Actor Gerard Butler faced a wave of criticism and taunting from pro-Palestinian activists on social media for supporting Israeli soldiers after he shared a photo of his California home that was destroyed by one of the wildfires currently ravaging the state.
Earlier this month, the “300” star attended the annual Friends of the IDF (FIDF) Western Region Gala in Los Angeles, where a record $60 million was raised for programs assisting Israeli soldiers. The event was hosted by Israeli-American philanthropist Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl.
On Sunday, the Scottish actor posted on Twitter and Instagram a photo of him standing in front of the smoldering remnants of his Malibu home. He said he was “inspired as ever by the courage, spirit and sacrifice of firefighters,” and asked his fans to support the Los Angeles Fire Department.
In response, Israel haters commenting on his Instagram photo called Butler a “******* Zionist,” a “criminal and a piece of human trash for supporting the IDF,” and claimed that his house burned down “because you support murderers.” One Instagram user wrote, “that [is] what you deserve when you support the Zionists” and another asked Butler, “You ever thought it was Gods karma for raising $60 million dollars for IDF soldiers to kill Palestinians? Just a thought.” Another user wrote, “Israhell occupied palestinian land but very soon they will be defeated.”
Twitter users were just as cruel. One commented on Butler’s photo, saying, “That $60 million you helped raise for the scumbag IDF soldiers in Beverly Hills to further oppress the Palestinian people would really come in handy right now wouldn’t it????!!! Your a scumbag Zionist mouthpiece. I don’t feel a bit sorry for you!!!” Butler was also accused of backing “the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.” One user claimed Palestinians were “constantly losing their homes” to the IDF, “the same terrorists you support and help raise funds for. You should be ashamed.”
Butler has not responded to the criticism, but many pro-Israel social media users came to his defense. One Instagram user wrote, “He has been in ISRAEL and saw the truth. Your lies won’t do. Reality is reality. IDF don’t kill ‘palestinian’ children. We fight against HAMAS terrorists!!! God will always be with us and our beloved ones. God bless Israel and IDF.”
BRUSSELS (JTA) — Will security at American Jewish institutions now mirror that of Europe, with its police protection, armed guards, panic rooms and sterile zones at synagogues?
It’s a possibility that is being debated more seriously than ever before following the Tree of Life Congregation shooting Saturday in Pittsburgh in which a gunman killed 11 people.
Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, told The Washington Post that posting armed guards outside synagogues in some places would be “prohibitive” to Jewish communal life itself.
But Gary Sikorski, director of security for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, told the Detroit Jewish News that the idea, suggested by President Donald Trump after the attack, is “not a bad one.”
European security professionals say that even if Sikorski’s approach prevails, it will take at least a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars before U.S. Jewry’s security infrastructure matches the European counterpart.
“The security doctrine you see in Europe is the result of decades of evolution,” said Ophir Revach, director of the European Jewish Congress’ Security and Crisis Center. “It was built on lessons from terrorist attacks in the 1960s and adjusted constantly. It’s pretty comprehensive.”
Even if a critical mass of U.S. Jewish communities decide tomorrow that they want to replicate the European model, Revach said, “Optimistically speaking, it will take at least a decade to achieve.” When it comes to security, he said, “American Jewry is at the beginning of a long journey.”
In several European countries, synagogues are under constant protection of police or army troops. Most of them have volunteer guards, including armed ones. Many also have a security command room, where trained professionals or volunteers use elaborate video surveillance systems to monitor their premises, often while exchanging information with other Jewish institutions in real time.
These arrangements regularly prevent violence against congregants.
In 2015, a volunteer guard outside Copenhagen’s main synagogue was shot deadafter engaging an armed Islamist who had intended to carry out a shooting attack inside the building, where dozens of people were celebrating a bat mitzvah. Dan Uzan’s intervention allowed police to shoot the assailant, who never made it inside the shul.
A year earlier, a dozen or so volunteer guards staved off dozens of rioters who had intended to storm the Synagogue de la Roquette in Paris as payback for Israel’s actions in Gaza. As 200 worshippers waited inside, the defenders held their ground for 20 minutes amid a vicious street brawl with the attackers until police finally arrived at the scene.
“Dan Uzan’s death was tragic, but from a security point of view it was a system that did what it needed to do,” Revach said.
Had the Tree of Life synagogue been guarded, “this attack may have been prevented,” he said. “Even armed perpetrators are deterred in a major way by guards.”
Some American synagogues, like Har Shalom, the largest Conservative synagogue in Potomac, Maryland, have an armed police presence during services and other events, The Washington Post reported. Community Security Service, a nonprofit, has trained volunteers at dozens of synagogues, mostly in the New York area. In Teaneck, New Jersey, a suburb with dozens of synagogues, many have a police presence out front and CSS-trained congregants on patrol.
Others have a closed-doors policy in which visitors must request entry through an intercom system.
In recent years, more and more Jewish federations, the communitywide fundraising groups, have hired full-time security directors for their facilities and to advise their donor agencies. The Secure Community Network, the security arm of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was formed in 2004. Since then, the number of federations with full-time security directors grew from two to 30, according to the Post.
Federal money is available for beefing up security at Jewish institutions. In fiscal year 2018, Congress appropriated $50 million for nonprofit security through something called the Urban Area Security Initiative; much of the money goes to Jewish institutions.
But many American synagogues, including Tree of Life, had been leaving their doors open on Shabbat — a scenario that became unthinkable years ago in Western Europe, where jihadists have carried out several deadly attacks in recent years on Jewish targets.
Joel Rubinfeld, the president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, remembered feeling “simultaneously envious and worried” when he was greeted recently to a major New York synagogue by a concierge in his 70s — and no one else.
Before 2015, even at-risk synagogues like the Grand Synagogue of Marseille, France, had lax security and at times open doors. But the attacks in Paris that year prompted all but the most distant synagogues of Western Europe to abandon the open-door policy they used to have.
European synagogues by and large now employ a multilayered defensive doctrine of several threat circles in cooperation with law enforcement.
“It accounts for all kinds of scenarios, not just a shooting but also a car bomb, firebombs and snipers,” Revach said.
Each scenario requires building adjustments, sometimes just adding a security barrier and at other times replacing windows with bulletproof glass. Then there’s the need to set up international, national and regional situation rooms to help communities coordinate their activities.
“Just setting up the physical elements … takes years,” Revach said.
If American Jewry quickly ups the security arrangements around its institutions, “there’s still the issue of awareness,” said Sammy Ghozlan, a retired police commissioner and the president of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism in France.
“It’s not enough to build a security,” he said. “You need a community that’s drilled at maintaining it even when nothing happens year after year, so that when the threat does appear, it is met. It needs to be hardwired into you.”
American Jewry is facing a “monumental challenge” if it seeks to adopt the European security model, Ghozlan said.
“It will take them at least 15 years,” he said, noting that American Jewry is “far larger and more far-flung” than its European counterpart, making the task more complicated than in France.
Ghozlan nonetheless believes that American Jews will rise to the challenge.
“We are witnessing a Europeanization of the situation in the United States for Jews,” he said. “It takes time for a worldview to change, but I believe American Jews have the resources and resourcefulness to fix the security problems exposed in Pittsburgh.”
All my life I have reminded fellow Jews in America that we are the luckiest Jews to have ever lived in a non-Jewish country. I know what I’m talking about. I wrote a book on anti-Semitism, taught Jewish history at Brooklyn College and fought anti-Semitism since I was 21, when Israel sent me into the Soviet Union to smuggle in Jewish religious items and smuggle out Jewish names.
Even after the massacre of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue, this assessment remains true.
But the greatest massacre of Jews in American history is a unique American tragedy.
It is a tragedy in part because America has finally made the list of countries in which Jews were murdered for being Jews. While this was probably inevitable, given that 330 million people live in America, it is painful — equally for me as an American and as a Jew.
And second, while there is no difference between the murder of Christians at a church and the murder of Jews in a synagogue with regard to the loss of life and the suffering of loved ones, there is something unique about the murder of Jews for being Jews: Anti-Semitism is exterminationist. Anti-semites don’t just want to persecute, enslave or expel Jews; they want to kill them all.
On Passover, Jews read the Haggadah, the ancient Jewish prayer book of the Passover Seder. In it are contained these words: “In every generation, they arise to annihilate us” — not “persecute” us; not “enslave” us; annihilate us.
So, when the murderer yelled, “All Jews must die,” he encapsulated the uniqueness of anti-Semitism.
There is another unique aspect to anti-Semitism: It destroys every society in which it grows. The animating force within Adolf Hitler was Jew-hatred. More than anything else — desire for German “Lebensraum,” hatred of Bolshevism, a view of Slavs as subhuman — it was anti-Semitism that invigorated him. Anti-Semitism was not a Nazi scapegoat; it was the Nazis’ raison d’etre.
The results of German anti-Semitism for Germans alone: more than 5 million dead, including half a million German civilians; 130,000 more civilians murdered by the Nazi regime; 12 million Germans expelled from East Europe, 2 million of whom died; innumerable rapes of German women; Germany divided in two for half a century — and the loss of a sense of self and reputation.
I have no idea if, outside the universities and the Israel-hating left, there has been an increase in anti-Semitism in America. I wish I could trust the Anti-Defamation League, other Jewish organizations and Jewish community newspapers. Sadly, only Jews on the left do, because most of these organizations have a left-wing, anti-Trump agenda.
Here’s a perfect example:
The mainstream left-wing media, along with left-wing Jewish organizations and media, told us every day for months after Trump’s election that anti-Semitism had greatly increased. They cited the great number of Jewish Community Centers that received bomb threats. It turned out, however, that about 90 percent of those threats were called in by a mentally disturbed American Jewish teenager living in Israel, and the other 10 percent were made by a black radical seeking to frame his ex-girlfriend. So, the claim eventually vanished from the news — with not one Jewish or non-Jewish organization or media outlet apologizing for crying anti-Semitic “fire” in a crowded theater.
The dishonest now have the Pittsburgh massacre to blame on Trump. But that’s as big a falsehood as blaming Trump for the bomb threats. In reality, the Pittsburgh murderer criticized Trump for his close connections to Jews and Israel.
For Jews to blame the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman — the only president with a Jewish child and Jewish grandchildren, moreover — for increasing anti-Semitism is another example of a truism this Jew has known all his life: Unlike Jewish liberals, who get most of their values from Judaism, Jewish leftists are ethnically Jewish but get their values from leftism.
The biggest increase in anti-Semitism in the last 10 or so years has come from the left. Just ask young Jews who wear yarmulkes or are vocally pro-Israel on most American college campuses. And this generation’s threat of Jewish annihilation comes from Israel’s Iranian and Arab enemies.
As a Jew who attends synagogue every Shabbat, and as an advocate for the carrying of concealed weapons, I fervently pray we will not need armed guards at American synagogues. America’s uniqueness has been exemplified by the fact that Jews do not need armed guards in their synagogues.
May it always be so.
Even if you don’t love Jews — if you only love America — you need to fight anti-Semites. As the Jews go, so goes the fate of the nation in which they live.
Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, published by Regnery in April 2018, is “The Rational Bible,” a commentary on the book of Exodus. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.
The development comes amid two anti-Israel controversies at the university, including another professor denying a letter of recommendation to study in Israel and a photo used during a lecture comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler.
A University of Michigan professor, citing his support for the BDS movement in denying a student’s request in August for a letter of recommendation for a semester-long study-abroad program at Tel Aviv University, was sanctioned on Tuesday by the university.
“As you may know, many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor in the American Culture department, wrote to University of Michigan student Abigail Ingber in an email in August. “This boycott includes writing letters of recommendation for students planning to study there. … For reasons of these politics, I must rescind my offer to write your letter.”
The punishments against Cheney-Lippold include a stern warning, ineligibility for a merit increase for the 2018-19 academic year, in addition to being ineligible to take an accredited sabbatical until the fall 2020 semester.
Ingber’s family found out about the course of action through a Freedom of Information Act request, obtained by JNS.
Cheney-Lippold met with Elizabeth Cole, interim dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, on Sept. 20, where he acknowledged he was wrong regarding university policies on the BDS movement and instead inserted “a personal stance,” according to a letter from Cole to the professor, which is part of the FOIA file.
The professor acknowledged that he previously wrote a few letters for students wanting to study in Israel because he “did not have tenure.”
“Supporting the academic aspirations of your students is fundamental to your responsibilities as a faculty member. You have an obligation to support your students’ academic growth,” said Cole. “Rather than fulfill this obligation, you used the student’s request as a platform to express your own personal views.”
“Nothing in this letter is intended to discourage you from speaking on or advocating for matters that are of concern to you, which you are free to do,” added Cole. “But interfering with a student’s academic aspirations, as you have done here, is not acceptable.”
Despite a BDS resolution passed last year by the university’s student government, the school itself prohibits its departments or any part of the university to boycott or divest from Israel.
This development comes amid two anti-Israel controversies at the university late last week: a guest lecture comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler and a graduate instructor denying a similar request from a student, citing the same reason as Cheney-Lippold.
As an officer in the Israel Defense Forces, Ofir Dayan served in hostile territory in Gaza and Lebanon. But, the undergrad told The Post, nothing prepared her for life at Columbia University.
Ofir, the 24-year-old daughter of Israel Consul General in New York Dani Dayan, said she is harassed and threatened over her background by the group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and that the school is failing to protect her.
“SJP is violent,” she said. “I’m worried about my personal safety.”
The political science major had her initial run-in about a month into the fall 2017 semester, when she was in the lobby of Knox Hall — home to the Middle East Institute — having a phone conversation in Hebrew.
“A girl heard me and started screaming, ‘Stop killing Muslim babies! . . . You’re a murderer!’ ” Ofir said. “Then she screamed, ‘Zionist, get out!’ A nearby public-safety administrator did nothing.”
In October 2017, Ofir said, she and four members of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) — she is the vice-president of the Columbia chapter — were leaving an on-campus event for Israeli beauty queen Titi Aynaw. “The moment [members of SJP] saw us, they started screaming their slogans with a microphone to intimidate us. There were at least 50 SJP members blocking the walkway.
“They were really angry and it was scary,” said Ofir, a vocal supporter of the Jewish state. “I believed it would escalate to physical violence.”
Ofir and SSI filed a complaint about the incident to the Student Governing Board (SGB) in January. It described, in part, “horrified and terrified Jewish students huddled together while surrounded by a raging mob . . . [exhibiting] physically threatening behavior.” She also submitted cellphone video that she had recorded of the protesters being “hostile.” (Dalia Zahger, chapter president of SSI, agreed that the incident was “really scary.”)
Ofir added that things intensified after February 2018, when her father delivered a speech on campus. She said that a few dozen SJP protesters set up mock checkpoints to intimidate attendees. When Ofir was handed a flier about the “war criminal” consul general, she revealed that Dani was her dad.
In March, Ofir said, SJP members screamed “terrorist” at her and others handing out literature during Hebrew Liberation Week.
The head of SGB told SSI that the complaint should instead be filed with the school’s newly formed adjudication board, a student-run group whose purpose is to meet with both parties in a complaint to settle differences.
About a month later, the SSI student president sat down with a university administrator who is an adviser to the adjudication board. That official told the student that the complaint was not eligible for adjudication because it was from a previous semester and it was too complicated for the student-run board to handle. She then dismissed the complaint in late March. SSI tried to appeal at a subsequent meeting.
Ofir is frustrated that the adjudication process never happened. “They were blowing us off,” she said.
At a meeting over the summer, an administrator told SSI that the school cannot do anything absent proof of anti-Semitism.
“I thought the university would protect me, but they didn’t do anything when [protesters] called me a terrorist,” Ofir said. “The school stands by as I’m harassed.”
Professor Suzanne Goldberg, executive vice president for university life, said in a statement: “The safety and well-being of all of our students is fundamentally important . . . we will always work with students who have concerns about their physical safety, allow debate on contentious questions where our students hold strong views, and provide essential personal and group support.”
Last year at the University of California, Irvine, an SJP chapter was issued a two-year probation for disrupting an on-campus pro-Israel event. The same group had been sanctioned in 2016 for “threatening chants,” according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
In May, the UCLA chapter of SJP was accused by a rabbi attending a campus SSI event of “emotional and physical attacks”; a university spokesperson told the Jewish Journal at the time that “officials [were] carefully reviewing the incident.” Despite watchdog groups urging UCLA to take action, the school has since said it is permitting SJP to hold a November summit. “UCLA is bound by the First Amendment,” a school representative said. (The UCLA chapter of SJP did not reply to a request for comment.)
Ofir said she supports freedom of speech and the right to protest, but added, “There’s no difference between being anti-Israel and anti- Semitic [at Columbia].”
A representative for the Columbia chapter of SJP told The Post: “SJP firmly stands against discrimination in all forms, including anti-Semitism.” He did not address Ofir’s specific complaints.
Last week, Ofir met with Goldberg. The student requested protection from SJP and pleaded for disciplinary action to be taken against the group. Ofir said Goldberg refused and recommended that she put the school’s public-safety number on speed dial. (A school representative declined to comment on this.)
“[She] said that unless SJP gets violent, they can’t do anything,” said Ofir, who lives with her father in his official Upper East Side residence. “We have to wait until we’re beaten to call you? [The school] can protect me, but they choose not to.”
She stressed however, that this won’t drive her into seclusion: “You can’t make a difference if you hide who you are.”
The Palestinian exception involves giving the Palestinians and their supporters a pass for actions that would otherwise be illegal, simply because they are Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists.
When Rosh Hashanah ended on Tuesday evening, Jews discovered that over the holiday, the Trump administration had enacted two policies – one foreign and one domestic – that on their face, don’t appear to be connected. But actually, they stem from the same rationale. And both together and separately, these two policies give Jews much to be thankful for.
First, the administration announced it is closing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington, DC. US National Security Advisor John Bolton explained Monday that the administration decided to close the PLO office due to the PLO’s refusal to carry out substantive negotiations towards the achievement of a peace agreement with Israel. Then too, by working to prosecute Israeli nationals at the International Criminal Court, the PLO is violating the conditions Congress set as law for the continued operation of its Washington office.
Second, Kenneth Marcus, Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights determined that from now on, the US Department of Education will use the State Department’s definition of antisemitism in adjudicating all complaints regarding alleged acts of antisemitism in US educational institutions.
The State Department’s definition of antisemitism is based on the definition drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism explicitly states that anti-Israel activities which among other things reject Israel’s right to exist and the Jewish people’s right to self-determination; compare contemporary policies of the State of Israel to policies of Nazi Germany; and apply a standard for judging Israel’s policies and actions that is not applied to other nations and states, are all acts of antisemitism. As such, they are prohibited under the civil rights statutes that protect Americans against discrimination based on their group identity.
The common phenomenon both policies address can be referred to as “the Palestinian exception.”
The Palestinian exception was born with the Oslo process, whose 25th anniversary was marked on September 13. Ironically, the more the process failed, the more entrenched the Palestinian exception became.
The Palestinian exception involves giving the Palestinians and their supporters a pass for actions that would otherwise be illegal, simply because they are Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists.
For instance, the Palestinian exception has afforded the PLO and its Palestinian Authority the right to enjoy US political and financial support even as they undercut the US interest of achieving peace between the Palestinians and Israel. The Palestinians have been given a pass for rejecting Israeli peace proposals. They have been given a pass for waging an unrelenting war against Israel by cultivating, encouraging and carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel; prosecuting a political war against Israel whose goal is to delegitimize its right to exist; and disseminating and cultivating hatred of Israel and the Jewish people.
Since the dawn of the peace process, every secretary of state has at one point or another said that the PLO and PA must stop abetting terrorism and supporting terrorism.
Likewise, every secretary of state has at some point paid lip service to the notion that the PLO and the Palestinian Authority must cease indoctrinating Palestinians to hate Jews and seek Israel’s destruction.
But until President Donald Trump took office, no administration took substantive action against the PA or the PLO for their destructive, racist behavior. On the contrary, until Trump’s inauguration, three successive administrations responded to aggressive behavior by the Palestinians by expanding US financial and political support for the PLO, the PA and UNRWA. The Obama administration upgraded the diplomatic status of the PLO’s office in Washington.
As for the Palestinians’ supporters in the US, successive administrations have failed to call them to task for their ever-escalating efforts to discriminate against Israel’s supporters on campuses. This repeated failure has empowered hate groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Students Association, Jewish Voice for Peace and hundreds of aligned groups on college campuses to escalate their anti-Jewish activities.
Trump explained the basic rationale of his decision to defund UNRWA and slash funding to the PA and other Palestinian institutions in a conference call with Jewish leaders last week ahead of Rosh Hashanah. This rationale also holds for Trump’s decision to close the PLO’s Washington office, which Bolton announced four days after the call.
Trump explained: “I stopped massive amounts of money that we were paying to the Palestinians and the Palestinian leaders… I’d say, ‘You’ll get the money, but we’re not paying you until we make a deal. If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying.”
Trump said that he discussed conditioning US aid to the Palestinians on Palestinian actions on behalf of peace in conversations with former US peace negotiators.
“I said to some of the past negotiators, ‘Did you ever do that before? Did you ever use the money angle?’ “They said, ‘No, sir. We thought it would be disrespectful.’
“I said, ‘I don’t think it’s disrespectful at all. I think it’s disrespectful when people don’t come to the table.’” In other words, Trump’s policy is not to extend exceptional treatment to the Palestinians. Just as he expects allied states that the US supports to support the US, so he expects the Palestinians to act in conformance with the US interest of forging peace between them and Israel.
In this vein, it is important to note that US financial support for the Palestinians, like the US decision to allow the PLO to operate a representative office in Washington, were both initiated in 1994 on the basis of the PLO’s formal commitment to work toward peace with Israel. Over the years, as Palestinian bad faith toward Israel became inarguable, Congress passed laws conditioning continued US assistance of the Palestinians on their behavior.
Yet the three previous administrations opted to ignore the law and operate instead in conformance with the Palestinian exception that gives the PA and the PLO a pass for everything – including breaking American laws.
As for the Palestinians’ supporters on US campuses, the Palestinian exception enabled them to wage a war against American Jews on campuses the likes of which the US has arguably never seen.
Over the years, as antisemitic assaults on Jewish students expanded under the headline of pro-Palestinian activism, Jewish students and groups repeatedly sought redress and corrective action from university authorities. In the many cases where those authorities refused to intervene to protect Jewish students, the students and Jewish advocacy groups turned to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for protection, but to little or no avail.
In one notable instance, in 2011 the Zionist Organization of America filed a complaint against Rutgers University for failing to protect the civil rights of Jewish students, and the Department of Education rejected their complaint by arguing that it couldn’t prove the assault in question was antisemitic.
That year, a student group named BAKA, (Belief Awareness Kindness Action) organized a campus event that was to be “free and open to the public.” It was titled, “Never Again for Anyone.”
The title of the event made clear that its intent was to compare Israel to Nazi Germany. That is, it was on its face designed to be an antisemitic event.
As the ZOA noted in a statement this week, “When the event organizers saw how many ‘Zionists’ (aka Jews) showed up at the event, they… selectively enforced an admission fee against students who were, or were perceived to be Jewish. Jewish students reported this outrageous and painful and hurtful antisemitic discrimination to the University, which failed to address it.”
Despite the strong evidence that BAKA held an antisemitic event and then deliberately targeted Jewish students for discriminatory treatment, the OCR closed the case claiming that it lacked evidence of discrimination. The ZOA’s appeal languished unaddressed for nearly four years.
The Obama administration’s decision to turn a blind eye to anti-Jewish discrimination undertaken in the name of the Palestinians was part of a general policy of applying the Palestinian exception to pro-Palestinian activists.
This policy was made official in 2013. As Politico reported on Tuesday, in response to pressure from Kenneth Marcus, who then served as head of the Louis Brandeis Center for Human Rights and other civil rights groups, the Obama Education Department’s OCR outlined what it believed constituted actionable discrimination against Jewish students.
The OCR drew a distinction between antisemitism and political views about Israel. It released a statement stipulating that distinction. “OCR is careful to differentiate between harassment based on an individual’s real or perceived national origin, which is prohibited… as compared to offensive conduct based on an individual’s support for or opposition to the policies of a particular nation, which is not,” the OCR explained.
In other words, in the Obama administration’s view, while it is illegal to say that Jews are murderers and carrying out genocide, it is permissible to hold an event accusing Israel of carrying out genocide against the Palestinians and then discriminating against Jewish students who try to defend Israel from slander.
Needless to say, this position enabled antisemitic assaults against Jewish students to massively expand in recent years. “Israeli Apartheid Weeks” and BDS drives spread throughout the country – even though the basic conflation of Israel with apartheid South Africa and attempts to boycott Israel are both defined as forms of antisemitism under the IHRA definition adopted by the State Department.
Now serving as head of OCR as the Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, Marcus is ending the Palestinian exception in the US education system. Marcus announced that the OCR will use the State Department’s definition of antisemitism when considering allegations of antisemitic acts on campuses in a letter to the ZOA.
The actual purpose of Marcus’s letter was to inform the organization that the OCR is considering the ZOA’s four-year-old appeal of the OCR’s decision not to take action against Rutgers for its refusal to protect Jewish students from discrimination. Trump’s opponents insist that ending the Palestinian exception in relation to the PLO diminishes the already miniscule hope of reaching an accord between Israel and the PLO. Former peace negotiator Aaron David Miller excoriated the Trump administration’s policy in a column in USA Today on Wednesday.
Anti-Israel and far left groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and the American Civil Liberties Union argue that Marcus’s policy harms the free speech rights of pro-Palestinian groups.
These criticisms are disingenuous.
The only way that peace will ever be achieved is if the Palestinians stop their efforts to destroy Israel and embrace the cause of peace – either with the PLO or without it.
Discrimination and bigotry are not free speech issues. Allowing pro-Palestinian groups to intimidate Jewish students into silence is not about guaranteeing free speech, it is about blocking free speech and trampling the civil rights of Jews.
The Palestinian exception has made peace less likely and it has made antisemitism the only form of bigotry permitted – indeed supported – by US universities today.
The Trump administration should be thanked, not attacked, for finally discarding it.
A call to vote follows the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education report that analyzed new Palestinian textbooks, proving that they “encourage Palestinian children to sacrifice their lives in the name of religion,” and “glorified martyrdom and violent resistance.”
The European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee will vote on whether to freeze more than 15 million euros ($17 million) in aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it removes incitement to violence against Israel in its school textbooks.
The Budgetary Committee’s bill is an amendment to the European Union’s draft budget, which will go to a plenary vote in late October. If the budget passes, the E.U. will withhold the money from the Palestinian Authority until it commits to reforming its textbooks.
“The funds will be released when the Palestinian Authority has committed to reform its school curriculum and textbooks to bring them in line with UNESCO standards for peace and tolerance in school education,” writes the resolution voted by the European parliament committee.
“The textbooks published by the P.A. in 2017, which are financed by the E.U. … contain, across all subjects, numerous examples of violent depictions, hate speech—in particular against Israel—and glorifications of jihad and martyrdom,” the resolution adds.
The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, or IMPACT-se, which has analyzed the new Palestinian textbooks, presented a report to the European Parliament which says that they “encourage Palestinian children to sacrifice their lives in the name of religion” and “glorified martyrdom and violent resistance.”
“There was only a vision of one state from the river to the sea, which is not E.U. policy,” said IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff.
The committee text is expected to go for a vote in the plenary session of the European Parliament later this month. If the resolution is adopted, the E.U. will withhold more than 15 million euros until the Palestinian Authority changes its textbooks.
The E.U. is the largest financial donor of the Palestinian Authority.
The radicalization of the Palestinian school curriculum has already led to an international review by donor countries. Last month Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stated that “as long Palestinian schools are named to glorify terrorism, Belgium can no longer cooperate with the Palestinian Education Ministry and will not contribute to budgets for the construction of schools.”
Advocacy group European Coalition for Israel (ECI) welcomed the EP Budgetary Committee vote. In a statement on Monday, ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell said he thinks the vote may be a “too little too late.”
“As the members of the European Parliament prepare for new elections in less than eight months, they can be assured that the on-going mismanagement of E.U. funds will become a major theme in the election campaigns. If the European Parliament is to regain its moral authority with the E.U. electorate, it will have to show a genuine will to reform throughout the next five-year term and not only in the closing months of the five-year electoral cycle,” said Sandell.
“Very little has been done to reform E.U. aid to the Palestinian Authority over the last four years,” he added.
According to ECI, the European External Action Service (EEAS)—the E.U. institution responsible for the distribution and oversight of funds to the Palestinian Authority—“has kept a low profile.”
The official EEAS position is that the glorification of violence and martyrdom in Palestinian school textbooks and payments to convicted terrorists do not amount to institutionalized incitement or radicalization.
“This position was reaffirmed when ECI last met with EEAS despite the presentation of numerous pieces of evidence and sample copies of schoolbooks at the meeting,” the pro-Israel group said. “Now the pressure for reform is mounting on EEAS both from the European Parliament and from E.U. member state governments.”
A recent poll that found nearly 40 percent of British Jews would leave the country if Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn came to power “sickens me,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said.
“I do not underestimate the threat posed by those who promote anti-Semitism, or hatred in any form. Nor the pernicious nature of what those people say and what they stand for,” May said Monday at a United Jewish Israel Appeal dinner in central London.
“But I do not believe those voices speak for the vast, overwhelming majority of people in our country. … And most importantly, I do not believe that those voices will ever win. We will not let them win,” she told the audience of 800.
The poll appeared earlier this month in the London-based Jewish Chronicle.
“If we are to stand up for the values that we share, then one of the things we need to do is give young Jewish people the confidence to be proud of their identity – as British, Jewish and Zionist, too,” May said.
She offered her support to the British Jewish community and to Israel.
“I have come here tonight as prime minister of our country to say that I stand with you,” May said. “I stand with Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. And I stand with the entire Jewish community in Britain.”
May alluded to the fact that the Labour Party adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism after delaying the vote, but only after adding a free-speech clause on Israel.
She stressed her government’s adoption of the full IHRA definition.
“Criticizing the actions of Israel is never – and can never be – an excuse for questioning Israel’s right to exist, any more than criticizing Britain’s actions could be an excuse for questioning our right to exist,” the prime minister said.
“And criticizing the government of Israel is never – and can never be – an excuse for hatred against the Jewish people, any more than criticizing the British government would be an excuse for hatred against the British people.”
In yet another showing of blatant antisemitism, the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, declared last Friday that the Gaza Palestinians, who have been violently attempting to infiltrate the Israeli border to “kill the Jews” and “burn the Jews,” are the victims and in need of armed security.
This mind-boggling defense of terrorists is of no surprise to those of us who follow UN politics. Earlier this summer when the US walked out on the UN Human Rights Council, Nikki Haily issued a statementon the decision, calling the Council a protector of “the world’s worst human rights abusers” with a “chronic bias against Israel.”
The UN has maintained a consistent position of hatredof Israel since 1967. Why? Because the existence of a Jewish State is an affront to the 47 Muslim-majoritycountries at the UN who do not believe that Jews should have a country, let alone live side-by-side with them. It is an anti-Jewish, hateful position that is inconsistent with the word unity that crowns the title of this deceptive organization.
In 2017, Asaf Romirowsky, an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a guest lecturer for a group of students in Geneva, took the group to the United Nations on a field trip. He experienced the “chronic bias against Israel” first-hand. It was the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War and every country made a statement about the war to the students. What did they say? Every single country discussed the “atrocities that the Israelis committed.” Every. Single. One. “Israeli atrocities.”
Recall that the Six Day War was necessary for Israel to stop the constant bombardment by Syria of Israeli towns, the Egyptian attacks on Israeli forces, the Egyptian militarization at the Israeli border, and the Jordanian joinder with Egypt. Israel was being threatened by every neighboring country. Not to mention the other Arab states which came to join the neighbors: Iraq, Kuwait, and Algeria, all of whom sent troops to join the Arab coalition against Israel. Within 6 days, Israel, a tiny country filled with Holocaust survivors, miraculously overcame the Arab Goliath coalition. Israelis did not commit “atrocities.” No. Instead, they defended the tiny bit of land that they had with all of their might, the land that they hoped will keep them safe from antisemitic assaults that they had experienced throughout the 2,000 years of diaspora. The Israelis were able to capture the small adjoining territories that were being used by the bordering countries to attack Israel. For this, the UN and liberals everywhere, have never forgiven Israel.
Every UN country blames Israel for defending itself, and every UN country believes that the core of Middle East problems resides with Israel. “The UN is just a mouthpiece for dictatorship regimes,” Romirowsky explains.
For this reason, instead of calling out the Gaza Palestinians for their violence, terrorism, and hate, leftists and the UN placate them.
The Palestinians also have growing support from leftist politicians and leftist newsorganizations. But why? Is the Palestinian movement overall sympathetic?
No. The Palestinian movement is a type of Islamist Jihad that is opposed to freedom— “a movement to liquidate a free society through conventional war, subversion, shootings, bombings, suicide attacks, rockets,” explains Elan Journo in his book What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The underlying goal is to overthrow Israel, he writes. The Palestinian movement has shown us time and time again that Palestinians do not want to live in peace with the Israelis. Instead, they want to destroy Israel and its free society and replace it with a totalitarian Islamic state.
But the Palestinians remain impoverished. And that is all that leftists need to know. They do not care that the Palestinians have spent BILLIONS of dollars in aid that they have received over the past two decades on terrorism instead of on infrastructure, education, and health (over $5 billion alone in US aid – that’s money taken from you and me). Leftists do not care that it is not Israel’s fault that the independent choices made by the Palestinians, like their continuous dedication to terrorism, are the sole causes of their continued struggle. Leftists simply blame Israel because Israel looks wealthy next to the Palestinians, who look impoverished. And that easy visual juxtaposition is more than sufficient for them.
“Everyone at the UN believes that the Palestinians are the victims. The UN doesn’t question that,” Asaf Romirowsky affirmed.
Moreover, the Israeli use of moderate force, which barely fights back against terrorism, appears treacherous to the left, who believe that Israel is wealthier and stronger and should just take it.
Israel is simply the recipient of anti-Jewish and anti-commerce hatred that is a collective result of Islamic and liberal ideology.
In his statement to the UN, Antonio Guterres appeared to try and separate the Gaza “civilians” from the Gaza terrorists, although he failed to mention terrorism or Hamas. But Gaza is 100% controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organization, explains Romirowsky. “Hamas is a religious Islamist group. The Hamas Charter clearly states that the destruction of the Jews is their goal. They have always been consistent: they want to kill Jews. Hamas rhetoric is in the Palestinian school system and their mosques. Hamas rhetoric fuels everything in their region. Their society is a culture of incitement and indoctrination. The word Hamas itself means acting in a violent, religious, zealous way. Their name in itself has a militant, violent connotation in Arabic, it impassions violence.”
Palestinians are encouraged to commit terroristic acts from all of their leaders, not just Hamas. Even the Palestinian Authority, which is supposed to be less violent, funds and rewards Palestinians who commit acts of terrorism against Israelis. In 2017 alone, the Palestinian Authority paid over $350 million to terrorist families, declaring them Islamic martyrs for their feats of killing Jews. Which is why the response by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, that the Palestinian people actually need protection from their own leadership, is right on point. Otherwise, as it stands, the Palestinians and their terrorist government are indistinguishable, jointly engaged in terrorism for purposes of takeover, Jihad, and profit.
That terrorism reward cash, by the way, comes from American taxes.
The real task, therefore, is to start telling the British public that virtually everything they hear about Israel from the media and intelligentsia is a lie.
Britain’s Labour Party has a major problem with rampant antisemitism. It knows it has to deal with it.
So what has it done? Dug itself so much further into this particular hole that some in the party fear it has now dug its political grave.
On Tuesday, the party’s governing National Executive Committee (NEC) redefined antisemitism in such a way that it has legitimized it within its own ranks.
In its new code of conduct on antisemitism, it adopted a definition which significantly differed from the one created by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
The IHRA definition has been recognized around the world and adopted by the British government and numerous British official bodies. Yet in its new code, Labour twisted it by excising its application to attacks on Israel.
Labour’s code says: “In general terms, the expression of even contentious views in this area will not be treated as antisemitism unless accompanied by specific antisemitic content (such as the use of antisemitic tropes) or by other evidence of antisemitic intent.”
So Labour members can continue with impunity to call Israel a “Nazi” or “apartheid” state, smear its defense forces as “child-killers” or accuse British Jews supporting Israel of dual loyalty unless there is evidence of “antisemitic intent” – very difficult to prove – or “specific antisemitic content.”
This is a circular argument of Orwellian proportions. For the code defines antisemitism solely as bigotry against Jewish people or institutions. It does not define it as bigotry against the State of Israel.
But most antisemitism on the Left takes the form of obsessive and paranoid falsehoods, distortion and double standards directed at Israel’s behavior, with much of this onslaught echoing the tropes of medieval and Nazi Jew-hatred. This targeting of Israel as the collective Jew is the new antisemitism.
As such, the extraordinary fact is that in order to tackle antisemitism in its ranks Labour has now become a party of institutionalized antisemitism.
So bad is this situation it has even managed to bring together in unprecedented unity 68 rabbis, some of whom habitually refuse to share a platform with certain other rabbis, as signatories on the same letter of protest.
The issue now threatens to tear Labour apart. On Monday evening, the parliamentary Labour Party voted overwhelmingly to endorse the full IHRA definition – only for the NEC to overturn this the following day.
This provoked the veteran Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, whose relatives were murdered in the Holocaust, to call Labour’s far-left leader Jeremy Corbyn “an antisemite” to his face when she confronted him in the House of Commons.
The Israel-Palestine conflict, she said, had been “allowed to infect the party’s approach to growing antisemitism.” In adopting its new code, the NEC had chosen “to make the party a hostile environment for Jews.”
Astoundingly, the leadership has reacted by threatening to discipline Hodge for “bringing the party into disrepute.” So get this – a party that has institutionalized antisemitism is now accusing a Jewish protester that she has brought it into disrepute! You really couldn’t make this stuff up.
YET THERE’S something odd about this crisis. It’s all just about a form of words. Does anyone really believe that if the Labour leadership were to cave in and adopt the full IHRA definition, antisemitism in the party would then be properly addressed and go away?
After all, the fact that the full definition has been widely accepted has not prevented the usual calumnies and distortions in the way the British media have been misreporting the violence from Gaza.
It has not prevented the media failing to report the hundreds of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians and weeks of incendiary airborne devices setting fire to acres of Israeli farmland, while misrepresenting Israeli air strikes in response as aggression. It did not prevent an interviewer on BBC Radio’s Today program the other day berating an Israeli spokesman for killing children in Gaza.
The key point is the refusal to acknowledge that the campaign of irrational, mendacious and obsessive incitement against Israel is the new form of antisemitism.
Yet although Israel has been attacked in this way for years, virtually no one has called this out. The Anglo-Jewish community leadership ran a mile from it.
On TV in 2002, I was accused to my face of dual loyalty. At another time during that decade, I attended a debate at which one panelist said, with virtually no push-back, that British Jews now needed to choose between supporting Israel and remaining loyal British citizens. This antisemitic trope has now been commonplace for years.
The Jewish leadership has always been nervous about linking Israel with antisemitism, believing that Israel merely “complicated” the issue. But today, it is the issue.
Now British Jews find themselves caught up in an internal Labour Party war over it. The real agony for them is that the climate in Britain has deteriorated to such a point that Labour feels licensed to treat British Jews – as Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has said – with unprecedented contempt.
They plan a continuing campaign to get Labour to adopt the full IHRA definition. But that is to continue avoid confronting the elephant in the room.
This is the fact that so many on the progressive side of politics have swallowed the Big Lies about Israel. And that includes a dismaying number of British Jews themselves, who do things like recite kaddish for Hamas terrorists killed by Israel to prevent them murdering Israelis.
These Jews for Injustice against Jews who demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel provide cover for Labour’s new antisemitism. This stretches far beyond the Corbynite hard Left; it is in fact the default position for most of liberal and left-wing society.
The real task, therefore, is not to adopt the IHRA wording. It is to start telling the British public that virtually everything they hear about Israel from the media and intelligentsia is a lie; that anyone who supports Palestinianism is endorsing the most profound and demonic kind of antisemitism; and that Israel stands unambiguously for law, justice, truth and human rights, and that those who vilify it are themselves repudiating all these things.
Will British Jews finally step up to the plate and start saying all this? Unlikely. Why? It’s not just their timidity. They first need to start believing it themselves.