Commentary

Registered Israeli foreign agent driving contrived campus antisemitism crisis

The Greyzone, WYATT REED·DECEMBER 17, 2023

Lawsuits accusing top US universities of harboring antisemitism all originate from one source: a corporate law firm that fielded the pro-settler ex-US ambassador to Israel, and which was registered as a foreign agent of an Israeli principal as recently as 2021.

The firm now represents professional Israel lobby activists posing as victimized “Jewish students” and seeking to crush the free speech rights of Palestine solidarity activists.

The fallout from December 5 House Committe on Antisemitism hearings has already cost University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill her job, while demands by billionaire pro-Israel donors and politicians for the firing of Harvard’s Claudine Gay have grown by the day. Both stand accused of refusing to condemn calls for the genocide of Jews, even though no such calls have taken place on their campuses.

Meanwhile, little attention has been paid to the forces orchestrating the carefully choreographed, heavily-funded campaign to crush Palestine solidarity activism on campus.

The law firm leading the assault on the universities has included David Friedman, the former ambassador to Israel under Donald Trump, among its partners. Until 2021, this firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres, was registered with the US Department of Justice as a foreign agent on behalf of an Israeli principal.

The firm’s clients include associates of a jailed Ukrainian billionaire who bankrolled neo-Nazi militias, along with a who’s who of corporations accused of defrauding and even killing consumers.

Meanwhile, the “Jewish student” witnesses who set the stage for the attacks on Magill and her fellow university presidents at the House Antisemitism Committee were employed on at least a semi-professional basis by Israeli lobbying cutouts.

They included Jonathan Frieden, a Harvard Law student who moonlights as president of Alliance for Israel; MIT graduate student Talia Khan, the president of MIT Israel Alliance; and Bella Ingber, co-president of NYU’s Students Supporting Israel.

Israel lobbyist moonlighting as UPenn student calls for Covid-style lockdowns on Palestine protests

The most harrowing — and clearly questionable — claims furnished during the December 5 congressional hearings came courtesy of Eyal Yakoby, an Israeli-American senior at UPenn. 

“Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve… read the statement, ‘Ninety-percent of pigs are gas chambered!’ on the pavement as I walked to class,” Yakoby moaned.

The most likely explanation for the appearance of this phrase on UPenn’s Locust Walk was not the presence of chalk-wielding neo-Nazis but rather, that of animal welfare advocates, who were presumably calling attention to the fact that most pigs are killed by slaughterhouses which employ a grotesque method of gas inhalation exposed by activists in late 2022.

“‘You’re a dirty little Jew and you deserve to die’ are not words said by Hamas, but by my classmates and my professors,” Yakoby claimed during a December 5 press conference convened by the House GOP leadership. Oddly, he neglected to name a single student or UPenn employee responsible for such inflammatory remarks.

Conjuring up images of a campus overwhelmed by Hamas-linked hatemongers, Yakoby seemed to call for imposing Covid-era lockdowns on students protesting Israel’s blood-drenched assault on the besieged Gaza Strip.

“During Covid, strict guidelines governed everything from class attendance and graduation walks,” he said. “But now, when students and faculty defy policies to intimidate Jewish students, where is the same resolute enforcement?”

Lawsuits target top US campuses with flimsy, unprovable allegations

Just hours after his appearance alongside members of Congress, Yakoby filed a lawsuit against UPenn, claiming the university violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by failing to respond to antisemitism.

Yakoby’s lawsuit was filled with dubious, highly politicized accusations, including complaints about the chanting of “antisemitic slurs” such as “Intifada revolution” and “from the river to the sea.”

A closer examination of other incidents described in the lawsuit against Penn reveals a great number of them appear to have been seriously exaggerated or manufactured out of whole cloth. 

The most ‘threatening’ episode described by the Yakoby, for example, consists of a man who “threateningly approached him” and “yelled ‘fuck you.’” As a result of this experience — and the agony apparently endured when the plaintiff observed other students removing posters showing Israeli captives — the suit claims that “Yakoby missed his next two classes” because he was “shaken by these escalating acts of hate.”

The vast majority of claims of overt antisemitism appear to consist of statements by students and professors who criticized the state of Israel but generally took pains to distinguish between the political ideology of Zionism and the religion of Judaism.

Elsewhere, the lawsuit accuses professors of antisemitism because they questioned now-debunked Israeli atrocity propaganda about the October 7 attacks, including a demonstrably false claim by Yakoby that the “killing of 40 [Israeli] babies” by Palestinian militants had been “confirmed.”

Many of the alleged incidents described as “assaults” fail to meet basic evidentiary standards, leaving the court with no option but to take the plaintiffs’ word that the contents of the complaint happened as described.

Read More: The Greyzone