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University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Academic Department Deletes Letter to Students Accusing Israel of ‘Genocide’

Illustrative: Thousands of anti-Israel demonstrators from the Midwest gather in support of Palestinians and hold a rally and march through the Loop in Chicago on Oct. 21, 2023. Photo: Alexandra Buxbaum/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

The Department of Latina/Latino Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has deleted a statement from its website accusing Israel of “genocide” and “settler colonial violence.”

“We are committed to critical if sometimes difficult conversations about the historical context of Israel’s ongoing genocide and occupation of Palestine,” said the letter, posted on Dec. 18 and cosigned by the Department of Asian American Studies and the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies.

“We affirm the value of Palestinian life, and we know a free Palestine is only possible through queer, racial, gender, reproductive, and environmental justice. We offer our classrooms as a space for you to take refuge and find the strength to change the world together,” it continued, while suggesting that Israel’s existence fosters anti-Black racism.

The letter, which was addressed to the departments’ students, has since been taken down from the university website.

This is not the first time that academic departments at UIUC have waded into politics. Amid the 2021 conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, four departments at the school — Gender and Women’s Studies, Urban and Regional Planning, Asian American Studies, and History — issued statements pledging “solidarity” with Palestinians and variously accused Israel of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and settler colonialism. After over 40 faculty members lodged a complaint about the statements, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (UIUC) administrators said that the school would not ask academic departments to abstain from political advocacy.

That policy has since been revised and, according to an Algemeiner source, is the reason why the Department of Latina/Latino Studies deleted the letter.

“Faculty have the academic freedom to sign any petition they want, although one would hope they’d exercise good judgement, do basic fact-checking, and avoid endorsing inflammatory statements,” Academic Engagement Network (AEN) executive director Miriam Elman told The Algemeiner on Friday in a statement commenting on the letter. “Academic units, and especially degree-granting departments, should not be issuing politicized, divisive statements that establish orthodoxies, chill dissent, and alienate and marginalize those who may disagree — especially students and vulnerable junior faculty.”

Elman noted that it’s unlikely that Jewish and Zionist students will “feel welcome and respected in these departments” and cheered “the university leaders who intervened swiftly to remove the statement from official university channels.”

According to documents shared with The Algemeiner, since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, extreme anti-Zionism, as well as platforming of individuals who have promoted antisemitic conspiracies and tropes, has exploded at UIUC. Two months after the attack, the Women & Gender in Global Perspectives Program added two virulently anti-Zionist panelists, Susan Abulhawa and Laila El-Haddad, to what was scheduled to be a one-on-one conversation featuring a pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian speaker.

Abulhawa has accused Israel of committing “a dozen kristallnachts [sic],” referring to the infamous pogrom carried out against Jews in Nazi Germany in November 1938. Abulhawa’s viewpoints are so controversial that a sponsor of an Australian festival she was scheduled to participate in pulled its support. After Oct. 7 she also rationalized Hamas’ massacre on her Facebook page.

El-Haddad is a member of a pro-Palestinian think tank that has regularly shared articles celebrating Hamas’ violence and promoting false allegations of Israeli apartheid and genocide.

Later, the event was canceled after Abulhawa allegedly refused to share a stage with a Zionist. In its place, the school’s Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) held a panel in which UIUC Students for Justice in Palestine member Sara Hijab said, “I hope you realize the evil Zionism is and that it has no place anywhere in the world.” Labor and Employment Relations professor Augustus Wood added, “The armed resistance should not be referred to in crude inhumane terms such as terrorists,” apparently referring to Hamas.

US college campuses have experienced an alarming spike in antisemitic incidents — including demonstrations calling for Israel’s destruction and the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students— since Oct. 7. Between that day and Dec. 18, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recorded 470 antisemitic incidents on college campuses , and during that same period, antisemitic incidents across the US skyrocketed by 323 percent compared to the prior year.

Last month, the ADL called out American colleges and universities in an open letter, reminding them of their obligation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to protect Jewish students from antisemitic harassment and intimidation.

“Shockingly, many students engaging in this activity — including harassment, intimidation, and other clear violations of student codes of conduct — have not faced consequences,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote. “Universities have by and large been derelict in their duty to protect Jewish communities on campus, in many cases raising serious concern under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Simply put, to date, there have been too few consequences — that must change.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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British Columbia’s Jewish community is outraged after MLA Selina Robinson is removed from cabinet over remarks about Israel

Leaders of the British Columbia Jewish community have reacted with dismay to the decision by David Eby, the province’s premier, to remove Selina Robinson from her position as minister of post-secondary education and future skills on Feb. 5 due to remarks she made the previous week during an online discussion. While speaking on a panel […]

The post British Columbia’s Jewish community is outraged after MLA Selina Robinson is removed from cabinet over remarks about Israel appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Gaza Border Residents Demand A Return Home, Four Months Into War

A damaged building lies in ruins, following an infiltration by Hamas terrorists who attacked Israel at a kibbutz in Kfar Aza, Israel, Nov. 8, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Israelis from the Gaza Envelope are calling on the government to approve their return home, roughly four months since the war’s outbreak on October 7.

The head of the Scot Negev Regional Council, Tamir Idan, said outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, “We demand a clear statement from the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister that it is safe to return to the area. Until then we are not moving from here.”

The heads of the other regional councils in the Gaza area joined Idan outside the Prime Minister’s office, where they slept last night in protest.

The regional leaders say that members of the Gaza border towns should be allowed to return to the areas if they wish, rather than being forced to live in hotels. An internal plan is set to be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in the near future.

The heads claim it is safe to return home, and are demanding that the government sign off on such a statement so residents can do so. Their protest comes as the government extended the funds allocated for their stay at hotels until July.

Following the October 7 massacre by Hamas terrorists, when they stormed southern Israel, murdering over 1,200 and taking hostage more than 240, tens of thousands of Israelis from the area were uprooted from their homes and placed in hotels in the Jerusalem area, Eilat, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea region. Since then, they have been living there full time, with makeshift schools set up for children and activities to keep everyone occupied. The move has also led local businesses to be completely shuttered.

Some Israelis have already moved back to their towns, which is technically allowed but under their own risk — rockets still fly near daily from Gaza and the IDF is operating within the Gaza Strip, which is minutes away from certain border towns.

The plan presented by the regional heads, they say, would mean that the towns are technically safe to return to, and therefore the risk falls under the government and the military.

This is as tens of thousands of Israelis from northern towns also remain out of their homes, with no current timeline for return due to the constant threat of Hezbollah missiles and the potential the war extends to the north.

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Australian Politician Says ‘Jewish Lobby’ Uses ‘Tentacles’ to ‘Influence Power’

Australian Greens MP Jenny Leong speaks at a Palestine Justice Movement event in Australia on Sunday, February 4, 2024. Source: Twitter/X

Video of a left-wing Australian politician discussing how “the Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby” are using their “tentacles” to “influence power” went viral on Tuesday, sparking backlash from the Australian Jewish community.

Jenny Leong, an Australia Greens member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, spoke on a panel for the Palestine Justice Movement in December to promote boycotting Israel.

“The Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby are infiltrating into every single aspect of what is ethnic community groups,” Leong said during the panel. “They rock up and they’re part of the campaign,” and “they offer solidarity.” 

She continued: “They [the Jewish and Zionist lobby] rock up to every community meeting and event to offer that connection because their tentacles reach into the areas that try and influence power and I think that we need to call that out and expose that.”

Stop what you’re doing and listen to the despicable remarks of @Greens MP @jennyleong , in which she accuses Jews of having “tentacles” which they use to try and influence power.

Leong has plumbed new and dangerous depths by using one of the oldest and darkest antisemitic tropes…

— NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (@NSWJBD) February 6, 2024

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, which is the representative of Jews who live in New South Wales, called the remarks “despicable,” adding that “Leong has plumbed new and dangerous depths by using one of the oldest and darkest antisemitic tropes to accuse Jews of covertly manipulating civic life. She has outrageously suggested that there is a sinister or evil purpose associated with Jews undertaking the most normal of activities – interacting with other Australians.”

Josh Burns, a Labor member of the Australian House of Representatives, said her comments were “a direct attack on Jewish people in Australia” and that “she should unreservedly apologize.” He also called on the Australian Greens to “take responsibility and demonstrate that Jewish people in Australia are safe and respected by their Party.”

The right-leaning Australian Jewish Association wrote on X that “Every credible political party must put the Greens last. Every non-racist fair minded person must put the Greens last.”

In response to the criticism, Leong apologized for specifically using the word “tentacles,” but not for her message. She said: “Speaking on a panel during a two-hour-long event last year, I acknowledge that I used a word at one point that was an inappropriate descriptor for the influence of groups backing Netanyahu’s genocidal attacks in Gaza and the ongoing occupation – I apologise that this has caused offence.” 

She continued: “It is incredibly telling that after a conversation where myself and other speakers made countless mentions of the genocidal attacks and occupation occurring in Gaza right now, that two months later more focus isn’t being put on the deaths of over 26,000 people, many of them children.”

Her comments and apology come amid increasing concern over antisemitism on the far-left, which has celebrated violent resistance against Israel since October 7, when Hamas invaded the country, killed 1,200 people, and kidnapped more than 240 more.

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