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Visiting Israel, Eric Adams meets with antigovernment protesters

(New York Jewish Week) — On his first trip to Israel as mayor, Eric Adams made all of the expected stops — meeting with the prime minister and president, visiting the Western Wall and the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, sampling from the offerings of the country’s tech scene. 

But he added another, less traditional agenda item: a meeting with two organizers of the ongoing mass protest movement against the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul. 

The 40-minute meeting, which took place Tuesday at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, made Adams one of the most influential officials in the United States to engage directly with the protest movement while on a visit to Israel. 

Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives and the Senate, did not meet with protest leaders on their own trips earlier this year. 

Karine Nahon, one of the protest organizers who met with Adams, celebrated the meeting as a sign of her movement’s impact. 

“The significance is, first of all, in the meeting itself — the fact that senior leaders are coming and are meeting with leaders of the protests,” Nahon, a professor who studies information and society at Israel’s Reichman University, told the New York Jewish Week. “I think that in the last eight months many of the things happening in Israel are stemming from the protests.” 

The protest movement, which has brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets weekly since the beginning of the year, opposes the Israeli government’s ongoing effort to weaken the country’s Supreme Court. The first component of the legislation passed in July and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to resume pushing the plan forward in the fall. 

Adams met with a range of religious and business leaders and said that the three-day trip is focused on fighting antisemitism, increasing public safety and deepening connections between New York City and Israel’s tech industry. He met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and Yisrael Gantz, an official from Israel’s West Bank settlements, among other dignitaries. He also visited the Western Wall — where a picture released by his office showed him wearing a bracelet that said “Hustle” while placing his hands on the wall’s stones — and laid a wreath at Yad Vashem.

Adams met with Netanyahu later on Tuesday and, in a press conference that day, declined to take a position on the judicial overhaul. That sets him apart from other Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden, who has repeatedly cautioned against the legislation in strong terms. 

“It was great to meet, also, the leaders of Israel’s protest movement and just hear their thoughts because these are historical moments and I think we should all watch the history play out in all of our countries,” Adams said. “And I just want it to be here, not to interfere, but just to learn. And I’m aware that my trip comes at a pivotal moment for Israel, and I believe the people of Israel will make the determination on how they want to move forward.”

He also tweeted a picture from the meeting, writing, “Had an honest conversation with two leaders in Israel’s protest movement this morning about numerous issues at play here. I appreciate the opportunity to hear their diverse perspective.” 

The meeting was organized by the UJA-Federation of New York, which helped facilitate the mayor’s visit to Israel. Along with Nahon and the mayor, the meeting was attended by tech investor and fellow protest organizer Gigi Levy-Weiss and UJA-Federation CEO Eric Goldstein. 

UJA-Federation, which is a funder of 70 Faces Media, the New York Jewish Week’s parent company, referred all questions about the meeting to the mayor’s office. His office, in turn, referred to his comments at the press conference. 

Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime New York City political consultant, called Adams the “greeter in chief” and said he wasn’t surprised by the mayor’s meeting with protest leaders. The meeting, Sheinkopf said, could be part of Adams’ efforts to prove his bona fides to the city’s progressive Jewish voters. 

“Adams is trying to be, when it comes to Israel and it comes to Jews, all things to all people,” Sheinkopf said. “He’s got a lock on the more conservative and Orthodox, Hasidic groups. What he needs to do is get more of the liberals, and they’re in places like the Upper West Side and Park Slope, and he needs to get more of their votes in 2025. It makes him appear evenhanded.” 

Nahon said Adams largely stuck to asking questions in the meeting and didn’t express his opinion on the judicial overhaul, though she felt he understood the protests’ message. 

She and Levy-Weiss, she said, aimed to describe the overhaul and why they believe it will harm Israeli democracy by undermining the country’s checks and balances and separation of powers. 

“The importance of preserving Israel as a Jewish and democratic state — that’s what this fight is about,” Nahon said, describing their message to Adams. “And we said clearly, you can’t be only a Jewish state, because then you essentially lose all your legitimacy, everything we’ve built here over the past 75 years. On the other hand, you can’t be only a democratic state — this combination of Jewish and democratic is what sustains us.”

The overhaul’s proponents believe the legislation will curb an overly activist court system and allow the government to better represent the country’s right-wing majority. The overhaul did not feature in a nearly-three minute video Netanyahu’s office posted to social media, which showed Adams and the prime minister’s staffs meeting in a conference room as well as the mayor tasting some products of Israel’s food tech startups. 

“Throughout his visit, Mayor Adams has engaged in a range of activities and met with a variety of individuals that represent the diversity of Israel,” a spokesperson for the Israeli consulate in New York told the New York Jewish Week when asked about the meeting with protest organizers. “We respect his approach and the freedom of dialogue it represents.”

Nahon said she hopes the meeting leads Adams and other officials to reflect the voices of Israel’s citizens in their views and remarks about the country. 

“It’s very important that everyone who loves Israel and is friends with Israel embraces the Israeli public,” she said. “I want to see them make statements of support for the Israeli public that’s fighting.”

The post Visiting Israel, Eric Adams meets with antigovernment protesters appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israel, US Blast ‘Outrageous’ ICC Request for Netanyahu’s Arrest

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday issued blistering condemnations of the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor’s demand for arrest warrants for the Israeli premier, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Hamas terror chief Yahye Sinwar.

Biden said the move by Karim Khan was “outrageous” and “shameful,” adding, “Let me be clear: Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that the US “fundamentally rejects the announcement.”

In a video message, Netanyahu called the warrant application “absurd and false” and said it “was not directed only against the prime minister of Israel and the defense minister, but against the entire State of Israel and against the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers, who are fighting with otherworldly heroism against the depraved Hamas murderers who attacked us with savage butchery on the seventh of October.”

Addressing the chief prosecutor, Netanyahu continued: “With what chutzpah do you dare compare the monsters of Hamas to the soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world? With what audacity do you compare between Hamas that murdered, burned, butchered, raped, and kidnapped our brothers and sisters, and the IDF soldiers who are fighting a just war that is incomparable, with a morality that is unmatched?”

In addition to Sinwar, the request also called for the arrests of Hamas’ political leader in Qatar, Ismail Haniyeh, and the Palestinian terror group’s military head, Mohammed Deif, on charges of war crimes.

Blinken called the prosecutor’s equivalence of Israel with Hamas “shameful.”

“Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization that carried out the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and is still holding dozens of innocent people hostage, including Americans,” Blinken said.

He emphasized that the ICC had “no jurisdiction” over the war, and noted that both Israel and the US are not parties of the Rome Statute, the international treaty that established the court. The top US diplomat also called into question “deeply troubling processes” by Khan, who was supposed to send a team to Israel on Monday to coordinate his own visit next week.

“Israel was informed that they did not board their flight around the same time that the prosecutor went on cable television to announce the charges. These and other circumstances call into question the legitimacy and credibility of this investigation,” Blinken said.

An unprecedented majority in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset — 106 out of 120 MKs — signed a petition on Monday afternoon against what they said was an “unerasable historical crime.”

“The scandalous comparison by the Hague prosecutor between Israel’s leaders and the heads of terror organizations is an unerasable historical crime and a clear expression of antisemitism,” the petition read. “We reject this with revulsion. Eighty years after the Holocaust, no one will prevent the Jewish state from defending itself.”

Israel will likely lobby the US Congress to pursue sanctions against the ICC. Several Republican senators last month warned against issuing warrants, saying they would push for sanctions against Khan including barring entry to the US.

One of them, US Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), said on Monday he will “feverishly work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both chambers to levy damning sanctions against the ICC,” adding that “Prosecutor Khan is drunk with self-importance and has done a lot of damage to the peace process and to the ability to find a way forward.”

Former US national security adviser John Bolton also called for the US to impose sanctions on the ICC, saying the Hague court had proved its “fundamental illegitimacy.”

“To aid our ally Israel, the US should take steps both in Congress and in the White House to condemn the ICC and impose sanctions,” he wrote on X/Twitter.

The ICC action also received strong criticism in Europe.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala called Khan’s decision “appalling and completely unacceptable.”

“We must not forget that it was Hamas that attacked Israel in October and killed, injured, and kidnapped thousands of innocent people,” he wrote on X. “It was this completely unprovoked terrorist attack that led to the current war in Gaza and the suffering of civilians in Gaza, Israel and Lebanon.”

Other European leaders, however, supported the ICC move.

“Crimes committed in Gaza must be prosecuted at the highest level, regardless of the perpetrators,” Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib wrote. “The fight against impunity wherever crimes occur is a priority for Belgium.”

The call for arrest warrants “is an important step in the investigation of the situation in Palestine,” she added.

The post Israel, US Blast ‘Outrageous’ ICC Request for Netanyahu’s Arrest first appeared on

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Republican Jewish Coalition Unveils $50,000 Ad Buy to Woo Jewish Voters Ahead of 2024 Presidential Election

US President Joe Biden speaks at a Detroit Branch NAACP annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit, Michigan, US, May 19, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) will purchase $50,000 worth of digital ads in key battleground states with the purpose of targeting Jewish voters ahead of the 2024 US presidential election, according to a statement released by the group on Monday.

The RJC, an organization that seeks to build support for the Republican Party among Jewish voters, claimed it would release new ads underlining what it described as the deteriorating relationship between Israel and the United States during the Biden administration. The ads suggest that US President Joe Biden has undermined Israel’s military campaign in Gaza against Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that launched the ongoing war with its Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

As antisemitism spikes to record highs and America’s relationship with our ally Israel continues to reach new lows, the Jewish community is more energized than ever to turn the page from the failures, broken promises, and betrayals by Joe Biden,” RNC chair Norm Coleman and CEO Matt Brooks said in a statement.

The two ads will be deployed in states considered critical in the 2024 presidential election: Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Michigan. Both ads swipe at Biden over his decision to pause offensive arm shipments to Israel and suggest the president has “stabbed Israel in the back.” They also accuse Biden of not being “strong” enough to guarantee Israel’s security and urge voters to support Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

“Biden is siding with Hamas, Iran, and Hezbollah over Israel at the most crucial time, a blunder of historic proportions that will lead to more death and destruction,” one of the ads says. 

Biden expressed strong support for Israel following the Oct. 7 onslaught, and since then the US has sent significant amounts of munitions to the Jewish state for its war effort against Hamas. In recent weeks, however, he has adopted a much more critical posture toward Jerusalem, culminating with his decision earlier this month to withhold sending certain weapons to Israel due to disagreements over Israeli military operations in Gaza.

In the months following Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks on Israel, Republican politicians have attempted to capitalize on the growing tension between Democrats and Jewish voters. On May 9, Trump lambasted Jewish supporters of Biden.

“If you’re Jewish, and you vote for him, I say shame on you,” Trump said. 

Ammiel Hirsch, a rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week warning Democrats not to take Jewish voters for granted. 

“American Jews increasingly feel politically homeless. Liberal Jewish voters consider President Biden a longtime friend. At the same time, they are troubled by the growing influence of anti-Israel forces in the Democratic Party,” Hirsch wrote.

In his final statement before passing away earlier this year, former US Senator and Democratic Party vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman similarly warned Democrats and Biden about the political danger of turning against Israel.

“We are here to say that you can no longer simply count on our vote just because Jews traditionally have voted Democratic. We are here to say you must earn our vote,” the joint statement read. “We want to continue to support Democratic candidates, but you need to know that if you abandon Israel in order to garner the support of anti-Israel extremists within the Democratic Party, it will be difficult for us to support Democrats who are on the ballot this November.”

Lieberman, an ardent supporter of Israel, was the first Jewish candidate on a major party presidential ticket in the US.

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Pro-Hamas Encampment at Drexel University Pushes School Into Lockdown

“Gaza Solidarity Encampment” at Drexel University. Photo: X/Twitter

A “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” was erected suddenly at Drexel University in Philadelphia over the weekend, forcing school officials to lock down the campus to protect it from a flood of non-students who joined the demonstration.

“This demonstration has already proved intolerably disruptive to normal university operations and has raised serious concerns about the conduct of some participants, including distressing reports and images of protesters subjecting passersby to antisemitic speech, signs, and chants,” Drexel University president John Fry said on Sunday in a letter to the campus community. “These kinds of hateful and intimidating acts must be condemned, and they cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Fry added that “it has become increasingly apparent that most of the encampment participants are outside individuals who are unaffiliated with Drexel.”

The group responsible for the demonstration, Drexel Palestine Coalition (DPC), is demanding that the school adopt the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and “terminate” its Hillel and Chabad chapters.

“These organizations must be replaced by non-Zionist Jewish ones that in no way support the ongoing genocide, occupation, or apartheid in Palestine,” DPC said in a statement posted on social media.

DPC also wants the university’s police force to be abolished, amnesty granted to any protester charged with violating school rules, and a “60 percent” reduction in Fry’s salary, the savings of which would be invested “into local community efforts such as affordable housing, co-ops, land trusts — specifically towards Black Bottom residents — and the rebuilding of Palestinian institutions such as hospitals and universities.”

Footage of the demonstration shows some aggressive behavior, including the protesters’ dismantling police barricades. According to the latest reports, there have been no arrests.

“Hillel continues to be grateful to have partners on campus who believe that a university experience should be filled with opportunities to engage thoroughly and thoughtfully around issues where there is both deep investment and deep disagreement while recognizing that a prerequisite for any such conversation is a demonstrated commitment to the safety, well being, and shared sense of belonging of all of the students, faculty, and staff who call our university home,” Drexel Hillel said on Sunday in a statement issued about the encampment.

The protesters’ demands are not the first assault on Jewish organizations at Drexel University this academic year.

Last month, the Raymond G. Perelman Center for Jewish Life was vandalized, with the culprits removing large channel letters spelling out Perelman’s name from a brick structure near the entrance to the building. The disturbing act, which occurred amid an explosion of antisemitic hate crimes across the US, was filmed by surveillance cameras, but the persons responsible cannot yet be identified because they wore masks.

“It bears repeating that vandalizing centers of Jewish life and learning, defacing property with antisemitic graffiti, or ripping mezuzot off doorposts in residence halls does not constitute any legitimate form of protests,” Fry said at the time. “Such acts are antisemitic in their intent to disrupt Jewish life and intimidate our Jewish communities, and have no place at Drexel or in our democratic society.”

Drexel University joins the list of over 100 schools where anti-Zionists have taken over sections of campus and refused to leave unless school administrators agree to condemn and boycott Israel. Other demonstrations timed to coincide with the end of the academic year petered out earlier this month, but at Drexel, which uses the quarter system, classes do not end until June 8. Because of this, the encampment there could last as many as three weeks.

In the interim, the school remains locked down, and on Monday, Fry ordered that all classes be conducted virtually.

“We will continue to provide updates regarding this situation or any changes to the university’s operations,” Fry said in Sunday’s letter. “I ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we work toward ensuring that our campus can soon return to normal.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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