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Another Jewish ‘Timesman’ Doesn’t Let Facts Affect His Opinion

The New York Times newspaper. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgI’m beginning to think that The New York Times must have a diversity, equity and inclusion policy that allowed the hiring of Bret Stephens as its token Jewish journalist without an anti-Israel agenda. It’s hard to otherwise explain how he got a column when you read the rest of the op-ed writers and reporters. The latest example is Ezra Klein, who, like a typical “Timesman,” opined on Israel’s failings while ignoring history and omitting inconvenient facts.

Like Old Faithful Thomas Friedman’s weekly eruptions expressing disdain for Israel’s democratically elected prime minister, Klein goes off on a rant against Benjamin Netanyahu. And, like Friedman, he is in high dudgeon over Netanyahu’s opposition to a Palestinian state.

Interestingly, he undermines the column’s entire case immediately after quoting Netanyahu’s position by citing Gallup’s finding that only 25% of Israelis support a two-state solution. Unsurprisingly, he omits the equally salient fact that only 34% of Palestinians favor it.

Klein blames Netanyahu for a state not existing because he “allowed settlers to run wild and rendered Hamas’s rival, Al Fatah, feckless.”

There are some 500,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria (does he consider the 340,000 in Jerusalem wild settlers as well?). A tiny fraction are troublemakers, and I’ve written about the need to rein them in, but they are not the reason that the Palestinians don’t have a state. And like the U.S. Secretary of State, Klein doesn’t say where they’re supposed to go to make way for one.

Also, Netanyahu did not make the Fatah Party “feckless.” Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas did that all by himself. He allowed Hamas to take over the Gaza Strip, made himself a dictator by preventing elections and created a kleptocracy. An overwhelming majority of Palestinians want him to resign.

The Palestinians don’t have a state for one simple reason: They have rejected every opportunity to have one because they insist on replacing Israel. Hamas wants to destroy Israel, not live beside it, and Fatah wants to “liberate” Palestine in stages.

Like others making the argument lately that Netanyahu was strengthening Hamas at the expense of the P.A. to prevent the creation of a state, he makes misstatements and omissions. Klein says Netanyahu “allowed Hamas to hold Gaza” and “kept the Palestinian leadership divided.”

First, Hamas took over Gaza without Israel’s help. Afterward, Abbas refused to confront Hamas to avoid a Palestinian civil war. Netanyahu didn’t need to do anything to keep the Palestinian leadership divided. Hamas and Fatah repeatedly talked about reconciliation and never could agree because of disagreements unrelated to Netanyahu.

Second, until the massacre, Netanyahu preferred to keep Israel out of a war to eliminate Hamas, which was popular with everyone but the far-right. Those now complaining about what Israel is doing would have been even more upset if Israel had taken the same steps before Oct. 7.

Third, as Klein says, it is true that the P.A. cooperates on security with Israel, but he leaves out that it also has prevented Hamas from taking over the West Bank and thereby strengthens the P.A.

Fourth, if Israel was so determined to weaken the P.A., why did it repeatedly take steps to improve the economic situation, including allowing more than 100,000 Palestinians (and now we know potential spies) into Israel to work?

Fifth, he refers to slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as representing a time when Israel “seemed to be trying to find its way toward peace and coexistence.” True, but Rabin also opposed the creation of a Palestinian state.

Sixth, does Klein know that despite his rhetoric about PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Oslo, Netanyahu shook the terrorist’s hand, adhered to the agreement’s terms, and agreed to an international force in the holy city of Hebron and the withdrawal from additional territory in the West Bank?

Seventh, Klein ignores that Israel is threatened every day by terrorists in the West Bank who are no more interested in peace than Hamas. Is he unaware of the fighting there now?

Klein says, “rather than raise Al Fatah up as a negotiating partner, he humiliated it.” The opposition to Abbas in the P.A. is partly related to Israel but primarily a function of his corrupt rule. What could Israel have done to “raise” him up? Abbas has refused to negotiate with Netanyahu since 2008. That’s right, the man being held up as Israel’s peace partner has spent the last 15 years avoiding talks while incentivizing terror, demonizing Israel and promoting the Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger libel.

Klein transitions to discussing why younger Americans are less supportive of Israel than their elders and more sympathetic towards the Palestinians. He gets this right. Those of us who lived through the period when Israel was David facing the Goliath of the entire Arab world recognize its vulnerability and therefore emphasize ensuring its security. Younger people see Israel as Goliath and the Palestinians as David. They don’t know the history or recognize today’s threats, and therefore can’t understand why Israel doesn’t just give the Palestinians whatever they want in the interest of “justice.”

Just because that’s the way young people see the region doesn’t make it so.

This generation wants to go along to get along. Hence, you find students joining protesters chanting “from the river to the sea” who don’t know which river and sea they are talking about. When informed that they’re calling for Israel’s destruction, most change their opinion.

We may have reached a turning point in American attitudes towards Israel, but historically, young people have always been less supportive of Israel than their parents and grandparents. As they get older, however, their views often change and mirror them.

Rather than focusing on young Americans who have no say in the future of Israelis and Palestinians, Klein should be examining the views of young Palestinians. Israelis have long placed their hopes on a new generation coming to power to replace Arafat and Abbas, and the rest of the old-timers who devoted their lives to a futile effort to liberate “Palestine.”

The problem, as we see from the revelations about UNRWA schools—and what we already knew about the P.A. education system, its media and summer camps—is that young Palestinians have been indoctrinated with hatred for Jews and Israel, the gloriousness of jihad and martyrdom, and the belief that “resistance” will make Israel disappear, as it has from their maps. Why would any Israeli leader agree to a Palestinian state controlled by people educated in this system?

The entire Israeli population shifted to the right after “land for peace” was proven to be a myth following the disengagement from Gaza. Does Klein—or U.S. President Joe Biden, for that matter—seriously believe Israelis are more inclined to accept a Palestinian state after Oct. 7?

Like young Americans, Klein doesn’t know or care about how Palestinians are treated by their fellow Palestinians, the Lebanese or the Syrians. He only blames Israel for their plight. This selectivity and double standard exemplify the antisemitism problem today.

Klein represents the “on the one hand, but on the other hand” Tevyeism prevalent among the left, especially left-wing Jews. They cannot distinguish between right and wrong, or facts and myths. Whatever negative trait you can see in Palestinians can be matched or exceeded by the sins of the Israelis. Thus, Klein sees Hamas and suicide bombers, whose objective is genocide, akin to “messianic settlers” who want to settle in their homeland and Netanyahu, who represents the views of his constituents who oppose the creation of Hamastan abutting their capital. This is the same moral confusion and obliviousness we see from college presidents.

Klein suggests that Gen Z is best attuned to today’s situation because they listen more closely to what Israeli leaders are saying (though they don’t understand Hebrew). Hearing maybe, but certainly not understanding given their ignorance of the Middle East of the past and present. Also, like Klein, they ignore what Palestinian leaders say, like the ones from Fatah—the party he thinks Netanyahu should strengthen—who praised Hamas and bragged about their members participating in the massacre of Jews.

Fortunately, Israeli policy is not determined by the views of ill-informed young Americans or pompous Times columnists pontificating thousands of miles from the people whose lives they would recklessly put at risk.

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This Is Not 1938

The UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ). Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgThe International Court of Justice has delivered its interim judgment on the South African government’s “genocide” charge against Israel. Even a political body appointed by the U.N. General Assembly whose members are mainly non-democratic states couldn’t bring itself to order Israel to accept a ceasefire in its war against Hamas. But we should not be grateful for that. The ICJ had no moral right to the power to order Israel to cease its just war of self-defense in the first place.

What these so-called judges should have done is express the gratitude of the international community of civilized nations for the bravery and sacrifice of Israel’s young soldiers, who are going door-to-door to fight the forces of barbarism in the Middle East. They are doing this so that many of you reading this column, who live in the free world, will not have to do it yourselves in your own cities to protect your own children and grandchildren.

This is not 1938. It is 2024. The Jewish people do not have to go on their knees to beg for the right to defend themselves against those who seek to exterminate us.

With God’s blessing, we have a sovereign Jewish state for the first time in almost 2,000 years, protected by a powerful army that ensures Jewish blood is not spilled with impunity. The Oct. 7 attacks were the bloodiest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. But we are not living in Holocaust times. The IDF is defending Jewish lives and making sure such an attack can never be repeated. In time, the vicious jihadi terror group that perpetrated this massacre will be defeated, disarmed and removed from power.

God has given us another blessing. While around half the Jewish world lives in the sovereign State of Israel, around 95% of the other half lives in free democracies, where we have built strong, proud, vibrant Jewish communities.

Enjoying full political and civil rights, we are flourishing as contributing members of our societies, wielding influence and power, and playing vital roles in changing society for the better. We have the right, the resources and the capacity to support and defend the interests of the State of Israel and the Jewish people in this just war of self-defense.

And unlike 1938, we are not alone. We have allies around the world: Fair-minded, decent citizens and free democratic governments who are fully behind Israel and the Jewish people at this moment of crisis. Our allies can see clearly the justice of Israel’s cause. Unlike the ICJ, they know who are the real genocidal forces.

They support us because it’s the right thing to do. Justice demands it. But also because they realize that this is not just a war against the Jews. This is a war against the most cherished values of the free world: human dignity, freedom, tolerance, the rule of law and basic human rights. Around the free world, there are many who are grateful to the IDF for fighting terrorists in Gaza so they will not have to fight them in the U.S. or Europe.

We have seen this support manifest itself in many different ways. There is rock-solid support from the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Indian governments, as well as from African countries including Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and Zambia. Other democracies around the world have joined them. Germany heroically pledged to stand by Israel in the dock at the ICJ proceedings. Moreover, the historic Abraham Accords with important Arab countries have weathered the storm of the Gaza war. Except for a handful of signatories, not one Arab nation sanctioned or joined the ICJ proceedings.

The countries that support South Africa’s ICJ application are almost exclusively dictatorships that feel threatened by free democracies. But we also have opponents within democratic countries. Like the African National Congress Party and its government in South Africa, there are forces within the U.K. Labour Party and the U.S. Democratic Party, among others, who are enemies of Israel.

But the forces of good are achieving significant victories, such as prompting the resignation of the presidents of Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania after they failed to unequivocally condemn calls for the genocide of Jews.

There was also the recent publication of a bipartisan letter by more than 200 members of the U.S. Congress expressing their disgust at South Africa’s ICJ filing, saying that it “perpetuates false and dangerous allegations against the Jewish state” and encouraging “allies to join us in speaking out against this unfounded attack on Israel, particularly at the United Nations and in other intergovernmental organizations.”

The Jewish world is strong and we have allies in the fight against genocidal movements, who threaten not only us but the civilized world, exactly as the Nazis did.

We are not the Jews of 1938, the Roman expulsion or the Spanish Inquisition. We are not the Jews who were massacred in the pogroms of Europe. When confronted with fearsome enemies, Jews of previous generations had no choice but to take flight. This generation can and will fight. We will fight back with every measure possible—with dignity, strength, self-belief and a sense of justice for our cause.

But we have to be aware of our strength, our purpose and our dignity. We have to go forward with confidence and conviction. In 1938, vulnerable and fearful, with nowhere to run and no allies in the world, we were sent to our slaughter. Today, with God’s blessings, we have risen from the ashes of the Holocaust.

We are a proud, great people with a long history that began when we were born at the foot of Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago. We have a presence stretching across the globe with an independent Jewish state in our biblical homeland, incredible resources and loyal allies.

God has blessed us. We need to believe in ourselves and send the message to all of our enemies that we will not be cowed, we will not be pushed around, we will not be slaughtered with impunity. This is a moral charge. We will defend the survival of our people and, indeed, the free world from the forces of barbarism.

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Why Is the City Council of Somerville So Focused on the Middle East?

Postcard of Somerville Highlands station in Somerville, Mass. The station was located at Hancock Street on the Fitchburg Cutoff (later the freight cutoff), originally part of the Lexington & West Cambridge Railroad, circa 1907. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgSomerville is a delightful city: It was named in 2016 by Lonely Planet as one of the best places in the country to visit, borders Boston, is a short stroll from Harvard University, is home to the exciting new kosher restaurant of Lehrhaus, and, most importantly, where I lived for much of my 30s with my now wife. Recently, Somerville also became the first municipality in Massachusetts to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, the latter of which is the council’s perceived neighborhood bully.

As you would expect, this resolution has been dominating headlines all over the Israeli press and is exactly why the country is now slowing its operations against terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. We are finally moments away from the historic era of peace in the Middle East. People are asking why Somerville dragged its feet and took so long to pass such a resolution!

Of course, the part about the impact of the resolution is in jest; it has predictably failed to make a single headline in the Israeli press. If the goal of the resolution was to have an actual impact on the state of Israel, then it is hard to imagine actions by the city council that would have been a greater waste of time.

More than 100 days since Hamas started this war, Hamas is still firing rockets at civilian targets in Israel. Israeli villages that were decimated during the Hamas invasion on the morning of Oct. 7 are still uninhabitable, including Kissufim, where I spent the first years of my life. Hundreds of Israelis, men and women, babies to elderly, remain hostage and tortured. Hamas has been very vocal about their desire to repeat such atrocities again and again.

Does the city council of Somerville really think that they will cause Israel to ignore Hamas and just learn to live with this new reality? Perhaps they are reasoning that Jews have been the target of massacres for thousands of years and should continue to accept it?

In reality, resolutions like these have one effect, and that is to demonize Israel. A 2021 Pew study proves an overwhelming affinity by American Jews for Israel; more than 80% of U.S. Jews said that Israel is important for their Jewish identity. Our continued relationship for this spot on the planet dates back thousands of years.

After the second century C.E. Roman expulsion and enslavement of much of the Jewish population in Judea, Jews continued to inhabit the region, only avoiding it during periods when the penalty of inhabiting it was death. From serious attempts to rebuild the Temple to a brief period of Jewish control of Jerusalem in the fourth and fifth centuries, throughout history there were robust Jewish attempts to restore Jewish autonomy in the region. Many Jewish families fleeing the inquisition made a home in the land of Israel, and when Napoleon invaded, the de facto ruler defending Acre was Haim Farhi, a Jew. Montefiore’s Jerusalem the Biography outlines the continuous strong ties between the Jewish world and the land of Israel, despite thousands of years of oppressive discriminatory laws and violence aimed at Jews living there.

I have news for the city council of Somerville and its voters: One of the major components of being Jewish, as Avraham Infield, president emeritus of Hillel International, writes, is Memory. And we have a damned good one.

My personal favorite example that reflects the Jewish connection to the land of Israel is the prayer recited daily continuously for over a millennia by observant Jews, that makes an analogy of the return of Jews to the land of Israel to the streams of the Negev Desert—coincidentally, a the target of Hamas on Oct. 7. Only a people passionate and intimately aware of this region would constantly bring up such specific phenomena. After winter rains, areas that appear to be a barren wasteland become an unrecognizable area lush with fauna and flora.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, adopted by the state department during the Obama administration—and since then adopted by dozens of Christian, Muslim and secular countries all over the world, as well as states, and other institutions—specifically clarifies that holding Israel to a double standard is an example of antisemitism.

Somerville’s council has not passed resolutions, at least in recent history, about any other nation. From the millions of Muslim Uyghurs held in Chinese concentration camps to the half a million casualties as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, from the horrible war in Sudan that has led to thousands killed and millions displaced to the reintroduction of slavery in Yemen, none of these are worthy of a resolution. Does the city council not find these situations problematic?

Perhaps the only problem that they see is the ones involving the only country in the world that has a Jewish majority. We seem to be living in Bob Dylan’s song about Israel, sarcastically named Neighborhood Bully: “ … he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized, old women condemned him, said he should apologize, then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad, the bombs were meant for him … he’s the neighborhood bully.”

So what does that make the city council of Somerville, members of which have avoided resolutions singling out any other country except Israel? If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck … ?

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The Buffer Zone Taking Shape in Gaza

Israeli soldiers fire mortar shells, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, near Israel’s border with Gaza in southern Israel, Jan. 3, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura

JNS.orgThe Israeli Cabinet hasn’t issued an official directive to the military to create a buffer zone in Gaza yet, but de facto, on the ground, one appears to be taking shape anyway.

Only the prime minister and his Cabinet ministers—not the Israel Defense Forces—could decide on an official policy to cut off a certain section of land from Gaza.

In practice, however, the battlefield is producing the foundation of what could easily turn into a buffer zone—an area that is clear of all structures and the presence of Palestinians, and which cannot be used by terrorists to approach the Israeli border for further mass murder attacks.

In basic security thinking, the space that separates a holding area—the area being defended—and the nearest enemy position is a security (buffer) zone, providing strategic depth.

The security zone is designed to create distance between the first line of defending military forces and the enemy, so that if hostiles approach, the military will have enough time to recognize this and respond before terrorists breach the Israeli border. The moment such a breach occurs, the military has failed in its mission to defend, and if terrorists can start their assault from the border, they cannot be stopped in time.

This type of prevention is exactly what was missing on Oct. 7, when terrorists began their attack from the borderline, saturating it through detonated holes in the security barrier as well as via powered gliders and beach landings.

To help prevent such a large-scale attack from ever occurring again, Israel will need to create sufficient depth that gives the IDF enough time to protect its holding zone—Israeli communities near the Gaza border—and to place its units within the security zone, on the Gazan side of the border.

Optimally, the post-war reality will see the IDF conducting patrols beyond the Israeli border and creating friction within the enemy territory to defend civilian areas behind the frontier.

Deny cover to death squads

For all of this to work, the security zone must be as free as possible from people and structures, and this will deny Hamas the cover to send death squads on cross-border raids.

While the depth of a future buffer zone remains unclear, a kilometer appears to be one realistic option for defending the border communities—a kilometer into Gaza in which Israel will have a complete picture of what is occurring overground and underground.

This would enable realistic defense of communities such as Kerem Shalom on the border with southern Gaza to Nahal Oz and Sderot, which are near the northern Strip.

Ultimately, the Cabinet will need to make a decision on declaring such a zone, and to decide on how it will look in practice.

Such a decision will affect Gazan agriculture and the ability of Gazans to rebuild in eastern neighborhoods of the Strip.

There is mass destruction in these areas, which Hamas used for launch points for the Oct. 7 slaughter, and which housed key Hamas bases over and underground.

The buffer zone could feature a deep canal to cut off underground terror threats, a concrete wall barrier, an additional fence with electronic sensors, and then a large border barrier – four separate obstacles.

Laying a minefield could also be an important feature of such a security zone.

Realistically, it is difficult to imagine any other way to defend the communities of the western Negev in the post-war reality.

The idea of retreating back to a border barrier, one that was so easily breached on that terrible day in October, combined with nearly 4,000 rocket attacks, makes the idea of a return to the status quo unthinkable.

Separately, the Gaza Strip could also remain split between north and south, with an IDF brigade operating on the dividing line.

The idea would be to reduce Hamas’s ability to return to the ruins of northern Gaza and Gaza City and rebuild its shattered terror army.

Disconnecting northern and southern Gaza would be expected to significantly reduce Hamas’s operational capabilities, keeping the terrorists locked into smaller areas.

It remains unclear whether post-war the IDF will have posts within Gaza from which it can set out on smaller security raids, as is the case in Judea and Samaria, or whether such raids will be launched from Israeli territory.

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