Friday, May 10, 2024

From Ian:

The entitlement and intolerance of the campus Gaza camps
Thankfully, some students are bravely challenging the protesters. One third-year Cambridge student held an Israeli flag aloft just across the road from those blocking Peter Thiel’s talk.

But what about those in charge of our universities? When students behave like toddlers, refusing food, demanding hot-water bottles and yelling ‘genocide’, where are the adults? Far from condemning the actions of the students, over 300 members of staff at Oxford University have signed an open letter in support of the protesters. It describes their camp in grandiose terms as ‘a public-facing global education project’. One signatory is Vernal Scott, Oxford’s head of equality and diversity. Last month, Scott made headlines after he publicly praised the Belgian authorities for trying to close down the National Conservatism Conference in Brussels. This support for free speech sounds hollow when it comes from those only interested in hearing views they endorse.

When a high-profile senior manager and hundreds of academics take a public stance on an issue, their view risks becoming, by default, the institutional position. It is only a small step away from saying ‘The university thinks…’. When it is clear what ‘the university thinks’, then academic freedom is rendered meaningless. Anyone who thinks differently knows they are putting their neck on the line if they challenge the consensus. At universities, where the Transgender Pride flag is flown from buildings, toilets are gender-neutral and staff training is provided by activist groups such as Gendered Intelligence, gender-critical feminists know they may technically have academic freedom, but also that expressing gender-critical views will come at a high price.

Earlier today, university leaders went to Downing Street to meet with the UK prime minister to discuss how to balance supporting free speech while preventing harassment of Jewish students. Good. But the fact that this meeting was even necessary shows that many university managers need reminding not just that academic freedom is important, but also what it actually entails.

Academic freedom demands tolerance. It calls on us to allow viewpoints we disagree with to be heard and to use our intellectual muscles to challenge ideas we find offensive. However, academic freedom does not give protesters the right to shout down or silence other people, physically bar people from buildings or intimidate students into staying away from campus. Defending academic freedom means stopping students from engaging in these activities.

Academic freedom also means students and scholars have the right to question every intellectual, moral and political orthodoxy. For this reason, adopting an institutional position on an issue is not an expression of academic freedom, but rather a means of restricting it.

In a university that truly values academic freedom, students should have the right to protest. But this is a limited right. It stops when other people’s freedom of speech, freedom of movement and right to disengage from politics and pursue scholarship are curtailed. It is good that Rishi Sunak is meeting vice-chancellors. But there is much further to go if we are to truly defend academic freedom.
South Africa asks World Court to order Israel to withdraw from Rafah
South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order Israel to withdraw from Rafah as part of additional emergency measures over the war in Gaza, the UN’s top court said on Friday.

In the ongoing case brought by South Africa, which accuses Israel of acts of genocide against Palestinians, the World Court in January ordered Israel to refrain from any acts that could fall under the Genocide Convention and to ensure its troops commit no genocidal acts against Palestinians.

Israel did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It has previously said it is acting in accordance with international law in Gaza, has called South Africa’s genocide case baseless, and accused Pretoria of acting as “the legal arm of Hamas.”

In filings published on Friday, South Africa is seeking additional emergency measures in light of the ongoing military action in Rafah, which it calls the “last refuge” for Palestinians in Gaza. Israel says the operation in the southern city is crucial to defeating the remaining Hamas battalions holding out there.

South Africa asked the court to order that Israel cease the Rafah offensive and allow unimpeded access to Gaza for UN officials, organizations providing humanitarian aid, and journalists and investigators.

According to South Africa, Israel’s military operation is killing the Palestinians of Gaza while at the same time starving them by denying them humanitarian aid to enter.

“Those who have survived so far are facing imminent death now, and an order from the Court is needed to ensure their survival,” South Africa’s filing said.
Prominent legal blog: Anti-IHRA statement from 1,000 Jewish professors ‘bizarre, ultimately dishonest’
A statement signed by more than 1,000 Jewish professors denouncing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition of antisemitism for “conflating antisemitism with legitimate criticism of Israel” is “bizarre and ultimately dishonest,” David Bernstein wrote on the popular legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy.

Bernstein, a university professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School and executive director of its Liberty and Law Center, wrote that much of the opposition to the Antisemitism Awareness Act over its codification of the IHRA definition “has been hysterical and counterfactual.”

“If one had hoped an academic letter would be more reality-based, one would be disappointed,” he wrote.

The 1,000-plus faculty members say that the IHRA definition considers criticism of Israel to be necessarily antisemitic.

“The IHRA definition of antisemitism, however, never says that criticism of Israel, etc., is ‘in and of itself’ antisemitic. Indeed, it specifically says ‘criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,’” Bernstein writes.

“Not only have Jewish critics of Israel, indeed Jews who don’t think Israel should exist, not been silenced, it seems like they never shut up,” he added. “The latter group is a tiny fringe of the Jewish community, but they appear disproportionately in both mainstream and social media.”

Bernstein added that he expects “very little from the academy these days,” so he’s not surprised to see so many signatories of “this (at best) hyperbolic letter.”

“I am at least a little disappointed to see some prominent law professors on the list,” he added. “But maybe I should reduce my expectations of the legal academy, too.”

The rage against Israel at Eurovision is disgraceful
You can see this grim tic in the row over Israel’s song, ‘Hurricane’. It was originally called ‘October Rain’ and made thinly veiled references to the victims of Hamas’s pogrom. Eurovision’s organisers, the European Broadcasting Union, demanded it be revised, so that it wasn’t seen to be too ‘political’. At first, KAN, the Israeli public broadcaster, refused to change the lyrics and had to be convinced to play ball by Israeli president Isaac Herzog. The lyrics to ‘Hurricane’ are now more generic and tell the story of a ‘woman emerging from a personal crisis’. But the protesters are still hopping mad. One Irish activist, who was involved in the booing on Wednesday, told the PA news agency that, even with the changes, ‘Hurricane’ is a ‘propaganda song’. ‘It is about justifying Israel’s genocide in Gaza… I think it’s quite appropriate to kind of boo that propaganda’, he said.

Rows over Israel’s inclusion in Eurovision have cropped up, periodically, since it first began competing in 1973. But they used to largely be confined to its neighbouring states. Lebanon was due to take part in 2005 for the first time, but withdrew after refusing to broadcast the Israeli entry on Lebanese TV. In 1978, Jordanian TV cut to images of flowers during Israel’s performance and then pulled the transmission entirely when it became clear Israel was going to win. (Jordanian broadcasters named runner-up Belgium as the winner instead.) But not any more. The Western chattering classes are now reflexively anti-Israel, too. It’s unbelievably grim that the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust has prompted not sympathy from our cultural elites, but a carnival of victim-blaming, even chants for the destruction of Israel, under the guise of humanitarianism.

We expect this kind of thing from the Islamists and the dregs of the old left. What’s been more concerning is the way, since 7 October, we’ve found out just how much Israelophobia has permeated our cultural institutions more broadly. It isn’t just coming from the veteran activists anymore, steeped in a one-eyed view of history. It’s now almost obligatory to bash Israel at every given opportunity. You see this in the demented response to Britain’s own Eurovision entry, Olly Alexander. He has signed open letters calling for a ceasefire and denouncing Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state. But despite mouthing all the anti-Israel talking points, activists still won’t leave him alone. A group called Queers for Palestine is demanding he pull out of the competition entirely. Meanwhile, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a south-London LGBT venue, has cancelled its popular Eurovision party for tomorrow night. As has the Rio cinema in east London, sparking an investigation from the Charity Commission.

I get that these activists think they’re doing this in the name of liberation and progress. But I dare say future historians will look askance at the Queers for Palestine / Progressives for Hamas / Chickens for KFC phenomenon. A democratic nation, home to the gay capital of the Middle East, and home to Eurovision’s first transsexual winner (1998 champ Dana International), was attacked by racist, homophobic, misogynistic maniacs… and Western ‘progressives’ sided with the racist, homophobic, misogynistic maniacs. These people have become so pickled in woke identity politics that they have come to see the victims of a pogrom as the oppressors, and so drunk on anti-Israel bigotry they are now raging against an Israeli woman for daring to compete in a singing competition.

Thankfully, Eden Golan sailed through the semi-finals last night, seeing down all the protests and the death threats and sealing her position in tomorrow’s grand final. Here’s hoping she does well there too – show the Israelophobes of Malmö, London and beyond that they do not speak for Europe.

Finnish Eurovision singer filmed dancing with Israel's Eden Golan demands the video be removed and distances himself from her after receiving hate from Palestinians
Finland's Eurovision singer who was filmed dancing with Israel's Eden Golan has demanded the video be removed and distanced himself from her after he received a backlash from supporters of Palestine.

Jere Mikael Pöyhönen - known by his stage name Käärijä, who came second performing for his country at the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest - was filmed in the brief ten second clip headbanging with Golan in a corridor.

The 20-year-old Israeli singer is seen counting the pair in before singing a line from Käärijä's 'Cha Cha Cha' together, which became a cult hit last year. They are then seen laughing and clasping hands before the video ends.

The seemingly innocuous clip was posted online by various sources including Kan - the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, Golan herself and the the official Eurovision X account, along with the message: 'Eden Golan & Käärijä in new video!'.

However, it was shared amid growing anger over Golan and Israel's involvement in this year's song contest due to the country's on-going military action in Gaza.

Hours later after the video was shared, Käärijä took to Instagram to distance himself from the clip, saying it was posted without his permission.

He also emphasised that it was not a political endorsement amid the on-going conflict in the Middle East, sparked by Hamas's October 7 terror attack on Israel.

'I happened to meet Israel's Eurovision representative today, and a video was filmed of us,' Käärijä wrote in an Instagram story.

'It was then posted on social media without my permission. Despite my requests for its removal, it has not been taken down. I would like to clarify and emphasise that the video is not a political statement or an endorsement of any kind.'

Käärijä's post in-turn prompted further backlash from supporters of Golan and Israel, with Israeli author Hen Mazzig among those who took to X to criticise the Fin.

'20 years-old Israeli singer, Eden Golan, was dancing with Finish singer Käärijä today, the video got thousands of hateful comments to the point that the Finish singer had to apologize for being seen with this Israeli girl,' Mazzig wrote.

Greta should pipe down about Palestine
If you’re confused as to what these demands for the destruction of Israel have to do with reducing carbon emissions, then you’re not alone. Surely, there won’t be a Palestine left to free if humanity is going to be wiped out by climate catastrophe within the decade, as Thunberg and her fellow cultists have predicted.

Explaining herself in a co-authored piece in the Guardian last December, she wrote: ‘There is no climate justice without human rights.’ But the human rights of Israelis don’t seem to ever figure in Greta’s activism. She accuses Israel of committing ‘genocide’, ‘war crimes’ and ‘mass killing’, while minimising Hamas’s own brutalities as occurring ‘within the broader context of Palestinians having lived under suffocating oppression for decades’. Apparently, we just need to understand the context and nuance behind the mass murder of civilians and mass rape of women on 7 October.

Just like the hordes of twentysomethings play-acting as revolutionaries on campuses across the US and UK, Greta seems to have developed strong opinions about the legitimacy of the Jewish State practically overnight. Most of these people probably couldn’t find Rafah on a map or name the river and the sea they’re chanting about. More than anything, they are just following the latest fashions and reciting woke orthodoxy. Perhaps Greta would appear terribly gauche and off-trend if she carried on beating the tired old climate drum while there is a new, more exotic banner to wave.

The most charitable reading of Greta’s Gaza glow-up is that she’s as clueless about Palestine as she is about climate change. In any case, it’s high time the world stopped putting her on a pedestal.

Western Self-Hatred and the Offering of Israel
Right now, however, this strange anti-modern revolt takes aim at Israel. As the most obvious manifestation of “West” in the midst of “East”, as what is considered the last living remnant of colonial rule and of imperialism (however small in scale), Israel acts as the lightning rod for the Occidentalists’ vitriol. Of course much of the criticism of Israel is warranted. Israel is subjugating another people militarily and tragically does not show signs it wants to end that subjugation. But the amalgamation of post-colonialism, post-nationalism, and anti-racism that manifests itself as a celebration for Hamas’s “resistance” signals something deeper than justified objection to military occupation.

It’s enough to hear the calls for the complete destruction of the state to understand that the phenomenon we are witnessing carries a deeper sentiment than the advocacy for Palestinian independence.

The crowd which alternates between cries for ceasefire and for global intifada echoes Foucault and Baudrillard, this time seeing not the Shah or the global market but Israel as the instrument of modernity that has to be overcome. In its focused locality, impudent pride and contrast with its neighbors, Israel becomes a Western coat of arms stuck within an oriental arabesque, an emblematic representation of the West, a metonym for the whole civilizational field that reaches from the Enlightenment to the industrial-military complex.

Just as deposing the Shah was negligible for Foucault in comparison to the rejection of modernity, or Al-Qaeda’s fundamentalist jihad was invisible to Baudrillard, focusing as he was on their achieving “irreducible singularity” in an imaginary struggle against capitalist market forces, the Palestinians’ possible realization of their right of self-determination is here only a side-show to the imagined eradication of that island of Westernness in the midst of the East.

Israel’s Jewishness obviously makes this a double whammy. As the progenitor of Christianity, Judaism is conceived as the West’s most primitive kernel, the primal point of ur-Westernness. Israel thus becomes a Western totem, portraying the malevolent spirits of the West’s entire history. In an incredible historical irony, the Jews are now not an oriental, semitic pariah nation nor a degenerate sub-human race, but the purest representatives of the West and the most atrocious white supremacists.

Moreover, as the West’s original essence, Israel naturally carries the West’s original sin: territorial and cultural colonialism. Making Israel pay for its racist colonialism is not only mandated as a step on the long march towards justice, but serves also as a purgative practice for other Westerners. Burning Israel, the effigy of the West, will cleanse the West itself from its past transgressions. The wish to eradicate Israel is therapeutic, indeed salvific: the sins of all the forefathers, those imperialist, colonialist, slave-holding Europeans, will finally be atoned. The Jewish state is thus set up to be sacrificed, burned as a Holocaust for the redemption of the original sins of the West.

In October 2021, shortly after US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, Ami Horowitz went to raise money for the Taliban at UC Berkeley campus—an obvious satirical stunt. Telling students that the Taliban needs the money to “strike against American interests around the world and in the homeland” because “America needs to be brought to heel”, he found students interested and willing to donate. Western self-hatred, in certain circles, has become fashionable to the point of banality. The reasons, overtly “imperialism” or “white supremacy”, are in truth much more subtle. It is a rejection, by a whole culture, of modernity itself. We cannot forgive ourselves for becoming modern.
Left-Wing Groups and Islamic Organizations Lobby Against Anti-Terrorism Bill
A cohort of left-wing activist groups and Islamic organizations are pressing senators to block a bipartisan proposal to strip tax-exempt status from nonprofits that provide material support to terrorist organizations.

In a letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, over 100 groups, including the pro-Hamas People’s Forum and the political arm of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, say the plan could "inflict economic harm, and legally burden a politically active nonprofit." The signatories urge Senate Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R., Idaho) to block the bill from leaving committee.

Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), who introduced the bill alongside Sen. Angus King (I., Maine), says it is "common sense legislation."

"As tensions rise across the globe, terrorism must be rooted out at its source: money," Cornyn said in a statement last month.

The groups opposed to the legislation allege that it is motivated by "anti-Palestinian bias aimed at stifling voices advocating for Palestinian human rights." The organizations also say that, if enacted, the bill "would significantly undermine our nation’s democratic freedoms and principles."

The pushback comes as many left-wing groups face scrutiny for their roles in illegal protests and potential ties to international terrorist organizations. Earlier this month, Jewish victims of Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attacks sued two anti-Israel campus groups for their role "as collaborators and propagandists for Hamas."

One of the signatories of the letter, American Muslims for Palestine, is a party in that lawsuit. The plaintiffs in the case allege American Muslims for Palestine "knowingly provide continuous, systematic, and substantial assistance to Hamas and its affiliates’ acts of international terrorism."

Other signatories include groups behind the illegal blockading of bridges and occupation of college buildings. The People’s Forum encouraged attendees at an organizational meeting to re-create the violent protests of "the summer of 2020" just hours before demonstrators stormed a Columbia University building.

The People’s Forum receives most of its funding from Neville Singham, an American businessman who lives in China and works closely with the Chinese Communist Party to spread its propaganda worldwide. His wife, Jodie Evans, is the leader of the pro-China, anti-Israel activist group Code Pink

Federal law already states that designated terrorist organizations cannot receive tax-exempt status. Auxiliary or supportive organizations are not covered by that ban.
Is the Backlash to Universities Becoming Real?
For conservatives and moderates, it’s easy to be disillusioned by recent anti-Israel protests at universities across the country. For many of us, the moral outrage we feel toward open displays of sympathy for Hamas is tempered only by disgust toward college kids who are still masking outdoors and worried about potentially dying of banana allergies. But there are signs that this isn’t 2020 anymore. At the University of Texas, President Jay Hartzell has been roundly praised by Republican lawmakers for taking a tough stand toward protesters at the incipient stage of their activism. As one professor at the school told me, “They did the right thing. They didn’t let us become Columbia or UCLA.” In Florida, DeSantis came out and threatened students with possible expulsion, which might have stopped much of a protest movement from getting off the ground in the first place. The president of the University of Chicago not only refused to let protestors take over campus but denounced the entire idea of encampments as inherently coercive. And although not directly related to the protests, in the midst of these disturbances MIT became the first elite private school to ban DEI statements in faculty hiring and promotion, showing that the “Summer of Floyd” effect that once seemed to push all prestigious institutions in the same direction may be fading.

These are signs that changes are afoot. They’re not taking place at the same pace everywhere, and some departments, fields of study, and universities might be sinking deeper into a left-wing monoculture. Nonetheless, there is at least variation in how institutions are behaving, which appears to be the result of two processes. First, Republican politicians have actually started paying attention to what is going on at university campuses and, more important, become willing to do something about it. More subtly, at the same time there has been a great discrediting of higher education, particularly elite universities, and this inevitably affects the decisions of employers and potential students. Higher education is heavily regulated and propped up by massive government subsidies, making it far from a perfectly functioning market. Yet some market forces do exist, and there are clear signs that they are having an impact. Instead of a university monoculture, if we’re fortunate, in the coming years we’re going to see more cultural fragmentation, and this will create opportunities for institutions to act in accordance with their own self-interest and reject more and more aspects of DEI ideology.

First, the case for pessimism. Universities have been drifting toward radicalism for two generations now with practically no pushback from the outside, until very recently. Things are not that much better in K-12, as many parents learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, both through finally being able to observe lesson plans up close due to remote learning and the hysterical reaction to the pandemic itself that led to school closures and mask mandates that clearly went on for too long. College students support diversity goals over free speech, and there is no silent majority among faculty in favor of classical liberal norms. With prevailing opinions like these within such institutions, it can be difficult for even the most determined administrators and politicians to effect serious change.

At the same time, it would be wrong to declare the battle over before it has even been fought. DEI bans, perhaps the most significant pushback we’ve seen to what has happened at state schools, are no more than a year old. The evolution of DeSantis between his appointment of a former DEI bureaucrat to the board of regents in 2019 and his abolishment of DEI across the University of Florida system four years later tracks the movement of conservative thinking more generally. Historically, for campus culture, it hasn’t mattered much whether Republicans or Democrats had power in state capitals. Legislators authorized the funds, governors signed the bills, and universities got the benefits of government funding without any of the oversight. It’s not as if Republican politicians were in favor of affirmative action or research on “decolonization.” Rather, the idea that they would use the government to actually do something about it and infringe on the institutional prerogatives of universities was all but unthinkable.
Eve Barlow: Glass box
There is a glass box in the middle of a town square and it is sound proof but entirely transparent, and inside that glass box I am on display 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I am in the glass box and people are standing around me staring at what’s inside. They each have their own reasons. Some are passers-by, wondering why there is a woman in a glass box garnering people’s attention. Some are there for sport, hoping to intimidate me inside the glass box, and to earn social cache for performing some public act of dismay, hacking back saliva and aiming it at one side of the box, denigrating every single aspect of my beautiful Jewish face, throwing paint, and stones, and laughing. Some are there to try and hear what I am saying, but, as I told you, the box is soundproof. I am screaming in the glass box all day, and only those who have the skills to read my lips understand the language I speak and the words I am saying. And even at that, they are often so scared to repeat them.

I was doing a bunch of press this morning and one journalist asked me what it has felt like being me since I started advocating for the Jewish people. Well, it’s like being in that glass box. Every day I am forced to justify my existence to people who aren't even listening and I have seen how the people who claim to be good are mainly self-interested and will ensure that I am never to get out of my box. I am told that was the experience of the biblical prophets, too. I wonder how they did it without being able to listen to David Bowie.

I had a horrible situation this week where someone I really admire, whose writing I support, whose advocacy I agree with for the most part, made yet another post on social media amounting to blood libel, and instead of approaching the matter privately (this has failed on multiple occasions), I decided to get into it publicly in the comments section, and there was some back and forth. I have the facts and I’m an educator. I was later informed that this caused great upset. I was the source of distress, because I made someone feel bad for posting disinformation and antisemitic rhetoric. It doesn’t matter how I felt as a traumatised Jewish person under attack, witnessing this for the zillionth time. I felt like I was in my glass box, watching another person I like walk away from me, pawing at the glass, shouting in the void, powerless to stop it.

From my glass box, I see in the last few days that Jews are being hunted down in the streets of Athens, Sweden, Amsterdam and New York City, while we have attempted to commemorate the Holocaust. From my glass box, I have illustrated that since October 7, lefists have wanted to finish what Hitler started. From my glass box, I have tried to make it clear that instead of being upset that I’ve called you an antisemite maybe stop being an antisemite. Maybe listen. Be an ally. I have a deep empirical and academic understanding of antisemitism. I have asked from my glass box: Do you really understand antisemitism? Are you honest with yourself? We have set a standard for all minorities in society, but not for Jews. Our voices are erased, talked over, not consulted, ignored, spat on, and we are not seen as credible narrators. We are viewed with scepticism, and the enjoy watching us try, while turning down the volume, deleting our responses, pretending we never spoke to them at all.
Pro-Palestine campus protests have gone too far
When Rishi Sunak meets with the universities’ vice chancellors, there are several points it is imperative they discuss. First, both the government and Universities UK must unequivocally recognise the clear distinction between words and actions – and that the right to free speech does not include the right to disrupt. The higher education regulator Office for Students (OfS) should publicly write to universities on this matter, following the letter to the chairs of governing bodies written by the OfS’s chair in March.

Second, every university where protests are occurring should be asked to formally consider and publish a statement on how their stance towards these protests is in compliance with public sector equality duty (PSED) legislation. Is allowing protesters to take over portions of campus at will really the best way to ‘foster good relations between people who have a protected characteristic and those who do not’, as the PSED dictates?

Third, university leaders must publicly set out how they will use the full force of sanctions at their disposal against those who persistently transgress the university’s rules – including those who threaten others, disrupt university life or trespass upon communal property. For every university, this should involve a clear and transparent set of escalating sanctions, up to suspension and expulsion. Government and the OfS should make clear, publicly, that they will actively support universities in this, including those who need to reform their ordinances to do so.

Fourth and finally, a better means of compensating students – whether Jewish or otherwise – who have had their studies disrupted by protestors needs to be established. The strikes last year, and Covid, showed the existing mechanisms for compensating students for lost teaching are woefully inadequate. Government should work with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator complaints reviewer to establish a swift and simplified compensation scheme. Under it, for every lecture, lab or tutorial missed – for strikes, protest, illness or other reason – and not rescheduled within two weeks, a university must pay each student a proportionate amount of compensation. Such mechanisms exist in other services, such as rail, and students should expect nothing less.

The Prime Minister has said he expects ‘robust action’ from universities. If they do not deliver, they should face the consequences in the next spending review. This would send a real message to universities that these are not micro-aggressions, they are macro-aggressions – and anti-Semitism remains the most enduring macro-aggression of all.

Martha Pollack, president of Cornell, to resign after intense campus protests
Martha E. Pollack, the president of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has announced her plans to retire on June 30.

“It is only after extensive reflection that I have determined that this is the right decision,” she wrote in a letter published on May 9. “Indeed, I began deliberating about this last fall and made the decision over the December break; but three times, as I was ready to act on it, I had to pause because of events on our and/or on other campuses.”

Pollack wrote that “there is so much more to Cornell than the current turmoil taking place at universities across the country right now, and I hope we do not lose sight of that.”

The letter named three areas Pollack said she sought to enhance at the university during her tenure: increasing academic distinction, fulfilling civic responsibility and enhancing “our educational verve.”

She wrote, “we have been vigilant in working to ensure the safety and well-being of all members of our community from all backgrounds, work I’ve been dedicated to long before the events of the past year.”

In a recent “Campus Antisemitism Report Card” the Anti-Defamation League assigned Cornell a “D,” noting “incidents of antisemitism and other forms of discrimination and harassment prompted the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to open a Title VI investigation against Cornell.”

On a Sunday in October, Hillel at Cornell advised Jewish students to avoid 104 West, the campus kosher dining hall, “out of an abundance of caution” following online threats that included: “If I see a pig male Jew, I will stab you and slit your throat,” “Eliminate Jewish living from Cornell campus” and “Gonna shoot up 104 West.”

Danny Mullen: I Got Jumped (UCLA Palestine Riot)

Pro-Israel counter-demonstrators confront 'Little Gaza' encampment at University of Toronto
Rebel News journalist David Menzies reports from the University of Toronto as pro-Israel counter-demonstrators confront anti-Israel protesters.

Not just colleges: Lawmakers call for heads to roll at K-12 schools beset by antisemitism
Leaders of some of the nation’s leading school districts went before Congress to defend their records of combating rising K-12 antisemitism, but lawmakers were skeptical any of them would be making the honor roll.

Top school officials from New York City, Berkeley, California, and Montgomery County, Maryland, said they have taken action to stem the surge in antisemitic harassment, graffiti and bullying. But there was no evidence that any student had been expelled nor any faculty member terminated.

“I’m hearing really nice words here: teaching, redirecting, directing,” said Rep. Burgess Owens, Utah Republican, at the Wednesday hearing. “What I’m missing is ‘discipline’ and the word ‘fired.’”

That included the principal of Hillcrest High School in Queens, who lost his job in November after an anti-Israel riot in the hallway to demand a pro-Israel teacher’s resignation, prompting her to lock herself in her classroom for two hours.

David Banks, chancellor of the New York City Public Schools, said the principal was “removed” for poor leadership, but acknowledged under questioning from Rep. Elise Stefanik, New York Republican, that the principal was not fired but reassigned to the central office.

“You understand our concerns as policymakers when we have witnesses testify, whether it’s Columbia University, Penn, Harvard, or the New York City chancellor … that there is a set of rules, but that individuals who violate those rules are not held accountable,” Ms. Stefanik said.

The hearing before the House Education and the Workforce subcommittee on secondary education was the first to be held on K-12 antisemitism since the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas terror attack on Israel, which prompted Israel to declare war.

High schoolers may not be building pro-Palestinian encampments like their collegiate counterparts — at least not yet — but the committee cited numerous examples of alarming antisemitic activity at the K-12 level, including chants of “kill the Jews” at student walkouts and anti-Israel bias in the classroom.

MEMRI: Ferid Heider, Germany-Based Imam With Reported Islamist Connections, Compares Hamas's October 7 Attack To Ukraine's Defense, Criticizes German Foreign Policy
Background On Ferid Heider
Heider was born in Berlin to an Iraqi father and a Polish mother and studied at the prominent Al-Azhar University in Cairo following the Shafi'i school of jurisprudence, followed by a study in shari'a at the "Instituts européens des sciences humaines"[5] in Château-Chinon. This was supplemented by degrees in Arabic Studies and Islamic Scholarship from the "Free University" (FU) in Berlin, as well as attendance at the "Deutscher Informationsdienst über den Islam e.V." (Didi),[6] where he acquired knowledge in tafsir (i.e., Islamic exegesis), hadith, and usul ul-fiq ("methodologies of jurisprudence"). Heider published a book titled Introduction to Hadith Science,[7] and in 2012, he obtained approval to narrate and transcribe Sahih al-Bukhari from Sheikh Aiman Swaid.[8]

Alongside his active online presence on the popular social media platforms, of which his Instagram account is managed by "Islam" with its YouTube channel with 961,000 followers,[9] a networking platform of German-speaking Muslims aimed at fostering the communication of Islamic scholarship and Islamic knowledge conveyed through online lectures. Heider also serves as a guest lecturer at the "Initiative Berliner Muslime"[10] (IBMUS) as well as the "Islamkolleg Deutschland e.V."[11] which is Germany's first imam college, and an effort to better monitor the educational prerequisites to effectively facilitate sermons and Islamic scholarship in accordance with the country's liberal-democratic principles.

Heider is well connected in the communities in Germany's capital including the "Neuköllner Begegnugsstaette" (NBS)[12] known as Dar-as-Salam Mosque, "Interkulturelles Zentrum fuer Dialog und Bildung e.V."[13] (IZDB), the Bilal Mosque, and his "Teiba Kulturzentrum e.V."[14] The Teiba association is being monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) for its suspected ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the BfV-issued 2016 annual report.[15] The association offers a variety of services, including Quran recitation and other Islamic classes, extracurricular activities, introductory meetings for children and parents teaching Arabic and Islamic foundational knowledge, as well as facilitates homework support and tutoring. He also lectures at the "Islamischen Kultur und Erziehungszentrum (IKEZ), as documented by BfV in 2016.[16]

Heider's Islamist Connections
Germany's security agency the Office for the Protection of the Constitution is aware of Heider for his leadership roles in Teiba, IKEZ, and IZDB. As early as 2012, the Baden-Württemberg Constitutional Protection Office's annual state report[17] identified Heider as a key participant (presumably as a lecturer) at the annual meeting of the association of "Deutsche Muslimische Gemeinschaft e.V."[18] (DMG), Germany's most important organization of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Heider was previously associated with the "Palästinensische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland e. V."[19] (PGD), which, according to the BfV's 2016 report, is home to a significant number of Hamas supporters, while the office in North Rhine-Westphalia suspects that the PGD serves as Hamas' representative in Germany.[20] Heider further served as a guest lecturer at the "Islamische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland" (IGD), associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, at the organization's annual conference in 2018.[21]

Heider was invited as a guest speaker at the IGD Annual Conference in 2018 held in the city of Hagen.

Heider's Reactions To The October 7 Attack And To Germany's Response, And Statements On The Place Of Antisemitism And Jerusalem In Islam
On October 8, Heider shared a video on Instagram titled "A Mind Game About The Middle East Conflict!" during which compares the Hamas-led attack on Israel to Ukraine's defense response to Russia's war invasion. He states the following: "Let's assume the Gaza Strip was the Ukraine and Israel was Russia – What would the coverage in the German media look like today?! I will leave the answer up to you. [This is] simply a mind game."[22] The video was additionally shared on his TikTok account.[23]

MEMRI: Senior Iranian Official Kamal Kharrazi: Iran Is Capable Of Producing A Nuclear Bomb And May Decide To Change Its Doctrine In This Regard If Its Nuclear Facilities Are Attacked; The War With Israel Is The Palestinians' War, Iran Has No Military Presence There
President of the Iranian Strategic Council on Foreign Relations Kamal Kharrazi said in a May 8, 2024 interview on Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar) that Iran might change its doctrine banning nuclear weapons, if its nuclear facilities are attacked. He also said that Iran does not plan on fighting for the Palestinians, but it will provide support. Kharrazi added that Iran’s policy is not to expand the scope of the war and that it will not fight for the Palestinian people. He added that Iran would be happy to provide support for the Palestinians, however, it is not able to provide weapons at this time.

Iran's Policy Is To Not Expand The Scope Of The Israel-Gaza War, Unless Israel Wants To Harm Iranian Interests; We Have No Military Presence In Gaza

Kamal Kharrazi: "Iran has provided Hamas with all the support it could. If it was possible to send weapons today, we would not hesitate to do so. However, our path to help Hamas more in this sense is blocked today."

"Our policy is not to expand the scope of this war, unless Israel wants to harm the Iranian interests, like in the case of its attack on the Iranian consulate, to which we retaliated in a clear and serious manner."

Interviewer: "So one of the principles of the Iranian policy is to avoid becoming a party to the war between the Palestinian resistance and the Israeli occupation?"

Kharrazi: "This is the Palestinians' war, and our job is to support them. We have no presence on the military scene."

Interviewer: "This is what I meant. You have no military presence. Iran will not fight for the Palestinians or for the resistance. You believe that this is the war of the Palestinians and the Palestinian resistance."

Kharrazi: "Yes, but we provide any support we can. We will not hesitate to provide any kind of support to the resistance axis, especially in this war in Gaza."

Iran Has The Capability To Produce A Nuclear Bomb, But Has Decided Not To; If Our Nuclear Facilities Are Attacked, We May Change This Decision

"I announced two years ago, in an interview with Al-Jazeera TV, that Iran had the absorptive capacity and the capability to produce a nuclear bomb. Iran still has that capability, but we have not made the decision to produce a nuclear bomb. However, if the Iranian interests are threatened in this manner, we may change this doctrine. The military officials in Iran have announced that if our nuclear facilities would be attacked, we may change our military doctrine, with regard to the nuclear facilities."

Iran exploiting world’s Gaza focus to advance nuclear weaponization
‘Taking advantage of the current situation’

Jonathan Ruhe, director of foreign policy at the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), said Iran is “squarely on the threshold of nuclear weapons capability, where it could have de facto nuclear deterrence by achieving every element of the bomb without even assembling, testing, or declaring it has nuclear weapons.”

He told JNS Iran “already has nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles.”

According to Hoekstra, Iran clearly is “taking advantage of the current situation.”

He said Tehran “continues to attempt to expand the areas where it has significant influence and the capability to disrupt” and gave Sudan and Bahrain as examples of this. “Distraction creates opportunity for Iran,” he added.

Grossi told German media last month that Iran was “weeks, rather than months,” away from having a nuclear bomb.

Hoekstra noted that Grossi’s warnings are being ignored by Western countries.

“Very little is being done about Iran’s unwillingness to cooperate with inspections,” he said. “This follows the pattern of no accountability towards Iran in regards to multiple violations and aggressive actions.”

Hoekstra said Iran will “continue to attempt to expand its influence” and “move forward” with its nuclear program. “Iran has great latitude to do whatever it wants to do.”

Iran has already enriched uranium to up to 60 percent purity. Experts say it isn’t a huge leap to reach weapons-grade uranium, which is enriched to about 90 percent.

According to Ruhe, “Right now it can produce several bombs’ worth of fissile material too quickly to be reliably detected, and the outside world doesn’t seem to have a solid grasp on when Iran might finish weaponization, how long that might take, or whether they could detect it.”

He said this is concerning given that the U.S. “was surprised when the Soviet Union, China, and even its ally France went nuclear.”

Ruhe said that while it is “natural and easy” to focus on Iran’s uranium stockpiles, “the biggest concern now is that Tehran exploits the world’s focus on Gaza to advance its weaponization work, which relatively speaking is the least-developed element of its nuclear weapons capability.”

Ruhe decried the fact that “absolutely nothing” is being done after Grossi complained of “completely unsatisfactory” cooperation from Iran.

“Grossi’s persistence is admirable, since he’s been warning explicitly for years of Iran’s systemic violations of its transparency obligations, and that the IAEA can’t track the key parts of Iran’s nuclear program anymore,” he said. “But he needs the U.S. and Europe to back him up by ‘snapping back’ robust U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran’s violations.”

“So far, the U.S. and Europe have only wrung their hands repeatedly, to zero effect, over Iran’s undermining of the global non-proliferation regime,” Ruhe said.
How Princeton got burned by its outreach to Iran
As US-Iran relations thawed during the Obama administration, Princeton University saw an opportunity to make the school a central player in bridging the decades-long divide between the two antagonists. It established an Iran center, welcomed a senior Iranian diplomat to its ivy-coated halls, and pursued a student exchange program with Iran.

But within a dozen years, two of Princeton’s graduate students had been detained or kidnapped by Tehran and its military proxies. And a Republican-led Congress is now formally probing the school’s ties to Iranian regime officials.

Princeton’s experience is a cautionary tale of how American institutions can be ensnared in the internal politics of Tehran and Washington and become pawns in those battles, even as they see themselves as working towards noble goals. After Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Princeton is also another Ivy League school that is seeking to balance academic freedom with scholarship and speech that some US lawmakers and educators believe are hostile to American interests.

Princeton’s ambitions to position itself as an arbiter in reducing tensions between Iran and the US are clear in a large cache of Iranian foreign ministry emails obtained by Iran International, a Persian-language television channel banned in Iran, and shared with Semafor. They’re also illustrated in the Princeton faculty’s extensive writings, speeches, and appearances focused on Iran.

Students abducted
Princeton’s student exchange program first took off in 2014, when a prominent Iranian-American scholar and future Biden administration official, Ariane Tabatabai, connected the Iran center’s then-associate director to Mostafa Zahrani, a senior Iranian foreign ministry diplomat with strong ties to his country’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). “I wanted to introduce you to a friend who is in Princeton, and you will see him in Vienna in three weeks,” Tabatabai wrote, cc’ing Kevan Harris, the then associate director. “He is interested in sharing with you a plan to send Iranian students to Princeton and to send American students to Iran.”

Harris jumped at this opening, according to correspondence seen by Semafor, and arranged to see Zahrani in Austria two weeks later on the sidelines of the nuclear negotiations that were taking place between Iran, the US, and other global powers. The follow-up took time, but by early 2015, Princeton welcomed its first candidate for the Iran program: a Chinese-American graduate student named Wang Xiyue.

Wang was hesitant about going to Tehran, he told Semafor in recent interviews. He didn’t speak Farsi, and his Ph.D. work initially focused on the Soviet Union’s role in Central Asia, rather than issues related to Iran itself. He also raised with Princeton his concerns about security, given Iran’s history of abducting American citizens and the fact Tehran had no diplomatic ties with Washington.

On Dec. 1, 2015, Wang emailed administrators that he felt he needed to be as specific as possible about his scholarship with Iranian officials to protect himself once on the ground. “[A]s a US citizen of non-Iranian descen[t], I think it would be preferable for me to be as transparent as possible so that I would not be deported from the country for doing things my visa does not prescribe me to do,” he wrote.

But Harris and other Princeton officials reassured Wang about his safety and the importance of learning Farsi in Iran, both for his dissertation and future academic work. “It’s a good time to go [to Iran] — looks like they are in a good mood over there,” Harris wrote to Wang in the weeks before his January 2016 departure. “Take advantage of it.”

Wang’s reservations proved to be right. Six months after his arrival in Tehran, Iran’s intelligence ministry confiscated his US passport. On Aug. 7, 2016, he was arrested on espionage charges and sent to Iran’s feared Evin Prison, where he spent more than three years, at times in solitary confinement and threatened with death.

Princeton denied that it in any way downplayed the risks of travel to Iran nor pressured Wang into joining the exchange program. “Princeton did not direct, and indeed did not have the power to direct, Mr. Wang’s travel,” university spokesman Michael Hotchkiss told Semafor. “And it was Princeton University that undertook a relentless, multi-year and multi-million-dollar global effort to secure his release.”

Last year, a second Princeton graduate student, Elizabeth Tsurkov, was abducted by an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq. She hasn’t been seen since last November.
Top US University Playing Along in Iran’s Soft War
The report in Semafor also addresses the (very much ongoing) controversy surrounding Hossein Mousavian, a top regime diplomat and former nuclear negotiator, who has been at Princeton since 2009. “He fled Tehran that year after being charged with espionage”, but once in the safety of the US, he continued to promote the regime’s talking points and its nuclear positions. The emails obtained by Iran International and reviewed by Semafor shows that Mousavian would consult Zahrani and then-Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to ensure his pieces were on message.

There was very little doubt at this point that Princeton enjoyed “strong ties to the upper echelons of the Islamic Republic’s leadership,” Semafor quotes Wang. Even one of Wang’s advisers at Princeton’s Iran center, Mona Rahmani, had close ties to the regime in Tehran. “Her father ran Tehran’s interest section in Washington.” Wang says Rahmani “declined” to help him when he was thrown into jail in Tehran. Mousavian suggested it would be “counterproductive” to appeal to his contacts. And Princeton advised his wife to keep quiet and “not publicly criticize the Iranian government.”

“Simply put, after encouraging and convincing Mr. Wang to go to Iran, Princeton chose to put their reputation and political interest ahead of Mr. Wang’s personal safety,” reads the lawsuit that Wang filed against his former school in 2021. Princeton has always denied the charge of “negligence”. Last September, the two parties settled out of court with the school giving Wang an undisclosed amount.

Of all those named in the Semafor story, the only character still in Princeton –and almost entirely unaffected by all this– is Mousavian. The school still supports him and defends the decision to hire him in 2009, citing his role “in helping to promote the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and his efforts to reduce tensions between Washington and Tehran that some Western officials worry could expand into an all-out war,” according to Semafor.

But some in the Congress have raised concerns about his continued presence in the US, with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce formally probing his employment: “Mousavian’s position...raises significant concerns about the influence of foreign hostile regimes on American institutions,” the committee wrote to Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber last November.

This has partly been a result of a grassroot campaign by Iranian-American activists who are pressuring Princeton to sever ties with Mousavian. Their campaign got a boost in March when the National Association of Scholars (NAAS) joined their chorus to get Mousavian dismissed. “His position threatens US national security and cedes academia’s integrity to a hostile regime linked to terrorism and human rights abuses,” the NAAS statement read.

Princeton has also hosted Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s suspended special Iran envoy, as a guest lecturer for the 2023 fall semester–months after his security clearance was revoked. Malley is currently being investigated by the FBI for the possible mishandling of classified information.
IRGC Uses Swedish-Iranian University Ties for Military Gains, NGO Warns
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards are exploiting partnerships between Swedish and Iranian universities to acquire research and technology for their military programs, according to a new investigation by a US-based NGO.

Unbeknownst to Swedish authorities, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) says the IRGC has full access “to all collaborative work product between Iranian universities and their international academic partners”.

The partnerships in question involve at least eight Swedish universities – among them prestigious institutions like Lund University and Uppsala University.

"It is a significant national security issue, and Swedish universities should immediately sever any partnerships with Iranian universities given the risks of such collaboration, which may appear benign on the surface but which can be misused by the IRGC and security institutions in the Islamic Republic," UANI Policy Director Jason Brodsky told Iran International English.

In a letter alerting the Swedish government, UANI CEO Mark Wallace warned the country’s Education Minister that “any collaboration with an Iranian university will support the IRGC and other armed regime elements to further the Islamic Republic’s military program and the IRGC’s nefarious hard and soft power capabilities.”

The IRGC, the country’s paramilitary force, is subject to EU sanctions, and is a US-designated terrorist entity.

Letters outlining the NGO’s findings were signed by Wallace and Alireza Akhondi, a Swedish politician representing the Center Party, and were sent to the universities in question.

“Members of Parliament have summoned the Swedish education minister for questioning,” Brodsky said, adding that Swedish policymakers are taking UANI's investigation seriously.

Alongside the European Jewish Association, Europe Israel Public Affairs the UANI outlined its findings at the Swedish Parliament on Tuesday.

How the IRGC Exploits University Collaborations
Sweden, however, is not the only NATO member state, whose academic institutions have reportedly been targeted by the IRGC.

Last year, the UANI revealed that several top German universities partnered with an Iranian university linked to IRGC and Hezbollah, known for backing terrorist attacks on Israel.

Findings by the Jewish Chronicle in 2023, showed that scientists at 11 British universities helped the Iranian regime develop technology that can be used in its drone programme and fighter jets.

UANI's findings suggest that a strategic agreement was implemented in February 2021 between the IRGC and Iranian universities, exposing any collaborating academic institution to vulnerability.

The accord was implemented by the country’s Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution (SCCR) – overseen and led by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The body, which sets Iran’s policies on cultural and educational matters, including the mandated hijab, faces several international EU and UK sanctions for gross human rights violations.

BA suspends steward who told passenger not to touch ‘Jewish-made’ Coca Cola
A British Airways flight attendant has been suspended after he advised a passenger not to “touch” Coca Cola because “Jews make it”.

The airline has launched an investigation into the incident, which the passenger called "random and unsolicited antisemitism".

Saskia Goldman was on a BA flight from London to Vancouver in late April when she asked a crew member for water.

The steward proceeded to rant about Coca Cola, telling Goldman: “If you were Palestinian you wouldn't drink it anyway [...] because Jews make it and that’s why you wouldn’t want to touch it.”

Goldman, who is a Foreign Office diplomat, told the crew member: “What you just said is antisemitic and I am Jewish and people could be very offended.”

Goldman added, “I am as pro-Palestinian as the next person, but you can't say that [about Coca-Cola] and it's important to know why.”

No other staff or passengers intervened but Goldman said she was “totally shocked” by the comments.

She moved away from the steward, who followed her to continue the conversation.

“I was then shocked to be pounced upon again to have him explain [and ask] for me not to be offended. He restated 'I was just saying that Jews ...' and I told him to stop talking about 'Jews' and restated that I was Jewish, and I tried to walk away.”

The steward then allegedly told Goldman it was "just something he was repeating as his manager had said it and the team had been talking about it earlier.”

According to Goldman, the steward went on to explain that he was also Jewish.

Goldman, who was travelling to Canada to visit friends, said she felt “sad” and “uncomfortable” and told the steward what he had said was “dangerous.”

Visceral reminder of Holocaust in form of cattle car exhibit in Washington
A cattle car exhibit on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., this week welcomed visitors, including elected and appointed officials, for an immersive learning experience about the Holocaust, as well as the dangers of antisemitism, intolerance and racism.

It was stationed from May 6 to May 9 near the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The traveling exhibit, organized by the nonprofit group Hate Ends Now, included a 20-minute, 360-degree immersive presentation and featured a rare collection of original artifacts. Its opening included an event with public officials and coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 6 that also marked the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Todd Cohn, CEO of Hate Ends Now, said the exhibit in “the capital of the free world during a time of alarming increase in antisemitism globally sends a powerful message, reminding us of what happens when hate is allowed to go unchecked. People of all ages have a visceral reaction when they step foot in the cattle car and when it seemingly comes to life with the voices, pictures and stories of this dark era.”

Trained docents provided critical context and framed the presentation. Accompanying the exhibit were 25 original artifacts from the Holocaust, and visitors got to see and hear firsthand accounts of survivors, all in the backdrop of a replica of a World War II-era cattle car used to transport Jews and other targeted groups to concentration and death camps.

“Amid sharp increases in antisemitism across the country, the need to bring the cattle car to more people is greater than ever before,” said Cohn. “Particularly for people who do not connect as much with a textbook or museum or don’t otherwise have access to educational opportunities like this, the exhibit is especially important. It is the perfect learning experience.”
The Americans Fighting—and Dying—for Israel
Shahar Balva recently came across a video clip showing her younger brother, Omer, reciting the prayer for fallen Israel Defense Forces soldiers. It was recorded six years ago, when Omer, 17 at the time, stood onstage at the Jewish school they attended in the Washington, D.C., suburb where their family then lived. The prayer came during a ceremony marking Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day.

When Yom Hazikaron begins this year on the night of May 12, Shahar and her family, who now live in Israel, will be attending a similar ceremony at the Yad LaShiryon armored corps memorial in Latrun. But this time, Omer’s father, Eyal, was selected to recite the same prayer. That’s because Omer, a 22-year-old staff sergeant in the IDF’s Golani battalion, was killed on Oct. 20 near the border with Lebanon by a rocket that the Hezbollah terrorist group launched.

“We’ll be saying [the prayer] for him, and to see him [in the video] saying it—it doesn’t add up,” said Shahar. “It’s crazy.”

There’s this chilling parallel, too: On the morning of Yom Hazikaron 2022, Omer returned from his army base to Herzliya; his Israeli-born parents had moved back to Israel during the COVID-19 pandemic, after Omer made aliyah alone and enlisted in the IDF, and they bought a family home there. Shahar toasted a bagel for him. He changed into a fresh uniform, and she drove him to the military section of the cemetery in their neighborhood. Israeli soldiers often are posted on Yom Hazikaron to military cemeteries to support visitors coming to mourn at loved ones’ graves.

Omer had asked his commander to be posted there. That cemetery is where Omer is buried.

A native of the Washington area, Omer Balva is one of three U.S.-born “lone soldiers” to have been killed since Hamas and Hezbollah launched attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 and 8, respectively—in addition to 17 lone soldiers from other countries. The term refers to young Diaspora Jews who leave home to serve in the IDF and thus lack the support system of parents living in Israel. (The category also includes native Israelis, usually Haredim, who defy their community’s norms by serving in the IDF and, thereby, are on their own.)

Israelis can be hard to impress, but they’ll shower admiration upon lone soldiers, wondering why they voluntarily displaced themselves from safer lives abroad to undertake IDF service, often in combat units.

This year’s Yom Hazikaron promises to be far bleaker than usual, both because of Israel’s ongoing wars with Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah along the northern border and because of the high number of IDF casualties.
1,594 Israeli soldiers, civilians killed since last Memorial Day
Since the last Memorial Day (April 25, 2023), 1,594 Israeli soldiers and civilians have died. This includes 760 Israel Defense Forces soldiers (61 of whom succumbed to their wounds from previous years) and 834 civilians, of which 822 were killed on or after the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas in southern Israel, according to numbers released by the Israeli Ministry of Defense on Thursday.

A total of 30,134 security forces and civilians have been killed in defending the land of Israel and in terrorist attacks since 1860, the year in which the first Jews left the walls of Jerusalem to build new Jewish neighborhoods.

IDF casualties in the Gaza war left behind 1,294 grieving parents, 248 widows, 520 orphans and 2,174 bereaved brothers and sisters.

Those murdered in the hostilities left behind 630 orphans; 177 widows and widowers; 1,355 grieving brothers and sisters; and 693 bereaved parents.

Before Oct. 7, 12 civilians were added to the number of those murdered in hostilities, including Chana Nachenberg, 52, who was wounded in the 2001 Sbarro suicide bombing in Jerusalem and died this year from her injuries. New York-born Nachenberg had been in a vegetative state for 22 years since the attack.

On Oct. 7, 201 civilians were kidnapped by the Hamas terror group, not including members of the security forces and the standby units.

A total of 106 men, women and children were returned from captivity in the Gaza Strip as part of an exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Currently, more than 200 days after the massacre, 132 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, including 65 civilians. Thirty of those have been killed, of whom eight were returned to Israel for burial.

Israel’s Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism (Yom Hazikaron) will begin on Sunday evening, May 12, at sundown.

Hundreds of strangers attend funeral of Holocaust survivor who died without family
Hundreds of Israeli strangers gathered on Monday to attend the funeral of 95-year-old Esther Greizer, a Holocaust survivor who died on Yom HaShoah without any immediate family to mourn her passing.

Israelis responded to a plea on social media to attend the Haifa funeral of the Hungary-born survivor. Hundreds of strangers descended on the cemetery for her burial on Monday afternoon and crowds thronged out into the street. Some mourners waved Israeli flags and others wept.

As a child, Greizer survived deadly medical experiments conducted by the notorious "Angel of Death" Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz death camp. Her great-nephew Yochai Gringlick said she was never able to have children of her own after the abuse she suffered at the camp.

Writing on Facebook, Gringlick said: “It didn’t prevent Esti from marrying the late Gershon and living a happy life full of love and giving [...] Because she didn’t have children, we were like grandchildren to her, even though we were her sister’s great-grandchildren.”

“Unfortunately, there will be no shiva,” he wrote, referring to the traditional period of mourning.

“She doesn’t have children and her brothers are all already dead. There will only be a funeral,” he said, appealing to strangers to join the funeral.

Greizer’s passing and funeral coincided with Yom HaShoah, the memorial day in Israel and the diaspora for the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide.

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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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