Antisemitism in Context
Reporting that leads to a greater understanding of antisemitism
The first United Nations human rights report to center on antisemitism alone was completed in 2019 by Maldivian Ahmed Shaheed. He knew no Jews growing up in the predominantly Muslim South Asian islands of the Maldives. But, he writes, coming from a family of judges, “you’re fed a diet of justice and a high regard for fairness, equality and rule of law. You’re raised looking for the truth.”
Oakland City Council Meeting Becomes a Showcase for Pro-Hamas Speeches
On Monday, November 27, a city council meeting held in Oakland, California, devolved into a parade of community members voicing support for Hamas and accusing Israel of murdering its own citizens. The meeting was held to discuss a resolution brought forth by council member Carroll Fife calling on Congress to support a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. During the meeting’s proceedings, council member Dan Kalb proposed an amendment specifically condemning Hamas. Six hours later, the council approved the resolution supporting a cease-fire but not Kalb’s amendment.
More than 250 community members spoke at the council meeting, and videos of some of their comments have since gone viral. One person called the October 7 massacre “fabricated” and claimed that the Jews killed that day were actually killed by the IDF, not Hamas. Another person weighed in saying that condemning Hamas is equivalent to racist propaganda. A third community member stated emphatically that there had been no rapes perpetrated by Hamas. Multiple commenters stated that Hamas was not a terrorist organization but rather an “armed wing of the unified Palestinian resistance.” After the meeting concluded, Tye Gregory, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area, remarked to The Jewish News of Northern California that it was “the most antisemitic room [he had] ever been in.”
Bay Area Jewish anti-Zionists were a driving force behind the resolution, which passed 7-0. In an email to a community listserv after the vote, one organizer wrote “HAZAK UVARUKH TO ALL OF YALL and the general propalestinian anticolonial propeace projustice prosolidarity prodiaspora movements here and across the world. Oakland!!!! Hugest city!!! So far!!!! Many more to come!!!!”
Teresa Drenick, deputy director of the Anti-Defamation League’s San Francisco office, attended the meeting and subsequently wrote an article for The Forward where she not only decried the claims she heard from her fellow Bay Area residents but also expressed bafflement: “The lack of heart, empathy or consideration by the elected officials was beyond shocking.” Drenick acknowledged in her piece that Oakland’s city council resolution would do little to affect the day-to-day lives of those experiencing the war in Israel and Gaza, but she also sees a direct correlation from a council meeting such as this one to a broader feeling of discomfort and fear for Bay Area Jews. “The resolution creates a chain reaction of consequences for Jewish people living in Oakland,” she wrote. “It worsens an already fraught situation by fanning the flames of hate and creating an environment where Jewish residents feel unsafe and unwelcomed.”
Armenia, November 16, 2023
Armenia’s only synagogue was the target of an arson attack on November 16. The suspect was caught on camera “pouring burning fuel” onto the door of the synagogue in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, according to The Times of Israel. The day before, authorities in Yerevan had received a call saying that somebody was planning to set fire to the synagogue. Azerbaijani media has reportedly linked the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) to this incident, as well as to a previous attack on the same synagogue on October 3. ASALA was founded in the 1970s as a guerilla force to pressure Turkey to take responsibility for its genocide against Armenians, which it has not. Azerbaijan has close ties to Turkey, and was armed by Israel in its reconquest of a contested ethnic enclave of Armenians earlier this year. According to The Algemeiner, ASALA has long been known to hold antisemitic and anti-Israel beliefs. Following the attack, the group issued a statement saying, “The Jews are the enemy of the Armenian nation.”
United States, November 16, 2023
On November 16, Northwestern University president Michael Schill announced a new committee on campus that would combat antisemitism. Schill was almost immediately chastised for doing so by students and faculty members. According to The Algemeiner, the students and faculty who are against the formation of the committee have characterized the recent focus on antisemitism as “mass hysteria and collective psychosis.” Additionally, dozens of faculty members wrote a letter to the president expressing concern that Schill’s request for Northwestern students and faculty to moderate their language when discussing the war would impede their intellectual and academic freedoms.
Canada, November 19, 2023
Samantha Pearson, the director of the Sexual Assault Center at the University of Alberta, was fired from her position after she signed a letter that claimed the sexual violence towards Israeli women by Hamas terrorists on October 7 was an “unverified accusation.” Jewish organizations and women’s health organizations in Edmonton expressed disappointment with Pearson, and the university has been intentional with its messaging to show that Pearson’s beliefs do not align with those of the university. According to The Times of Israel, in response to Pearson’s claim that there is insufficient evidence to say that Israeli women had been raped by Hamas terrorists, an account on X (formerly Twitter) with the handle @AntisemitismCA wrote “Is it the Sexual Assault Centre’s policy to turn away women who come to them with ‘unverified claims’?”
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