Visits to Israel by European Union leaders during the last week have illuminated the growing divide in the bloc over the extent of its support for the Jewish state’s war against Hamas in Gaza.
The leaders of Spain, Belgium, and Germany have all made the trip in recent days, with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier earning plaudits from his hosts for his remarks while in Israel — in marked contrast to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, who were accused by Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen of giving “support to terrorism.”
Soon after arriving in Tel Aviv, Steinmeier traveled to Kibbutz Be’eri in the south of Israel, where at least 130 residents were murdered by Hamas terrorists during their onslaught on Oct. 7. During his tour of the shattered kibbutz on Monday, the German president pledged that Berlin would provide funds for its reconstruction, announcing the sum of seven million Euros to rebuild its art gallery.
“Be’eri and the many other kibbutzim deserve to be not only part of Israel’s history, but above all to be part of Israel’s future,” Steinmeier declared.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who accompanied Steinmeier, described the German leader and his wife, Elke, as “dear friends.”
“We have a dream, Mr. President, to rebuild this place as part of rebuilding the entire Kibbutz Be’eri and the entire region,” Herzog told his guest. “And we will rebuild and we will go back and we will wake up as a nation as a lion, to go back and regain and rebuild these places, so that they will flourish, and send a message of hope and peace to the entire world.”
In response, Steinmeier observed that “it’s not easy to find the words to describe what we heard from those who have the knowledge and who were witnessing the deeds, the murders, the killings, the rapes by Hamas here on Oct. 7.” He added that he hoped to “create conditions [so] that young people, craftsmen from Germany and from Israel, are meeting here to cooperate very closely in this rebuilding process.”
The visits last week by Sanchez and de Croo were shrouded in tension, however, with several observers speaking of a “diplomatic crisis” between Israel and the two EU member states.
Last Friday, the two premiers held a press conference at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt where they strongly condemned Israel’s military response.
De Croo complained that “too many civilians have been killed in this conflict,” adding: “We cannot accept a society is destroyed the way the society of Gaza is being destroyed.”
For his part, Sanchez decried what he called the “indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, including thousands of children.”
Said Sanchez: “I reiterate Israel’s right to defend itself, but within parameters and limitations imposed by international humanitarian law. And it is not the case.”
The Spanish leader also intimated that Spain would unilaterally recognize an independent Palestinian state if the EU as a whole failed to do so.
Acknowledging that such a move would be “better” if agreed on by all 27 member states, Sanchez then emphasized that “if this is not the case, Spain will make its own decisions.”
In response, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen summoned the Spanish and Belgian Ambassadors for a strong reprimand.
“We condemn the false claims of the prime ministers of Spain and Belgium who give support to terrorism,” Cohen said. “Israel is acting according to international law and fighting a murderous terrorist organization worse than ISIS that commits war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
EU leaders in Brussels have also been underlining their support for a resolution to the conflict that includes an independent Palestinian state.
“The Palestinian people and the Arab neighbors need the reassurance that there will be no forced displacement but a viable perspective, with an independent Palestinian state — Gaza and West Bank reunited — and governed by a reformed Palestinian Authority. And to this end, unacceptable violence by extremists in the West Bank has to stop,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said over the weekend, in a swipe at Israeli settlers in the West Bank. “A peaceful co-existence is only possible with the two-state solution.”
While the EU has backed Israel’s right to defend itself, its concern over the fate of Palestinian civilians in Gaza has grown in parallel with Israel’s escalated bombing campaign.
On Monday, Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, told foreign ministers from Mediterranean countries meeting in Barcelona that he wanted the present truce between Israel and Hamas to evolve into a permanent ceasefire.
“The pause should be extended to make it sustainable and long-lasting while working for a political solution,” Borrell said.
The veteran Spanish politician also echoed von der Leyen in expressing criticism of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.
“I’m appalled to learn that in the middle of a war, the Israeli government is poised to commit new funds to build more illegal settlements,” Borrell wrote in a post on X/Twitter. “This is not self-defense and will not make Israel safer. The settlements are a grave IHL (International Humanitarian Law) breach, and they are Israel’s greatest security liability.”
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US Announces New Sanctions Against Iran-Backed Entities Including Hamas
The United States on Monday announced new sanctions against a range of individuals and entities associated with Hamas, Iran and other Iran-backed terrorist groups around the region.
The sanctioned entities include an Iraqi airline and Hamas fundraising and financial networks in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
“Hamas has sought to leverage a variety of financial transfer mechanisms, including the exploitation of cryptocurrency, to channel funds to support the group’s terrorist activities,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson, in a statement announcing the fifth round of sanctions imposed by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) since the Hamas pogrom in southern Israel on Oct. 7 last year.
“Treasury, in close coordination with our allies and partners, will continue to leverage our authorities to target Hamas, its financiers, and its international financial infrastructure,” Nelson added.
One of the sanctioned networks is known as the Shamlakh Network, run by the Gaza-based Shamlakh family.
According to OFAC, “members of the Shamlakh family have become the main end point for funds transferred from [Iran’s] Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza.” It explained that “Gaza-based financial facilitator Zuhair Shamlakh is a Gaza-based moneychanger who facilitates funds transfers in the tens of millions of dollars from Iran to Hamas. Zuhair has used his companies Al-Markaziya Li-Siarafa (Al-Markaziya) and Arab China Trading Company to channel funds for the Izz al-Din al Qassam Brigades (al-Qassam Brigades), the military wing of Hamas.”
The second network is known as the Herzallah Network, which has been engaged in the illicit transfer of Hamas funds from Gaza to the West Bank through the Gaza-based Herzallah Exchange and General Trading Company LLC. The network was being targeted “for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to Hamas,” OFAC noted.
Separately, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller announced sanctions against the Iraqi airline Fly Baghdad and its CEO for supporting the IRGC-QF and Iran-aligned militia groups in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
“The IRGC-QF and Iran-aligned militia groups pose a significant threat to the Middle East region,” Miller said. “Kata’ib Hezbollah has been responsible for a series of drone and missile attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria since Hamas’s horrific attack on Israel on October 7.”
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Norman Jewison, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ director and lifelong friend of the Jews, dies at 97
(JTA) – In a 2022 documentary on the making of the 1971 film “Fiddler on the Roof,” Norman Jewison relayed a by-now familiar anecdote: When producers of the Broadway musical approached him for the directing job, he had to sheepishly inform them that he wasn’t actually Jewish.
He got the job anyway, leading generations of Jewish families watching “Fiddler” to associate that big title card displaying the “Jewison” name with a fellow member of the tribe.
Bringing Anatevka to vivid, pulsating life was one of many career highlights for the Canadian filmmaker, who died Saturday at age 97. Jewison, a Toronto native, helmed several other iconic films in his long, distinguished career, including “Moonstruck,” “In The Heat of the Night,” “The Thomas Crown Affair” and “The Hurricane” — many of them shining light on pressing social matters like racism and other forms of bigotry. He was nominated for seven Oscars, two of them for “Fiddler” (best picture and best director). He directed a lot of musicals, including “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and returned to Jewish concerns for his swan song, the 2003 thriller “The Statement,” which takes place during the Holocaust.
But his work on “Fiddler” sealed Jewison’s reputation among Jewish viewers. He earned the job on the basis of his work on the Cold War satire “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming,” starring Carl Reiner and Alan Arkin, with producers reasoning that the director had what it took to convincingly depict Russian life to Westerners.
Holding the reins to Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein’s Broadway smash adaptation of Sholem Aleichem’s classic folktales, Jewison went all-in on verisimilitude. He filmed “Fiddler” in the former Yugoslavia and got Israeli actor Chaim Topol, who starred as Tevye in the West End production, to reprise his role on screen (not without some controversy over bypassing better-known Broadway star Zero Mostel).
At three hours in length, with elaborate musical set pieces and additional scoring by John Williams, “Fiddler” was a classic Hollywood roadshow production that also was be a bittersweet depiction of a Jewish world wiped out by pogroms and the Holocaust — a formula not necessarily guaranteed to hook a general audience. But the gambit paid off, and “Fiddler” became the highest-grossing film of the year and a perennial staple in the homes of Ashkenazi Jews and others.
Over the years Jewison would deny rumors that he had considered converting to Judaism. But he took his connection to the Jewish story seriously. In that same 2022 documentary, he also shared that he had a Jewish wedding in 2010, to his second wife Lynne St. David Jewison. The wedding included a rabbi and a chuppah.
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Only One University Adopts Leading Antisemitism Definition 2023, New Report Says
Only one American higher education institution adopted the world’s leading definition of antisemitism in 2023, according to a new report by Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), a US antisemitism watchdog.
“Only Boston University’s student government has adopted the IHRA working definition in 2023,” CAM said on Monday in a statement. “These figures help put into context the atmosphere on college campuses that led to high-profile incidents of antisemitism on the campuses of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, the George Washington University, Cooper Union College, and Cornell University, just to name a few.”
First adopted in 2005 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism states that “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and includes a list of illustrative examples ranging from Holocaust denial to the rejection of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. The definition is used by hundreds of governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations and is supported by lawmakers across the political spectrum.
As previously reported by The Algemeiner, antisemitism on college campuses surged to record levels after Hamas massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, including demonstrations calling for Israel’s destruction and the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students. Elite universities have been among the biggest hubs of such activity, with students and faculty both demonizing Israel and rationalizing the Hamas atrocities. Incidents of harassment and even violence against Jewish students also increased. As a result, Jewish students have expressed feeling unsafe and unprotected on campuses. In some cases, Jewish communities on campuses have been forced to endure threats of rape and mass slaughter.
At Harvard University, anti-Zionism escalated to antisemitic harassment when a mob of anti-Israel activists — including Ibrahim Bharmal, editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review whose alumni includes former US President Barack Obama — followed, surrounded, and intimidated a Jewish student on campus, according to videos that went viral across social media. “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!” the crush of people screamed in a call-and-response chant into the ears of the student who —as seen in the footage — was forced to duck and dash the crowd to free himself from the cluster of bodies that encircled him.
At Cornell University, an individual posted on a social media forum that is popular with students messages calling for the murder and rape of Jews. In addition to threatening the lives of Cornell’s 3,500 Jewish students, who are around 22 percent of the school’s student population, the posts called for an attack on a campus kosher dining hall, which forced campus officials to shutter the property.
“American colleges need to be proactive in helping Jewish students feel safe and accepted on campus, when nearly three quarters of Jewish college students have experience antisemitism since the beginning of the school year. We must take action,” CAM CEO Sacha Roytman said. “The best path forward includes robust educational programs that raise awareness about antisemitism, including the incorporation of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, so schools as well as local, state, and federal governments can properly identify, monitor, and act on antisemitic incidents.”
US higher education institutions are not the only ones declining to adopt the IHRA definition. Last August, UK based nonprofit Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) reported that it has yet to be embraced by 43 of Britain’s leading universities, including University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), which has for years been the site of numerous antisemitic incidents. In 2016, for example, its Palestine Society hosted a lecture in which the featured speaker compared Israel to Nazi Germany.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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