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What’s Happening in North Carolina’s High Schools About Israel?

An antisemitic banner hung over the US 1 highway in Cameron, North Carolina in December 2022. Photo: Screenshot

In May, the Zine club at North Carolina’s Carrboro High School made a post on social media celebrating their display in the school’s library that included the Do-It-Yourself Occupation Guide, which reads as a training manual for criminality and domestic terrorism.

The guide provides advice on how to disable alarm systems, break into buildings, and barricade doors. It calls for “organized looting” and “the seizing of buildings.” With accompanying pictures, the guide explains how to use tools such as an angle grinder, bolt cutters, and a crowbar to break into buildings. It advises, “A group may decide it is better to destroy or vandalize a space than to return it to its usual role in good condition.” In its first paragraph, the guide accuses Israel of “genocide” against the Palestinians.

The guide was removed from the library.

Andy Jenks, Chief Communications Officer for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, told me via email: “The material that appeared on what seems to be a student’s Instagram account was neither allowed nor featured by the school or district, and it was addressed quickly once it was brought to the attention of the administrative team.”

This is at least the second time this school year that the Carrboro High School library has had hateful and disturbing materials on display and then removed.

Two months earlier, in March, I reported that the Zine Club and the Student Socialist Alliance at Carrboro High School were responsible for an anti-Israel display in the library that — to many people — appeared to condone Hamas’ use of terrorism, hostage taking, and murder with the slogan: “RESISTANCE IS JUSTIFIED WHEN PEOPLE ARE OCCUPIED.”

A student created zine (or magazine) that was included with the display referred to Israel as “racist,” “colonial,” and an “apartheid” state, and accused Israel of “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.”

Parents and community members are frustrated by how long it took to have the anti-Israel display removed, and that just a few months after this incident, the occupation guide was then briefly on display in the library. In addition, after the anti-Israel display was removed, anti-Israel flyers were posted in the school and these were also removed.

Public records now shed more light on this situation. In February, a Jewish parent visiting the school took photos of the anti-Israel display. A school staff member emailed the principal, “I was uncomfortable with her [the parent] taking photos considering the questions she was asking and her visible irritation with the display.”

Shouldn’t the staff member have expressed concerns with the hate speech on display in a public school library rather than that a parent was documenting hate speech?

On Feb. 8, students at Carrboro High School and nearby Chapel Hill High School held a well-advertised protest, “For A Free Palestine: WALK-OUT AGAINST GENOCIDE” that took place during the school day.

Two days before the walkout, public records reveal that a person who appears to be a member of Chapel High School’s School Improvement Team (SIT) emailed fellow SIT members, which included the school’s principal and other school administrators.

She voiced concerns about both the planned walkout and a related anti-Israel social media account: “The site is causing concerns for Jewish students, who are being called white supremacists in comments of posts, and seeing posts advocating for the destruction of all Jews.”

Referring to the upcoming walkout, she wrote, “This is a huge safety issue” and the school needs “to have a plan for our Jewish students who are feeling very unsafe at school right now.” She added that on the day of the planned walkout, “We may need a safety presence at school.”

“These are complicated questions concerning no tolerance for hate speech but also of protection for protesting,” she wrote. “I am hoping that we can pay attention to this and figure out what is right for our campus.”

The schools received many concerns about this walkout from parents and some staff. For example, the night before the protest, a parent wrote to one of the principals: “I do not feel safe having my children in a school district that allows this … There is no way that this walkout is not going to negatively affect Jewish students … I am sickened, hurt, and appalled.”

A staff member sent an email to the principal of Chapel Hill High School, to other school administrators, and to security officers the morning of the protest: “It has been brought to me by several students and some parents that if a student did not actively participate in the protest today, they might possibly be ‘singled out’ for not engaging or be accused of complicity.” He added, “I would like to offer my room as an added option for those students who feel uncomfortable or unsafe during that time period.”

While I appreciate the staff member advocating for students, children should not need a safe room to attend school.

The night before the protest, a parent emailed one of the principals: “While I respect free speech for all, school should foremost be a safe place for all students. The permitted ‘walkout’ is compromising student safety.”

In the end, the administration met with student organizers and allowed the protest. And as a result, many Jewish parents — concerned for their children’s safety and well-being  — kept their children home that day.

It is outrageous that a protest was allowed to occur during the school day after it was acknowledged that it may be “a huge safety issue” for Jewish students.

Would the district ever allow protests to occur that posed a huge safety issue for Black, Muslim, Asian, or LGBTQ+ students? I highly doubt it.

There are some additional challenging aspects of this situation. In an email sent the day before the walkout, a teacher at Chapel Hill High School shared with the principal, “Some of the protest organizers are Jewish” and the larger group of protestors “relies on those Jewish students for guidance.” I do not envy administrators and staff who have to navigate this.

Going through the public record emails, it is clear that administration and staff are struggling to understand some of the issues. For example, the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” has been an issue. The night before the walkout, a Jewish parent explained to one of the principals, “If the slogan of this walkout is ‘from the river to the sea,’ which I understand from my son that it is, then your students are chanting for the genocide of Jews.”

In late May, Jenks told me via email: “Our district vehemently rejects any hint of antisemitic behavior, as we do all forms of hate speech. Schools must always be places of joy and kindness, where we value the diverse backgrounds that make us a community.”

When students are kept home from school out of fear or need a safe room to get through the school day, school is no longer joyous or kind.

In the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, the safety of Jewish students appears to be treated as less important than the safety of other students. This is unacceptable. Jewish parents — and all parents  — should never have to keep their children home from school or have them in a secure room at school to keep them safe.

Peter Reitzes writes about issues related to antisemitism and Israel.

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Netanyahu Heads to DC After Biden Quits 2024 Race, Says Israel Will Remain ‘Strong’ US Ally Whoever Is in White House

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

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday departed for a highly anticipated trip to Washington, DC, where he will meet with US President Joe and Biden and deliver a speech before Congress this week as America grapples with the aftermath of Biden’s unprecedented decision to end his 2024 reelection campaign.

During his first trip to the US capital in almost four years, Netanyahu plans to visit the White House and also address US lawmakers on Wednesday. Netanyahu was originally expected to meet with Biden on Tuesday; however, several Hebrew media outlets reported that the meeting will likely be delayed due to Biden still being sick with COVID-19.

It is unclear how Biden’s shock decision on Sunday to drop out of the US presidential race will impact Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress. According to Israel’s Channel 13, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, a close confidant of Netanyahu, assured US officials that the speech will not include criticism of or against Biden following repeated requests by US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan for information about what the Israeli premier will say.

Netanyahu issued a statement following Biden’s announcement indicating the Israeli premier will underline the importance of bipartisanship in maintaining a close US-Israel relationship.

“I will seek to anchor the bipartisan support that is so important for Israel. And I will tell my friends on both sides of the aisle [in Congress] that regardless of who the American people choose as their next president, Israel remains America’s indispensable and strong ally in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said while leaving Israel for Washington, DC. “In this time of war and uncertainty it’s important that Israel’s enemies know that America and Israel stand together today, tomorrow, and always.”

The Israeli premier also expressed gratitude to Biden, stating that he will thank the US president for helping the Jewish state as he prepares to exit the White House.

“I plan to see President Biden, whom I’ve known for over 40 years. This will be an opportunity to thank him for the things he did for Israel in the war and during his long and distinguished career in public service, as senator, as vice president, and as president,” Netanyahu said.

Amid declining support for Israel among US liberal Democratic lawmakers, Netanyahu hopes to use his congressional address and White House visit to mend relations with Democrats, who have become increasingly uneasy over Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

Biden has come under heavy fire from Republicans as well as pro-Israel Democrats for what they’ve described as him turning against Israel amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

The US president expressed strong support for Israel following Hamas’ brutal invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped about 250 hostages during their onslaught. In recent months, however, Biden has paused some weapons shipments to Israel and accused the US ally of “indiscriminate bombing” — a charge rejected by Israeli officials.

The Biden administration also discouraged Israel from launching a military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to target some of the last remaining Hamas battalions, arguing such an operation would put too many civilians at risk. Experts told The Algemeiner at the time that Israeli forces needed to operate in Rafah in order to dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities.

More broadly, the relationship between the Democratic Party and Israel has deteriorated in the months following Oct. 7. Several high-profile Democrats, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), have suggested that Israel’s military operations in Gaza are tantamount to a “genocide.” Democratic lawmakers have also called on Biden to halt arms transfers to Israel, citing concern over mounting civilian casualties in Gaza.

While Israeli officials have expressed frustration about the Biden administration pressuring them to halt their military campaign, Netanyahu is expected to use his visit as a way to repair some of the damage. The trip could also serve as a way to make Israel’s case directly to the American public, which overall remains pro-Israel despite declining support among younger demographics.

The percentage of Americans that express “little or no confidence” in Netanyahu has increased by 11 points since 2023, according to an April poll by Pew Research Center. Among Democrats, a staggering 71 percent express “little or no confidence” in the Israeli leader. 

Anti-Israel groups have also organized protests in advance of Netanyahu’s congressional address. Far-left organizations such as Party for Socialism and Liberation and Palestinian Youth Movement are urging their supporters to “surround the Capitol” during Netanyahu’s address. Leaders of these groups have branded Netanyahu as a “war criminal” and have called for his arrest. 

The people charge Benjamin Netanyahu with genocide. When war criminal Netanyahu comes to Washington DC,” Palestinian Youth Movement wrote on Instagram, “the people of the world stand with Palestine and against the genocide committed by Israel with full support of the United States and impunity.”

In addition to meeting with Biden, Netanyahu may also speak with Republican presidential nominee and former US President Donald Trump. Netanyahu has requested an in-person meeting with Trump while in the US this week, according to Politico.

The Algemeiner could not immediately verify the report.

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Pro-Hamas Demonstrators Avoid Punishment Following Wave of Dropped Charges, Reports Say

Law enforcement officers detain a demonstrator, as they clear out a pro-Hamas protest encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Los Angeles, California, US, May 2, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

The State Attorney’s Office of Cook County, Illinois has dropped criminal charges filed against three Northwestern University faculty and one graduate student who allegedly obstructed law enforcement’s efforts to clear an unlawful demonstration at the Deering Meadow section of campus.

According to a local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, the office said its decision is based on its “policy not to prosecute peaceful protesters.”

Charges against the four individuals were pursued by the Northwestern University Police Department, which said that they allegedly engaged in “obstructing a police officer during the protests,” a crime for which they could, if convicted, spend a year in jail and pay a $2,500 fine, The Daily Northwestern reported last week. They had already appeared before a judge and were scheduled to do so again in August.

The university had defended the recommendation of its police department and rejected the notion that the individuals acted peaceably, saying in a statement issued earlier this month that it “does not permit activity that disrupts university operations, violates the law, or includes the intimidation or harassment of members of the community.”

Many more protesters have similarly avoided punishment for the actions they took during a burst of pro-Hamas demonstrations at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year, according to a new report by The New York Times. Prosecutors in Travis County, Texas, for example, have dropped over 100 charges of criminal trespassing filed against University of Texas at Austin protesters, the paper said, and 60 other Northwestern University protesters saw their charges dismissed, with prosecutors calling them “constitutionally dubious.” The Times added, however, that some charges will stick, including those filed against someone who bit a police officer, and many students are still awaiting the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

Per the report, “At the University of Virginia on May 4, as students were preparing for final exams, administrators called in police to break up an encampment. Police officers in riot gear used chemical irritants to get protesters to disperse and eventually arrested 27 people. The local prosecutor dropped the charges facing seven people after he determined there wasn’t enough evidence. He offered the rest an agreement: their charges would be dismissed in August if they didn’t have any outstanding criminal charges at the time.”

Prosecutors in other states have not been as forbearing. According to Fresh Take Florida, prosecutors in Alachua County, Florida charged seven University of Florida students, as well as two non-students, with trespassing and resisting arrest. The defendants have resolved to take their chances at trial, the news service added, noting that all nine have rejected “deferred prosecution,” an agreement that would require them to plead guilty, or no contest, in exchange for the state’s expunging the convictions from their records in the future so long as they abstain from committing more criminal acts.

One of the nine, computer science student Parker Stanley Hovis, 26, — who was suspended for three years — proclaimed earlier this month that they will contest the state’s cases.

“We did not resist arrest, and we are prepared to fight our charges,” Hovis said in a statement. “We’re standing in solidarity with each other, and collectively demanding that the state drop the charges against us.”

Jewish civil rights group have described the anti-Israel protesters across the US as posing an imminent threat to Jewish students and faculty while noting that many avert being identified by concealing their faces with masks and keffiyehs, a traditional headscarf worn by Palestinians which has become known as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel. Images and footage of the practice have been widely circulated online, and it has rendered identifying the protesters — many of whom have chanted antisemitic slogans, vandalized school property, and threatened to harm Jewish students and faculty during a weeks-long demonstration between April and May — virtually impossible.

On Thursday, one such civil rights group, StandWithUs (SWU), implored the US Department of Justice to crack down on masked protests at Columbia University by enforcing legal statues which are widely referred to as the “KKK Laws,” citing numerous antisemitic incidents of harassment and assault on its campus and the difficulty of punishing the perpetrators.

Dating back to the administration of former US President Ulysses S. Grant, the so-called “KKK Laws” empower the federal government to prosecute those who engage in activities which violate the civil rights of protected groups, as the Ku Klux Klan did across the US South during Reconstruction to prevent African Americans from voting and living as free citizens. StandWithUs alleges that five anti-Zionist groups — most notably Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — currently operating on Columbia University’s campus have perpetrated similar abuses in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which guarantees all students, regardless of race or ethnic background, has the right to a safe learning environment.

“We hope the Department of Justice will take this opportunity to restore justice on Columbia University’s campuses and hold bad actors responsible for violating federal laws,” Yael Lerman, director of the SWU Saidoff Legal Department, said in a statement.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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France Says Israeli Athletes ‘Welcome’ at Olympics Amid Mounting Threats, Added Security Measures

The Olympic Village prepared for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Photo: Paris 2024 / Raphael Vriet

French leaders said on Monday that the Israeli delegation to the 2024 Paris Olympics is welcome in France, despite what critics described as “antisemitic” comments to the contrary made by a French politician two days earlier

At an anti-Israel rally on Saturday, far-left French lawmaker Thomas Portes said, “I am here to say that, no, the Israeli delegation is not welcome in Paris. Israeli athletes are not welcome at the Olympic Games in Paris.”

Portes called for Israelis to be excluded from the Paris Olympics because of Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip who perpetrated the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

Portes later also told the newspaper Le Parisien that “France’s diplomats should pressure the International Olympic Committee to bar the Israeli flag and anthem, as is done for Russia” due to its invasion of Ukraine.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Portes’ comments had “obvious antisemitic overtones” and “placed a target on the backs of the Israeli athletes.” He added, “I want to express my disgust at that. I want to assure the Israeli athletes of our full protection, like all athletes, but particularly them, also welcoming them.”

Darmanin also announced that Israel’s Olympic delegation, which includes 88 athletes representing the Jewish state, will have increased security and will receive 24-hour security from French police. He said the decision was made after taking into consideration the 1972 Munich Olympics — where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September — and how Israeli athletes are a target for attacks, especially since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

France has experienced a record surge in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched the war with its massacre across southern Israel.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné reiterated that the Israeli delegation “is welcome in France” for the Paris Olympics during his visit to Brussels on Monday, the French-language newspaper Le Monde reported. He called Portes’ remarks “irresponsible and dangerous,” and added that France “will ensure the security of the [Israeli] delegation.”

Paris Police Chief Laurent Nuñez said 30,000 to 45,000 police personnel will be working daily to ensure safety at Olympic sites and fan zones in Paris.

It was previously reported that Israel doubled its security budget for this year’s Games, which will be Israel’s 18th appearance in the Olympics. Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar told The Telegraph that the Israeli Olympic delegation this year, which is the second-largest Israeli delegation in Olympics history, has received threats but he did not go into detail. He added that delegation members will receive security details from Israel’s Shin Bet security agency but not everyone will have their own bodyguards.

“We try our best to make sure the athletes feel free but also safe and not afraid. We don’t want them to notice the security guards too much. We want them to feel confident so they can do their job,” he explained to the publication.

There have been calls to ban Israel from the Paris Olympics because of the Israel-Hamas war, but Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said in March there is no doubt that Israel will participate in the Paris Olympics.

The 2024 Olympic Games will take place from July 26-Aug. 11.

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