A group of professors and other workers at the University of Michigan has formed a “Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine” (FSJP) chapter and as its first act published a guest column in The Michigan Daily accusing the school of “horrific suppression” of anti-Zionist viewpoints and “brutal actions against students.”
Claiming to be “engaged in education, advocacy, and action in solidarity with Palestinian liberation,” the group, which is a companion to the extreme anti-Zionist group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), railed against University of Michigan president Santa Ono for taking steps to cool the campus climate and discourage rhetoric that denigrates those who have staked out positions on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.
One action the group singled out for opprobrium was the university’s decision in November to cancel a campus-wide vote on an anti-Israel resolution accusing the Jewish state of “genocide” and “apartheid.” Another vote on a resolution condemning Hamas as well as bigotry targeting both Jews and Muslims was also canceled. In a statement issued on Dec. 5, Ono defended the decision, saying both measures “have done more to stoke fear, anger, and animosity on our campus than they would ever accomplish” if adopted as policy.
FSJP called his plea for civility hypocritical.
Regarding its claims of “brutal actions against students,” FSJP cited to two incidents in which a crush of anti-Zionist protesters stormed administrative buildings while screaming “ceasefire now,” a call for Israel to halt its military operations aimed at eradicating the Hamas terror group from Gaza. In one of the demonstrations, held on Nov. 22, the protesters attempted to force their way into Ono’s office in the Alexander G. Ruthven administrative building, pushing past Division of Public Safety and Security (DPPS) officers while clamoring to see the president.
An altercation caught on video ensued between the demonstrators and the police, and a female Muslim student was arrested. The faculty group as well as Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) claimed that footage of the arrest showed an officer ripping off the student’s hijab while attempting to handcuff her. The Algemeiner has viewed the footage, however, and cannot substantiate the allegation.
In total, police arrested 40 students from the building that day. A similar incident occurred four days earlier, when the protesters clashed with police after successfully taking over the Ruthven building.
“Forty students were arrested and cited for trespassing because they dared to request a meeting with their president,” FSJP wrote. “All of this, in a campus community that waxes poetic about its efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and its exceptional status as ‘leaders and best.’”
The campus employees added that they believed the University of Michigan has tried to “bury the university’s complicity in the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people” and demanded that the school divest any of its holdings in companies linked to Israel. “A genocide carried out by the Israeli government and facilitated by corporations in which the university invests,” they continued.
The University of Michigan has long been a hub of anti-Israel activity. In January, anti-Israel student protesters there chanted, “Kamala, Kamala, you can’t hide, you’re committing genocide,” during US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to campus, where she was scheduled to discuss climate change. They also chanted, “There is only one solution: Intifada revolution” while waving Palestinian flags. A student who appeared to be leading the demonstration condemned the Biden administration for approving aid to Israel, which she referred to as “the Zionist entity.”
FSJP is a new effort organized and supported by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), a nonprofit organization that lobbies universities to adopt an academic boycott of Israel. The group advocates policies stipulating that “projects with all Israeli academic institutions should come to an end” and delineates specific restrictions that adherents should abide by — for instance, denying letters of recommendation to students who seek to study in Israel.
On its website, USACBI says professors should form such chapters “in response to the genocidal assault on Gaza and the crackdown on pro-Palestinian voices” and asks that “founding members make a commitment” to supporting academic boycotts of Israel.
The movement to form new “Faculty for Justice in Palestine” groups is growing. So far, chapters have cropped up all over higher education since Oct. 7, including at New York University, the Claremont Colleges, the University of California system, University of Florida, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Rutgers University, Haverford College, Princeton University, and Harvard University.
Critics argue the movement’s growth poses a threat to the well being of Jewish college students. According to a recent study conducted by the AMCHA Initiative, an antisemitism watchdog, a positive correlation exists between college faculty who support boycotts of Israel and the occurrence of antisemitic incidents on college campuses.
AMCHA researchers found that the “presence and number of faculty” who supported academic boycotts before Israel’s last war with Hamas in 2021, which began after the terrorist organization fired more than 150 rockets at Israeli territory, “were strongly and reliably associated with every measure of faculty and student-perpetrated antisemitic activity during this period.” They also found through a series of regression analyses that schools with “five or more faculty who had expressed support for academic BDS [the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel] prior to May 2021” were 5.6 times “more likely to have a student government that issued an anti-Zionist statement,” and 3.6 times more likely to have incidents of antisemitic harassment and intimidation.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, the director of the AMCHA Initiative, reiterated that point on Thursday.
“AMCHA’s research has shown consistently that promoting BDS in the classroom is highly correlated with increased antisemitism in the campus square,” Rossman-Benjamin told The Algemeiner. “So if the University of Michigan really wants to address the problem of antisemitism, it must start with ensuring that its faculty are prohibited from using their academic positions as bully pulpits for spewing hatred of the Jewish state and its supporters and encouraging activism to harm them.”
“Not only are FJP groups charged with giving support and academic legitimacy to the BDS efforts of their campus SJP groups, they are also committing their members to bringing academic BDS and its goals of delegitimizing and dismantling the Jewish state into their classrooms and conference halls,” she added.
Miriam Elman, executive director of the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), a nonprofit that promotes academic freedom in higher education, told The Algemeiner that while faculty should form groups centered on common interests, doing so for the purpose of denigrating others is grossly inappropriate.
“Unfortunately, based on its first public statement, the Michigan FJP appears bent on uplifting the Palestinian cause while demeaning and denigrating Jews on campus,” Elman explained. “It’s astonishing that in its lengthy initial public statement the group could find no space to advocate for the 100 plus hostages including US citizens and young women, who continue to be held in captivity by Hamas.”
“What’s most concerning about these new Faculty for Justice in Palestine groups is that they’ll end up giving a faculty ‘pass’ for the bad behavior and hostile and bigoted rhetoric that we’ve seen from all too many Students for Justice in Palestine and affiliated clubs in recent weeks,” she added. “Students tend to take their cues from faculty. On campuses where these groups are forming, I wont be surprised to see an uptick in student peer-on-peer harassment, anti-Israel activity, and antisemitism.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
Israeli Hospital Earns Spot In Global Top 10
A hospital in central Israel was ranked in the top 10 of medical centers globally, in the new rankings out by Newsweek. Sheba Medical Center, located in Tel HaShomer in central Israel, was ranked the ninth best hospital in the world according to the US publication, its sixth year in a row.
“This is a distilled moment of Israeli pride. In this challenging period, Sheba has proven its professionalism and quality for the sixth time in a row. In many ways, this is a true expression of confidence in the entire Israeli healthcare system, for which I thank it from the bottom of my heart,” said Israeli President Isaac Herzog following the news.
The Director General of the hospital, Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, added; “This achievement represents a resounding endorsement by our colleagues around the world. Sheba is working diligently to make Israel a better, healthier place and highlights our abilities to be both a center of medical excellence, as well as a beacon of co-existence, where Jewish and Arab medical personnel are working side by side 24/7 to save the lives of civilians and soldiers- Jews, Moslems and Christians alike.”
According to the hospital, which placed 11th in last year’s list, thousands of patients came through their doors in 2023 from every continent on earth, “for the treatment they could not receive in their home countries.”
Concluding on a thoughtful note, Sheba wrote: “Being ranked by Newsweek as the 9th best hospital in the world is a major achievement and an honor, yet our greatest reward lies in the lives we touch and the hope we instill. Together, with our dedicated team of medical professionals, we will continue to push the boundaries of medical advancement, ensuring that every patient receives the highest standard of care regardless of their background or where they live. Thank you for entrusting us with your health and allowing us to be a beacon of hope beyond boundaries.”
Per the rankings, four of the top five hospitals in the world are in the US, with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota at the top, followed by the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Also included in the list from Israel were the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, which ranked 64th in the world, and Rabin Medical Center’s Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, placing 158th globally.
Second Synagogue in Tunisia Attacked Since October 7
A mob set fire to the courtyard of a Tunisian synagogue in the city of Sfax on Sunday, the second such incident since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.
Nobody was injured in the fire — as there are no Jews left in Sfax — and authorities were able to put out the fire before it spread and destroyed the building, but reported showed significant damage to parts of the synagogue.
Israeli Historian Edy Cohen posted a video of the fire and explained that this is yet another example of antisemitism in Tunisia. He argued that “Israel through the Western countries must help Tunisian Jews.”
היום בבוקר נשרף בית כנסת עתיק בתוניסיה .
כתבתי עשרות פוסטים ומאמרים על האנטישמיות הגואה בתוניסיה אשר הגיעה לשיאה לפני פחות משנה כאשר נהרגו שני יהודים בפיגוע של קיצונים.
ישראל באמצעות מדינות המערב חייבת לעזור ליהודי תוניסה. pic.twitter.com/8Nw1jkjtiw
— אדי כהן Edy Cohen (@DREDYCOHEN) February 26, 2024
In 1948, there were an estimated 105,000 Jews in the country. However, by 1967, that number had declined to 20,000 after many fled to countries such as Israel and France, and today Tunisia is estimated to only have about 1,500 Jews.
This is not the first time an antisemitic mob set fire to a synagogue since Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack.
On October 17, rioters set fire to the el-Hamma Synagogue, doing considerable damage. People also entered the synagogue and destroyed much of it. The synagogue is not an active place of worship, as there are no Jews left in the city.
Videos from the riot show crowds of people walking in, around, and on top of the synagogue — including at least one person waving a large Palestinian flag.
En Tunisie, la synagogue d’El Hamma a été détruite et incendiée hier soir par des centaines d’émeutiers, sans la moindre intervention policière. De nombreuses vidéos sur TikTok et Facebook. Et pas la moindre mention dans les médias nationaux https://t.co/U601jWVYWq pic.twitter.com/6F8uIZhoe3
— Joseph Hirsch (@josephhirsch5) October 18, 2023
The riot was precipitated by false reports that Israel had bombed Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza, resulting in more than 500 casualties. News outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post uncritically reported the story.
Later, reports from those same outlets, along with human rights groups, suggested that a rocket launched by Palestinian terrorists malfunctioned and hit the parking lot of the hospital, killing dozens. U.S. and Israeli intelligence also conclude this is what took place.
But the damage of the initial reporting was done, whipping much of the Arab world into a frenzy, resulting in huge protests and — in this case — mob violence.
Just a year prior to the war, there was a deadly terrorist attack against the El Ghriba Synagogue on the island of Djerba, where the vast majority of Tunisia’s Jews live. The terrorist opened fire on security guards, killing two and injuring six. He also shot at Jews at the synagogue, two of whom were killed and another four were injured.
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From Ground Zero to the Gaza Border: US Medical Doctors Volunteer In Israel
On September 12, 2001, Dr. Marc Wilkenfeld, a specialist in occupational medicine, was treating victims of terror at a site that would later become known as Ground Zero. More than 22 years later, Wilkenfeld found himself 6,000 miles away from Ground Zero treating terror victims in Israel.
Wilkenfeld took leave of his job for two weeks to volunteer with IL-USDocAID, an initiative that was established in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attacks on October 7, in which more than 1200 people were murdered and 253 were abducted to Gaza.
The project, a joint partnership between Israel’s Health Ministry and the Israel Economic Mission to the US, came in response to the sudden duress suffered by Israel’s health system from soaring casualties and the deployment of thousands of medical staff members, who serve in the IDF as reserve soldiers, to the frontlines.
Wilkenfeld said he was driven to come to Israel after seeing reports of mobilization efforts by Israeli civilians, some as early as October 7 itself. The idea of Israelis who were told to stay in their safe rooms rushing to help first responders wherever they could compelled him to action.
“In America, you feel helpless. What are you going to do? The ability to go here and even play a small role, just to give some advice medically – it’s a beautiful thing,” he told The Algemeiner.
Wilkenfeld took his family with him, who volunteered by cooking for soldiers while he was treating people.
In Israel, Wilkenfeld experienced many firsts. Despite 30 years of being active in the medical profession, including at the scenes of terror attacks, it was the first time he had ever encountered an ambulance station pockmarked by shrapnel and ambulances riddled with bullet holes.
Visiting physicians are given a choice to volunteer with paramedics in ambulances or work directly inside hospitals.
“When you have a doctor in the ambulance there’s more you can do as a paramedic,” Wilkenfeld said. “It also gives real strength for the paramedics to know that people want to come and give help.”
Wilkenfeld said the visit taught him not to pay too much attention to misinformation about Israel.
“I didn’t learn too much about medicine, but I learned a lot about Israel,” he said. “You read in the press that Israel is an apartheid state. But from a medical perspective it’s precisely the opposite.”
During his time in the country, Wilkenfeld said that all the patients he treated received the same medical care, from the “arab in east Jerusalem” to the “major rabbi from Har Nof,” an ultra-Orthodox suburb.
He noted, however, that working in Jerusalem was vastly different from the south, which suffered the brunt of the onslaught, where people are still in an acute state of shock.
“I’ve seen almost a thousand 9/11 responders, the responders in Sderot have the same look in their eyes,” he said of the southern Israeli city in which at least 50 civilians and 20 police officers were murdered. “They talk about the bodies in the ambulance station, about how to prioritize patients, that they haven’t slept in weeks.”
He also said that meeting with the families of hostages left him with a “terrible sadness,” rendering him speechless. Leaning on his medical expertise, however, eventually allowed Wilkenfeld to find his own voice to console them.
“It’s not possible to live in southern Israel and not have PTSD,” he said.
Wilkenfeld returned to his job in New York, where he serves as chief of occupational medicine and clinical assistant professor at NYU-Langone in Long Island, with a somber sense of the realities facing Israel.
He is already working to recruit more volunteers for the project if war should come to Israel again.
“If there is a next time, God forbid, now we can mobilize,” he said. “Now we know who to talk to, where things are.”
Parting ways with the Israeli medical personnel he worked alongside, Wilkenfeld was struck by their sacrifice amidst incomprehensible conditions.
“I leave and they have to live with this.” At the end of the day, he said, “they did much more for me than I did for them.”
To find out more about volunteering as a medic in Israel, click on the following link: IL-USDocAID: https://www.ilusdocaid.org/
The post From Ground Zero to the Gaza Border: US Medical Doctors Volunteer In Israel first appeared on Algemeiner.com.