This 2024 - Let's Win the Battle of Headlines
  • Words count:
    641 words
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  • Publication Date:
    February 27, 2024
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Gabriel Boxer of Long Island, N.Y., never expected that a joke would result in his spending a day in Khan Yunis this month in the central Gaza Strip.

The 43-year-old had made several trips to Israel to bring in supplies since the Hamas terrorist attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7. In his capacity working with the American Friends of Judea and Samaria raising funds for surveillance drones, he was talking to Yigal Dilmoni, CEO of the Yesha Council.

“As a joke, I said: ‘You should bring someone in to see how everything is working to raise money for more of them,’” he told JNS.

Boxer, who also blogs online as the “Kosher Guru,” was surprised that he subsequently got permission to embed with the Israel Defense Forces—a highly unusual, if not unprecedented, arrangement for a civilian.

“It took over a month and a half to get final approval,” he told JNS. “I heard there was a lot of back and forth behind the scenes.”

He figures a sticking point was how bad it would look if a U.S. civilian was harmed.

“I was told not to leave the side of the commander because I was not dressed as an Israeli soldier, and if I didn’t follow that, they would not be responsible if anything happened,” he told JNS.

In fact, during the more than five hours he went through Khan Younis on a Humvee, Boxer told JNS that there were some tense moments, including when Israeli soldiers ahead of him fired at four Hamas terrorists.

“I heard gunfire a lot of the time,” he told JNS.

Gabriel Boxer in Tunnel
Boxer in a Hamas terror tunnel in the Gaza Strip, February 2024. Credit: Courtesy.

‘Wasn’t thinking about it’

A husband and father, Boxer told JNS that he didn’t sleep much a few nights before his trip.

“I told my wife and children what was going to happen, but I didn’t tell my parents until after. I didn’t want them to worry,” he said. “I was definitely concerned.”

Boxer had faith that God would protect him while he was there. “I wasn’t thinking about it so much,” he said. “I was thinking about the bravery of the Israeli soldiers and how it is tragic that things have to be this way because of Hamas.”

An Orthodox Jew who wears a yarmulke, Boxer told JNS that Israeli soldiers showed him photographs from a school in Gaza where painted images show an exploding Israeli Egged bus.

“When we saw video and read about Oct. 7, we wondered how human beings could do such things,” Boxer said. “Part of it is the indoctrination in schools where, from a young age, there are years of radicalization.”

“This has to be addressed if there is any future hope for peace,” he said.

Wardrobe mishap

In Gaza, Boxer wore a helmet and bulletproof vest. But there was a miscommunication on his attire with Dilmoni.

“Before I went, I asked what I should wear, and he said to wear black,” Boxer said. “So, I wore jeans and a black shirt. He said I looked like Hamas. So, he said I should stay close to him.”

Generally, only certain journalists for top news organizations are given permission to embed with the Israeli army. When asked how unusual it was for a person like Boxer to do so, an IDF media representative told JNS that it frequently gives journalists a chance to embed, though did not elaborate on civilians.

Boxer told JNS that he thinks the IDF needed donations of drones to quickly avoid bureaucratic red tape.

His sense after spending time on the ground is that Israeli soldiers are up to the task, although the fighting is intricate and difficult.

“The morale is high,” he said. “The feeling is we are winning. But it isn’t easy.”

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  • Words count:
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    Update Desk
  • Publication Date:
    February 27, 2024
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Hamas said in a statement that Biden “bears full responsibility for the death of U.S. Army pilot Aaron Bushnell due to its policy that supported the Nazi-Zionist entity in its war of extermination against our Palestinian people.”

Hamas said Bushnell gave his life “to shed light on the Zionist massacres and ethnic cleansing against our people in the Gaza Strip.”

Cornel West, the far-left independent 2024 presidential candidate, similarly offered praise, writing on X: “Let us never forget the extraordinary courage and commitment of brother Aaron Bushnell who died for truth and justice! I pray for his precious loved ones! Let us rededicate ourselves to genuine solidarity with Palestinians undergoing genocidal attacks in real time!”

https://twitter.com/cornelwest/status/1762218781299122653

Dr. Jill Stein, a presidential candidate for the far-left Green Party, wrote on X: “Rest in power Aaron Bushnell” and “May his sacrifice deepen our commitment to stop genocide now.”

Antisemitic rock artist Roger Waters posted a video of Bushnell killing himself as the Pink Floyd song “The Gunners Dream” played in the background. Waters wrote that Bushnell was an “All American Hero.”

A friend has described Bushnell as an anarchist. Unverified postings on Reddit also suggest staunch anti-Israel views. In a posting responding to someone describing the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on civilians and tourists, Acebush1—an account identified as Bushnell’s that has since been wiped—wrote: “There are no Israeli ‘civilians’ or tourists who have no part in the oppression of Palestine.”

The user claimed that since he was not Palestinian, he was “in no position to endorse or condemn Hamas’ actions,” that “there are no Israelis without the genocide of the Palestinian people” and that “Israel is a settler colonialist apartheid state.”

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  • Words count:
    488 words
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    Update Desk
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  • Publication Date:
    February 27, 2024

It took a media inquiry to the New York governor’s office for a BDS group to be condemned and threatened with legal action by a state university.

“SUNY BDS” sprung up about a month ago, purporting to represent all 64 State University of New York branches in a hateful campaign against Israel. The BDS movement calls for the boycott and divestment from and sanctions on Israel.

Unauthorized by any campus or state system entity, the group has been using the SUNY name and other trademarks without permission.

It bills itself as “SUNY students, staff, faculty and alumni working to make New York State divest from Israeli apartheid.” It describes Israel as a “murderous settler colonial and genocidal state project.”

Like many anti-Israel organizations, SUNY BDS puts the word “Israel” in quotes, signaling it doesn’t recognize the existence of the Jewish state.

The group accused New York Gov. Kathy Hochul of illegally attempting to block the virulently antisemitic Students for Justice in Palestine organization from opening a campus chapter. SJP has been suspended by Columbia University and other institutions for the use of anti-Jewish rhetoric, threats and intimidation.

SUNY BDS also alleges ties between SUNY and Israel through university partnerships, including to “the weapons manufacturers supporting Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.”

Evidence for such claims is unclear.

After an inquiry from the New York Post, Hochul’s office issued a statement denouncing the group’s activity and messaging.

“To be clear, both Governor Hochul and the SUNY System do not endorse this group or their mission,” wrote a representative for Hochul, noting that she has “repeatedly condemned all forms of antisemitism and has taken significant steps to keep our students safe, including launching a nation-leading initiative to combat hate crimes, investing hundreds of millions of dollars to protect schools, places of worship and community centers and advancing a comprehensive plan to eradicate hate and bias at public colleges in New York.”

‘Using intellectual property’

Hochul, who made a solidarity trip to Israel in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks, has come under fire in recent days after stating that “there would be no more Canada” if that country perpetrated a massacre against the United States on the level of Hamas’s, signaling support for Israel’s military operations against Hamas in Gaza.

Additionally, SUNY sent a cease-and-desist letter to SUNY BDS, warning it against “using intellectual property” of the state university system.

“It has come to our attention that your unincorporated organization, SUNY BDS, uses images and other written references that utilize one or more SUNY trademarks,” wrote Kapil Longani, senior vice chancellor for legal affairs and general counsel.

SUNY made it clear that the group must “cease and desist from all further use of the SUNY name, the SUNY trademarks and any other designations likely to cause confusion with same.”

The letter further cautioned that SUNY “takes an aggressive position against infringement of its intellectual property.”

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  • Words count:
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    Video Page
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    February 27, 2024

JNS CEO and Jerusalem bureau chief Alex Traiman and Middle East correspondent Josh Hasten discuss U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement that building in the West Bank is not "compatible" with international law and his reversal of the Pompeo doctrine. They analyze the timing of such a statement in the middle of a war and right after a terrorist attack last week on the highway between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim.

https://youtu.be/Ra9XYyBYg1A

They also delve into escalation to the north by the Israel Defense Forces against Hezbollah rocket and missile attacks launched from Lebanon; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan for the Gaza Strip after the war with Hamas ends; and the IDF military operation set for the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Don’t miss the up-to-the-minute news on “Jerusalem Minute!”

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https://youtu.be/Ra9XYyBYg1A
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    Update Desk
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Multiple antisemitic incidents and displays of anti-Israel activism have led a group of students to meet with administrators at the University of Virginia and seek action.

Joel Nied, an attorney, accompanied the students to their meeting and described the environment they have been experiencing since the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7, which led to the deaths of 1,200 people. “There is this movement on campus that is blatantly antisemitic,” he said.

He described how some Jewish students had been “spat upon, shoved, that have been called horrible names, antisemitic slurs.” Nied said that one student “has been so intimidated by students in his dorm, for peace of mind he has to move off campus and sleep elsewhere and stop wearing his yarmulke.” 

He reported that others “feel they need to tuck their jewelry, their Jewish stars into their sweaters and shirts so no one sees them. So, they’re hiding. They’re hiding their identity.”

Additional events raising alarm bells include some professors canceling classes in support of Palestine and a vote scheduled to take place on Wednesday—co-sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine—for the university to divest from Israel.

A faculty statement released after Oct. 7 advocated for the atrocity “to be viewed in context,” as Nied described—a word that would be hammered back to three university presidents two months later on Dec. 5, during a nearly four-hour-long U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on campus antisemitism.

“I don’t know how anybody can try to contextualize what happened on Oct. 7 other than looking at it for what it was. It was a barbaric horrible attack. There’s no justification.”

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  • Words count:
    585 words
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    Opinion
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  • Publication Date:
    February 27, 2024

With settlers in the headlines because of recent U.S. sanctions on four Israelis in Judea and Samaria who have been linked to violent attacks against Palestinians and talk about a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, one would think it was enough unwelcome news for the week. But now along comes U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and his criticism of Israel’s announced plan to add 3,000 homes to settlements in Judea and Samaria.

Saying that Israel’s expansion of settlements in the territories was “inconsistent with international law,” Blinken, in effect, reversed the position of the Trump administration. In November 2019, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that Israeli settlements were not “inconsistent with international law.”

Not only is the expansion illegal, according to Blinken, but in Washington’s judgment, “this only weakens, doesn’t strengthen Israel’s security,” he said. Thanks for that advice, Mr. Secretary, but perhaps the question of what steps strengthen the security of the Jewish state is something better left for Jerusalem’s leadership to decide.

When declaring the expansion of existing settlements and the possible creation of new communities in Judea and Samaria illegal, on just what is Blinken basing his decision? Previous critics of settlements and their expansion leaned heavily on the Oslo Accords to support their positions. And while the addition or expansion of Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria is often blamed for Oslo’s failure, the fact remains that there is nothing in those agreements that prohibits either construction within or the creation of new communities in Judea and Samaria.

Palestinian violence directed against Israelis in the territories as well as in Israel’s cities is what destroyed Oslo, not the construction of a home in Efrat, Itamar, Elazar or anywhere else. To imply otherwise creates a moral equivalence between murder and housing construction. One may disagree with construction in this or that territory. But to suggest that simply building a house—anywhere in areas under Israel’s control—is comparable to the taking of innocent human lives in terror attacks is just plain wrong.

Rather than sanctioning settlers and calling Israel’s housing plans “inconsistent with international law,” I would like Blinken to shift his focus and direct his attention to what the United States is doing and can do to secure the release of American and Israeli hostages who have been held in the dungeons of Gaza in unspeakable conditions for the past five months. Israel knows that it cannot rely on the United Nations or the International Red Cross to get information about the hostages, and depending on Qatar—a Hamas supporter—to play the honest broker is a decision for Israel’s political and security experts to make. However, the United States does have a significant role to play by putting direct pressure on Hamas leadership.

How so? The monetary sanctions previously announced against Hamas leadership are just one tool in the anti-terrorism tool kit. I’m suggesting that Washington hold them criminally responsible for the taking of Americans as hostages by issuing indictments and arrest warrants for Ismail Haniyeh and Mousa Abu Marzouk, living in luxury in Qatar; and Marwan Issa, Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, who are somewhere underground in Gaza.

U.S. law allows it, so why not use it?

If Blinken is serious about American support for Israel and its right to defend itself against atrocities such as those witnessed on Oct. 7, then delegitimizing settlements is not the road to travel.

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  • Words count:
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    Update Desk
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    February 27, 2024
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After using its veto power three times to block U.N. Security Council resolutions pushing for an immediate ceasefire to the war in Gaza—backed by Arab states—Washington is circulating a revised version of its own resolution.

The United States is calling for a ceasefire in Gaza only after the conclusion of diplomatic efforts. In so doing, it has found itself increasingly isolated from the 15-member body but has largely stuck to its guns.

The freshly drafted text states that the council “unequivocally supports international diplomatic efforts to expeditiously and urgently conclude and begin implementing an agreement for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza together with the release of all hostages as soon as possible.”

It describes the ceasefire and the release of hostages as “necessary steps to help create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities and lasting peace.”

Washington initially unveiled a draft to counter an Algeria-written resolution that was vetoed last week by Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the global body. Diplomats on the council immediately protested a large number of conditions attached to the U.S. texts, including for humanitarian aid going into Gaza and support for a temporary ceasefire “when practicable.”

The new document also emphasizes the urgent need to scale up the delivery of assistance into Gaza and demands that all parties cooperate with Sigrid Kaag, the U.N. point woman on Gaza aid and reconstruction.

However, the draft resolution language has not changed much with respect to a potential Israeli military operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in the enclave.

The original draft stated that it “underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.” The new text says that such an offensive should not proceed “until the safety and well-being of civilians can be ensured.” 

That addition is unlikely to placate critics, who believe that Washington will still give Israel a green light for an offensive, despite the Biden administration’s protests that a proper evacuation of the city must take place first.

The new text also supports an investigation of the scandal-plagued UNRWA—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East—demanding accountability for agency workers found to have participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

The draft resolution also condemns statements by Israeli government ministers that it says call for the resettlement of Gaza residents outside of the coastal enclave or the establishment of new Jewish communities in the Strip.

The United States has requested that any council members wishing to comment on the new text due so by the end of the day on Tuesday.

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  • Words count:
    229 words
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    Update Desk
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  • Publication Date:
    February 27, 2024

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a list of demands for Israel to support the Palestinian economy in Judea and Samaria.

The United States “urged the Israeli government to release clearance revenue to the Palestinian Authority to fund basic services and to bolster the economy in the West Bank,” Yellen said on Tuesday during a press conference in Brazil ahead of a G20 finance meeting.

The statement and letter appear to be the most direct public concerns that Yellen has raised about the state of the Palestinian economy since Oct. 7.

“I also recently outlined in a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu a number of steps that the United States believes must be taken, including reinstating work permits for Palestinians and reducing barriers to commerce within the West Bank,” she said.

Israel collects so-called “clearance revenue” taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, the P.A.'s main source of income. The P.A. said in November that it would refuse to accept the transferred funds after Israel announced that it was deducting a portion of the revenue intended for Gaza.

Yellen said on Tuesday that a deal had been reached to transfer the funds, which have started to flow.

“These actions are vital for the economic well-being of Palestinians and Israelis alike,” she said.

https://twitter.com/SecYellen/status/1762500466821202031
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  • Words count:
    653 words
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    News
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    February 27, 2024
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Iran-backed terror groups are plotting to turn the Islamic holy month of Ramadan into the "second phase of Oct. 7" and set the Middle East on fire, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant charged on Tuesday.

"The main goal of Hamas is to take Ramadan, with an emphasis on the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and turn it into the second phase of their plan that began on Oct. 7. This is the main goal of Hamas, and it is being amplified by Iran and Hezbollah,” Gallant said following a situational assessment at the Israel Defense Forces' Central Command, which is responsible for Judea and Samaria.

"We cannot let them have this, and that means we need to do everything we can to bring calm to the area," Gallant continued.

"We must not give Hamas what it failed to achieve during the beginning of the war and [let it achieve] 'unity of the battlefields,'" he added, in reference to the terror group's attempts to spark a multi-front war.

https://twitter.com/yoavgallant/status/1762537912694915375

Judea and Samaria saw a dramatic rise in terrorist attacks in 2023 compared to the previous year, with shootings reaching their highest level since the Second Intifada of 2000-05, IDF data shows.

The violence has continued to escalate in the months since Hamas started a war with its murderous rampage across the northwestern Negev on Oct. 7. A total of 41 Israeli airstrikes have been carried out in Judea and Samaria since the start of the war, as well as more than 200 counterterror operations in Palestinian towns.

Since Oct. 7, around 3,250 Palestinian terror suspects have been captured in arrest raids throughout Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley, including more than 1,350 who are associated with Hamas, the IDF said Tuesday.

In the Gaza Strip, IDF forces are closing in on the position of Hamas terror leader Yahya Sinwar, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing current and former Israeli officials familiar with the intelligence.

Sinwar is believed to be hiding in the vast tunnel systems underneath the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, where he has reportedly surrounded himself with a large number of living hostages, the officials confirmed.

"It's not about locating him, it's about doing something" without risking the lives of the hostages, one senior Israeli official told the newspaper.

However, the operation in Gaza cannot conclude until Sinwar is captured, killed, or removed from power, officials stressed to The Washington Post.

Speaking at a World Zionist Organization conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday, IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari vowed to get to Sinwar "dead or alive."

"We are fighting Hamas from the north to the south," Hagari told attendees. "We will finish in Rafah; it is an important city—there are hostages in Rafah," Hagari was quoted as saying. The city of Rafah is the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza and could be the key to ending the war.

Israel Defense Forces activity in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 27, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Last month, the army launched a massive assault in Khan Yunis, killing scores of terrorist operatives, including company commanders. During previous operations in Khan Yunis that took place in the first weeks of the Gaza offensive, more than 300 tunnels had already been located.

Soldiers of the Maglan and Egoz commando units continue to operate in the western part of the city, the IDF revealed on Tuesday, noting that troops are killing and arresting "dozens" of Hamas terrorists every day.

In Khan Yunis, troops found loaded weapons under beds in civilian homes, as well as rockets, grenades, launchers, explosive belts, shoulder missiles and other terror equipment.

Hamas started the war on Oct. 7 when it led a mass attack on the northwestern Negev, killing 1,200 people, wounding thousands more and kidnapping 253. Israel conducted an aerial campaign against Hamas in the weeks after the massacre, which paved the way for the ground offensive that started on Oct. 27.

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