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You’re Not Antisemitic? Sure?

Amelia ‘Amy’ Fuller at a pro-Hamas rally in New York City. Photo: Screenshot

JNS.orgAmid the current debate over whether a new front will open up in Israel’s war against Hamas and its regional allies, it might be observed that this is already happening.

In the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in southern Israel, war has been waged on four main fronts. Israel’s campaign of bombing and infantry incursions in the Gaza Strip, and to a lesser extent the West Bank, is the first; Hamas firing volleys of rockets at Israeli population centers is the second; missile attacks from and skirmishes with Hezbollah terrorists on the northern border is the third; the explosion of antisemitic attacks against Jews living outside of Israel’s borders represents the fourth.

This last front is the most vulnerable and unpredictable. Israel’s military might cannot defend Diaspora Jews from vandalism, physical assaults or terrorist attacks. In diplomatic terms, Israel can appeal to foreign governments to intensify efforts to protect their Jewish communities, but not much more. In short, when it comes to Jews in the Diaspora, the Jewish state is more powerless than in any other dimension of this war.

Alongside these outrages is a corresponding political offensive that seeks to delegitimize Jewish fears of antisemitism, recasting them as a sledgehammer response to claims that the Palestinians suffer from apartheid and genocidal policies at the hands of the Israeli government. Central to this strategy is the aim of debunking the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by dozens of governments and hundreds of civic associations around the globe.

As anyone who has followed this dispute in the decade since IHRA adopted the definition knows only too well, its main offense is its inclusion of popular anti-Zionist tropes—for example, that Jews do not constitute a nation and have no right of self-determination, that Israel is a “racist endeavor,” and that Jews are more loyal to Israel than the states of which they are citizens. According to the definition’s opponents, the inclusion of these clauses amounts to blatant censorship of Palestinian rights discourse, since its key terms—racism, apartheid, genocide and so forth—are deemed “anti-Semitic” from the get-go.

An article in the latest issue of the left-wing journal The Nation regurgitates many of the arguments leveled against the IHRA definition by anti-Zionists in the context of the present conflict in Gaza, citing its “weaponization” for the purpose of “McCarthyistic campaigns to silence human-rights advocacy in public and on college campuses.” But rather than counter this set of arguments, which I’ve done a few times before, I want to try a different approach.

Opponents of the IHRA definition often point out they don’t object to the first four examples mentioned in the definition, which relate to classical antisemitism, but to the last seven, which deal with antisemitism in the context of Israel and Zionism. They don’t object to the first four, they say, because they do not dispute that these are examples of genuine Jew-hatred, as opposed to what they allude to as the seven politically manipulative, slyly pro-Israel examples that follow immediately after.

There’s just one problem though: All of those four examples, which ostensibly have nothing to do with Zionism, anti-Zionism or Israel’s existence, are painfully visible in the signs, symbols and slogans of the pro-Hamas protest movement that has mobilized millions of demonstrators in cities around the world.

Example one classifies as antisemitic “[C]alling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.” Most people would think immediately of the Nazis in interpreting this point, but the horrors of Oct. 7, rooted in Islamist hatred of the Jews, are no less pertinent. Hamas murdered more than 1,000 Jews (as well as many non-Jews whose crime was to live or work in the Jewish state) in the worst single burst of antisemitic violence since World War II and the Holocaust.

Of course, Hamas supporters in the West will say that these victims were targeted not as Jews but as “settlers.” The absurdity of this position is revealed by the only conclusion that it can possibly reach: that the SS officer who raped a Jewish woman in Ukraine before shooting her in the back of the head engaged in a criminal, antisemitic act, but the Hamas terrorist who raped a woman in the sands of the Negev before shooting her in the back of the head engaged in an act of “exhilarating” liberation (or, in the minds of Hamas’s more nuanced apologists, a misguided yet historically understandable act of violence.)

Example two says it’s antisemitic to make “mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective—such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.” I’ve lost count, frankly, of the number of social-media posts and TV soundbites over the last 10 weeks that have endorsed precisely this myth for the purpose of explaining why Western countries have failed to back an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Example three says it’s antisemitic to accuse “Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.” Yet how many synagogues, Jewish schools, kosher restaurants and community centers have been daubed with “Free Palestine” graffiti since Oct. 7? And is that not an example of assigning Jews collective guilt for Israel’s military response? And yes, while the vast majority of Jews support Israel and make no apology for doing so, legally and morally it is an enormous stretch to say they are responsible for the deaths in Gaza. To target Jews because you object to what Israel does is antisemitic in exactly the same way that gunning down Palestinian Americans because of Hamas’s crimes is racist and Islamophobic.

Example four says that it’s antisemitic to deny “the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).” Yet Palestinian leaders—not just Hamas, but even more notoriously Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas—do exactly that, repeatedly and with impunity. Their cruder supporters then go a step further by denying the first Holocaust while wishing for a second one.

The fact that supporters of anti-Zionist mythology can so easily and readily embrace those aspects of antisemitic ideology that predate the State of Israel’s existence underlines that there is no thick red line separating “progressive” anti-Zionism from “reactionary” antisemitism. The two are intimately related, sharing common obsessions about the nature of Jewish power and influence, the false claim of the Jews to be a nation (they are better understood as “parasites” or, if you prefer, “colonists”) and the irredeemably colonial nature of Israel as a state.

Moreover, in the Middle East, anti-Zionism—or “antizionism” as I prefer to dub it—doesn’t restrict itself to political debates about Zionism and Israeli sovereignty but manifests primarily through violence. Given this month’s Harris/Harvard University poll showing that two-thirds of Americans aged 18-24 regard Jews as “oppressors,’ we should be anticipating similar patterns here, too.

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2,500 Rabbis Call for Columbia University President’s Resignation

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

Thousands of rabbis are calling on Columbia University president Minouche Shafik to resign over her choosing not to fire four administrators who sent each other text messages which, she said herself, “disturbingly touched on ancient antisemitic tropes” during a panel featuring Jewish speakers.

As previously reported, Columbia administrators Susan Chang-Kim, Cristen Kromm, Matthew Patashnick, and Josef Sorett, who is dean of Columbia College, sent a series of messages which denigrated Jews while spurning their concerns about rising antisemitism and the fate of Israel, denouncing them as “privileged” and venal. The remarks were exchanged amid a deluge of antisemitic incidents at Columbia and specifically denounced Jewish leaders who appeared at the school as panelists to plea for help and explain the link between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

According to Columbia provost Angela Olinto, it has been decided that Sorett will remain in his position to “mend relationships, repair trust, and rebuild accountability.” There is, however, deep-seated opposition among Jewish alumni, faculty, and students to his remaining as dean, and since last week, over 2,000 people have signed a petition calling for his firing, arguing that he “actively joined his colleagues in mocking panelists” and is equally culpable for the comments they wrote.

On Thursday, 2,500 rabbis organized by the Coalition for Jewish Values (CVJ), which represents “traditional, Orthodox rabbis in American public policy,” echoed their sentiment while shifting focus to Shafik’s tenure in office, which, to them, has harmed both the school’s Jewish community and its reputation.

“The bigotry and double standards are blatant, and entirely at odds with the experiences that I and others had at Columbia in the past. Imagine if something like this had happened during a session when Black, Latino, Pacific Islander, or LGBTQ faculty and students were speaking about hostility they faced on campus,” CVJ vice president Rabbi Steven Pruzansky said in a statement. “Any faculty dismissing their concerns, much less ridiculing them or sharing hateful sentiments, would find themselves unemployed without delay.”

He continued, “But regarding antisemitism, President Shafik demonstrates the very ‘lack of seriousness’ she claims to decry. It is clear that all four who exchanged antisemitic messages, plus Shafik herself, must be removed from the faculty and replaced by others committed to opposing and preventing hate against Jews and all other campus minorities. This is the only way that Columbia can hope to return to being a serious academic institution where all students feel safe and valued.”

Columbia University’s decision not to fire anyone involved in the text message scandal comes on the heels of a tumultuous year in which pro-Hamas agitators roiled the campus with illegal occupations of school property, vandalism, and even alleged antisemitic hate crimes.

In April, an explosion of anti-Israel demonstrations on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover forced the administration to shutter the campus and institute “virtual” learning. Prior to that, footage of the protest showed Columbia students — who commandeered a section of campus and named it a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” — chanting in support of the Hamas terrorist group, calling for the destruction of Israel, and even threatening to harm members of the Jewish community on campus. The situation was so severe that security officials deactivated Columbia Professors Shai Davidai’s identification card and temporarily banned him from campus because his safety could not be “guaranteed,” a measure which reflected the administration’s suspicion that its students, as well as the non-students they have attracted to campus, would have resorted to violence to make their point.

The events of spring semester continued a trend that began in the fall, after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

“F—k the Jews,” “Death to Jews,” “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” students chanted on campus grounds in the weeks after the tragedy, according to a lawsuit filed by the StandWithUs Legal Center for Justice (SCLJ). Faculty engaged in similar behavior. On Oct. 8, professor Joseph 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 the Jewish people, pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence, according to the lawsuit. They allegedly 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.

Facing a wave of investigations and litigation related to its handling of antisemitism on the campus, Columbia recently decided to settle a lawsuit, brought by one of its students, which accused school officials of neglecting their obligation to foster a safe learning environment.

The resolution of the case, first reported by Reuters, calls for Columbia to hire a “Safe Passage Liaison” who will monitor protests and “walking escorts” who will accompany students whose safety is threatened around the campus. Other details of the settlement include “accommodations” for students whose academic lives are disrupted by protests and new security policies for controlling access to school property.

Shafik, who took office in July 2023, has recently attempted to assuage concerns that Columbia has become a sanctuary for antisemites.

“We will launch a vigorous program of antisemitism and antidiscrimination [sic] training for faculty and staff this fall, with related training for students under the auspices of university life,” she said in a recent statement addressing the administrators’ conduct. “Columbia’s leadership team recognizes this as an important moment to implement changes that will build a stronger institution as a result. I know that you all share this commitment.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Biden Doesn’t Mention US Hostages in Gaza, Calls for End to Israel-Hamas War in NATO Press Conference

US President Joe Biden holds a press conference during NATO’s 75th anniversary summit, in Washington, DC, July 11, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Nathan Howard

US President Joe Biden gave an update concerning ceasefire negotiations to halt fighting in Gaza and reflected on what he regrets about his approach to the Israel-Hamas war during his high-stakes NATO press conference on Thursday.

During Biden’s initial remarks, he spoke about the ongoing ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas being mediated by the US, Egypt, and Qatar. “There are still gaps but we are making progress and the trend is positive,” he said.

The press conference came amid reporting in The Washington Post quoting a senior US official who said “the framework [of a deal] is agreed.” Now, the parties are just “negotiating details of how it will be implemented,” according to the report.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that rules Gaza, of making demands that contradict the framework brokered by the US, creating uncertainty about whether the two sides are as close to a deal as Biden let on.

Biden was also asked a question regarding what he regrets most about the way he has handled the Israel-Hamas war. In his answer, which was approximately five minutes long, he did not mention the hostages kidnapped by Hamas during its onslaught across southern Israel on Oct. 7 or the eight Americans still in captivity in Gaza, whose release he has been unable to secure.

Some observers have accused Biden of framing the issues in the war as primarily the fault of Israel, rather than Hamas.

The President of the United States was just asked what his regrets were over the Israel-Hamas war.

Not once in his 5 minute answer did he mention the word “hostages” or the inability to secure the release of the 8 American hostages *still* being held in Gaza.

— Shabbos Kestenbaum (@ShabbosK) July 12, 2024

The US president spoke about the difficulty of getting humanitarian aid into Gaza and claimed Israel has been “less than cooperative” at times. He did not note that Hamas reportedly steals a significant portion of aid that goes into the enclave, making it difficult for regular civilians to get access to it. And, when people are able to get aid, many times it is being sold for high prices after it was stolen.

Biden also lamented that Israel’s “war cabinet is one of the most conservative war cabinets in the history of Israel” when discussing how it has been, at times, difficult to get the Jewish state to do what he wanted in the war. He appeared to confuse the broader government cabinet, which includes some far-right ministers, with the recently disbanded war cabinet, a unity body that included centrist opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz.

“There’s a lot of things that in retrospect, I wish I had been able to convince Israelis to do,” Biden said.

Biden also spoke about the “day after” in Gaza, saying the war “should end now” and neither Israel nor Hamas should “occupy” the Palestinian enclave once the fighting is over.

“The day after in Gaza has to be … no occupation by Israel of the Gaza Strip as well as the ability for us to access, get in, and out as rapidly as you can all that’s needed there,” Biden said, apparently referring to a freer flow of humanitarian assistance into the enclave. “Don’t make the same mistake America did after bin Laden. There’s no need to occupy anywhere, go after the people who did the job.”

Biden also reiterated his call for a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Thursday’s press conference was widely seen as particularly high stakes because it came two weeks after his poor debate performance against former US President Donald Trump. There has been increasing buzz regarding the question of whether Biden will stay in the 2024 presidential race, and this press conference was viewed as an important test to see if he just had a bad debate night or if he may not be mentally fit to seek re-election in November.

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Kosher organizations go to court, arguing that current meat production regulations jeopardize ritual slaughter practices

Canadian kosher organizations were in court in Montreal this week, asking for an injunction that would allow them to continue the practice of shechitah, or Jewish ritual slaughter, amidst newly imposed regulations by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In a hearing before the Federal Court on July 10 and July 11, the Jewish Community Council […]

The post Kosher organizations go to court, arguing that current meat production regulations jeopardize ritual slaughter practices appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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