A wheelchair-accessible ramp. Credit: riopatuca/Shutterstock.
  • Words count:
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Headline
Synagogues can serve those with disabilities better without risking security, experts say
Intro
Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month is “an opportunity to amp up what we’re always doing,” said Rebecca Schrag Mayer of Yachad.
text

Rivka Herzfeld loves the idea that Jewish law calls for new dishes to be dipped in a mikvah, or Jewish ritual bath, and that one thanks God before using such utensils. The resident of Teaneck, N.J. just needs a way to access the water.

Herzfeld uses a motorized scooter to get around, which means that the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Pashut Solutions, which helps venues become more accessible for those with disabilities, needs a ramp to access the mikvah.

That’s not something upon which she and others with physical disabilities can always count.

February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month, and Rebecca Schrag Mayer, director of Yachad New York, told JNS that it represents “an opportunity to amp up what we’re always doing.”

“The point of this month is an invitation to everyone to take a step back,” she said. “Just to realize who isn’t there and something small we can do to make everyone feel comfortable.”

Yachad, an agency of the Orthodox Union, dedicated to “enriching the lives of Jewish individuals with disabilities and their families,” created a calendar for the month with each day assigned its own theme.

Feb. 2 encouraged using “inclusive body language,” and Feb. 6 recommended attending shiurim, or Torah classes. Feb. 16 called for people to learn brachot, or blessings, in sign language. Feb. 25 is “disabilities in media.” Along with these themed days, the Yeshiva University book sale is going on from Feb. 4 to Feb. 26.

Wheelchair Accessibility
Ramp to assist accessibility for those in wheelchairs. Credit: AndrzejRembowski/Pixabay.

‘They do it because it’s the right thing’

Erica Baruch is a Jewish disabilities advocates adviser at Jewish Family Service of Colorado, where she works with 12 Jewish organizations in Denver and Boulder, as well as a consultant who works with nonprofits, schools, religious institutions and government agencies, per her LinkedIn profile.

Baruch told JNS that religious organizations do not need to comply legally with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. “They do it because it’s the right thing,” she said.

“Accessibility is really important because if you can’t get into the building, if you can’t use the bathroom, then you can’t be there,” she said. “You can’t be part of the community.”

Mezuzahs can be hung lower on walls to allow easier access for all. Credit: BRBurton23/Pixabay.

Automatic door openers can be useful for those who need them, but they can conflict with a synagogue’s or other Jewish organization’s security needs, particularly in the midst of surging antisemitism. When considering security, Jewish organizations should also remember that there need to be ways for those with disabilities to evacuate quickly, in the event of a fire, active shooter or other emergency, Baruch said.

Among the ways that some synagogues have sought to become more accessible are ramps leading up to the bimah; sound systems that are compatible with different sorts of implants for hearing; wheelchair-accessible sanctuary seating; and renovated bathrooms.

Herzfeld told JNS that others—pregnant women, the elderly, parents of young children in strollers, anyone with an injury—can also benefit from accessible shul buildings.

Yachad recommends that synagogue leaders consider widening aisles in sanctuaries to accommodate wheelchairs, large-print prayer books and mechanisms to facilitate those with physical impairments being called up to the Torah or opening the ark.

Many changes don’t require significant funds, according to Baruch.

One religious school moved a student’s classes to the main floor since the student was unable to ascend or descend stairs, she said. Lowering mezuzahs or adding a mezuzah at a lower height (traditional observers often touch them and say a blessing), also doesn’t cost much.

“The things that you can do without major fundraising, you do,” she said. “And you talk about it. You talk about why you’re lowering the mezuzahs. You talk about why you’re holding services in the social hall.”

“You raise awareness, and the hope is that builds momentum,” she said.

Herzfeld’s synagogue spent $1,500 turning a step from the sanctuary women’s section to an elevator into a ramp, allowing a smoother path for her scooter. That wasn’t free, and it took three days to complete, but it was a substantially cheaper fix than leveling the entire women’s section, she said.

‘Finding places where everyone belongs’

A survey of more than 2,300 Jews released in November 2021 found that 31% percent thought the Jewish community was doing “extremely” or “very” well, including those with disabilities in synagogues and Jewish organizations, and at communal events. More than four in 10 (41%) thought the Jewish community was doing “somewhat” well, according to the survey by the nonprofit RespectAbility.

Jewish Boy in Wheelchair at Mikvah
A young Jewish boy in a wheelchair is lowered into the water at the Mikve Tehera in Efrat, Israel. Disabled in wheelchairs will, with the help of new electronic equipment as the facility modernizes its utilities, be able to bathe in the mikvah. Aug. 17, 2016. Photo by Gershon Elinson/Flash90.

“When asked where the community found the ‘most access and inclusive environment’ and where they found the ‘most challenges for access and inclusion’ of people with disabilities, the largest response was the same for both questions—synagogues,” per the survey.

More than one in five (21%) said that “synagogues have the most access while 18% said synagogues have the most challenges,” according to RespectAbility. “This follows multiple efforts to expand inclusion at synagogues and demonstrates the inconsistencies in disability inclusion among varied institutions.”

Mayer told JNS that the isolation that came with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns reversed progress made over the more than 15 years she has been at Yachad.

“We were so focused on expanding our circle and finding places where everyone belongs,” she said, of the pre-pandemic days. Then lockdown restrictions came.

“The first people you’re limiting are the outliers,” she told JNS.

When restrictions lifted on the size of religious gatherings, many synagogues retained a mindset that they had developed—faster and quieter prayer services, with less singing and dancing. The faster clip posed challenges to those who already struggled to keep up, Mayer said.

Baruch added that “the more we talk about it, the more we raise awareness about the different disabilities that exist in our community.”

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    April 18, 2024

The House Rules Committee debated three foreign aid bills, whose texts Speaker of the House Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) released on Wednesday and which include billions of dollars for Israel.

The committee took up the separate bills for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan on Thursday, teeing up a potentially dramatic showdown with the right flank of his own party, which opposes additional funding for Ukraine.

“To put it bluntly, I would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys,” Johnson said at a press conference on Wednesday. “My son is going to begin in the Naval Academy this fall. This is a live fire exercise for me, as it is for so many American families.”

“This is not a game. It’s not a joke,” he said. “We can’t play politics with this. We have to do the right thing.”

Johnson’s proposal is divided into three separate bills but largely mirrors the $95 billion supplemental aid package which the Senate passed in February.

The three House bills likewise provide $95 billion in total supplemental aid, with $60.8 billion for Ukraine, $8 billion to counter China in the Indo-Pacific and $26 billion in the Israel-focused bill—$9.1 billion of which is humanitarian aid for Gaza and other global hotspots.

A fourth piece of legislation grouped with the aid bills would force TikTok’s Chinese ownership group to sell the social media company. The fourth bill also includes sanctions measures against Russia and Iran.

Of the $26 billion in the Israel-related aid bill, $5.2 billion is devoted to procurement for the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Iron Beam rocket and missile defense systems, $4.4 billion would fund Israeli purchases from U.S. defense stocks and $3.5 billion would go to the procurement of other advanced weapons systems. 

Another $2.4 billion would fund U.S. military operations in the region, such as the U.S. naval operations to protect Red Sea shipping.

U.S. President Joe Biden and House Democrats previously opposed efforts to vote on aid for Israel as a standalone bill, but with Johnson effectively packaging the three bills together and including Democratic demands, such as aid for Gaza, the new formula earned Biden’s endorsement on Wednesday.

“The House must pass the package this week, and the Senate should quickly follow,” Biden stated. “I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”

Johnson’s decision to move forward with the foreign aid supplemental package with Democratic support has provoked fury from the House Freedom Caucus, representing the most right-wing Republicans.

“This tactic allows Johnson to pass priorities favored by President Biden, the swamp and the Ukraine war machine with a supermajority of House members, leaving conservatives out to dry,” House Freedom Caucus members wrote in a memo to fellow Republicans on Wednesday. 

Republicans angry at Johnson for funding Ukraine and not prioritizing U.S. border security could support a motion to vacate that would oust him from the speakership, just as former speaker Kevin McCarthy was forced out in October.

Johnson said Wednesday that he wasn’t worried about that possibility.

“My philosophy is you do the right thing and you let the chips fall where they may,” he said. “If I operated out of fear of a motion to vacate, I would never be able to do my job.”

https://twitter.com/cspan/status/1780713853967560797

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) filed a motion to vacate the speakership in March after the passage of the final 2024 government funding bills. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) announced on Tuesday that he would support that motion.

Greene has not said if or when she might trigger the motion but could do so as early as Friday, which would require a floor vote within two legislative days.

If one additional Republican were to support the motion, Johnson would be removed, assuming that every Democrat in the House also voted to remove the speaker, as they did in October.

With Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) retiring from Congress this week and further narrowing the already razor-thin Republican majority, Johnson may end up in the unusual position of relying on Democratic support to keep his job as speaker.

Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) have said that they would back Johnson in a vote on a motion to vacate.

“My position hasn’t changed. Massie wants the world to burn. I won’t stand by and watch. I have a bucket of water,” Moskowitz wrote Wednesday.

Lacking the votes to depose Johnson or defeat the aid bills, Greene submitted amendments on Wednesday in an apparent effort to prod her colleagues. Greene’s amendment to the Israel bill called for funds “for the development of space laser technology on the southwest border,” evidently in reference to accusations that she had endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory about California wildfires.

Both Democrats and Republicans made similar snipes at their colleagues in amendments and statements.

Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wisc.), who opposes removing Johnson, called Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) “tubby” on the House floor, Axios reported. Gaetz was one of the eight Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy in October and is thought to be one of the Freedom Caucus members most likely to support a motion to vacate.

Moskowitz, meanwhile, submitted an amendment to the Ukraine aid bill Thursday that would rename Greene’s House office the “Neville Chamberlain Room,” suggesting that Greene’s opposition to Ukraine funding rhymed with the former British prime minister’s appeasement of Nazis.

The intra-Republican battle over the aid package also forced Johnson’s supporters and opponents to prepare for unusual parliamentary maneuvers.

Freedom Caucus members had formed a Floor Action Response Team, or “FART,” that will take shifts on the House floor to prevent moves that would strip them of their committee seats or otherwise empower Johnson, Politico reported Thursday.

Some Republicans have also called on the Rules Committee to change the procedures around motions to vacate. 

“I’m working with a group of members to change the rules so that they can’t get that done, so that one knucklehead can’t put the whole House into disarray by forcing another speaker vote,” Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) said Thursday. “We’ve got real problems.”

Speaker Johnson announced on Thursday that he opposed that effort.

“Any rule change requires a majority of the full House, which we do not have,” the speaker said. “We will continue to govern under the existing rules.”

At press time, the House Rules Committee was in recess after debating amendments on the foreign aid bills. After the Rules Committee votes on the bills, a vote on the aid package is expected on the House floor on Saturday.

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  • Words count:
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    April 18, 2024

Columbia University president Minouche Shafik called on the New York City Police Department to forcibly clear an unauthorized, anti-Israel protest encampment on the university’s South Lawn on Thursday.

“They have interfered with the operation of the university, refused to identify themselves, refused to disperse, set up tents on campus space, failed to comply with policies and damaged campus property,” Shafik wrote in her letter requesting NYPD assistance. “With great regret, we request the NYPD’s help to remove these individuals.”

The Columbia Spectator student newspaper reported that police arrested more than 100 of the anti-Israel demonstrators for trespassing. The students, whose hands were zip tied, were loaded into police buses.

The university also suspended at least three Barnard College students for their role in the protests, including Irsa Hirsi, the daughter of progressive “Squad” member Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

One of the suspended students, Maryam Iqbal, said in a video that she thought that the university was “bluffing” and that she wouldn’t leave.

“They can expel me and I’ll stay,” Iqbal said in the video. “They can put us in jail. We’ll come back again.”

The attempt to clear the “Gaza solidarity encampment” tents comes one day after Shafik and other university leaders testified to a House committee about Jew-hatred at Columbia.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) told Shafik that Mohamed Abdou, a visiting professor in modern Arab studies whom the university hired after he made a pro-Hamas social media post, was attending the unauthorized demonstration during the hearing.

“Just to let you know, Mr. Abdou is not grading papers right now. He’s on campus at the unsanctioned, anti-Israel, antisemitic event that is being supported by pro-Hamas activists on campus,” Stefanik said.

Videos posted on social media Thursday show that police cleared the tents and other debris from Columbia’s South Lawn but that hundreds of anti-Israel demonstrators continue to rally in the area.

The Columbia Jewish Alumni Association wrote on Thursday that the unauthorized protests continue to disrupt academic life at the university.

“For those unfamiliar with Columbia University campus, this mayhem is directly in front of the library and several dorms,” wrote the group, which noted that final exams begin in less than 10 days. “You don’t have to be Jewish to be deeply concerned about the academic priorities of professors who condone and encourage this.”

The Jewish alumni association also noted the irony that the students, who can expect to earn an average starting annual salary of more $92,000 after completing their undergraduate studies, have to be cleaned up after by custodial staff.

“Privilege is when you hold a loudly disruptive, all-night hate festival in the center of campus, sleep in cozy, matching tents and when the grown-ups finally force you to leave, custodians who work hard for a living are called in to clean up your mess,” it wrote.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce which is investigating Columbia for antisemitism, issued a statement Thursday welcoming Shafik’s decision to clear the encampment but said that the university’s administration enabled the protests by accepting Jew-hatred.

“I am glad President Shafik has taken the long overdue step of inviting the New York Police Department (NYPD) to clear this radical, unauthorized encampment,” she said.

“This brazen and hateful defiance of Columbia’s rules was the product of months of the university’s stark failure to enforce its rules and address antisemitism in a serious manner,” she said.

“For Columbia to correct course, the events of the past 36 hours must become a turning point," she added. "Columbia must take the bold and difficult actions necessary to address the pervasive antisemitism, support for terrorism, and contempt for the university’s rules that have been allowed to flourish on its campus.”

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  • Words count:
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    April 18, 2024

Caroline Glick interviews Iranian journalist and activist Vahid Behesti about the horrors of the Iranian government and why now is the time to topple the regime once and for all.

Watch “The Caroline Glick Show”

https://youtu.be/FN-gSY2XvlU
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  • Words count:
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    April 18, 2024

The Biden administration’s foreign-policy team has sown confusion among both friends and foes of America. According to JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin, by always counseling Israel never to “escalate” confrontations with terrorists like Hamas and the rogue regime in Iran, President Joe Biden is only helping those bad actors.

He is joined by talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, who says the president’s mistaken policies are partly the result of an effort to revive former President Barack Obama’s legacy in the form of a dangerous Iran nuclear deal, his belief that he must appease Israel-haters at home if he is to win re-election and his commitment to a lifetime’s worth of failed ideas. Above all, he says, Biden believes that “never escalate” is the only answer to foreign-policy problems.

That’s why Biden is demanding that Israel not finish off the Hamas terrorists in Gaza and refrain from retaliating against Iran for its firing of missiles and drones at the Jewish state. Hewitt says that the United States is currently being led by an “infirm” man and advised by men like Secretary of State Antony Blinken who are equally clueless.

He says, “this is actually in a situation where Israel has to step into the position that the United States used to hold, which is to lead the West,” since neither Biden nor any of the other leading Western nations seem currently capable or willing to take necessary action against Islamist terrorists and their paymasters.

https://youtu.be/Qf_XA1iVPVM

Listen/Subscribe to weekly episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Watch new episodes every week by subscribing to the JNS YouTube Channel.

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  • Words count:
    331 words
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    Update Desk
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    April 18, 2024
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Jerusalem is concerned that the International Criminal Court in The Hague could soon issue arrest warrants against senior officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, over the Israel Defense Forces operation against Hamas, Channel 12 News reported Thursday.

According to the report, an emergency meeting was held at Netanyahu's office on Tuesday in the presence of Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

The four decided to take "urgent action with international authorities" to prevent the arrest of Israelis abroad, Channel 12 added.

The Palestinian Authority has already declared its acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ICC over alleged crimes committed by Israel. However, Israel does not recognize ICC jurisdiction over the so-called matzav, or political and military "situation" regarding its conflict with the Palestinians.

The United States has also voiced strong objections to the Palestinians joining the ICC, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously expressing "serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel."

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor has said that the ICC should have already issued an arrest warrant for Netanyahu "for war crimes committed against Palestinians in Gaza."

Following a visit to southern Israel in the wake of Hamas's Oct. 7 attacks, ICC chief prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan said that the massacre of more than 1,200 people represented "some of the most serious international crimes that shock the conscience of humanity."

Commenting on Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip since the terrorist attacks and the kidnapping of more than 250 people, Khan noted that the Israel Defense Forces "has trained lawyers who advise commanders and a robust system intended to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law."

The prosecutor continued, noting "conflict in densely populated areas where fighters are alleged to be unlawfully embedded in the civilian population is inherently complex, but international humanitarian must still apply and the Israeli military knows the law that must be applied."

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  • Words count:
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    April 18, 2024

For many on the left, Asna Tabassum is America’s latest free-speech martyr. Close behind her are others like Dani Marzouca, Celine Khalife, Malak Afaneh, in addition to Columbia University faculty members Joseph Massad, Katherine Franke and Mohamed Abdou. All are being targeted by the supposedly all-powerful Jewish community for “pro-Palestinian” opinions and “criticizing” Israel.

That’s the narrative we’re hearing in much of the corporate media and from liberal pundits this week as they attempt to change the national conversation about an epidemic of antisemitism in the streets of America’s cities and on college campuses since the Oct. 7 massacres in southern Israel by Hamas terrorist organization. The goal of this effort is to portray the pushback against hate speech directed at Jews as a form of repression that is stifling debate. Those putting forth these claims assert that Jews who speak up about antisemitism are cancel-culture mobs. These pro-Israel vigilantes are, we are told, seeking out innocent people who become the focus of unfair opprobrium that leads to denial of their rights and, in some cases, even costs them their livelihoods.

Those who are denouncing the attacks on these people are being both dishonest and hypocritical. Rather than merely voicing unpopular opinions, these alleged martyrs to freedom are actually voicing hate speech. And far from being denied the right to say what they want, the backlash against them is merely depriving them of the privilege of venting their antisemitic bile in venues like classrooms, private dinners and graduation ceremonies. Those are places where rules against hate speech exist. Yet they are rarely, if ever, enforced against antisemites. However, anyone who voices racism against African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians or any other minority protected by diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) rules are always dealt with harshly and subjected to peremptory punishment.

Others are merely being held accountable by employers for public conduct like tearing down posters of Israeli hostages and posting antisemitism on social media accounts that, like any other form of disreputable behavior, is the sort of thing most businesses understandably want to distance themselves from.

A false narrative

Worst of all, this narrative about “pro-Palestinian” victims is intended to erase and even justify the surge in Jew-hatred that has been felt all across the world but is particularly shocking in the United States, a place where bigotry for Jews has never been officially sanctioned. The Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7—the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust—unleashed a wave of animosity towards Israelis and Jews throughout the globe, including in places, like Western Europe, where antisemitism has been prevalent for some time. But the realization by mainstream American Jews that institutions like elite universities had become bastions of hostility has served as a wake-up call for them and others that this country is undergoing a cultural shift enabling antisemitism.

Each of these cases says something unfortunate about this moment in history. We are now constantly being told that it is “pro-Palestinians” who are under fire from alleged Islamophobes. What is really going on is that hateful speech against Jews has not just been accepted but glamorized by intellectuals who have been indoctrinated in ideas like critical race theory and intersectionality, which grant a permission slip for antisemitism.

Tabassum has gained notoriety because despite being named this spring as a valedictorian at the University of Southern California, she won’t give a commencement speech due to what the school described as “security concerns.” She became controversial after the discovery of social-media posts accusing Zionists of being racists and advocating for the destruction of Israel, as well as making false charges about Arabs being ethnically cleansed by Jews.

A privileged platform for hate

Her defenders claim that all she is doing is expressing sympathy for Palestinian victims and criticizing Israel’s government and military. While her apologists are right that the school isn’t being honest about the reason for their decision, they are being dishonest when they say she has a free-speech right to proclaim such falsities at the school’s graduation ceremonies. That was the argument made by David Meyers, a leftist Jewish history professor at UCLA, who penned a piece about the issue in The Los Angeles Times with Salam al-Maryati, an anti-Israel activist, who has defended Hamas and Hezbollah, blamed the 9/11 attacks on Israel and claims that Jews “weaponize” antisemitism.

Tabussum is free to stand on a street corner and spout her hatred for Israel and Jews, but regardless of her academic record, she isn't entitled to use the podium at USC’s graduation for that purpose.

The same is true for Malak Afaneh, a University of California at Berkeley Law School student who attempted to hijack a private dinner at the home of dean Erwin Chemerinsky, a prominent legal scholar and teacher who has been attacked on campus for his support for Zionism. When Chemerinsky’s wife, Catherine Fisk, herself a law professor, sought to restrain and take away the microphone Afaneh brought with her, the student fallaciously claimed that she had a free-speech right to speak. Fisk rightly answered, “No, this is my house; the First Amendment doesn’t apply.” Fisk was subsequently lambasted for supposedly “assaulting” the student and denying her rights.

https://youtu.be/YM0UocrBz4I

The trio of Columbia faculty members—Massad, Franke and Abdou—were part of the discussion at the hearing on antisemitism held by the U.S. House of Representatives at which Minouche Shafik, that university’s president and other school officials testified. Shafik managed to avoid the same kind of disaster that other university presidents walked into last December when the same committee heard them claim that it depended on “the context” as to whether advocacy for the genocide of Jews violated their school’s policies. Still, Shafik didn’t have any good answers as to why she had permitted a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students to be created on the New York City campus, largely because of people like that trio and the students who mimic their praise for Hamas murderers and voicing of blood libels against Israeli and Jews.

Again, the defenders of those professors, in addition to the students there and elsewhere who march around campuses chanting for the destruction of the one Jewish state on the planet (“from the river to the sea”) and in favor of terrorism against Jews everywhere (“globalize the intifada”), say they are merely exercising their right to free speech.

Would they defend the KKK?

Every school in this country has rules forbidding hate speech. And were a mob of students, aided and abetted by faculty members (as is often the case with anti-Israel protests), to call for violence against African-Americans or any other protected minority group—let alone to demonstrate in favor of known hate groups and terrorists like the Ku Klux Klan—they would be expelled and/or fired from their jobs so fast it would make their heads spin.

The point being that those who think “pro-Palestinian” speech, which in practice means advocacy of hatred against Jews, should be protected would never think of defending anti-black, anti-Hispanic or anti-Asian hate speech, or speak of those doing so as idealists who deserve praise for their courage rather than scorn. They make the exception for antisemitism precisely because of the influence of woke ideology, which divides the world into two groups locked in perpetual conflict: people of color who are victims and their “white” oppressors.

The neo-Marxists behind these ideas and their Islamist allies wrongly define Jews and Israel in this manner, despite the ludicrous nature of any such claim about a conflict that has nothing to do with race. Nor does it make any sense to label the Jews—a small minority group who have been subjected to violence and terrorism worldwide for millennia—in this manner. Nor are Jews “settlers” or colonialists” in their own country; they are the indigenous people of Israel. Yet they are the sole group that is the focus of the only international movement to deny anyone’s indigeneity.

Professors who engage in hate speech against Jews, not to mention introducing antisemitic ideas into their classrooms, aren’t simply exercising academic freedom to discuss controversial topics. They aren’t merely criticizing an Israeli government’s policies; they are advocating for the destruction of Israel and endorsing groups that wish to commit genocide against Jews, as well as applauding acts like the Oct. 7 atrocities, which were merely a trailer for more to come.

This is also why schools must adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which specifically cites this kind of speech as an obvious example of Jew-hatred. Those who oppose this definition do so precisely because they want to grant an exemption to anti-Zionism. But anti-Zionism, whether expressed by academics, students or street mobs, seeks to deny rights to Jews—to live in security and to defend themselves in their ancient homeland—that no one would deny to any other people. And that is antisemitism.

Holding bigots accountable

The cases of Marzouca and Khalife are also instructive. They were the focus of a sympathetic feature in The Washington Post that claimed they were victims of online mobs of pro-Israel bullies. Marzouca, who worked for a marketing firm, and Khalife, a therapist, were outed by the StopAntisemitism group for engaging in anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hate speech.

Marzouca had said in an Instagram Live post that “radical solidarity with Palestine means not apologizing for Hamas,” which the watchdog group not unreasonably said was pro-Hamas. Khalife was filmed tearing down posters of Israeli hostage victims and citing a conspiracy theory that they were kidnapped by Israel, not Hamas. She later told the Post that she had only torn them down because the posters said Hamas was a terrorist group and therefore “minimized the Palestinian struggle,” which is equally false and hardly more defensible. Both instances were highlighted online by StopAntisemitism, along with their places of employment, prompting the group’s followers to write and ask why they had such people working for them. As a result, both were fired.

Some claim that it’s unfair to publicize the activities of non-celebrities this way and that their punishment is too harsh. The Washington Post did its best to depict StopAntisemitism and its financial donors as the villains of the story. But would they feel the same way if the pair were endorsing the KKK or engaging in hate speech against blacks? Not likely. Nor is it unreasonable for employers not to want to be associated with people who do hateful things in public or on social media. If you send appalling posts or engage in public acts of prejudice, you lose the right to anonymity. Contrary to the Post, Marzouca and Khalife are the bigots here, not the activists at StopAntisemitism.

What we are seeing in these efforts to portray hate-mongers as victims and free-speech martyrs is not so much cases of cancel culture as an attempt to sanitize antisemitism and to demonize those who call it out.

Unlike Europe, the United States has a First Amendment to the Constitution that protects the ability of Americans to say what they like so long as it doesn’t involve violence. All of these so-called martyrs are free to go on engaging in hate speech against Jews and Israel. What they and their defenders want is not so much the right to continue speaking in this manner but for their antisemitism to be normalized and treated as something reasonable people should be able to agree to disagree about. Advocacy for the genocide of 7 million Israeli Jews and the destruction of the only Jewish state on the planet, however, isn’t fair comment. Those who wish to normalize these ideas aren’t defending free speech. They are advocating for a society in which Jews are hounded, targeted and subjected to intimidation and violence. And that is an immoral proposal that no decent American can ever accept.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him: @jonathans_tobin

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  • Words count:
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A day after her mother questioned leaders of Columbia University during a congressional House Education and Workforce committee hearing on campus antisemitism casting doubt on the importance of the proceeding, Barnard College junior Isra Hirsi got suspended for allegedly contributing to the problem.

Barnard is the sister school of Columbia.

Hirsi, the daughter of progressive “Squad” member Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), announced on X on Thursday: “I’m an organizer with CU Apartheid Divest @ColumbiaSJP, in my 3 years at @BarnardCollege I have never been reprimanded or received any disciplinary warnings I just received notice that I am 1 of 3 students suspended for standing in solidarity with Palestinians facing a genocide.”

Hirsi wrote that “those of us in Gaza Solidarity Encampment will not be intimidated,” and “we will stand resolute until our demands are met.” She then called for “divestment from companies complicit in genocide.”

Brooke Goldstein, executive director for the Lawfare Project, posted on X that “Hirsi has acknowledged that she is one of the organizers of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the hate group that has done so much damage - not just to Jewish students on campus, but to the rights of all students.”

Goldstein wrote that “this may be breaking news, but somehow it is not shocking news.”

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  • Words count:
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    April 18, 2024

Israel’s military brass and political leadership are dithering over whether and how Israel should respond to Iran’s attack last week. The Israeli public, however, seems to have made up its mind. According to a poll released this week by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 74% of the Israeli public opposes a counterstrike “If it undermines Israel’s security alliance with its allies.” Only 26% are in favor of retaliation even if it damages ties with those allies.

Shockingly, it appears that Israel is questioning the legitimacy of defending itself following a massive assault that involved some 300 missiles and drones. Out of fear of alienating allies and international public opinion, Israelis are opting for the path of least resistance.

This decision not to decide, to opt for short-term quiet at the expense of long-term safety, security and even freedom has not been followed by a collective sigh of relief. Rates of depression, anxiety and PTSD are rising rapidly. This disconcerting trend began because of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, when Israel was almost immediately urged by "friends" around the world to exercise "restraint."

Unsurprisingly, the national malaise is palpable.

While the Iranian attack was unprecedented, this manifestation of powerlessness is not new. It is an outgrowth of the Jews’ tortured history. In particular, it recalls Ruth Wisse’s eye-opening analysis of the historic Jewish relationship to power.

In her book Jews and Power, Wisse contended that to survive as a distinct group in the Diaspora for almost 2,000 years, Jews implemented a strategy of accommodation. Without a land to call their own, 100 generations of exiled Jews sought to live as “a light unto the nations” by seeking the protection of their non-Jewish rulers.

This strategy succeeded to a certain extent. Over those 2,000 years, great civilizations arose, thrived, declined and disappeared. Yet the Jews insisted on continuing to exist. They proved remarkably adept at adapting to the whims and caprices of their host societies and those who ruled them.

But Wisse maintained that this accommodationist approach has left the modern State of Israel at a loss when confronting the Islamic world’s “political tradition of conquest and expansion,” especially in the Middle East.

As we are seeing now, 2,000 years of accommodation has morphed into Israel’s aversion to exercising power, even though Iran’s actions were nothing less than a casus belli that demanded an immediate military response.

Israel’s leadership is acting much like the Diaspora Jews of old, showing undue deference to the U.S. government, the current “ruler” of non-Jewish society and the Jewish peoples’ primary benefactor du jour.

The oft-repeated fear that an Israeli military response to Iranian aggression will provoke a regional war is an inversion of the "political imbalance ... Jews had experienced in the Diaspora," to quote Wisse. Once stateless and powerless, the millions of Jews living in Israel are now accused of being too strong for their own good, even though they are surrounded by Arab states numbering close to 500 million people and two billion Muslims worldwide.

For a split second, it looked as if Israel was going to break the Diaspora mold and retaliate immediately against Iran. Yet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reverted to form after U.S. President Joe Biden told him that the U.S. would not support any Israeli counterattack.

A White House official said Biden told Netanyahu that since Israel, the U.S. and other countries in the region succeeded in foiling the Iranian attack, Israel should do nothing. The president reportedly said, “You got a win. Take the win.”

How is this a win? Living in perpetual fear of the next Iranian attack while depending on the goodwill of foreign governments is an unprecedented reimagining of victory.

Despite Israel and its allies’ miraculous success against the Iranian barrage, Tehran succeeded in establishing new red lines in its war against the Jewish state. The Islamic Republic had previously been content to outsource its anti-Israel attacks to proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah. Now it has been emboldened to take a more active role.

Continued operational passivity in exchange for such goodies as a reimposition of sanctions on Iran by the U.S. and uninterrupted military aid will only ensure that Jewish self-determination is sacrificed at the altar of merely surviving another day.

In the fateful days ahead, Israel has a decision to make: Either fully embrace all the responsibilities that come with national sovereignty or continue to default to the accommodationist mechanisms employed by persecuted, despised Diaspora Jews.

Before Jewish independence was reestablished in 1948, shifting political winds, wars and economic upheavals inevitably resulted in one-time allies and protectors in Europe turning on the Jews over centuries. Time will tell if history is about to repeat itself.

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Israel Defense Forces soldiers thwarted a Palestinian terror attack on Thursday outside Brukhin, located some four miles west of Ariel near the Samaria security barrier.

"A short time ago, IDF forces near the community of Brukhin in the Ephraim Brigade arrested a terrorist with a knife who was planning to carry out an attack," the military announced on social media.

No casualties were reported in the incident and the suspect was detained for questioning, the IDF said.

Earlier on Thursday, Israeli authorities announced the arrest of a Palestinian man with ties to the Islamic State terror group who was planning to carry out a terrorist attack in the near future.

The suspect attempted to evade capture and grab a border police officer's weapon before being detained in the town of Beitunia, located near Ramallah.

Over the weekend, Israeli shepherd Binyamin Achimeir, 14, was found murdered near the Malachei Shalom outpost in the Binyamin region of southern Samaria.

Achimeir's body was found on Saturday after he went missing 24 hours earlier while shepherding livestock from Gal Farm, located close to the Arab village of al-Mughayyir, 17 miles northeast of Ramallah.

The IDF continues to search for his killers, and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday pledged to "find the murderers and bring them to justice."

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