JNS.org – Amid 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.
US is ‘hopeful’ for a truce in Gaza as Netanyahu says ‘total victory’ is the only option
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel would achieve a “total victory” in its war against Hamas as Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he is “hopeful” that the sides are nearing an extended truce.
Blinken’s comments came while Hamas said it was considering Israel’s latest proposal for a temporary ceasefire, which would include an exchange of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian security prisoners.
Hamas has called for a total Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the release of all of the estimated 6,000 Palestinian security prisoners. But on Tuesday Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, gave a defiant speech in which he vowed that Israeli forces would not leave the territory and that not all prisoners would go free.
“We will not withdraw the IDF from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists,” he said. “None of this will happen. What will happen? Total victory.”
Blinken met with the Qatari foreign minister on Tuesday to discuss the proposed deal. In a speech the previous day, Blinken did not address the details of the reported deal under consideration, brokered in recent days by CIA chief William Burns, but said he was optimistic about its prospects.
“The proposal that is on the table and that is shared among all of the critical actors – of course Israel, but also with Qatar and Egypt playing a critical role in mediating and working between Israel and Hamas – I believe the proposal is a strong one and a compelling one that, again, offers some hope that we can get back to this process,” Blinken said at a press conference with Jen Stollen, the secretary general of the NATO alliance.
“What I can tell you is this: I think the work that’s been done, including just this weekend, is important and is hopeful in terms of seeing that process resume,” Blinken said.
Reports have said the deal would suspend fighting for up to two months and would see an exchange of the remaining 136 hostages held by Hamas, some of them dead, for Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was quoted Tuesday by the New York Times as saying Hamas is considering the deal that emerged this weekend after Burns met with Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian officials in Europe. Qatar, which funds Hamas and houses its leadership in exile, and Egypt, which borders the Gaza Strip, are key interlocutors between the combatants.
President Joe Biden until now has not backed down from supporting Israel’s war aim of removing Hamas entirely from the Gaza Strip. But he is under increasing pressure to get Israel to scale the war back as it threatens to expand across the Middle East.
Lawmakers from both parties in Congress want increased oversight of the air strikes Biden has ordered against Houthi militants in Yemen, who are launching missiles at commercial vessels in the Red Sea, ostensibly to get Israel to stand down in Gaza.
That scrutiny is likely to increase as Biden considers how to strike back against an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq that sent a drone over the weekend into Jordan, killing three U.S. troops on a base.
Israel is also under pressure to roll back its counterstrikes. Last Friday, the International Court of Justice gave Israel 30 days to report on measures to mitigate civilian deaths. South Africa had taken Israel to court on charges of genocide.
Those pressures underscore the urgency Biden and his top aides are attaching to the negotiation process. The State Department statement summing up Tuesday’s meeting with the Qatari foreign minister underscored the differences between the Biden administration and Israel. The statement effusively praised Qatar, a nation Netanyahu recently derided. It also promoted the establishment of a Palestinian state, an outcome Netanyahu rejects.
Blinken “expressed gratitude for Qatar’s indispensable mediation efforts, especially since October 7,” the day Hamas terrorists invaded Israel, launching the war, killing more than 1,200 people and abducting more than 250 hostages. “Secretary Blinken underscored the U.S. commitment to a more peaceful, integrated, and prosperous Middle East region with security for Israel and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”
Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he will not countenance a Palestinian state. His top adviser, Ron Dermer, is on his way to Washington on Wednesday to discuss scenarios for the “day after” the war, Axios reported.
Blinken also wants to get assistance into Gaza at an accelerated rate, as world health officials say the territory is on the brink of starvation. More than 26,000 people have been killed since Israel launched counterstrikes following Oct. 7, including thousands of children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. Israel does not dispute the figures, and says about a third of the dead are combatants.
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Ahmed Hussen announced a Liberal government commitment to another $40 million in aid for Gaza
Delaware school district promises changes in response to federal probe of antisemitic bullying
(JTA) — A Delaware public school district will send staff to anti-harassment training and compensate the family of a Jewish student who alleged antisemitic bullying.
The agreement followed a U.S. Department of Education investigation into how Red Clay Consolidated School District handled allegations of antisemitic incidents, detailed in a complaint to the agency last June.
The agreement marks the first time in nine months that the education department announced the closure of an antisemitism-related investigation filed under Title VI, the clause of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination on the basis of “shared ancestry” or “national origin.”
It comes as the department embarks on a wave of antisemitism investigations at schools and colleges in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, which has triggered widespread allegations of antisemitism on campuses. What happened in Red Clay, the department said, should be seen as a model for its work.
“This important agreement requires the Red Clay Consolidated District to fulfill its federal civil rights obligation to ensure that all of its students, including Jewish students, can learn safely and without discriminatory harassment in its schools,” Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights in the department, said in a statement announcing the resolution. “We look forward to active work with this district going forward to protect Jewish students, and all students, from targeted discrimination that impedes their equal access to education.”
The department said that a student in the district, which includes parts of Wilmington and its suburbs, was targeted by her classmates for being Jewish. Classmates had written “Blood of the Jews” and drawn swastikas on paper airplanes, and raised their arms in Heil Hitler salutes at the student.
The department’s Office of Civil Rights said it had further determined that the district’s responses to these incidents “were often haphazard; were inconsistently enforced as well as inconsistently reflected in district documentation; did not consistently include effective or timely steps to mitigate the effects of the harassment on the student or other students; and did not appear to respond to escalating and repeated incidents.” The department opened its investigation into the district in June 2023.
In response, Red Clay has agreed to implement new annual Title VI harassment training for its staff; publicize a new anti-harassment statement; conduct a new audit of past student discrimination complaints; revise its procedure for investigating such claims, and report back to the civil rights office with student climate surveys.
It will also reimburse the student’s family “for past counseling, academic, or therapeutic services they obtained for the student as a result of the antisemitic harassment the student experienced,” according to the department’s announcement.
The listed agreements do not include specific antisemitism-related training that some Jewish groups have pushed schools to adopt. They do include training to recognize discrimination based on “shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics,” the Title VI language.
“A recent Office of Civil Rights investigation has highlighted the need for a collective effort to address hate and discrimination, and we want to assure our community that we stand firmly against hate in all its forms, including antisemitism,” district superintendent Dorrell Green said in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Green’s statement added that the district would undertake a “comprehensive audit” and that it would encourage open dialogue with the community.
Jewish groups including the American Jewish Committee and the Orthodox Union praised the settlement agreement.
“This resolution from the Department of Education is an important step forward and contains numerous action steps that all schools can and should take to create and maintain a safe learning environment for Jewish students,” Ted Deutch, the head of AJC, said in a statement. “Discipline is not enough, and these steps crucially can create a safe, inclusive climate for learning.”
In his own statement, OU executive vice president Rabbi Moishe Hauer tied the resolution into the more than 50 Title VI investigations that have been opened since Oct. 7.
“Antisemitism has become a significant factor in the lives of Jewish students at universities and public schools,” Hauer said. “Schools must fulfill their responsibility under Title VI to maintain an environment where all students can study and thrive without experiencing hostility based on their shared ancestry or ethnicity.”
The department’s last resolution of an antisemitism investigation took place in April 2023, and involved the University of Vermont, which had agreed to take similar steps to address the problem on its campus. It has closed some investigations without publicizing them. Investigations remain ongoing in antisemitism-related cases at Columbia, Brown, the University of North Carolina and others. The Department of Education’s dockets list still-opened Title VI shared ancestry cases dating as far back as 2016.
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