WASHINGTON (JTA) — A top U.S. official denied reports that the Biden administration has set a deadline for Israel to end its war with Hamas. But U.S. officials are becoming more open and outspoken about differences between the two allies over the war’s conduct.
“We’re not in the business of being that prescriptive with a core partner and ally who has suffered such an egregious, appalling terrorist attack and who is responding in our view with what is absolutely necessary in their responsibility to reduce the threat to their own civilian population,” Jon Finer, a deputy national security adviser, said Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington, D.C.. “In terms of telling them, ‘You must stop at this moment,’ that’s not the way we conduct our business.”
Finer spoke on the same day that Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed disappointment in Israel’s conduct of the war in the week since a pause in fighting ended, describing a “gap” between what Israeli officials pledged to him when he visited the country during the pause, and what he sees happening now. Israel is now focusing its military campaign on the city of Khan Younis in Gaza’s south, following its capture of Gaza City in the north.
“As we stand here almost a week into this campaign in the south after the end of the humanitarian pause, it is imperative – it remains imperative – that Israel put a premium on civilian protection, and there does remain a gap between exactly what I said when I was there, the intent to protect civilians, and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground,” he said at a press conference with his British counterpart, David Cameron.
Biden also is making his frustration with Israel’s government more apparent, saying in an unusually detailed readout of his phone call Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he told the prime minister that Israel needed to allow in “much more” humanitarian assistance.
Since Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7, launching the war, President Joe Biden has rejected calls for a ceasefire. He has robustly backed Israel’s war aims of removing Hamas from power and returning the more than 240 hostages it abducted. Hamas returned more than 100 hostages during a recent seven-day pause in the fighting during which Israel released hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners. In addition to diplomatic backing and sending warships to the region to deter broader attacks on Israel, Biden has asked Congress for $14 billion in emergency funding for the country that has yet to be approved.
But Biden has also been under increasing pressure from progressives in his party who favor a ceasefire. During the break in fighting, top officials including Blinken pressed Israel to pursue the war with more precision and less ferocity in Gaza’s south than it had in the north.
Israel resumed air strikes and ground maneuvers after the pause. According to the Hamas-run health ministry, 17,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, including thousands of children. That number does not differentiate between combatants and civilians and does not specify those killed by misfired rockets aimed at Israel. Hamas terrorists killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians, on Oct. 7, when it launched the war. Since then, nearly 100 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the fighting.
Biden, in his readout of the call with Netanyahu, focused on the need for more humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip.
“The President underscored the importance of the continuous and sustained flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza,” the readout said. “He welcomed the recent Israeli decision to ensure that fuel levels will meet requisite needs, but stressed that much more assistance was urgently required across the board.”
Biden also was not satisfied with Israel’s handling of extremist settler attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, which have spiked. His administration criticized Netanyahu earlier this week over the issue when it announced that it would ban entry to Israeli settlers and Palestinians who harm “peace, security, or stability in the West Bank.”
“President Biden reiterated his concern about extremist violence committed against Palestinians and the need to increase stability in the West Bank,” the readout said.
Netanyahu has seized upon the seasonal message of Hanukkah to make clear that Israel is sticking to the goal of removing Hamas from power and returning the hostages.
“We are currently deep inside the Gaza Strip,” he said, likening Israeli soldiers to the ancient Maccabees.. “This enemy will not break us up — we will break it up. This enemy will not wipe us out, we will wipe it out. This enemy will not overcome us, we will overcome it. This is being carried out day by day and night by night, and we will do it until the end.”
There also are more evident differences between the governments about what happens the day after the war ends. Netanyahu has said that under no circumstances will he transfer authority to the Palestinian Authority, which he does not trust, although the governments continue to cooperate to stem an intensification of violence in the West Bank. Blinken says the Biden administration favors a P.A. role. The Palestinian Authority governs day-to-day affairs in Palestinian population centers in the West Bank.
“We discussed in our meeting how that’s about how we build up and revitalize the Palestinian Authority, it’s about how we stand up a plan for what happens after this operation is over,” Blinken said, describing his meeting with Cameron.
The administration on Friday appeared to walk back its criticism of Israel, at least tonally. John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, said in a briefing with reporters that Israel appeared to be applying more care to its operations in the south, endeavoring to forewarn civilians of its actions so they can get to safer ground.
“They have in fact taken some actions to try to be more careful,” Kirby said. “They have been publishing a map of where people can go and not go, that is the definition of pulling your punches.” He added, however: “More can be done.”
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In the first few years after Israel’s independence, it incurred significant expenses to defend itself in the 1948 war, absorb 800,000 immigrants and build the state. Although significant financial support came from outside of Israel (including through the sale of Israel Bonds starting in 1951), a large portion of the costs were borne directly by […]
Texas University Plans to Close Qatar Campus Amid Scrutiny of Hamas Ties
On Thursday, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents voted 7-1 to end its contract with the Qatar Foundation, which will result in the college’s Qatar campus shutting down over the next four years.
Texas A&M said it decided to reassess its relationship with Qatar after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, in which the terrorist group murdered 1,200 Israelis and took more than 240 more hostage. It cites regional instability as one of the reasons for its decision. The Qatari government also has extensive ties with Hamas’ political and military leadership.
The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is funded by the Qatari government and is the institution that funds Texas A&M’s Qatar campus.
The Chair of the university’s Board of Regents said it “has decided that the core mission of Texas A&M should be advanced primarily within Texas and the United States.” He continued, explaining that “By the middle of the 21st century, the university will not necessarily need a campus infrastructure 8,000 miles away to support education and research collaborations.”
The decision also comes amid heightened scrutiny of Qatar’s role in American higher education — as it spent almost $5 billion on American universities between 2001 and 2021 — as well as its role in funding terrorist groups such as Hamas.
In an article for The Free Press in October, Eli Lake outlined what he saw as the significant influence Qatar is having on American higher education. He lists the universities that have gotten significant donations from Qatar, such as Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, and Northwestern. He also notes that Qatar’s influence goes beyond money, affecting policies and programs within specific academic departments as well. For example, the Qatar campus of Northwestern, which is home to the U.S.’s best journalism program, had an agreement with the terrorist-sympathetic Al-Jazeera that it would help train its students.
The significant attention paid to these relationships is likely driven by the steep increase in anti-Israel and pro-terrorist sentiment in the U.S., particularly on college campuses.
A 2023 report from the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy also concluded that concealed donations from foreign governments to U.S. educational institutions are associated with an increase in antisemitic incidents on campus and the erosion of liberal norms.
However, the Qatar Foundation believes the decision was made for political reasons. In a statement, it wrote: “It is deeply disappointing that a globally respected academic institution like Texas A&M University has fallen victim to such a campaign and allowed politics to infiltrate its decision-making processes. At no point did the Board attempt to seek out the truth from Qatar Foundation before making this misguided decision.”
There have been no indications thus far that other universities that receive a significant amount of Qatari funding, or operate campuses in Qatar, are reconsidering their relationship.
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Antisemitic Vandals Strike Hillel Building at University of Leeds in UK
The Hillel House of University of Leeds was vandalized on Thursday night, raising further concerns about a hateful campus climate and rising antisemitism across the United Kingdom, particularly since Hamas’ October 7 attacks.
The vandals, according to pictures shared online, graffitied “FREE PALESTINE” on the building and additional scribble on two window panes.
“We are heartbroken and angry that after an uplifting and inspiring Challah Bake, our JSoc Hillel House was defaced with antisemitic graffiti,” Leeds JSoc, which uses the building for club meetings, said in a statement also signed by the Union of Jewish Students, an advocacy group. “It is shocking and outrageous that those who hate us would stoop to this level.”
The groups noted that a University of Leeds professor may be responsible for leading anti-Zionist to the building, alleging that he shared its address “for the sole purpose of intimidating Jewish students on campus.”
“We are working with CST and the police to ensure that those who committed this crime get the consequences they deserve,” the group added.
Anti-Zionists extremists struck elsewhere on Thursday, storming University of Birmingham with socialists and other far-left groups while holding signs that said, “Zionists off our campus” and “75 years of illegal occupation!” Many concealed their faces, covering them with keffiyeh.
“Jewish students are feeling less and less safe at university because of these vile antisemitic acts,” National Jewish Assembly (NJA), a Jewish civil rights nonprofit, said in a statement about the incidents. “It’s time we say enough. Jewish students deserve and must feel safe on campus.”
Thursday’s incidents followed a set-back for the academic Jewish community. Earlier this week, it was announced that a UK government agency which arbitrates disputes over employment law ruled that University of Bristol lacked standing to fire sociologist David Miller, an extreme anti-Zionist who was accused of harassing Jewish students and promoting antisemitic tropes, and said his “anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a philosophical belief and as a protected characteristic.”
Pervasive antisemitism and anti-Zionism at UK universities is forcing members of the Jewish academic community to conceal their identities on campus, according to a June 2023 report issued by the Parliamentary Task Force on Antisemitism in Higher Education, a committee of lawmakers and established by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2022 in response to complaints of anti-Jewish racism and discrimination.
“We were told it was commonplace for Jewish students to choose not to wear certain clothing or jewelry around campus because it would make them visibly identifiable as Jewish,” the Task Force wrote in the report, titled Understanding Jewish Experience in Higher Education, noting that academic staff “also raised important comparable concerns about negativity surrounding their Jewish identity.”
The Task Force recommended that all universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which, it said, has not, contrary to the claims of its many opponents, diminished free speech and academic freedom.
Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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