The White House Strategy to Combat Antisemitism Should Start with CUNY!

On May 25th, the White House unveiled a new strategy to combat antisemitism in America in a 60-page document.  In President Joe Biden's words, "Toward that aim, my Administration has developed the first U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. It represents the most ambitious and comprehensive U.S. government-led effort to fight antisemitism in American history. It also brings Americans together—regardless of our backgrounds and beliefs—to stand united against the hate, racism, bigotry, and violence that have long haunted our Nation. The Strategy outlines a whole-of-society effort to combat antisemitism, including unprecedented, coordinated, and bold actions that will be implemented across government agencies, as well as calls to action for public officials, private sector leaders, and Americans from every sector, industry, and walk of life. "

In principle, I have to applaud that statement. It seems to show that a great effort is being made to combat the oldest hatred. After all, it is extremely alarming to know that 2.4% of the U.S. population is the victim of 63% of all hate crimes in America. This task force is part of a broader committee known as the "Interagency Policy Committee on Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Related Forms of Bias and Discrimination." It has been tasked with combatting antisemitism as its first order of business and has partnered with a myriad of various organizations to do so on as many levels as possible, and again, we should all be very encouraged...If, indeed, this new endeavor truly leads to change. Sadly, I have my doubts.

When it comes, to antisemitism, the number one challenge is education, and, for those interested in fighting the beast of Jew hatred, there are more than enough resources online, in printed form and even in person. Additionally,  they announced that "in 2024, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will launch the first-ever U.S.-based Holocaust education research center." There is great potential for continued education on the Holocaust and its ramifications into the 21st century. This should equip people to debunk history revision and holocaust denial. Again, education is available, but it will only change the landscape if people who learn also take action.

It is not the first time that words have been spoken against the evil of antisemitism. Politicians from both sides of the aisle have claimed multiple times that "America will not tolerate any antisemitism" and that "antisemitism will be punished by law." Sadly, these have been spoken words but followed by very little action unless the event that led to the statements was important enough to draw the attention of the general public - like the tragedy of the Pittsburgh Synagogue murders in 2018. Even then, not enough has really been done.

Another of the greatest challenges in combatting antisemitism is identifying acts of Jew-hatred as such. When a man took hostages in a synagogue on Shabbat in Colleyville, TX, in 2022, the FBI immediately came out to denounce the crime, but without declaring any antisemitic connection. In their defense, they quickly changed their story. Many incidents take place in America on a daily basis and when the Jewish community witnesses the lack of recognition and lack of any enforcement, they simply don't report antisemitism anymore. Why would they if nothing or very little gets done?

As the White House is promising action against antisemitism like never before in America, they have an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is. On May 12, there was a graduation ceremony for the the law students’ class of 2023 at City University of New York (CUNY). The school has a reputation for being very liberal, which is their right in our beautiful country. They got into trouble last year for letting graduate Nerdeen Kiswani who has called for "the destruction of Israel," and invited people to "globalize the Intifada." One would think that this year, they would have tried to be a little less controversial, let alone not so anti-Jewish.

Enter Fatima Mousa Mohammed to deliver the graduation speech at CUNY 2023 Commencement ceremony. Her 12-minute speech was laced with racism, CRT and antisemitism. A graduation speech is an awesome opportunity to encourage, challenge and inspire the graduating class. It should be seen as an important responsibility and a tremendous honor. Her speech turned out to be none of that, unless, of course, she wanted to encourage people to ostracize and demonize Israel. It is a sad day we live in when people use any platform they can to denigrate the Jewish state with antisemitic tropes. CUNY trains the next generation of legal experts, lawyers and judges. Where is this world going?

Some of the statements that Miss Mohammed said were, "The continual white supremacy that continues to oppress and suppress people in this nation," and " I want to  celebrate CUNY Law as one of the few if not the only Law School to make a public statement defending the rights of its students to organize and speak out against Israeli settlers colonialism," "This is the Law School that passed and endorsed BDS on a student and faculty level," "Israel continues to indiscriminately rain bullets and bombs on worshippers, murdering the old, the young, attacking even funerals and graveyards as it encourages lynch mobs to target Palestinian homes and businesses as it imprisons its children as it continues its project of settlers colonialism expelling Palestinians from their home carrying the ongoing Nakba,"  "Leading the fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism and Zionism around the world." 

Amid all the statements that are not based on factual truth, she also declared, "We must practice a discipline of truth and courage." While I agree with this statement, I am not certain that this is what she had just accomplished in her passionate speech. There are a few things that troubled me with her graduation speech, and the reason for my discomfort is the choice of venue for such a declaration. It is absolutely true that we must uphold freedom of speech in America; otherwise, we become a police state with no freedoms at all as a result.  Yet, free speech being upheld should never occur if and when it places people at risk for their lives. Some questions we need to ask ourselves after listening to the words of Miss Mohammed are:

• Was her speech encouraging and positive, seeking to make a better world?
• Why was she wearing a Palestinian scarf around her neck?
• Why was there so much cheering from the student body?
• Of all her cries against injustice in the world, was Israel disproportionally represented?
• Were all her complaints about Israel killing Palestinians accurate?
• How did the speech receive faculty approval prior to being delivered (or did she change it at the last minute)?

In their defense, the CUNY Board of Trustees made a statement in which they clearly condemn the speech:

“The remarks by a student-selected speaker at the CUNY Law School graduation, unfortunately, fall into the category of hate speech as they were a public expression of hate toward people and communities based on their religion, race or political affiliation."

I applaud them for coming out so quickly to denounce the hate-filled speech. Circling back to the new White House strategy to counter antisemitism, what took place at the 2023 CUNY commencement ceremony is a perfect example of the normalization of antisemitism and that it falls into the incidents that the White House needs to identify, analyze, and denounce. But, beyond denouncing the hate, we must start to bring those who promote it to justice and have them pay for their crimes. Maybe I live in a utopian universe, but I still have faith in the human spirit. My prayers go out to our current administration for the hard work that lies ahead of them.

Mr. Trump doesn't need to be less antisemitic, he needs to be more presidential!

Since January 2017, nearly 60 Jewish community centers have received bomb threats over the phone. This happened over many states, and in some cases more than once at the same location. As it turned out, none of the threats led to the discovery of any bombs. This is now the fourth wave of such bomb threats against Jewish institutions in America. Each time such a phone call is received, the targeted center is obligated to stop all activities and evacuate their premises in an emergency, waiting for the police and or bomb squad to clear them back in.

Depending on the activities taking place at the time the bomb threats were received, children , young adults and/or elderly people had to be evacuated. In all cases it was absolutely necessary yet extremely inconvenient. There is no way that any of these threats could be ignored or blindly assumed to simply be phone pranks. The one time that a telephone bomb threat is ignored could be the one time that it is a real one and the ramifications would be disastrous. Are these threats against various Jewish community centers considered terrorism? Are they considered hate crimes? Are they even considered acts of an antisemitic nature?

Police consider these threats to be hate crimes and take them very seriously. From the standpoint of the disruptive factor and the fear of the unknown, they are very similar to acts of terrorism. Just like terrorism, these bomb threats have materialized in unexpected locations at unpredictable times over an incalculable period of time. But even all these factors compounded do not constitute acts of antisemitism, although the frequency and high number of occurrences could prove otherwise.

To remove all doubt, we have to start looking at the content of the messages left on the phone when some of the threats were made. One such recording received on January 18, 2017 was made available. It's transcription is a follows: "It’s a C-4 bomb with a lot of shrapnel, surrounded by a bag (inaudible). In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to [sic] blown off from the shrapnel. There’s a lot of shrapnel. There’s going to be a bloodbath that’s going to take place in a short time. I think I told you enough. I must go.

When a threat is made over the phone, it is always to be taken seriously, even if it targets people in general. But when the person giving the threat claims that "In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered," there is no longer any doubts as to the antisemitic nature of the call. During the same period of time, nobody reported bomb threats to any Christian organization, Mosque, Buddhist temple, Mormon ward, Jehovah's witness kingdom hall, etc. You get my drift! The threats were made ONLY to Jewish community centers. There should be no question in our mind that these were antisemitic actions.

This wave of bomb threats prompted some really concerned Jewish leaders to look for answers. Recently, at a White House press conference, orthodox Jewish reporter Jake Turx asked President Trump what the government intended to do to fight the new wave of antisemitic bomb threats. He asked the President “What we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it,” The response was unexpectedly rude and rather disconnected from the question. I don't believe for a moment that President Trump avoided the topic on purpose, but I believe that he completely missed the point made by the reporter.

Mr. Trump could have simply answered–even if he was unaware of anything being done– that his government was working on a solution and that he clearly opposed antisemitism. Instead he very rudely interrupted the question and turned it around to sound like an accusation of antisemitism on his part. This was an embarrassing moment. But even Jake Turx understood it when he later stated that he still supported President Trump and that he firmly believed that his question had been misunderstood.

I don't believe that we can accuse President Trump of being an antisemite. Even Benjamin Netanyahu said that the question "could be put to rest," during his first visit at the White House. Nevertheless, Mr. Trump needs to be more presidential and less reactive. He needs to listen better to questions and not be so defensive, leading him to give short, rude and disconnected answers. He had a great opportunity to solidify his ties and reaffirm his true appreciation for the Jewish community and he really missed it. In the end, I still believe that his actions will speak louder than his words in a positive way–something many previous US presidents from both parties cannot claim.

I truly believe that having a president who never was in politics before is a breath of fresh air from many standpoints. It has many advantages. His awkward, disconnected and arrogant rhetoric definitely isn't one of them!

Bibi's Miraculous Landslide Victory Will Help Identify his Enemies!

In listening to the media and a majority of political analysts, Benjamin Netanyahu had a tough road ahead in the 2015 Israeli elections. So when his Likud party won 30 seats (six seats ahead of Herzog's Zionist Union party), it was a bit of a surprise for most and even a shock for some. Netanyahu's victory could be considered a landslide victory, but certainly must be considered a miraculous victory. For the next few years, Israel will continue to thrive under the leadership of one of the strongest Prime Minister in her history.

Bibi's victory doesn't make everybody happy, especially after some of the announcements he made hours prior to the elections. His enemies will be quick to denounce and criticize him and his agenda.

At the top of the list we can obviously find the Palestinian Authority and Hamas doing everything in their power to delegitimize Israel. The PA continues to apply pressure at the International Criminal Court in The Hague to force them to investigate possible war crimes during the 2014 Gaza War. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat declared:“It is clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form the next government, and for that, we say clearly that we will go to The Hague tribunal, we will accelerate, continue and intensify.” This is a despicable move akin to accusing Jews of crimes against humanity during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the Nazis. Hamas has also called for renewed confrontations with Israel...No surprise there!

Another disappointed enemy is the leader of Zionist Union Isaac Herzog who many had seen as a serious contender in the race for the Knesset. Herzog finally conceded and congratulated Bibi on his victory.

The Israeli government is a complicated political machine. The Knesset demands that the ruling party would form a coalition with other parties since 61 seats are required for a majority over its 120 seats. No party has ever won with a majority in Israel's 67 years of history. Very often the votes are so close that coalition governments are formed with members of the two parties who were competing for the win only the night before. But this time, with 30 seats, Netanyahu finds himself in a majority position from the start, allowing him to form a government much more center-right than ever before. This is a bigger defeat for the Left in Israel. Netanyahu will certainly gain more power from the get go.

Herzog campaigned on issues that he thought were attractive to Israelis like renewed talks with the Palestinians towards a Palestinian state, a strengthening of US/Israel relations, and a change in Israel's economy bridging the gap between classes. He wanted to bring "Change" to Israel. I think that someone, somewhere already tried that same socialistic ideology and it failed! As it turned out, Israeli voters were much more interested in the security of their country than the economy of their country. After all how good is a rebounding economy in a country that would be opening its doors to people determined to kill all the Jews. Security over economy doesn't mean that Netanyahu will not work towards a better Israel economically, but as he has said numerous times and repeated at his address to the US congress, the security of Israel's people is first and foremost.

It is also interesting to notice that the "Joint Arab List" became the third party in the Knesset. This will undoubtedly create a new dynamics within the Israeli government. What we need to remember is that the "Joint Arab List" comprises three different lists that strongly disagree within themselves. They had to form a mini Arab coalition to even become a reality within the Knesset. Will they find enough of a common ground in their loathing of Israel to work together? Time will tell, but I am certain that we will hear more from the "Joint Arab List."

Many international leaders are worried about Bibi's last minute shift to the right to garner the necessary votes from ultra-nationalist factions. They feel that it will only exacerbate the Palestinians and further bury the prospect of any peace in the Middle East. What they really fail to understand is that a more socialistic party like that of Isaac Herzog would facilitate the emergence of a group of people who have absolutely no interest in a two-state solution. They might hypocritically pretend to be open to the idea, but that is only until they have gained enough power to completely annihilate the Jews. Mr. Herzog idealistic vision is obviously blinded by his liberal leanings.

And then of course, there is the leader of the "United Welfare States of America", Barack Obama! While many heads of states will personally call Netanyahu to congratulate him on the Likud's victory, Mr. Obama gave the task to a White House aid who congratulated Israel without any mention of Netanyahu or the Likud. Some will accuse me of pettiness, but the least that our President could have done was to call Netanyahu in person. Then again, coming from the same man who chose to snub Bibi's recent congress speech, it shouldn't surprise us. What a shame!

It is unclear if Bibi's speech on March 3rd, 2015 in front of the US congress was a political move or just a heartfelt desire to cry out to the international community. It was probably a bit of both. What is certain is that it facilitated Bibi's victory. His stance on the "Iranian Deal" was powerful and obviously a slap in the face of our president and "King of Appeasement."

Relations between America and Israel are tense and fragile at best. There are still many Americans who support the Jewish state. We might expect that the already strained relations between Netanyahu and the White House could lead to a political divorce. The one positive aspect of this win is that Netanyahu will outlive Obama in office and could very well regain a respected position with the next US administration.

So it would appear that Mr. Netanyahu has many enemies to contend with, within and without Israel. Physical rockets will continue to fall over Israel as will the verbal rockets from the liberals, the current US administration and the media. In the meantime, I believe that Bibi's victory will ensure the best approach to Israel's security. The road ahead is a rocky one and would greatly benefit from the prayer of the friends of Israel.

Congratulation Mr. Prime Minister, my prayers are with you and Israel!

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, May they prosper who love you. Psalm 122:6