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US Lawmakers Interrogate Columbia University President Over Response to Surging Campus Antisemitism

Columbia University administrators and faculty, led by President Minouche Shafik, testified before the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce on April 17, 2024. Photo: Jack Gruber/Reuters Connect

Columbia University president Minouche Shafik testified for over three hours before the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Wednesday about her administration’s alleged failure to address antisemitism, which has prompted a congressional investigation and prompted widespread backlash against one of America’s most prestigious schools.

“Trying to reconcile the free speech rights of those who wanted to protest and the rights of Jewish students to be in an environment free of discrimination and harassment has been the central challenge on our campus and numerous others across the country,” said Shafik, who admitted she prepped many hours for Wednesday’s hearing. “Regrettably, the events of [Hamas’ invasion of Israel on] Oct. 7 brought to the fore an undercurrent of antisemitism that is a major challenge, and like many other universities Columbia has seen a rise in antisemitic incidents.”

Shafik went on to defend her record, insisting that she and other high-level administrators promptly acknowledged the severity of antisemitism fueled by anti-Israel animus. Columbia’s president argued she took concrete steps to ensure that the rights and safety of Jewish students were protected without qualification, including opening contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Shafik added that she attended a vigil which commemorated the lives of Israelis who died on Oct. 7 and has spent “most of my time since becoming president on these issues, holding over 200 meetings with group of students, faculty, alumni, donors, parents, some of whom are here.”

Wednesday’s hearing, titled “Crisis at Columbia,” invoked for many observers the infamous testimony of Claudine Gay and Elizabeth Magill, who both appeared before the same congressional committee in December to discuss campus antisemitism and refused to say that calling for the genocide of Jews would constitute a violation of school rules against bullying and harassment. Days later, Magill resigned as the president of the University of Pennsylvania; Gay followed suit at Harvard University about a month after the hearing.

Unlike Gay and Magill, Shafik did not provide the same equivocating answers to direct questions about the treatment of Jewish students in her care. However, she would not say that chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — a popular slogan widely interpreted as a call for the destruction of Israel — was antisemitic, opting instead to say it was “hurtful.” Shafik did say that any student or professor who advocates murdering Jews is in violation of Columbia’s community standards.

Shafik received many questions about the school’s continued employment of professor Joseph Massad, who has a long history of uttering allegedly antisemitic statements in his classroom and said after Oct. 7 that Hamas’ violence was “awesome.” Lawmakers demanded to know whether Massad has been reprimanded by the university, questions to which Shafik did not provide clear answers. She claimed that he has been “spoken to” by the head of his department and removed from a leadership position, but US Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) responded that this change has not yet been reflected on the university’s website.

Another professor, Mohammed Abdou, who was hired after cheering Hamas’ atrocities publicly, has been terminated, Shafik said, adding that he “will never” be invited back.

“Don’t you think it’s a problem when the hiring process of Columbia is hiring someone who makes those statements, hired after he makes those statements?” Stefanik asked.

“I agree with you that I think we need to look at how to toughen up those requirements,” Shafik said. “We do have a requirement, but I think we need to look at how we can make them more effective.”

Stefanik then brought up another controversial Columbia professor.

“Let me ask you about Professor Catherine Frank from the Columbia Law School who said that all Israeli students who have served in the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] are dangerous and shouldn’t be on campus,” Stefanik continued. “What disciplinary actions have been taken against that professor?”

“She has been spoken to by a very senior person in the administration,” Shafik answered, adding that Frank has said she misspoke and that “she will be finding a way to clarify her position.”

Stefanik then denounced what she described as a double standard on college campuses: that antisemitic statements uttered by students and professors about Jews are rarely, if ever, followed by disciplinary measures dictated by the school’s strict anti-discrimination policies. Stefanik argued that antisemitism “is tolerated” at Columbia University and that the school’s response to it has never signaled otherwise. Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) added that there are no circumstances under which similar treatment of minority groups, such as Black students, would be allowed.

During her testimony, Shafik claimed that over a dozen students have been suspended for antisemitic conduct and holding an unauthorized event, titled “Resistance 101,” to which a member of a terrorist organization was invited. However, committee chair Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), responded that since Oct. 7, only Jewish students have been suspended for allegedly spraying an “odorous” fragrance near anti-Zionist protesters, an incident mentioned by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to seemingly undermine the verbal and physical abuse to which Jewish students at Columbia have been subjected.

“Only three students were given interim suspensions for antisemitic conduct. All three were lifted or dropped to probation, including a student who repeatedly harassed students screaming, ‘F—k the Jews.’ Of the ten suspensions that came in response to the Resistance 101, five were lifted because Columbia determined they were not involved,” Foxx said during her closing remarks. “The only two Columbia students who remain suspended for incidents related to Oct. 7 that took place before we called Dr. Shafik to testify are the two Jewish students suspended for spraying the odorous substance Representative Omar referred to. Dr. Shafik’s testimony was misleading there, too. Documents Columbia produced to the committee show it was a non-toxic, gag spray. While that was an inappropriate action, for months Jewish students have been vilified with false accusations of a ‘chemical attack,’ and Columbia failed to correct the record.”

She added, “Radical antisemitic faculty remain a huge problem throughout Columbia … while some changes have begun on campus, there is still a significant amount of work to be done.”

Several Jewish civil rights groups have alleged that Columbia allowed antisemitism to explode on campus and endanger the welfare of Jewish students and faculty after Oct. 7.

“F—k the Jews,” “Death to Jews,” “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab” are among the chants that anti-Zionist students have yelled on campus grounds after Oct. 7, violating the school’s code of conduct and never facing consequences, according to a lawsuit filed in February.

Faculty engaged in similar behavior. On Oct. 8, Massad published in Electronic Intifada an essay cheering Hamas’ atrocities, which included slaughtering children and raping women, as “awesome” and describing men who paraglided into a music festival to kill young people as “the air force of the Palestinian resistance.”

After bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on their people, pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence, the complaint filed in February alleged. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.

Columbia University remains under investigation by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post US Lawmakers Interrogate Columbia University President Over Response to Surging Campus Antisemitism first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander

Antisemitic hate crimes continue to account for more than any other category of reported hate crimes in Toronto, according to the head of Toronto police intelligence. Superintendent Katherine Stephenson of Toronto Police Service (TPS) confirmed the ongoing spike in hate occurrences during a presentation at Holy Blossom Temple on May 29, where she addressed 350 […]

The post Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘Israel Is Not Jewish People,’ New York Times ‘Daily’ Guest Really Wants You to Know

Anti-Israel protesters outside Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City, April 22, 2024. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

When producers from the New York Times podcast “The Daily” posted on social media looking for “Jewish students who represent a range of feelings and experiences, from being enthusiastically pro Palestinian to enthusiastically pro Israel, and everything in between,” I replied, “This is a trap! They’ll use the ‘pro-Palestinian’ (the polite term they use for the ones who want to wipe Israel off the map) ones to make it sound like the Jewish community is divided and give listeners the illusion that the anti-Israel protests aren’t antisemitic.”

Sure enough, the Times podcast episode that finally aired, headlined, “The Campus Protesters Explain Themselves,” included three students.

Mustafa Yowell, of Irving, Texas, said his mother was from “Nablus, Palestine” and described himself as a Palestinian Arab. He’s a student at the University of Texas, Austin who complained to the Times that “two IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers had infiltrated the campus.” By “IDF soldiers” he meant Israeli students at the university who had, like many Israelis, served in the army before college.

The second student interviewed, Elisha Baker, a student at Columbia University, described himself as a proud Zionist and a graduate of Jewish day school.

And the third student, Jasmine Jolly, a student at Cal Poly Humboldt, described herself as the daughter of a Catholic father and “of Ashkenazi descent on my mom’s side.” Jolly showed up at protests with a sign that said “in honor of my Jewish ancestors, I stand with Palestine.” Jolly also chanted “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.”

“There’s nothing that has come across to me as antisemitic if you are able to pause and remember that Israel is not Jewish people and Zionism is not Jewish people,” Jolly explained to the Times audience.

Jolly read an email from her Jewish grandfather claiming, “Israel is an increasingly apartheid state.”

This is just such a misleading view of reality on campus and in American Jewish life. Even polls like Pew that use an expansive definition of who is Jewish find overwhelming Jewish support for Israel and negligible support for Hamas, including among younger Jews 18 to 34.

In reality, a lot of the anti-Israel protesters aren’t even Palestinians; they are European or Asian students or white or black Americans who either have been brainwashed by their professors or who have underlying, pre-existing antisemitic attitudes. Few of them have been to the Middle East and many of them are ignorant about basic facts about it — remember the Wall Street Journal piece, “From Which River to Which Sea?

“The Daily” episode made it crisply concrete, with the Times representing Jews as being split 50-50, with one normative Jew and one Jew chanting “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.” That’s ridiculous, yet a similar approach contaminates other Times coverage of the Jewish community, misleadlingly portraying American Jewry as deeply divided rather than unified around the goals of getting the hostages back, eliminating the threat of Hamas, and making American college campuses safe for Jewish students.

The Times was at this game well before Oct. 7, 2023, proclaiming “the unraveling of American Zionism” and trotting out old chestnuts such as the Reform movement’s Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 and the New York Times‘ favorite Jew, Peter Beinart.

I find myself rolling my eyes at such depictions, but there is clearly some audience for them among the Times readership and top editorial ranks. The Times executive editor, Joe Kahn, told Semafor’s Ben Smith in a May interview, “I’m not an active Jew.” Maybe the New York Times can sell sweatshirts: “Inactive Jew.” Who, exactly, is supposed to find that distinction between “active” and “inactive” Jews reassuring? Maybe they can put it on top of the front page in place of “All the News That’s Fit to Print”: “Edited by someone who wants the public to know he’s not an active Jew.”

Of all the moments to choose to distance oneself publicly from the Jewish people, this is sure quite one to choose.

This “Daily” episode seems calculated to appeal to the inactive Jews, and to others who want justification to believe it’s not antisemitic to set up on Passover and falsely accuse Israel of genocide. It’s nice for the Times to include a Zionist voice on the program, but he wound up sandwiched in between a Palestinian and an “only one solution, intifada revolution” person. It’s fairly typical for the New York Times these days, but it isn’t pretty.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here. He also writes at TheEditors.com.

The post ‘Israel Is Not Jewish People,’ New York Times ‘Daily’ Guest Really Wants You to Know first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad Releases Second Video of Israeli Hostage Sasha Troufanov

Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov as seen in an undated propaganda video released by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on May 30, 2024. Photo: Screenshot

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group on Thursday released a second propaganda video this week featuring Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov, 28, who was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists during Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

In the video, Trufanov says he is doing well and criticizes Israel’s prime minister and government in remarks that were likely scripted by his captors.

There was no information about when the video was filmed. However, Trufanov refers to Israel’s decision on May 5 to order the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network to close, indicating he may have been filmed in the last few weeks.

The latest video came just two days after Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed Palestinian terrorist group in Gaza, released its first video featuring Trufanov.

The 30-second undated video shows Trufanov, an Amazon employee, identifying himself and saying that he will soon discuss what has happened to him and other hostages in Gaza.

Similar videos have been released by terrorists groups in Gaza. Israel has lambasted them as psychological warfare meant to torture the Israeli public, especially the families of the hostages being held in Gaza.

Trufanov’s mother said after the first video was released that she was happy to see her son after all this time, but it was “heartbreaking” that he had been a hostage for so long.

“Seeing my Sasha on my TV was very cheering, but it also breaks my heart that he’s still been in captivity for so long,” she said in a video released by the family. “I ask everyone, all the decision-makers: Please do everything, absolutely everything, to bring my son and all the hostages home now.”

Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists abducted over 250 people during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Sasha was kidnapped alongside his mother, grandmother, and girlfriend. All three women were released as part of a temporary ceasefire agreement negotiated in November. His father, Vitaly Trufanov, was one of the 1,200 people killed during the Hamas massacre.

“The proof of life from Alexsander (Sasha) Trufanov is additional evidence that the Israeli government must give a significant mandate to the negotiating team,” the Hostages Families Forum, which represents the families of the hostages, said in a statement.

More than 120 hostages remain in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. Islamic Jihad is a separate but allied terrorist organization in the Palestinian enclave. Both are backed by Iran, which provides them with money, weapons, and training.

Negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt, and the US to reach a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have been stalled for weeks.

Trufanov was an engineer at the Israeli microelectronics company Annapurna Labs, which Amazon owns.

The post Palestinian Islamic Jihad Releases Second Video of Israeli Hostage Sasha Troufanov first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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