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24 IDF soldiers killed in Israel’s deadliest day since Oct. 7, amid mounting debate over whether war can be won

(JTA) — Twenty-four Israeli soldiers were killed in the Gaza Strip in two separate incidents on Monday, marking the deadliest day for Israel since the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7.

In one incident, 19 reservists were killed when Hamas gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade at two buildings, resulting in their collapse. Another rocket-propelled grenade hit a tank guarding the site, killing two soldiers. The buildings, located within half a mile from the border, were laden with mines by Israeli troops as part of a strategy to demolish Hamas sites and establish a buffer zone.

“An RPG launched by Hamas hit a residential complex where dozens of our soldiers were operating. Initial estimates suggest that the RPG triggered the explosives inside, causing a catastrophic collapse,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

The IDF announced plans to form a special investigative team to probe the incident thoroughly, with the aim of preventing similar occurrences.

In a separate incident that occurred earlier on Monday, three officers in the Paratroopers Brigade were killed and another seriously injured during a battle in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis.

As rescue operations at the site of the RPG attack extended for hours on Monday, a wave of rumors and unverified reports, including conjectures about missing and potentially abducted soldiers, swept across Israel.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari has since appealed for restraint and sensitivity. “Behind the rumors are families experiencing their worst hour,” he said on Tuesday morning.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Monday “one of the most difficult days” since the outbreak of the war. He said he was grieving with the families of the soldiers, “whose lives will change forever.”

The dead were all reservists, ranging from 22 to 40 and coming from all over the country, including major cities and small towns, and from both religious and secular backgrounds. One was from the Bedouin Arab city of Rahat.

News of the latest deaths has fueled an ongoing debate among Israeli citizens over the objectives of the military’s ground offensive. Three months into the ground invasion, 219 soldiers have been killed while the army has rescued only one living hostage during combat operations and has not dismantled Hamas, Israel’s two stated goals. More than 100 hostages were released late last year as part of a temporary ceasefire deal. Israeli troops mistakenly killed three hostages in another incident.

This week, a member of Netanyahu’s war cabinet, Gadi Eisenkot, whose own son and nephew are among the dead soldiers, said he believed that the objectives could not be achieved.

Monday’s incident marked the second major one in which mines laid out by the IDF exploded prematurely. Earlier this month, six reservists from the Engineering Corps were killed when a tunnel rigged with mines detonated in Gaza, in an incident that the IDF said appeared not to have involved an attack by Hamas.

“These events are a major heartbreak. We love our soldiers. Each one here has his own family that now doesn’t have a father,” Gil Lewinsky, from central Israel, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I hope for the sake of the families and also for society at large that there is some accountability.”

The families of the 136 hostages still held by Hamas have become increasingly critical of the IDF’s approach, saying it endangers their loved ones, and have urged Israel’s government to instead work on securing a deal for their release via protests and a broad public campaign. On Monday, family members of several hostages interrupted a parliament meeting to demand action from lawmakers and were forcibly removed.

For the first time within Israel since the war’s start, social media and news show pundits are abuzz with people questioning the wisdom of the IDF’s strategy. Some worry that a shift to more surgical military activity, announced amid pressure from the United States to stem civilian casualties, carries increased risk for soldiers.

“The soldiers are abandoned in the field, targets are loaded with explosives and booby-trapped, all because the Air Force won’t attack if there’s the possibility of Gazan civilians in the area,” Oryan Levy told JTA.

According to an analysis by The New York Times, the pace of casualties in Gaza has slowed from more than 300 per day in late October to roughly 150 per day this week. Overall, more than 25,000 people have been killed in Gaza, a mix of combatants and civilians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel killed some 1,200 people and took approximately 250 hostage.

Marina Bibi, a friend of one of the fallen soldiers, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Mark Kononovich, 35, told JTA that while the soldiers were in “imminent danger” at any given time in Gaza, she wasn’t sure there was another way to fight. Netanyahu described Kononovich as an “amazing man and father, salt of the earth.” Kononovich, from the central Israeli city of Herzliya, left behind a wife and three children.

A note written by Master Sgt. (res.) Elkana Vizel, 35, a squad commander from Bnei Dekalim in southern Israel who was killed on Monday, also made the rounds on social media.

“If you’re reading this, it means something happened to me. First of all, if I was kidnapped by Hamas I’m asking that you refrain from any deal releasing terrorists in exchange for my release,” Vizel, who is a rabbi, began his letter.

“Maybe I fell in battle. When a soldier falls in battle it is sad. But I ask you to be happy…We are a generation of redemption!”

He concluded his letter by noting that an injury from the 2014 war in Gaza exempted him from participating in this war. “I don’t for a second regret coming back to fight,” he wrote. “On the contrary, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Another viral post came from someone who had volunteered to make meals for the troops, as part of a sweeping support effort, and been assigned to the unit that suffered heavy losses on Monday.

“Not simple to organize for a unit over a long period of time and wake up one morning to realize that half of them are no longer here. From 50 soldiers, 21 were killed yesterday, and it just tears my heart to pieces,” the post said. “And it just reminds me of how important our work is. To know that these soldiers ate well, knew that we cared about them, felt spoiled by some home cooked comfort food with the taste of love.”


The post 24 IDF soldiers killed in Israel’s deadliest day since Oct. 7, amid mounting debate over whether war can be won appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Harvard Alumni File Lawsuit Claiming Campus Antisemitism ‘Devalues’ Their Diplomas

[Illustrative] Harvard University students displaying a pro-Palestinian sign at their May 2022 graduation ceremony. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

A group of ten Harvard University alumni filed a lawsuit against the institution on Wednesday, accusing it of “devaluing” their degrees through permitting and fostering an environment of antisemitism, support for terrorism, and anti-Israel sentiment. 

Filed in a Massachusetts federal court, the alumni claims that Harvard has breached an implicit contract with its graduates, promising to maintain the institution’s prestige, which they allege has been compromised due to a toxic campus environment. This, they argue, has led potential employers and prestigious law firms to distance themselves from Harvard alumni.

“Harvard has directly caused the value and prestige of plaintiffs’ Harvard degrees to be diminished and made a mockery out of Harvard graduates in the employment world and beyond,” the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit argues that the university’s administration has failed to combat campus anti-semitism, and has consistently overlooked assaults on Jewish students and calls by students and faculty for the annihilation of Israel. It highlighted, among other things, an open letter signed by more than thirty student organizations blaming Israel for the October 7 Hamas-led attack, and campus protests which included chants like “Long live the intifada!” and “There is only one solution: intifada revolution!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine is Arab!”

The suit also points to then-Harvard president Claudine Gay’s testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where she stated that calls for genocide against Jews would only violate bullying and harassment policies “depending on the context,” as indicative of the school’s tolerance of antisemitism.

The lawsuit is part of a growing dissatisfaction among graduates over what they perceive as rampant antisemitism on U.S. campuses, according to attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of legal aid group, Shurat HaDin, who is representing the alumni alongside New York-based lawyer, Robert Tolchin.

Darshan-Leitner criticized the colleges for becoming “hate centers” under the guise of academic freedom. 

The lawsuit, Darshan-Leitner said, reveals the “growing outrage and contempt that graduates all across the US are feeling over the wild antisemitism and hate speech being encouraged and explained away on the American campuses.” 

“This dangerous weaponization of higher education by radical faculty and students as well as the impotent administration response, all justified under the guise of academic freedom, has turned the colleges into hate centers which has greatly devalued their reputation and diplomas,” she said, adding that the suit could prompt similar actions from graduates of other institutions.

Tolchin accused the university of succumbing to “the flavor of the month, the lowest level of discourse.”

“Harvard’s seal proclaims “Light and Truth” in Latin and Hebrew–yes, Hebrew, the language spoken by the indigenous Israelites. Yet light and truth have been hard to find at Harvard. The darkness of antisemitism and the dishonesty, hate, and discrimination have cast a pall over Harvard so embarrassing that people do not wish to be associated with Harvard,” Tolchin said. 

Harvard has been accused of facilitating an educational environment that is unwelcoming to Israelis and Jews for years, with the lawsuit citing annual events such as “Israel Apartheid Week” and incidents targeting Jewish students and symbols on campus. 

Antisemitism expert Dara Horn, a Harvard alumnus who was asked to join Gay’s anti-Semitism advisory committee, authored a damning essay published this week in The Atlantic in which she detailed the Jew hatred on campus predating October 7. 

She noted that staff members “who grade Jewish students used university-issued class lists to share information about events organized by pro-Palestine groups;” In one instance, a professor continued teaching after rejecting the findings of an investigation by Harvard after he was found discriminating against several Israeli students. Last spring, a student was asked to leave because her identity as an Israeli was making her classmates “uncomfortable.”

She also pointed to courses themselves “premised on anti-Semitic lies”, pointing to one called “The Settler Colonial Determinants of Health”, and noted that lecturers invited to speak at the campus included some who peddled in blood libels that Israelis harvest Palestinians’ organs or that the IDF uses Palestinian children for weapons testing. 

“The mountain of proof at Harvard revealed a reality in which Jewish students’ access to their own university (classes, teachers, libraries, dining halls, public spaces, shared student experiences) was directly compromised,” Horn writes.  The alumni’s legal action comes alongside another lawsuit filed by six current Harvard students on January 10, claiming that the university has not done enough to combat antisemitism on campus which had become a “bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment.” It also comes a day after a professor at the university, Walter Johnson, resigned from two anti-Zionist campus groups after they posted antisemitic cartoons.

The post Harvard Alumni File Lawsuit Claiming Campus Antisemitism ‘Devalues’ Their Diplomas first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7

Eden Alene, winner of the reality show “The Next Star to Eurovision,” during finals in Neve Ilan studio near Jerusalem on Feb. 4, 2020. Photo: Shlomi Cohen/Flash90.

Israeli Culture Minister Miki Zohar sent the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) a letter on Thursday urging them to approve Israel’s submission to the Eurovision song competition, after the EBU called it “too political.”

“As you know, the State of Israel is experiencing one of the most difficult and complex periods since its establishment. We lost our loved ones, and there are women, men and children who are still held captive by a terrorist organization,” Zohar said.

Israeli media reported that the broadcasting union would not approve the song, called “October Rain,” after a number of countries even issued threats to boycott the event if Israel participates. The EBU issued a statement saying “We are currently in the process of carefully examining the lyrics of the song – a process that is confidential between the EBU and the Public Broadcasting Corporation until a final decision is made. To all broadcasters, they have until March 11th to officially submit their songs. If a song does not meet the criteria for any reason, the corporation will be given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics, according to the contest rules.”

“The song that Israel sent to the Eurovision Song Contest was chosen by a professional committee made up of well-known names in the local music and entertainment industry,” Zohar added. “It is a moving song, discussing renewal and revival from a very fragile reality of loss and destruction, and describes the current public mood in Israel these days. We see now most clearly because our lives – as one, united society – manage to overcome even the greatest suffering. This is not a political song.”

Despite the news that the song by Israeli singer Eden Golan would not be approved, The CEO of KAN, Israel’s national broadcasting service, and the body that approves the song, Golan Yokhpaz, said “We will not change the words or the song, even at the cost of Israel not participating in Eurovision this year.” Adding “The Israel Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) is in dialogue with the EBU regarding the song that will represent Israel at Eurovision.”

Zohar said later in a television interview “The songwriters, KAN, and the singer will have to make the decisions at the end of the day… I do think that Israel should participate in Eurovision because it is important for us at this time to be represented there, and to express ourselves throughout Europe.”

Speaking to the EBU, he said, “We trust that you will continue in your important task of keeping the competition free from any attempt at political manipulation.”

The post Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7 first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’

UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine Francesca Albanese, October 27, 2022 (Photo: Screenshot)

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories referred to Israelis as “colonialists” who have “fake identities” while quoting another Twitter/X account on Wednesday, raising questions about the impartiality of the international body.

Francesca Albanese responded to a long post by Alon Mizrahi, a far-left activist, arguing that the reason many Western nations support Israel is that they are colonial projects. 

She highlighted the following quote from Mizrahi: “free Palestine scares them [Westerners] bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities.”

” free Palestine scares them bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities..” https://t.co/N1wkOPgKJs

— Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur oPt (@FranceskAlbs) February 21, 2024

The original post claimed that “All colonial powers work together to guarantee the supremacy of made-up identities over genuine, native ones. Because if this model breaks anywhere, it will collapse everywhere.”

Mizrahi argued that “A Palestinian state would be a major, major moral blow to white, Western colonialism.”

The tweet was met with immediate condemnation.

David Friedman, who served as the US Ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021 under former President Donald Trump wrote that her tweet was “Exhibit A why the UN is a failure and why we no longer belong in that bastion of hypocrisy and corruption.”

An account documenting Hamas’ October 7 atrocities asked, “If Israel is indeed a ‘colonialist project’ Where should all the Israelis go if this project should be dismantled?”

The perception of UN bias against Israel has also been boosted by the fact that, in 2023, Israel was condemned twice as often as all other countries combined.

It is not the first time Albanese has made comments that raise eyebrows. Earlier this month, in response to French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron calling the October 7 attack “largest anti-Semitic massacre of the 21st century,” she said “No, Mr. Macron. The victims of October 7 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression.”

Following backlash, she wrote that she opposes “all racism, including anti-Semitism, a global threat. But explaining these crimes as anti-Semitism obscures their true cause.”

Hamas’ founding charter, in a section about the “universality” of its cause, reads: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Albanese has also argued that Israel should make peace with Hamas, saying that “It needs to make peace with Hamas in order to not be threatened by Hamas.” 

When asked about what people do not understand about Hamas, she added, “If someone violates your right to self-determination, you are entitled to embrace resistance.”

The post UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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