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Time to Huddle: Antisemitism on the Field

Daniel Peretz, goalkeeper for the Israel national team and Maccabi Tel Aviv, playing his last match at Maccabi Tel Aviv against NK Celje in the UEFA Conference League – Playoffs before his historic transfer to FC Bayern Munich in Tel Aviv, Israel, on August 24, 2023. Photo: Raddad Jebarah via Reuters Connect

JNS.orgAs unsettling and painful as the current wave of global antisemitism that followed the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in Israel is, it’s still important to remember that those bestial atrocities were an episode in, and not the fundamental cause of, the renewal and remodeling of this ancient superstition.

Where it all began remains a matter of debate. Many analysts nod to the U.N. World Conference Against Racism in 2001 in Durban, South Africa, where several of the memes visible in today’s pro-Hamas protests were rudely on display, as the point of origin. Others go back further, into the Cold War, when the Soviet Union ran a vicious campaign of anti-Zionist propaganda centered on the claim that Zionism is a form of Nazism. And one can go back even further, to the antisemitic riots and revolts targeting Jewish communities in British Mandate Palestine in 1929 and 1936. The point is that the basic message—Jews as colonial interlopers who must be destroyed—hasn’t really changed.

The other consideration is that certain sectors are more amenable than are others to anti-Zionist antisemitism, or antizionism, as I prefer to call it. Over the last two decades, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement seeking to quarantine Israel alone among the world’s nations has been the most tangible and energetic expression of contemporary opposition to Zionism. In the worlds of culture and academia, especially, boycotts of Israel and shrill rhetoric denouncing Zionism (or more precisely, a caricature of Zionism) have been the order of the day.

Regardless, then, of where and when we believe the current wave began, that discussion is less important than an assessment of where we are headed—and specifically, which spheres of human activity alongside art and education will start to echo the growing antisemitic chorus, both in their words and in their deeds.

The world of sport is emerging as the next battleground. It is a much more fearsome prospect; a row over an art exhibition featuring antisemitic caricatures or a lecture at a provincial campus promoting antisemitic tropes is, let’s be honest, a picnic compared to a row involving an athlete with instant, global name recognition.

Someone like the French soccer icon Karim Benzema, a former Real Madrid striker and winner of the coveted Ballon d’Or football (soccer) award who now plays in Saudi Arabia, and who this week announced that he would be suing Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. A devout Muslim, at least outwardly, Benzema fired off an angry social-media post denouncing Israel’s “unjust bombardments” in the Gaza Strip. When Darmanin was asked about the post in an interview with a conservative broadcaster, he lambasted Benzema for his silence on the Oct. 7 atrocities in Israel and then charged that the player retained close links with the Muslim Brotherhood, the global Islamist network that includes Hamas.

Benzema angrily denied any links with the Brotherhood, accusing Darmanin of exploiting his fame—and notoriety—to push an Islamophobic smear. Now Darmanin may have to answer in court for his impulsive statement (it would have been more prudent to describe Benzema as an “echo chamber” for the Brotherhood) in a spectacle that will draw the French and international media like bees to honey. Benzema will present himself as the victim and will enclose the Palestinian population of Gaza in his victimhood in a circus that will only compound the fear prevailing among French Jews and bolster the view among hundreds of millions of soccer fans that the State of Israel is a criminal enterprise—whether or not he wins or loses any eventual court case.

The demonizing discourse about Israel now percolating in the world of sports is, alarmingly, being matched with acts of discrimination against Israeli and Jewish athletes—just as Jewish and Israeli academics, artists and musicians have suffered discrimination as a result of antisemitic agitation in their spaces.

Last week, Sagiv Jehezkel, an Israeli winger playing for the Turkish soccer club Antalyaspor, was arrested by security forces before being booted out of both his contract and the country. Jehezkel’s offense was to score an equalizing goal in a match against Trabzonspor and then celebrate by displaying his bandaged wrist to the cameras. On the bandage, Jehezkel had scrawled a Star of David and the words “100 days” (a reference to the continuing plight of Israeli hostages in Gaza) and “7/10” (the date of the Hamas pogrom.)

The reaction in Turkey was furious. Jehezkel was abused as a “Zionist dog” and accused of violating Turkish sensibilities. Should he ever return to Turkey, he will likely face arrest and prosecution. But it is unlikely that he will go back, just as it is unlikely that any Israeli soccer talent will find its way to Turkey for the foreseeable future. Sports in Turkey are effectively Judenrein.

There are good grounds to fear that a similar situation is emerging in South Africa, too, where the U-19 Cricket World Cup is currently being hosted. One week before the tournament commenced, Cricket South Africa (CSA), the sport’s domestic governing body, announced that it was removing David Teeger, the South African team’s sole Jewish player, from his role as captain, citing “security fears” about angry protests by Hamas supporters targeting Teeger as the official reason.

This was—in a word summed up by MLB Hall-of-Famer Kevin Youkilis, who declared his solidarity with Teeger—“bullsh*t.” Shortly after the Hamas pogrom, Teeger was the subject of a complaint submitted to CSA by pro-Hamas campaigners who objected to his remarks at a Jewish communal award ceremony, where he lauded “the State of Israel and every single soldier fighting so that we can live and thrive in the diaspora.” They argued that Teeger had brought the game into disrepute, though an independent commission reporting to CSA duly found that Teeger had not violated CSA’s code of conduct with his speech, clearing the way for the talented young batsman to be appointed as captain the following month.

Even so, the political pressure from the ruling ANC was unrelenting. It is no accident that Teeger was humiliated in the same week that South Africa launched a legal case against Israel at the International Court of Justice on the trumped-up charge of “genocide”—elegantly, if inadvertently, illustrating the inevitable domestic impact of an antisemitic foreign policy.

Here in the United States, Jewish professional athletes are unlikely, for the moment, to experience this kind of discrimination. Yet as the recent antisemitism scandal involving the NBA’s Kyrie Irving (and others in different athletic arenas before him) demonstrated, our sporting scene is as vulnerable as anywhere else to antisemitic propaganda, often of the crudest sort. It’s definitely time to huddle.

The post Time to Huddle: Antisemitism on the Field first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Exclusive: Iran Sends Russia Hundreds of Ballistic Missiles, Sources Say

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 7, 2023. Photo: Sputnik/Sergei Bobylev/Pool via REUTERS

Iran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, six sources told Reuters, deepening the military cooperation between the two US-sanctioned countries.

Iran‘s provision of around 400 missiles includes many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar, three Iranian sources said. This road-mobile missile is capable of striking targets at a distance of between 300 and 700 km (186 and 435 miles), experts say.

Iran‘s defense ministry and the Revolutionary Guards – an elite force that oversees Iran‘s ballistic missile program – declined to comment. Russia‘s defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The shipments began in early January after a deal was finalized in meetings late last year between Iranian and Russian military and security officials that took place in Tehran and Moscow, one of the Iranian sources said.

An Iranian military official – who, like the other sources, asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information – said there had been at least four shipments of missiles and there would be more in the coming weeks. He declined to provide further details.

Another senior Iranian official said some of the missiles were sent to Russia by ship via the Caspian Sea, while others were transported by plane.

“There will be more shipments,” the second Iranian official said. “There is no reason to hide it. We are allowed to export weapons to any country that we wish to.”

U.N. Security Council restrictions on Iran‘s export of some missiles, drones and other technologies expired in October. However, the United States and European Union retained sanctions on Iran‘s ballistic missile programme amid concerns over exports of weapons to its proxies in the Middle East and to Russia.

A fourth source, familiar with the matter, confirmed that Russia had received a large number of missiles from Iran recently, without providing further details.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said in early January the United States was concerned that Russia was close to acquiring short-range ballistic weapons from Iran, in addition to missiles already sourced from North Korea.

A US official told Reuters that Washington had seen evidence of talks actively advancing but no indication yet of deliveries having taken place.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the missile deliveries.

Ukraine’s top prosecutor said on Friday the ballistic missiles supplied by North Korea to Russia had proven unreliable on the battlefield, with only two of 24 hitting their targets. Moscow and Pyongyang have both denied that North Korea has provided Russia with munitions used in Ukraine.

By contrast, Jeffrey Lewis, an expert with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said the Fateh-110 family of missiles and the Zolfaghar were precision weapons.

“They are used to point at things that are high value and need precise damage,” said Lewis, adding that 400 munitions could inflict considerable harm if used in Ukraine. He noted, however, that Russian bombardments were already “pretty brutal”.

US AID DELAY WEAKENS UKRAINE’S DEFENCES

A Ukrainian military source told Reuters that Kyiv had not registered any use of Iranian ballistic missiles by Russian forces in the conflict. The Ukrainian defence ministry did not immediately reply to Reuters’ request for comment.

Following the publication of this story, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Air Force told national television that it had no official information on Russia obtaining such missiles. He said that ballistic missiles would pose a serious threat to Ukraine.

Former Ukrainian defense minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk said that Russia wanted to supplement its missile arsenal at a time when delays in approving a major package of US military aid in Congress has left Ukraine short of ammunition and other material.

“The lack of US support means shortages of ground-based air defense in Ukraine. So they want to accumulate a mass of rockets and break through Ukrainian air defense,” said Zagorodnyuk, who chairs the Kyiv-based Centre for Defense Strategies, a security think tank, and advises the government.

Kyiv has repeatedly asked Tehran to stop supplying Shahed drones to Russia, which have become a staple of Moscow’s long-range assaults on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, alongside an array of missiles.

Ukraine’s air force said in December that Russia had launched 3,700 Shahed drones during the war, which can fly hundreds of kilometres and explode on impact. Ukrainians call them “mopeds” because of the distinctive sound of their engines; air defenses down dozens of them each week.

Iran initially denied supplying drones to Russia but months later said it had provided a small number before Moscow launched the war on Ukraine in 2022.

“Those who accuse Iran of providing weapons to one of the sides in the Ukraine war are doing so for political purposes,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday, when asked about Tehran’s delivery of drones to Russia. “We have not given any drones to take part in that war.”

Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Philadelphia-based think tank, said a supply of Fateh-100 and Zolfaghar missiles from Iran would hand Russia an even greater advantage on the battlefield.

“They could be used to strike military targets at operational depths, and ballistic missiles are more difficult for Ukrainian air defences to intercept,” Lee said.

DEEPENING TIES WITH MOSCOW

Iran‘s hardline clerical rulers have steadily sought to deepen ties with Russia and China, betting that would help Tehran to resist US sanctions and to end its political isolation.

Defence cooperation between Iran and Russia has intensified since Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia‘s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu met the head of Iran‘s Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force, Amirali Hajizadeh, in Tehran in September, when Iran‘s drones, missiles and air defence systems were displayed for him, Iranian state media reported.

And last month, Russia‘s foreign ministry said it expected President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi to sign a broad new cooperation treaty soon, following talks in Moscow in December.

“This military partnership with Russia has shown the world Iran‘s defense capabilities,” said the military official. “It does not mean we are taking sides with Russia in the Ukraine conflict.”

The stakes are high for Iran‘s clerical rulers amid the war between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas that erupted after Oct. 7. They also face growing dissent at home over economic woes and social restrictions.

While Tehran tries to avoid a direct confrontation with Israel that could draw in the United States, its Axis of Resistance allies – including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen – have attacked Israeli and US targets.

A Western diplomat briefed on the matter confirmed the delivery of Iranian ballistic missiles to Russia in the recent weeks, without providing more details.

He said Western nations were concerned that Russia‘s reciprocal transfer of weapons to Iran could strengthen its position in any possible conflict with the United States and Israel.

Iran said in November it had finalized arrangements for Russia to provide it with Su-35 fighter jets, Mi-28 attack helicopters and Yak-130 pilot training aircraft.

Analyst Gregory Brew at Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, said Russia is an ally of convenience for Iran.

“The relationship is transactional: in exchange for drones, Iran expects more security cooperation and advanced weaponry, particularly modern aircraft,” he said.

The post Exclusive: Iran Sends Russia Hundreds of Ballistic Missiles, Sources Say first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Middlebury College Response to Antisemitism Allegations Slammed by Watchdog Group

Signage for the U.S. Department of Education – Federal Student Aid Office at 830 First Street NE Washington, D.C., USA, on November 28, 2023. Photo: Gen Namer via REUTERS CONNECT

Middlebury College on Tuesday issued, as well as deleted, statements which indirectly responded to allegations of institutional antisemitism that a civil rights group lodged against its administration last week.

As The Algemeiner previously reported, StandWithUs (SWU), a nonprofit that promotes education about Israel, filed a complaint with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) alleging that high level officials at the school fostered a “pervasively hostile climate” for Jewish students by refusing, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, to enforce anti-discrimination policies equally.

A timeline of events laid out in documents provided by SWU begins after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, when the school issued a statement that did not acknowledge the deaths of Israelis, but instead only alluded to “violence happening now in Israel in Palestine.” The following week, the administration allegedly obstructed Jewish students’ efforts to publicly mourn Jews murdered on Oct. 7., denying them police protection for a vigil, forcing them to hold it outside, and demanding that the event avoid specifically mentioning Jewish suffering.

Middlebury responded to the charges on Tuesday, explaining the college’s “Educational Approach to the War in Gaza and Israel,” in two statements, the first of which was later deleted and replaced with a revision containing numerous “stealth” edits.

The first defended chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan widely considered as a call for a genocide of Jews in Israel, as utterance protected by its free speech policy.

“We are fully aware that, while this phrase is divisive, it is experienced and interpreted differently by different groups,” the school said. “Middlebury has extensive structures in place for mitigating ham that controversial speech can cause, and our open expression policy safeguards a learning environment ‘where all voices can be heard and have the opportunity to contribute to the conversation.’”

According to the StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice, Middlebury’s response did not directly address its handling of a vigil that Jewish students organized on Oct. 9 to mourn the victims of Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel, which happened two days prior. In its complaint, SWU alleged that Middlebury roadblocked the event, denying Jewish students police protection and demanding that they omit direct references to Jewish suffering in their remarks and promotional materials. In an email to the Jewish group that planned the vigil, Vice President and Dean of Students Derek Doucet said, “I wonder if such a public gather in such a charged moment might be more inclusive.”

Additionally, no high level administrators agreed to speak at the vigil and condemn antisemitic violence, as well as terrorism. However, a month later, the administration accommodated Students for Justice in Palestine’s “Vigil for Palestine,” providing campus police, space on campus, and a speech from a high ranking official diversity-equity-and-inclusion (DEI) official, a request, StandWithUs insists, which organizers of the Jewish vigil had been denied.

In Tuesday’s deleted statement, Middlebury claimed that president Laurie Patton provided the Jewish students “remarks that were read at the vigil, condemning Hamas and pledging support and care for students.” Not true, StandWithUs, explained. Patton’s statements, like Middlebury’s previous statements about Oct. 7, mentioned only “violence we have seen in Israel and Gaza,” a description of the conflict at which SWU takes umbrage for its equating Hamas’ atrocities with Israel’s self-defense.

StandWithUs said in a press release on Wednesday that Middlebury’s statement is “mendacious,” noting that members of the Coalition for Dismantling Antisemitism at Middlebury are all hired faculty and staff, some of whom are accused of antisemitism in its complaint. SWU also charged that Middlebury’s claim to collaborate with a local Chabad organization is misleading as well, noting that “for over six years” the school has denied the group’s entreaties for formal recognition, a designation that would qualify it for funding and the privilege to reserve space on campus for events and other activities.

“It is no wonder that by the morning of February 20, 2024, Middlebury took its statement down from its website entirely and replaced it with an even more misleading post,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said. “Middlebury can no longer hide from its legal and moral duty to provide a campus environment for its Jewish students free from discrimination and harassment.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Middlebury College Response to Antisemitism Allegations Slammed by Watchdog Group first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Courage to disagree, with respect: York University student initiative Bridging the Gap promotes civil dialogue on Israel

How a campus initiative was revived following Oct. 7.

The post Courage to disagree, with respect: York University student initiative Bridging the Gap promotes civil dialogue on Israel appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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