of these vile antisemitic acts,” National Jewish Assembly (NJA), a Jewish civil rights nonprofit, said in a statement about the incidents. “It’s time we say enough. Jewish students deserve and must feel safe on campus.”

Thursday’s incidents followed a set-back for the academic Jewish community. Earlier this week, it was announced that a UK government agency which arbitrates disputes over employment law ruled that University of Bristol lacked standing to fire sociologist David Miller, an extreme anti-Zionist who was accused of harassing Jewish students and promoting antisemitic tropes, and said his “anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a philosophical belief and as a protected characteristic.”

Pervasive antisemitism and anti-Zionism at UK universities is forcing members of the Jewish academic community to conceal their identities on campus, according to a June 2023 report issued by the Parliamentary Task Force on Antisemitism in Higher Education, a committee of lawmakers and established by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2022 in response to complaints of anti-Jewish racism and discrimination.

“We were told it was commonplace for Jewish students to choose not to wear certain clothing or jewelry around campus because it would make them visibly identifiable as Jewish,” the Task Force wrote in the report, titled Understanding Jewish Experience in Higher Education, noting that academic staff “also raised important comparable concerns about negativity surrounding their Jewish identity.”

The Task Force recommended that all universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which, it said, has not, contrary to the claims of its many opponents, diminished free speech and academic freedom.

Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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