Netanyahu fetes US Jews for ‘finally’ confronting campus antisemitism

Premier tells cabinet meeting ‘deeply rooted’ hatred of Jews showing its face on university grounds and elsewhere; thanks Biden for rushing arms shipment after bypassing Congress

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on December 10, 2023.  (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on December 10, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday praised US Jewish leaders for “finally” standing up to antisemitism on college campuses and elsewhere, shortly after the head of the University of Pennsylvania resigned following an uproar over her refusal to declare that calls for Jewish genocide violate school rules.

Speaking at the top of his weekly cabinet summit, Netanyahu also announced the arrival of a fresh shipment of ammunition from the US, thanking President Joe Biden, and recounted that he chided European leaders for what he said was a contradictory stance on Israel’s offensive against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.

Against the backdrop of an uptick in antisemitic rhetoric and harassment of Jews in the wake of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli premier said “deeply rooted” antisemitism in the US was now showing its face.

“There’s a whopping wave of antisemitism, from the left and partially from the right,” Netanyahu told ministers gathered in Jerusalem. “It has seeped onto university campuses there and come out into the open.”

“What’s important is that figures and leaders of the Jewish community are finally standing up,” he continued. “They are standing up against this antisemitism, and it is the only way to fight it: proudly, gloriously, not to bury your head in the sand, to fight back tooth and nail.”

On Saturday, the University of Pennsylvania said its president Liz Magill had resigned, amid pressure from donors and criticism over her testimony at a congressional hearing where she was unable to say, under repeated questioning, that calls on campus for the genocide of Jews would violate the school’s conduct policy.

Students participate in a protest in support of Palestine and for free speech outside of the Columbia University campus on November 15, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Universities across the US have been accused of failing to protect Jewish and Israeli students amid rising fears of antisemitism worldwide since the deadly October 7 onslaught on Israel by Hamas terrorists and the ensuing war in Gaza.

Magill was one of three university leaders, along with Harvard president Claudine Gay and Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Sally Kornbluth, all of whom attempted to thread a needle between free speech and the antisemitic rhetoric that has been a regular feature at some pre-Palestinian rallies.

Asked by Republican Representative Elise Stefanik of New York whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate Penn’s code of conduct, Magill answered that it was “a context-dependent decision.”

Criticism rained down from the White House, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, members of Congress and donors.

Harvard president Claudine Gay, left, and University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill listen during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, Dec. 5, 2023 in Washington. (AP/Mark Schiefelbein)

One donor, Ross Stevens, threatened to withdraw a $100 million gift because of the university’s “stance on antisemitism on campus” unless Magill was replaced.

Israel sent troops into Gaza after the Hamas terror group attacked southern Israeli communities, slaughtering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 240 more. Jerusalem has vowed to eliminate the terror group in self-defense, but its devastating military campaign, which has killed over 17,000 according to unverified figures supplied by Hamas number — which include combatants as well as people killed by misfired Gazan rockets — has sparked angry anti-Israel demonstrations across the Middle East, Europe, North America and elsewhere, as well as increasingly strident calls for a ceasefire. Israel says it’s taking steps to avoid civilian casualties but Hamas deliberately embeds its military infrastructure in residential areas.

Over the weekend, Netanyahu held separate phone calls with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, both of whom pressed the Israeli leader on the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Macron also called for a ceasefire.

Israeli troops are seen near the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023. (AP/Leo Correa)

The prime minister said Sunday that he had told them “one can’t support eliminating Hamas on the one hand, and on the other hand pressure us to end the war.”

He added that fighting in Gaza was continuing at full force, declaring that “justice is on our side.”

Netanyahu told his cabinet ministers that a new shipment of armaments had come from the US, a day after the Biden administration said it had approved the emergency sale of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth more than $106 million.

The approval was fast-tracked using an emergency procedure that allows the administration to bypass a congressional review.

Netanyahu said he thanked Biden for both the shipment and the US’s veto of a UN Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire Friday, calling the stance “correct and just.”

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