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Universities take action against pro-Israel faculty for inflammatory speech about Israel-Hamas war

(JTA) – A series of Jewish professors across the country have faced lawsuits, termination and suspension after making pro-Israel remarks that administrators say crossed the line into threatening speech.

Faculty members at New York University, the University of Southern California and Johns Hopkins University are among those who have been recently caught up in such controversies, as the campus climate around Israel continues to ferment in the weeks following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks and Israel’s war against the terror group in the Gaza Strip.

“This current situation has really been time for me to put my money where my mouth is as a free-speech attorney,” Samantha Harris, an attorney representing one of the professors, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Cases of universities disciplining pro-Israel rhetoric since Oct. 7 have been relatively rare, as some of the most prominent campus controversies have involved the reverse. Some schools, under pressure from pro-Israel donors, politicians and legal aid groups, have taken a series of actions against pro-Palestinian students, faculty and events.

Leaders of Cornell University condemned a professor who praised the Hamas attacks as “exhilarating”; he later took a leave of absence. The University of Arizona recently suspended two professors who praised Hamas as a “resistance group” and questioned whether it is antisemitic, according to a recording posted by a pro-Israel social media account.

And the heads of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, George Washington University, Columbia University and other schools have suspended pro-Palestinian student groups or disciplined students who participated in disruptive protests. The U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office recently opened a series of investigations into universities over their handling of campus antisemitism cases, including some that took clear action against anti-Israel activities. The presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania are testifying before Congress next week as lawmakers seek to question whether they have responded forcefully enough to antisemitism.

But the cases of these three men — all at private colleges, and two of whom work in life sciences — show that strident pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian rhetoric has also occasionally been subject to consequences on campus. The offenses range from stray harsh words about Hamas to a professor tweeting multiple times that all Palestinians are “animals.”

An NYU director, fired over retweets, sues the hospital

The former director of NYU’s cancer research center is suing the hospital for firing him over a series of online posts he shared about Hamas and its supporters in the West.

Dr. Benjamin Neel was booted from that position earlier this month over his posting of political cartoons depicting Hamas calling for “death to all Jews,” and for caricatures showing Westerners, including climate activist Greta Thunberg, supporting the atrocities Hamas committed. He remains a tenured professor and the head of a laboratory at NYU, according to The New York Times. Neel’s attorney did not respond to questions sent via email.

NYU Langone Health fired Neel at the same time as it also fired another doctor for social media activity praising Hamas’ attack. Neel’s lawsuit, filed Nov. 16, claims that this made his own termination “a casualty” of the university’s “ill-considered plan to feign the appearance of even-handedness.”

In a statement to JTA, NYU maintained that it had proper standing to fire Neel from the cancer research center over what it said was a clear violation of the university’s code of conduct, social media policy and commitment “to providing a safe and inclusive environment, free of discrimination, for all of our employees and patients.”

“Dr. Ben Neel, as a leader at our institution, disregarded these standards in a series of public social media posts and later locked his Twitter/X account,” NYU spokesperson Steve Ritea said. “NYU Langone stands by our decision and looks forward to defending it in court.”

One of the arguments put forth by Neel’s attorneys is that his own pro-Israel speech pales in comparison to that of some of his more senior Jewish colleagues in private emails to him, who described other universities in insulting terms for failing to discipline anti-Israel speech. But NYU said Neel was acting “hypocritically” by including these emails in his lawsuit.

“Some of those emails were critical of specific decisions by university leaders for not taking a stronger stance on the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks and for not holding accountable those who engaged in discriminatory speech,” Ritea wrote. “Hypocritically, Dr. Neel is now lashing out for being held accountable for such conduct.”

At Johns Hopkins, a doctor is placed on leave over “disturbing” tweets

Another university hospital has also taken disciplinary measures against a Jewish program director and professor for his incendiary social media posts.

Johns Hopkins Medicine placed the director of its pediatric cardiac critical care program, Dr. Darren Klugman, on leave over a series of posts he wrote shortly after Oct. 7 that advocated violence against all Palestinians. Klugman is also a medical school professor.

Klugman’s posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, painted all Palestinians as “morally depraved” and “savage animals,” and called for them to be murdered or displaced. “Time to reclaim every inch of Israel for Jews,” he wrote on Oct. 8, according to screenshots published by the university’s newsletter and other outlets.

In one reply to a user who had suggested that Israel was calling for a “large-scale slaughter” and to “spread out massacres over a year to displace Palestinians,” Klugman wrote, “G-d willing.”

Klugman has since apologized for his posts, writing in a letter to colleagues, “These messages in no way reflect my beliefs, me as a person, a physician, a friend, or colleague.” His X account is no longer active.

Kim Hoppe, a spokesperson for Johns Hopkins Medicine, told JTA that Klugman will remain on leave while the university conducts “a thorough investigation” and called his posts “deeply disturbing.”

“Statements that explicitly threaten or extol violence against groups or individuals on the basis of national origin, race or religion violate our policies and do not represent our values,” Hoppe’s statement continued.

An online petition calling on Johns Hopkins to “remove” Klugman has garnered more than 8,000 signatures. In the Jewish conservative magazine Commentary last week, Washington Free Beacon writer Daniel Halper implored Johns Hopkins to “forgive Dr. Darren Klugman,” Klugman helped treat his daughter, who was born with congenital heart defects.

“His apology should be accepted,” Halper wrote. “As the father of a Klugman patient, I know he means it. Why? Because I witnessed with my own eyes how he delivered medical care.”

A USC professor is barred from campus over filmed anti-Hamas remarks

While Klugman was placed on leave over explicitly anti-Palestinian posts, a USC economics professor, John Strauss, was asked to stay off campus after students filmed him calling for the death of Hamas.

Strauss was also informed by USC’s provost that he is under investigation following several student complaints filed against him through the university’s Equal Employment Opportunity/Title IX office. Harris, his attorney, says it’s wrong for USC to be investigating him.

“I do not think the investigation is appropriate,” said Harris, a former attorney with the campus free-speech legal group Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. “University administrations perform absolutely no gatekeeping function when it comes to student complaints. They simply are categorically unwilling to say to a student, ‘No, I’m sorry, we have policies that protect the right to free speech.’”

Harris wouldn’t comment on Strauss’ legal strategy.

Strauss was filmed telling students, “Hamas are murderers. That’s all they are. Every one should be killed, and I hope they all are killed.” He made his remarks at a campus pro-Palestinian protest.

Some students and pro-Palestinian groups later claimed online that Strauss had been referring to all Palestinians, rather than just Hamas, and that he had stepped on their memorials to Gazans killed by the Israeli military. But Strauss told the Los Angeles Times that he wasn’t referring to all Palestinians and did not step on the memorial deliberately.

“I am Jewish and very pro-Israel, so I shouted, ‘Israel forever. Hamas are murderers,’” he said.

Harris told JTA that Strauss’ speech should be protected: “Saying ‘I hope people die’ is not a threat.”

Strauss will still be permitted to teach students virtually through the current semester, which ends this week. A USC spokesperson told JTA that Strauss “has in no way been disciplined for engaging in protective speech,” describing his removal from campus as “a precautionary measure” that’s “designed to minimize disruption in the classroom and to ensure a safe environment for both him and students.”

Harris disputed USC’s characterization of its actions toward Strauss. “It clearly is being considered a disciplinary measure,” she said. She also pointed to what she said was a “perceived double standard” in which universities are more willing to discipline inflammatory pro-Israel speech than pro-Palestinian comments, pointing to recent USC protests in which students chanted, “There is only one solution: intifada, revolution.”

“As far as I know, the people who chanted that are not under investigation,” she said.

A petition demanding USC bring Strauss back to campus has more than 19,000 signatures, while a competing petition demanding he be fired has a little over 7,200.

The post Universities take action against pro-Israel faculty for inflammatory speech about Israel-Hamas war appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.


US ‘Strongly Opposes’ China-Brokered Deal to Form Palestinian Unity Government With Terrorist Groups

Mahmoud al-Aloul, Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of Palestinian organization and political party Fatah, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Mussa Abu Marzuk, senior member of the Palestinian terror movement Hamas, attend an event at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 23, 2024. Photo: Pedro Pardo/Pool via REUTERS

The US on Tuesday said it “strongly opposes” a Beijing-brokered declaration signed earlier in the day by the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah movement and the Hamas terror group, aimed at reconciling their longstanding divisions and establishing a unity government to manage Gaza after the war.

The declaration, which was also signed by more than a dozen other Palestinian factions, is seen as a symbolic win for China’s role as a global mediator, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing it as a “historic moment for the cause of Palestine’s liberation.” However, doubts linger about its effectiveness in addressing the years-long rift between the groups.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller responded to the announcement, saying Hamas had “blood on its hands, of Israelis and of Palestinians,” and could not be in any leadership role.

“When it comes to governance of Gaza at the end of the conflict, there can’t be a role for a terrorist organization,” Miller said.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) — which currently exercises limited self-governance in the West and has long been riddled with allegations of corruption and authoritarianism — should be in control of both the West Bank and Gaza, Miller said, adding that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), unlike Hamas, had renounced terrorism.

The PLO is a coalition of Palestinian factions, including Fatah.

“If you look at the death and destruction that Hamas’ decision to launch the attacks of Oct. 7 has brought on Gaza, they have — there’s no one that has brought more pain and suffering to the people in Gaza than Hamas through their decisions — first to launch the attacks of Oct. 7, and then their ongoing decision, which continues today, to hide among civilian communities and use civilians as human shields.”

Miller also addressed China’s role in the mediation, saying that the US has generally encouraged China to leverage its influence with regional countries, especially those where the US has less sway, to prevent conflict escalation. One example was the Chinese-mediated deal last year restoring ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The US also urged China to discourage both Iran from financing proxies attacking Israel and the Houthis from targeting commercial shipping. “We have asked China to use its influence to try to bring those attacks to an end, and we’ll continue to do that,” Miller said.

Tuvia Gering, a China and Middle East analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies, said the move is part of China’s effort to rival the US by building alliances with developing nations as well as the Arab and Muslim world to prioritize its interests and stifle Western dominance.

China is “challenging America in every space possible as a new type of major power that takes in the considerations of the Global South and the coalitions of those oppressed by imperialism and Western hegemony” to create “a new global order,” he told The Algemeiner.

Gering condemned Beijing’s move, saying it “normalized terrorism” and will embolden the Palestinians into further intransigence in talks for any future peace accord.

“Until today, China failed to criticize [the Palestinians] and put all the onus onto Israel. This means effectively that the Palestinians will only adhere to the most maximalist positions in negotiations for the two state solution [which] will become even more of a distant reality,” Gering told The Algemeiner.

Gering also predicted that the “golden age” of China-Israel relations, which burgeoned over the last decade with the inking of major bilateral deals, was over because of China’s decision to “legitimize terror” since Oct. 7. Gering warned that moving forward, Israeli strategy in the region must also take China into account.

Gering expressed doubts that the declaration signed on Tuesday would lead to any major developments, noting “a large amount of skepticism” in the Arab world.

Indeed, the declaration gave no outline for how or when a new unity Palestinian government would be formed.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, which was also a signatory on the declaration, issued a statement later in the day outlining its demand for all factions in any future unity government to reject recognition of Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz blasted the agreement, saying it underscored Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ embrace of “the murderers and rapists” of Hamas, which rules Gaza.

“In reality, this won’t happen because Hamas’ rule will be crushed, and Abbas will be watching Gaza from afar. Israel’s security will remain solely in Israel’s hands,” Katz said.

In his statement, Wang reiterated China’s commitment to a “comprehensive, lasting, and sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza and advocated for an “international peace conference” aimed at pursuing a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dina Lisnyansky, an expert in Middle East affairs and Islam, warned that while the deal may not come to fruition, China’s role is of growing concern for Israel. Egypt and Algeria — both mediators in failed past attempts at rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas — were far weaker than China as regional actors. “When China sets its sights on something it usually achieves its goals, so it should worry us greatly,” Lisnyansky told The Algemeiner.

Lisnyansky also said that Israel should sanction the PA for signing the declaration. “Israel should negate any entity that has any ties at all to Hamas, which needs to lose both its authority and legitimacy.”

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Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics

And who has the best chance of medalling in Paris.

The post Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Kamala Harris’s Record on Israel Raises Questions About Support for Jewish State if Elected US President

US Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS

Following US President Joe Biden’s stunning exit from the 2024 presidential race, allies of Israel are looking for clues as to how Vice President Kamala Harris, the new presumptive Democratic nominee, could approach issues affecting the Jewish state if she were to win the White House in November.

Harris’s previous statements reveal a mixed record on Israel, offering signs of both optimism and pessimism to pro-Israel advocates.

Though Harris has voiced support for the Jewish state’s right to existence and self defense, she has also expressed sympathy for far-left narratives that brand Israel as “genocidal.” The vice president has additionally often criticized Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

In 2017, while giving a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), then-Senator Harris delivered a 19-minute speech in which she showered praise on Israel, stating that she supports “the United States’ commitment to provide Israel with $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade.” Harris stated that America has “shared values” with Israel and that the bond between the two nations is “unbreakable.”

In 2020, while giving another speech to AIPAC, Harris emphasized that US support for Israel must remain “rock solid” and noted that Hamas “maintains its control of Gaza and fires rockets.”

Despite such statements of support, however, Harris has previously exhibited a degree of patience for those who make baseless smears against Israel. 

In October 2021, when confronted by a George Mason University student who angrily accused Israel of committing “ethnic genocide” against Palestinians, Harris quietly nodded along and then praised the student. 

“And again, this is about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard,” Harris told the student. 

Following Hamas’ slaughter of 1,200 people and kidnapping of 250 others across southern Israel on Oct. 7, Harris has shown inconsistent support for the Jewish state. Although she initially backed Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’ terrorism, she has also levied sharp criticism against the Jewish state’s ensuing war effort in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

During a call with then-Israeli war cabinet leader Benny Gantz earlier this year, Harris suggested that the Jewish state has recklessly imperiled the lives of Palestinian civilians while targeting Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

“Far too many Palestinian civilians, innocent civilians have been killed,” Harris said. 

The same month, while delivering a speech commemorating the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, Harris called the conditions in Gaza “devastating.”

“And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks,” Harris said.

While speaking with Israeli President Isaac Herzog to mark the Jewish holiday of Passover in April, Harris shared “deep concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and discussed steps to increase the flow of life-saving humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians and ensure its safe distribution.”

Harris also pushed the unsubstantiated narrative that Israel has intentionally withheld aid from the people of Gaza, triggering a famine. 

“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane. And our common humanity compels us to act,” Harris said. “The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid.”

The United Nations Famine Review Committee (FRC), a panel of experts in international food security and nutrition, released a report in June arguing that there is not enough “supporting evidence” to suggest that a famine has occurred in Gaza.

Harris has also expressed sympathy for anti-Israel protesters on US university campuses. In an interview published earlier this month, Harris said that college students protesting Israel’s defensive military efforts against Hamas are “showing exactly what the human emotion should be.”

“There are things some of the protesters are saying that I absolutely reject, so I don’t mean to wholesale endorse their points,” she added. “But we have to navigate it. I understand the emotion behind it.”

Some indicators suggest that Harris could adopt a more antagonistic approach to the Jewish state than Biden. For example, Harris urged the White House to be more “sympathetic” toward Palestinians and take a “tougher” stance against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Politico report in December. In March, White House aides forced Harris to tone down a speech that was too tough on Israel, according to NBC News.

Later, she did not rule out “consequences” for Israel if it launched a large-scale military offensive to root out Hamas battalions in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, citing humanitarian concerns for the civilian population.

Harris initially called for an “immediate ceasefire” before Biden and has often used more pointed language when discussing the war, Israel, and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. However, her advisers have sought to downplay the notion that she may be tougher on the Jewish state.

“The difference is not in substance but probably in tone,” one of Harris’s advisers told The Nation.

Meanwhile, Halie Soifer, who served as national security adviser to Harris during the then-senator’s first two years in Congress, said the current vice president’s support for Israel has been just as strong as Biden’s. “There really has been no daylight to be found” between the two, she told Reuters.

Still, Biden, 81, has a decades-long history of maintaining relationships with Israeli leaders and recently called himself a “Zionist.” Harris, 59, does not have such a connection to the Jewish state and maintains closer ties to Democratic progressives, many of whom have increasingly called for the US to turn away — or at least adopt a tougher approach toward — Israel

Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman suggested that Harris would be a far less reliable ally than Biden, pointing to her ideological alignment with the most progressive lawmakers in Congress. 

“Biden made many mistakes regarding Israel, but he is miles ahead of Harris in terms of support for Israel,” Friedman told The Jerusalem Post. “She is on the fringe of the progressive wing of the party, which sympathizes more with the Palestinian cause.”

“This will move Jewish voters to the Republican side,” the former ambassador argued. “Harris lacks any affinity for Israel, and the Democratic Convention will highlight this contrast. This could lead to a historic shift of Jewish voters to the Republican side.”

Meanwhile, J Street, a progressive Zionist organization, eagerly endorsed Harris the day after Biden dropped out of the presidential race, citing her “nuanced, balanced approach” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflictt.

“Kamala Harris has been a powerful advocate for J Street’s values in the White House, from the fight against antisemitism to the need for a nuanced, balanced approach on Israel-Palestine,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement. “She’s been a steadfast supporter of hostage families and Israel’s security, while also being a leading voice for the protection of Palestinian civilians and the need to secure an urgent ceasefire.”

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