Rescued hostages Andrey Kozlov, Almog Meir Jan and Shlomi Ziv arrive at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, June 8, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
  • Words count:
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  • Publication Date:
    June 13, 2024
Headline
Rescued hostages suffered ‘severe psychological abuse’ in captivity
Intro
New details have filtered out about the torments the rescued hostages experienced at the hands of their captors.
text

While Israeli security officials have requested that the four hostages rescued by the Israel Defense Forces on Saturday keep their experiences secret, some details have nevertheless emerged.

The four—Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 40appeared to be in good health when first seen on camera on June 8, the day of the raid.

But two days later, Dr. Itay Pessach of the Sheba Medical Center revealed they were in a “state of severe malnutrition."

"They all suffered from all types of abuse—physical abuse and mental abuse, and for a long time,” he said. “We’ve heard stories that are beyond anything you can imagine.”

Details will take time to come out. More than a month passed before the full picture emerged of what hostages had endured following an earlier prisoner swap. It turned out they suffered torture, sexual abuse, lack of food and medical care. 

In a Wednesday interview with Channel 12, Kozlov's girlfriend, Jennifer Master, revealed that Kozlov couldn't join the interview due to his weakened condition.

"He blames himself for being kidnapped...He just came back a fragile and different person," she said.

"They were subjected to very, very severe psychological abuse, more than the physical," she added.

As an example, terrorists would tell him that his government wanted him dead, she said.

In terms of physical punishment, terrorists would pile blankets on him during the hottest part of the day and lock him in the bathroom if he forgot to knock before requesting to be let out.

Although they had only been together for three months prior to his kidnapping by Hamas, Master became a spokesperson for his release at demonstrations and in media interviews.

Jennifer Master (r) with Andrey Kozlov's mother, Yevgenia, at a demonstration for the hostages. Credit: Instagram/bringhomenow.

That Kozlov was originally from Russia didn't help him at all. In fact, it worked against him. The terrorists said that the other hostages were born Israelis but he had chosen to come to Israel, which made him more guilty in their eyes.

"Why did you come to Israel? Don't you know it's an occupation," they would tell him, she said.

Kozlov was held together with Jan and Ziv the entire eight months. They became close friends and that helped them through the captivity.

“Sometimes the terrorists abused us but we remained strong and supported each other very much. We are very united,” Jan told Channel 12 in an earlier interview.

Jan's uncle said the three "hadn't seen the sun for eight months."

Argamani was held separately. Little is yet known of what she went through.

All four had been at the Nova music festival near Kibbutz Re'im, where 364 of the 1,200 people killed by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 met their end. Kozlov was working security at the event.

Netanyahu Noa Argamani
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with rescued hostage Noa Argamani at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel on June 8, 2024. Credit: Maayan Toaf/GPO.

Sadly, Jan's father, Yossi Meir, 59, died only hours before his son was rescued. Reports said he had "died of grief" due to his son's capture and had lost 44 pounds.

Argamani's mother, Liora, who suffers from terminal cancer, had her final wished fulfilled when she was reunited with her daughter.

“Unfortunately, her mother is in very poor condition,” Noa's father, Yaakov, told Ynet. “She barely looked at Noa. They met after eight months, but it was very difficult.”

He said he believed that his wife understood, however. “There was a kind of response. Liora understood but simply couldn’t express her emotions or say what she had longed to tell Noa when she finally met her.”

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  • Words count:
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  • Publication Date:
    July 23, 2024
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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will be absent from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Though it is customary for vice presidents who additionally serve as presidents of the Senate to attend speeches by foreign leaders, she has declined to preside over the session in question.

An aide to Harris told The New York Times on Monday that her absence will be due to a scheduling conflict and does not reflect a change in her position vis-a-vis Israel.

Two people familiar with the plans for the speech told the Times that Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and is a Jewish pro-Israel Democrat, will sit beside House Speaker Mike Johnson and behind Netanyahu during the address.

Harris is, however, scheduled to meet with Netanyahu during his visit to Washington this week.

President Joe Biden endorsed Harris to lead the Democratic ticket this November against Republican challenger Donald Trump for the White House after dropping out of the race on Sunday.

Biden is also scheduled to meet with Netanyahu at the White House, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken likely in attendance.

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  • Words count:
    2272 words
  • Type of content:
    Opinion
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  • Publication Date:
    July 23, 2024

How should freedom of speech and expression on the internet be handled? The stakes are enormous; there is no forum for speech and expression as public and globalized as the internet. Governmental efforts to regulate speech online have inevitably run into the same set of domestic and international barriers, from simple inability to control online content produced abroad to constitutional limitations.

Which brings us to Meta’s Oversight Board, an initiative by the social media giant that some have likened to a content moderation “supreme court.” The Oversight Board is an independent trust funded by Meta to render binding decisions on appeals against content removal on Meta’s platforms (e.g., Facebook, Instagram), as well as to make recommendations on broader policy questions. It has been billed as an alternative solution in the absence of governmental regulation on how to handle hate speech, incitement, disinformation and other challenges that arise with online speech.

But the Oversight Board’s handling of a recent policy question, on how to moderate the term “shaheed,” helps illustrate why it is not the answer.

In effect, the Board aims to take questions of great public importance and put them in the hands of just a few individuals, largely from ideologically similar backgrounds, in a manner that lacks real transparency and standards. That some members of the board have themselves glorified terrorists only raises further doubts about the board’s moderation recommendations in relation to glorification, legitimization and incitement to terrorism.

For context, in February 2023 Meta referred to the Oversight Board the question of how to moderate the term “shaheed,” Arabic for “martyr,” given its frequent use as a term of praise for terrorists. Meta presented three possible policy options and asked the Oversight Board to share its views on them. For present purposes, there is no need to get into the substance of the debate, except to note that the Board’s answer was that even the most lenient option—which went so far as to allow for the term to be used in reference to designated terrorists—wasn’t lenient enough.

Shortly after the referral, the Oversight Board invited the public to make written submissions on the question. Over 100 submissions were sent, including one from CAMERA and another from CAMERA Arabic. This process was laudable, although it suffered from some constraints. Strict length limits meant participants were forced to reduce a complex issue to just a couple of pages. It also meant participants were not given an opportunity to engage with each other’s arguments and pull out their respective strengths and weaknesses. But as long as all those participating were subject to the same limitations it would be hard to criticize the process as unfair.

Unfortunately, there was more.

Unannounced to the public, and unbeknownst to at least some of those who had made written submissions, the Oversight Board also held a series of “stakeholder engagement roundtables,” interactive discussions where participants could more dynamically engage over the pros and cons of the policy options. The existence of these secretive roundtables was only announced publicly after the Board had already made its final decision.

Shortly after the decision was announced, the Board held a private briefing (held under Chatham House Rules) with those who made public comments. During this briefing, CAMERA inquired as to how the Board decided who to invite to these secretive roundtables and who would be kept in the dark. After all, the roundtable format would enable those stakeholders invited to more robustly and comprehensively engage with the policy questions. Was there a fair process to ensure diverse points of view were included?

The answer, it turns out, was that there was no process. Nameless staff, operating behind the scenes, decided who to invite, and no real explanation was ever given as to how they made their decisions.

This is concerning for several major reasons.

For one, certain voices are being given an advantage. Worse, we have no reason to believe that those voices were selected for any legitimate reason other than favoritism.

For another, there’s a lack of transparency regarding an important part of the process whereby the Oversight Board arrives at its decisions. The Board boasts that it has “opened a space for transparent dialogue with the company [Meta] that did not previously exist,” and yet has not shown transparency in its own deliberations and dialogue with stakeholders.

True, transparency is not always realistic. Concerns over a lack of transparency can be alleviated, however, when an organization has established credibility. The public must have a reason to trust in the fairness and professionalism of the process.

Unfortunately, that is missing here, too, in no small part due to the ideological conformity of many of the Board and staff members.

To be clear, many of the Board members and staff are well-intentioned and competent individuals. But what is clear from their backgrounds is that there is an ideological skew, and while there are a handful of ideologically diverse individuals, they appear as a façade of intellectual diversity against a background of ideological homogeneity. No matter how unimpeachable the integrity and intellect of individuals, echo chambers will negatively affect the quality and perception of their work. This is especially so when that work is to steer how speech is moderated online, affecting an enormously diverse range of voices and perspectives.

To give some perspective on the bias, one report, by Real Clear Investigations, discovered that 18 of the 20 members of the Oversight Board “collaborated with or are tied to groups that have received funding from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.” While there is a fair amount of overwrought conspiracy theorizing about Soros’s foundation, it should go without saying that Open Society Foundations is a nakedly partisan foundation that funds projects it believes will advance its ideological goals. That 90% of the Board have some connection to this funding alone suggests a concerning ideological skew.

An open-source review of the backgrounds of members and staff of the Oversight Board further evidences this homogeneity. A handful of activist organizations come up again and again on their LinkedIn profiles, such as the United Nations, the Open Society FoundationsSave the ChildrenAmnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch (which has been waging a campaign accusing Meta of “silencing” Palestinian voices via its moderation policies surrounding terrorism), and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

These are organizations which, despite their names and whatever good intentions they may have, are “deeply infected by antiliberal forces,” to borrow the words of one industry veteran. As has been well-documented by CAMERA and other organizations, they are also nakedly partisan and prone to making numerous and often significant errors in the same partisan direction. They are notorious for purveying a highly politicized form of human rights discourse that is often divorced from both common sense and actual international law. In short, the board is full of individuals who hail from a particular “human rights” institutionalist perspective which comes with a host of controversial and ideological baggage.

Given the secrecy and the partisan bent of the Board, it’s a reasonable assumption that these roundtables were similarly skewed and thus failed to provide the Board with a truly representative, intellectually rigorous debate. What little we know of their nature and format only reinforces this assumption.

In total, five roundtables were held: three “regional roundtables” and two “thematic roundtables.” The three regional roundtables “prioritize[ed] geographies where ‘shaheed’ ... [is] commonly used,” resulting in roundtables for the “Southwest Asia and North Africa,” the “Sub-Saharan Africa,” and the “South/Southeast Asia” regions. That is, the Board sought out regions with large Muslim populations, notwithstanding that these regions collectively accounted for just 19% of the written submissions. This is despite Islamist terrorism being a global phenomenon, affecting people far beyond those regions.

There’s also reason to doubt that diverse viewpoints were sought out even within those selective regions. CAMERA Arabic—one of the few Israel-based Zionist organizations with expertise in the Arabic language which had made a submission—was never informed of this roundtable, despite being from Southwest Asia.

Then there were the “thematic roundtables,” one of which perhaps best illustrates the failure: the “Counterterrorism and Human Rights” roundtable. According to the Board itself, they invited a single, unnamed “international civil society organization” to attend. Few topics are as controversial, including in professional and academic circles, as terrorism and human rights. Yet the Oversight Board sought out only a single organizational perspective, meaning the Board deprived itself of the benefit of the many legitimate alternative perspectives and counterarguments to analyze the issues with various policy options.

Unfortunately, the problems go even further than biases and a lack of transparency and fairness. There are also concerns over what look like potential conflicts of interest and compliance with the organization’s own bylaws.

Nighat Dad, a board member, is also the executive director of the Digital Rights Foundation, which made a submission in line with the Board’s ultimate recommendation. So too did the organization Access Now, which Oversight Board member Ronaldo Lemos had previously served as a board member. In September 2023, board member Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei and Deputy Vice President for Content Review and Policy Abigail Bridgman spoke alongside the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) at a conference on “internet freedom.” EFF also made a submission similar in substance to the Board’s ultimate decision.

Whether the Board considered these potential conflicts of interest and took steps to mitigate them is unclear and left unexplained in its public documentation relating to the policy recommendation.

But perhaps the most alarming evidence of a problem among the board is that some members—who are making recommendations on how to handle content moderation relating to incitement, terrorism and hate speech—have themselves glorified terrorism.

Nighat Dad, for example, has glorified both the notorious antisemite Refaat Alareer and the terrorist Hamza al-Dahdouh (see also here). Another board member, Khaled Mansour, has claimed that Hezbollah has fought Israel “heroically” (with a half-hearted hedge “and sometimes ... terroristically”) and writes of Palestinian terrorism (“armed resistance,” as he calls it) as mere “details and tactics” that one should “not get bogged down in.”

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, another board member, served as the CEO of Save the Children during a period in which the organization was caught collaborating with kindergartens that held graduation ceremonies that included “mock killing and kidnapping of Israelis by children dressed as combatants.” According to NGO Monitor, they were also collaborating during that period with at least one other organization connected to an internationally designated terrorist organization.

All of this is also on top of the noticeable biases, and lack of credibility, relating more specifically to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which—by the board’s own admission—played a central role in their deliberations over the “shaheed” case.

Board members Endy Bayuni and Tawakkol Karman have openly lobbed the objectively absurd accusation of “genocide” against Israel. Karman further claims Israel is engaged in an “unjust aggressive war” in Gaza—notwithstanding it was Hamas who attacked Israel—and celebrates the idea of Israel being a “mere pariah state,” which she accuses of being composed of a “terrorist government” and a “criminal army.” Julie Owono enthusiastically endorses the idea that Wikipedia—a notoriously biased resource which just banned the Jewish civil rights organization, the Anti-Defamation League, from being used as a source of information—is a reliable source of information about the war between Israel and Hamas.

Board member Alan Rusbridger, a former editor at the notorious left-wing and anti-Israel outlet The Guardian, has justified Hamas’s brutal atrocities on Oct. 7 by claiming it “most certainly did not happen in a vacuum.”

Similar biases can also be found among staff as well, with connections to anti-Israel organizations like those listed above, as well as Islamic Relief WorldwideMiddle East EyeJ Street and the International Commission of Jurists.

Which brings us back to the questions of trust, standards and transparency. If the Oversight Board wants the trust of the public, and social media companies, to handle difficult questions of content moderation, then it must give us reasons to trust its professionalism, expertise and fairness. The Board has repeatedly criticized Meta for an alleged lack of transparency in its policies around terrorist organizations, and yet the Board itself falls well short of transparency in how it handles its own decision making and dialogue with stakeholders.

Whether the Board came to the right decision in the “shaheed” case is ultimately a matter of some reasonable debate. But the Board’s questionable handling of the public engagement process does not inspire confidence that the issues are being fairly or fully considered. With upcoming Board recommendations on moderating the phrase “from the river to the sea” and how to handle the use of the term “Zionists” when compared to criminality, it is clear that the Board seeks to have an enormous influence on online expression relating to Israel and antisemitism. As antisemitism and anti-Israel extremism surge, this should be concerning to all.

If the Board wishes to build the credibility it desires, it will need to reconsider its process. Trust is earned, not given. In this context, that trust will require a credible and transparent process.

Originally published by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis.

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  • Words count:
    475 words
  • Type of content:
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  • Publication Date:
    July 23, 2024

Talks between Google and Israeli cybersecurity startup Wiz over a possible $23 billion acquisition have fallen apart, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

If a deal had been reached, it would have represented Google parent company Alphabet's biggest-ever acquisition (scorching the previous record of $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility in 2012).

In an email to employees on Monday, Wiz Chief Executive Assaf Rappaport said the company is now planning an initial public offering.

“Wizards, I know the last week has been intense, with the buzz about a potential acquisition,” he wrote. “While we are flattered by offers we have received, we have chosen to continue on our path to building Wiz.”

Rappaport said Wiz intends to reach $1 billion in annual recurring revenue ahead of the IPO.

Its current annual recurring revenue is half that, the Journal reported.

Still, the company hopes to reach the $1 billion mark within the next year and an IPO in the next few years, a source told the Journal.

The paper noted the companies could return to talks as deals of such scale are unpredictable.

Wiz would have helped Google bolster its cloud computing offerings, a field where it trails the competition, Amazon.com and Microsoft.

Google has shown interest in the Israeli market, in 2013 purchasing Waze for $1.1 billion, creating the Jewish state’s first domestic unicorn (a startup reaching $1 billion in valuation without being listed on the stock market).

While Wiz is headquartered in New York City with nearly a thousand employees scattered across North America and Europe, most of its engineering team is based in Tel Aviv, where the 40-year-old Israeli co-founder and CEO Assaf Rappaport was born.

Since its founding in Israel in 2020, the economic worth of the firm, which offers cybersecurity software for cloud computing, has skyrocketed. The company in May announced a funding round of $1 billion at a staggering $12 billion valuation.

According to Wiz, the company hit $100 million in annual recurring revenue after 18 months and in February of this year reached $350 million in annual recurring revenue, with a 40% market share of Fortune 100 customers.

Wiz already partners with Google and other leading cloud companies, including Amazon and Microsoft.

It plans to hire 400 more people in 2024.

In February 2023, Wiz announced it was transferring its funds out of Israel due to concerns over judicial reform.

The funds would be transferred to bank accounts around the world, Wiz said.

It joined Papaya Global and Disruptive Technologies Venture Capital, which all withdrew holdings from Israel.

Wiz claimed Israeli tech would be harmed if the reforms were implemented Israel’s standing as a tech hub could be harmed.

Judical reform was derailed by the social unrest orchestrated by anti-government groups, which organized protests and acts of civil disobedience.

The outbreak of war following the Hamas invasion of Oct. 7 put an end to the government's effort to overhaul Israel's judicial system.

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  • Words count:
    358 words
  • Type of content:
    Update Desk
  • Publication Date:
    July 23, 2024

The Palestinians on Monday reiterated their call to ban Israeli athletes from competing in the Paris Olympics over the Jewish state’s war against Hamas in Gaza, sparked by the terror group’s massacre of 1,200 people in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The Palestine Olympic Committee (POC) said on Monday that it had sent a letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach, asking him to bar Israel from the international tournament.

According to the POC, the Israelis are in violation of the Olympic Truce due to the war in Gaza.

The letter stated, “Palestinian athletes, particularly those in Gaza, are denied safe passage and have suffered significantly due to ongoing conflict.”

It also claimed that “approximately 400 Palestinian athletes have been killed, and the destruction of sports facilities exacerbates the plight of athletes who are already under severe restrictions.”

The letter additionally cited last week’s International Court of Justice non-binding opinion declaring Israeli “occupation” of Judea and Samaria to be “unlawful.”

Israeli delegation arrives in Paris

The Israeli and Palestinian delegations arrived at the French capital on Monday to prepare for the event.

Before departing for France, Israel Olympic Committee President Yael Arad said at Ben-Gurion International Airport that it was a “victory” for the 88-strong delegation to be heading to the illustrious sports event.

Members of Israel's women's Judo athletes and training team participating in the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games pose for a group picture ahead of departure at the Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, July 22, 2024. Photo by Jorge Novominsky/AFP via Getty Images.

“Our first victory is that we are here and going and that we didn’t give up and have been competing in hundreds of competitions since Oct. 7,” Arad told reporters.

Arad also discussed the increased security for Israeli athletes in Paris.

“It’s no secret that these Olympic Games are a little more difficult for all of us. But we have full confidence in the organization of security,” Arad added.

“We feel like emissaries of the State of Israel,” she said. “Our athletes are here to accomplish their dreams, but there is an additional dimension, that of a national mission.”

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  • Words count:
    422 words
  • Type of content:
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  • Publication Date:
    July 23, 2024
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An exhibit marking the one-year anniversary of the Hamas massacre will be open to the public on Oct. 7.

The exhibit, sponsored by the Israel Military Intelligence Directorate, will display never-before-seen evidence from the day on which the terrorist group ruling Gaza committed the worst atrocities against Jews since the Holocaust.

The evidence includes weapons used by the terrorists, such as: Bangalore torpedoes for breaching fences and walls; rocket-propelled grenades; AK-47 gas-operated assault rifles; bayonets; thermobaric bombs; hand grenades; and Improvised Explosive Devices.

Also on display are various types of headbands worn by terrorists affiliated with different groups; two of the 350 motorcycles used by the terrorists during their rampage, after they infiltrated southern Israel at 30 different points along the border; and “hostage-taking kits”—replete with zip ties, drug-filled syringes and tasers—found in terrorists’ backpacks.

In addition, there are reams of documents. These include a note found on one of the terrorists in Sderot, which reads, “Commander’s message: Know that this enemy of yours is an incurable disease, except for head decapitation and uprooting hearts and livers," as well as transliterated Hebrew phrases in Arabic letters, such as, "women here," "children here," "take off your pants" and "take off your clothes."

Other documents include a detailed layout of a training area designed to look like a kibbutz, plans for where to kidnap civilians and a map of Kibbutz Be’eri with neighborhoods and homes clearly marked.

The map, which the terrorist on whom it was found attempted to tear up before it was discovered, shows different entry points into the kibbutz—garnered by Gazan laborers with permits who did work on the kibbutz. The purposely targeted area on Be’eri was on the southern side of the kibbutz, where families with young children lived.

Then there is material gathered from inside Gaza. This includes copies of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf in Arabic and proof of terrorists’ employment at UNRWA.

 “What happened on Oct. 7 was a very well-planned massacre, and we captured evidence found in Israeli territory and inside Gaza,” Major “T” told JNS during a preview for journalists. “There are vehicles, weapons, pictures and, of course, video clips filmed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Terrorists.”

The purpose of opening the exhibit to the general public, he said, “is hasbara (public diplomacy) for our allies. It’s important for people to witness what happened, because there’s so much denial surrounding it.”

The exhibit will open on Oct. 7, 2024 at the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center (IICC) in Ramat Hasharon.

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  • Words count:
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    July 23, 2024
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Jewish American Actor and comedian Michael Rapaport is preparing for his first full-length stand-up performances in Israel.

The shows are scheduled for October 13 at the Jerusalem Theater and October 14, at Beit Hachayal in Tel Aviv.

Since Oct. 7, Rapaport has become one of Hollywood's most outspoken advocates for Israel.

He joined hundreds of industry colleagues in signing an open letter to President Joe Biden urging the immediate release of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

Rapaport's solidarity visit to Israel in the wake of the Oct. 7 massacre included meetings with hostages' families, social media campaigns and international interviews to promote the captives' release. His itinerary also featured a tour of Kibbutz Be'eri, one of the communities in hardest hit on Oct. 7, and an appearance on popular Israeli satire show "Eretz Nehederet," where he participated in a sketch portraying an Oscars host delivering a monologue critical of Hollywood figures.

Rapaport's collaborations with "Eretz Nehederet" have amassed tens of millions of views globally. He recorded several episodes of his podcast "I Am Rapaport" in Tel Aviv, and his vigorous social media presence has reached audiences worldwide.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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  • Words count:
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    July 23, 2024
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When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, hopes that the wartime premier will “really speak to the bipartisan consensus around Israel—that he will be able to bring together both sides around the existential struggle Israel is facing right now.”

Hauer told JNS that he hopes that Netanyahu will present a counter-narrative to the one that “has been peddled around and which is gaining far too much traction,” that Israel is the oppressor and the Palestinians the oppressed. 

Netanayhu should “tell patiently, convincingly, the story of the values which are being brought to bear by the Jewish people in response to this horrible, sustained attack on our very existence,” he said.

Matt Brooks, CEO of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told reporters in Milwaukee last week that he also hopes that Netanyahu will “help shift public opinion back to the horrors suffered by Israel.”

“This is not a war that Israel wanted,” he said. “This is not a war that Israel started.”

Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.), one of two Jewish House Republicans, told JNS last week that he thinks Netanyahu will address two points. 

“One is that Israel recognizes that the United States is Israel’s greatest ally, and he knows how the majority of the American people feel about Israel, and also feel about the Jewish people,” said Kustoff. 

The Tennessee Republican also thinks that Netanyahu “is going to continue to make the case that Israel and the United States must defeat terrorism down to its roots.”

‘Warmth’

Netanyahu need not come across as “mushy” or a “teddy bear” as he seeks to bridge Washington’s partisan divide with respect to the Jewish state, according to  Hauer. But the Orthodox Union leader is looking for “warmth” from the premier, he told JNS.

“He is completely capable of being very articulate and clear about the strength which America has led Israel to over time, and about the strength of their moral voice, and what a difference it has made to us,” said Hauer.

He cited the military assets that Washington provided Israel and the way that it backed the Jewish state in international fora in the opening days of the conflict.

“Yes, we wish some of the things that we asked from you would come faster and more completely, but there’s a pipeline for goodness' sake, and you have been providing for us, and we’re deeply appreciative of that,” Hauer said, channeling the tone he wants to hear from Netanyahu. 

Fruitful relationship

Speaking to reporters in Milwaukee last week, Brooks said that past Trump ire about his political rivals receiving credit—including Netanyahu’s routine congratulations to Biden after the latter won the 2020 election—was water under the bridge.

“I can assure you that he and the prime minister will have a very positive and productive working relationship,” Brooks told reporters of Trump. The RJC leader said that he has had conversations with both Trump and Netanyahu.

Brooks didn’t share details of conversations with Trump but claimed he could say with “absolute certainty” that the relationship, should Trump be re-elected, “will be productive, fruitful and pick up right where it left off.” 

Hauer asserted that the issue of concern over Trump’s reaction to praise for Biden in a speech could not simply be “cast aside.”

“This is a political season, and anything which he says is going to be used and reflected upon by candidates on both sides,” said Hauer. “I don't think it would be wise for anybody to put something like this aside for the day. To say that those considerations have to throttle him and has to stop them from being able to say clearly what ought to be said about America, about both sides of the aisle, I don't think it should get in the way.”

Antisemitism

Hauer told JNS that he hopes Netanyahu will devote more than just a “throwaway line” to surging Jew-hatred worldwide since Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attack.

“It’s just a fundamental issue that we are dealing with right now. This is an issue which has to be elevated in the eyes of Congress,” said Hauer. “When such a prominent leader within the Jewish people comes before them, for him not to focus on it would minimize the issue—one of the core issues that Congress has to be dealing with around the Jewish people.” 

Brooks hopes one takeaway from the address will be that the United States and its close ally share a common foe.

“Israel is fighting against Hamas, and it is the same fight that affects America and the west. This is not an Israel-only issue,” he said. “Israel’s fight is America’s fight. America’s fight is Israel’s fight.”

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An Israeli drone strike in the Samaria city of Tulkarem on Tuesday morning killed five terrorists, including two senior Hamas and Fatah operatives, according to Israeli and Palestinian media reports.

Among the dead are Ashraf Nafeh, the commander of the local arm of Hamas's Qassam Brigades, and Muhammad Abu Abdo, commander of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.

Earlier this month, an IDF soldier was killed and another seriously wounded by Palestinian terrorists in the Nur Shams camp, east of Tulkarem.

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

Since the beginning of the war with Hamas on Oct. 7, the IDF has carried out intensive ground operations in Samaria, arresting hundreds of suspects and dismantling terror infrastructure, including explosives buried under roads, intended to kill Israeli forces.

In June, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich urged immediate government action after Hamas terrorists fired across the security fence toward central Israel from Samaria two times within the span of a week.

“Terrorism must be eradicated everywhere, even if it means Tulkarem [in Samaria] will look like Gaza looks today,” said Smotrich, who oversees civilian issues in Judea and Samaria in the Defense Ministry.

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  • Words count:
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    July 23, 2024
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Democrats awoke on Monday feeling happier than they had in weeks. President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw from the presidential race relieved them of the burden of having to obfuscate the truth about a president suffering from an acute decline in mental acuity that they spent years denying and covering up. And by uniting around Vice President Kamala Harris as his replacement, they’ve ended their brief civil war about whether to give up on Biden.

But as a budding controversy about who should be the new Democratic vice-presidential candidate indicated, the left-wing baggage of Biden’s replacement may create new problems that will add to those of a campaign that still trails the Republicans, even without the burden of Biden as the nominee.

Though they have several practical reasons for eliminating any semblance of a democratic process by choosing Harris, tapping her for the nomination also raises some troubling questions about the present and future of the Democratic Party.

Tilting away from the center

The clearest sign that the Democrats were serious about defeating Donald Trump in 2020 was that they understood they needed to select a candidate other than the man who was the frontrunner after the early primaries: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt). Rather than offering a socialist alternative to Trump, they needed someone who could be perceived as centrist and not beholden to the party’s increasingly radical left wing. The only candidate who could be presented in that way was Biden. And, despite his lackluster showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, the party closed ranks behind him.

That’s not going to happen now, even though Harris is no more popular than Biden and the polls show her trailing Trump.

But passing over her in a process that sought to come up with the most plausible moderate, and therefore the most electable Democrat, would have been impossible in a party that has married itself to toxic left-wing ideologies about race. Simply put, there was no way a Democratic Party that has adopted the woke catechism of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and intersectionality as among its guiding principles—and which looks to African-American women as its most loyal voter group—would even consider snubbing a woman of color in that manner.

To note this is not to denigrate Harris because of her race or gender. And her opponents this fall would do well to avoid any comments that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as prejudicial or misogynist. It should also be acknowledged that Republicans should also take care not to underestimate her. Her nomination injects new life into a heretofore dispirited and divided party.

She has been every bit as unpopular as Biden and flopped whenever she was given responsibility to solve a problem, such as the administration’s scandalous open borders policy. But the comparison with a man who had trouble completing sentences is flattering to her, even though it’s a very low standard by which to judge a potential president.

Her main asset is that she is now the candidate of a party whose voters actually believe the hyperbole they’ve been fed about Trump and the Republicans being a threat to democracy. Having an alternative other than Biden will stoke their enthusiasm as well as their desperation, even if she is also burdened by having to defend the policies of an administration that has failed at home and abroad.

But the problem with Harris is that her rise gives the Democrats a candidate further to the left than anyone, other than Barack Obama, whom they’ve nominated for president in the last 50 years. But, unlike Obama, whose rhetorical brilliance and political smarts enabled him to pose as a man who wanted to erase the divisions between red and blue America even while exacerbating them, Harris is not someone who can play that game. Despite occasional efforts to play the moderate, she is inextricably linked to those elements in her party that are pushing the country further apart with terrible ideas and policies that divide us by race.

Attitudes toward Israel

The clearest indication of this has been her attitude toward Israel.

It was an open secret in Washington that even in an administration that was staffed largely by Obama-era alumni, Harris was the most openly sympathetic to the Palestinians and the least inclined to stand with a Jewish state that had suffered the worst mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust.

From the start of the war that was launched by Hamas on Oct. 7, she has been careful not to go too far in denouncing Israel’s effort to defeat the terrorists in Gaza, but she has also repeatedly recycled Hamas propaganda about Palestinian casualties. Though left-wing Jews are already mobilizing to loyally vouch for her, her position is essentially one of moral equivalence between Israel and the people who committed murder, rape, kidnapping and wanton destruction on Oct. 7, while supporting a genocidal terror group bent on Israel’s destruction.

Take, for example, the instances in which she stood silent while being subjected to lectures calling for Israel’s elimination, or in which she expressed her sympathy and understanding for left-wing antisemites who turned college campuses into no-go zones for Jews.

She is guilty of doing exactly what Democrats falsely claimed that Trump did with respect to the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. For Harris, these pro-Hamas demonstrators really are “very fine people.”

In addition, as Al Monitor has noted, she has a record of opposing an American policy that would get tough or punish the terror-supporting Islamist regime of Iran.

Just as troubling, she is the face, along with her Jewish husband, Doug Emhoff, of an announced administration effort to create a new national strategy for combating Islamophobia. The problem is not that such a plan follows an utterly toothless strategy against antisemitism that has failed to combat the surge in post-Oct. 7 Jew hatred.

It’s that the entire point of raising the utterly fallacious claim that there is an epidemic of prejudice against Muslims is to silence criticism of members of this group who engage in antisemitism. Almost all of what is labeled as Islamophobia is nothing more than taking note that elements of the Muslim community have been radicalized and support Islamist ideology and engage in open Jew-hatred and support for terror groups like Hamas.

This plays very well in places like Dearborn, Michigan, America’s “jihad capital,” to which the Biden administration sent envoys earlier this year to try to appease Muslim-Americans who were angry about the president’s on-again/off-again stance in favor of eradicating Hamas.

It also raises an interesting question about whom Harris will choose as her running mate.

Among the most promising candidates is Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro. The popular governor of a key swing state, Shapiro is politically moderate though reliably liberal on domestic issues. This makes him exactly what the Democrats ought to be seeking for the top of their ticket opposing Trump. But if that isn’t possible, he is a perfect running mate for Harris.

Is Shapiro’s religion a problem?

However, as CNN’s John King pointed out the day Biden withdrew, Shapiro’s religion might be a problem.

According to King, there were “risks” in nominating Shapiro for vice president because “he’s Jewish.”

King has been roundly denounced for this comment, but this criticism of one of the liberal network’s top political analysts (the ex-husband of CNN’s Dana Bash and the father of a Jewish child) is unfair. Though voicing it understandably raised some hackles, he was doing no more than stating the truth about the current state of the Democratic Party.

King was right that Shapiro may be simply too Jewish and too pro-Israel for a party whose principal worry is energizing a base dominated by left-wing Israel-haters. While there are still plenty of pro-Israel Democrats like Shapiro in Congress, much of the activist class of the Democrats has been indoctrinated in critical race theory, DEI and intersectionality, which all brand Israel and the Jews as “white" oppressors. As we’ve seen in the demonstrations on college campuses since Oct. 7, this grants a permission slip to antisemitism.

So, if Biden with his equivocal stance toward Israel was ludicrously labeled as “genocide Joe” by many in the Democrats’ intersectional base, one shudders to think what they’ll say or do at demonstrations at the party’s national convention in Chicago next month if Shapiro is tapped as Harris’s running mate.

Shapiro is a highly logical choice simply because the number of pro-Israel votes in the political center of a country still overwhelmingly favorable toward the Jewish state outnumber those of antisemites on the left.

But the Biden-Harris campaign has demonstrated all year that it was more worried about the latter, and there’s no reason to think Harris’s brain trust, which is decidedly to the left of those who advised Biden, will think differently.

Adding a vice-presidential candidate who is an unabashed supporter of Israel to the ticket will likely diminish the enthusiasm of a party base Harris needs if she is to have a chance of catching up to Trump.

Seen in this light, the Democrats’ biggest problem at this point isn’t Harris’s manifest shortcomings so much as it’s the way their adherence to woke ideology has put them in a box with respect to choosing candidates who might actually beat Trump.

In a year in which the unlikely and even the improbable seem to have become commonplace, no one should be making any firm predictions about the outcome of a Trump-Harris race. But unless and until they shed their allegiance to dangerous DEI myths, the Democrats are carrying baggage that could sink what is left of their hopes of winning in November.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

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