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Egypt Seeks to Broker Gaza Ceasefire as Hamas, Israel Assert Demands

An Israeli soldier aims a weapon as they operate in the Gaza Strip, after a temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas expired, in this handout picture released on Dec. 1, 2023. Photo: Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS

The US said “very serious” negotiations were taking place on a new Gaza ceasefire and release of more Israeli hostages, but prospects for a deal remained uncertain as Hamas insisted it would not discuss anything less than a complete end to Israel‘s offensive in the Palestinian enclave.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh visited Egypt on Wednesday for the first time in more than a month for discussions with Egyptian officials who are seeking to mediate another truce.

A source briefed on the negotiations said envoys were intensively discussing which of the hostages still held by Palestinian Islamist terrorists in Gaza could be freed in a new truce and which Palestinian prisoners Israel might release in return.

Islamic Jihad, a smaller Palestinian terrorist group that is also holding hostages in Gaza, said its leader would visit Egypt in the coming days as well to discuss a possible end to the conflict.

“These are very serious discussions and negotiations, and we hope that they lead somewhere,” White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday.

But Taher Al-Nono, Haniyeh’s media adviser, told Reuters that Hamas was not willing to discuss releasing more Israeli hostages until Israel ends its military campaign in Gaza and the volume of humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians increases.

“The issue of prisoners can be negotiated after these two matters are achieved. We cannot talk about negotiations while Israel continues its aggression. Discussing any proposal related to prisoners must occur after the cessation of aggression,” Nono said in an interview in Cairo.

Hamas rejects any further temporary pause in Israel‘s military campaign and says it will discuss only a permanent ceasefire. “We have talked with our brothers in Egypt, outlining our stance on this aggression and the urgent need to stop it as a top priority,” Nono said.

Israel has insisted all remaining women and infirm men among the hostages be released, the source briefed on the negotiations said, declining to be identified. Palestinians convicted of serious offenses could be on the list of prisoners to be freed by Israel.

BIDEN SAYS ‘PUSHING’ HOSTAGE DEAL

Now more than 10 weeks old, Israel launched its campaign in the Gaza Strip with the aim of annihilating Hamas after its fighters raided Israel on Oct. 7. They took some 240 hostages and killed 1,200 people, according to Israel.

Since then, Israel has waged a massive ground and air assault on the seaside enclave.

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday said he did not expect a second Israel-Hamas hostage release deal to be struck soon, though he added in remarks to reporters: “We’re pushing.”

Haniyeh’s visit to Egypt was a rare personal intervention in diplomacy, something he has done in the past only when progress seemed likely. He last traveled to Egypt in early November before the announcement of the only ceasefire in the Gaza war so far, a week-long pause that saw the release of about 110 of Hamas’ hostages.

Israel has not commented publicly on the talks in Egypt. But it has ruled out a permanent ceasefire and says it will only agree to limited humanitarian pauses until Hamas is defeated.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated on Wednesday that the war would end only with Hamas eradicated, all hostages freed, and Gaza posing no more threat to Israel.

“Whoever thinks we will stop is detached from reality … All Hamas terrorists, from the first to the last, are dead men walking,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

The US, Israel‘s closest ally, has stepped up calls in the past week for it to scale down its all-out war into a focused campaign against Hamas leaders and end what Biden has called “indiscriminate bombing” causing civilian casualties.

In a serious spillover from the war, Yemen’s Houthi forces have been firing missiles and drones at commercial shipping in the Red Sea to underline support from Iran’s Arab militia proxies for the Palestinians against Israel, and the US this week set up a multinational force to ward off the attacks.

On Wednesday, the Houthis’ leader warned they would strike US warships if their forces were targeted by Washington.

The United Nations Security Council was due to vote on Thursday on a bid to boost aid to the Gaza Strip after a delay at the request of the US, diplomats said.

Aid into Gaza has gradually increased in recent days after the opening of a second crossing into the enclave. On Wednesday, Cyprus and Israel said they were exploring opening a sea route to bring more aid in, though no final agreement was reached.

The post Egypt Seeks to Broker Gaza Ceasefire as Hamas, Israel Assert Demands first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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What the Torah Teaches Us About Modesty

A Torah scroll. Photo: RabbiSacks.org.

Many years ago, I was told a story about my father by somebody who belonged to the same congregation as his family in London. My father was, from a young age, a very confident speaker. In his little community of Notting Hill in West London, he was often asked to give a Derasha (a sermon) on Shabbat. What attracted the attention of the public was the fact that the sermon he gave was entitled “The Priests’ Pants.”

In England, this meant underpants, unlike in America, where pants mean what we call trousers. It was obviously an oratorical device to attract everyone’s attention right away — something I have often used myself, although not at such an early age.

This is relevant because the Torah reading on that occasion happened to be the same one as we read this week, Tetzaveh. This parsha is concerned almost entirely with the special garments Aaron the High Priest and his sons wore when serving in the Tabernacle, and that succeeding priests would wear in the Temple (Exodus 28:42).

In all temples, then and now,  priests of all religions, pagan and monotheistic, all dressed up in special clothes as an obvious sign of importance, designed to generate respect and awe. Indeed, even to this day aristocrats, diplomats, military officers, and clergy wear formal uniforms from top to toe, as a sign of importance.

But why mention the unmentionable underpants? The word used here in Exodus 28:42 is Michnasayim, which in modern Hebrew means trousers or pants. But it also means “to cover up.” And that’s what the Bible was instructing priests — and us — to do.

The truth is that sexuality plays a very important part in our lives, and certainly sexuality played a very important part in Pagan worship. The very first episode of human interaction in the Torah is the story of Adam and Eve realizing that nakedness is something that can be misused as well. And requires covering.

One of the important themes of the Torah is the idea of modesty. Some of our bodily functions may be perfectly natural and necessary such as reproduction or using the bathroom. But they are things that traditionally had to be treated differently and privately, and not in the public domain. Not all societies agree with this. Nowadays many of us live in societies where the definitions of modesty are changing and loosening. As important as modesty in every area is, the Torah never tries to define it. Probably because it is too variable to legislate specifically for, which is why in different religious communities the customs are so varied, and each one sets its own standards.

You may wonder whether this was an appropriate message for a 13-year-old boy to hold forth upon. And I might be inclined to suggest within an ideal world that my father might have chosen another topic. But given that rabbis or their representatives are expected to speak about the reading of the Torah each week, frankly, it is hard to imagine what else he could have chosen as a topic that would have inspired some interest amongst his audience. So, he took a risk. Something I unconsciously must have picked up on from my father.

The author is a writer and rabbi, currently based in New York.

The post What the Torah Teaches Us About Modesty first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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A Letter to Candace Owens on Israel and Jews

Candace Owens. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Dear Candace,

The last time we chatted (OK, I wrote to you), you were defending Kanye West for his antisemitic tirades. It was unclear whether you were doing this as his friend, or because you agreed with him (though your obnoxious tone suggested the latter).

The past four months have made everything much clearer. Most recently, in a podcast and three rants, you accused a segment of Jews of being dishonest, disgusting, manipulative, thugs, and Marxists.

So, to use your favorite expression, let’s be honest here:

Sure, there are Marxist Jews. And they’ve caused a lot of problems. But they don’t like Israel any more than you seem to. They are not the ones defending Israel against the incessant attacks from some Democrats, whom you have proclaimed to hate. In fact, some of those Marxist Jews have helped to create terrorism-friendly campuses and are taking part in the daily, violent pro-Hamas protests.

You go after “DC Jews” and call them a fringe element, a “rot” in the Jewish community, comparing them to Black Lives Matter activists. Again, you’re a little confused. Pro-Israel Jews do not “use” antisemitism the way some BLM activists use the cause against racism to advance an agenda. Since Oct. 7, antisemitic incidents in the US have risen 400%. The reason all your “best friends” growing up didn’t call out antisemitism is because it wasn’t as big of a problem then as it is today.

Or maybe your friends are status leftists who prefer to be silent on these issues precisely because of people like you, who would use it against them.

Regarding the two ads the Israeli government took out for the Super Bowl: Those ads were meant to remind Americans that Hamas still holds 134 hostages — five of whom are Americans. Hamas is not the “government” of Arabs who identify as “Palestinian,” as you claim. They’re terrorists. Are you now pro-terrorism — or just when it comes to Jews?

Yes, the US gives Israel aid — but the vast majority of it must be used to buy American weapons. They’re called Foreign Military Financing grants, meaning they simultaneously give Americans jobs. Maybe if your new best friends like Hamas stopped trying to destroy Israel, these grants would not be needed.

Despite all the nasty things you have said about us, let’s assume for a moment that you do like Jews — that many of your “best friends” have in fact been Jewish — and you don’t hate Israel. Let’s assume all of your problematic views are coming from the neo-isolationism that Tucker Carlson and the Freedom Caucus espouse. (Though Carlson has shared antisemitic tropes during a discussion with you, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who believes Jews use space lasers to control the world, was a key member of the Caucus.)

There are numerous problems with this neo-isolationism, but since being “America first” is key to who you claim to be today, let’s just look at one of America’s enemies: Iran. You may not be aware of this, but Iran doesn’t like America. Iran calls us the “Great Satan.” Iran is also part of the new axis of evil — Russia, China, North Korea — that Carlson doesn’t want to acknowledge.

Which country has the best intel on Iran? That tiny homeland of the Jewish people. Why? Because Israel is “Little Satan” to Iran. Why does Israel have better intel on Iran than the US? Because they’ve had to. Maybe you don’t know this, but both Hamas and Hezbollah are Iranian proxies.

You talk a lot about “emotional manipulation” — indoctrination, brainwashing — on the part of Democrats. But you do the same. Because I don’t think you’re lacking in facts as much as you pretend to be. On the subject of Israel, you seem to want to believe leftist/Marxist lies.

But many of your followers are not smart enough to see through your emotional manipulation. And they don’t want to. Most are ultra-nationalist white Christians who don’t like Blacks or Jews. They’re willing to overlook your skin color because you incessantly attack Blacks and Jews. What do you think they would do if you stopped?

As you repeatedly say, all your life Jews have been very good to you — both as friends and employers. But you’ve now attached yourself to the ultra-nationalist/neo-isolationist wing of the GOP, and they, like their parents and grandparents, don’t like Jews. Instead of trying to reconcile this, as an honest person would, you’ve taken the antisemitic way out: blaming Jews for antisemitism.

Hitler, for whom you have expressed great admiration, would indeed be proud.

Karen Lehrman Bloch is editor in chief of White Rose Magazine. A different version of this article was originally published by The Jewish Journal.

The post A Letter to Candace Owens on Israel and Jews first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Media Distort Israel’s Refusal to Be Bullied Into Rewarding Terrorists

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their homes due to the war provoked by Hamas’s terror attacks, shelter in a tent camp, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, December 29, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Shadi Tabatibi

Following indications by the likes of the United Kingdom and France that they could formally recognize a Palestinian state without Israel’s approval, the Israeli government issued a statement in response:

Israel outright rejects international dictates regarding a final status agreement with the Palestinians. The agreement, in so far as it will be reached, will be solely through direct negotiations between the parties, without preconditions.

Israel will continue to oppose the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Such recognition in the wake of the October 7th massacre would give a huge reward to unprecedented terrorism and prevent any future peace agreement.

Israel’s message was explicit: it will not stand back and allow the perpetrators of the October 7 massacre of Israeli civilians to be rewarded with what effectively amounts to legitimacy.

What Israel’s statement about unilateral recognition did not do, was oppose Palestinian statehood in general. That is, Israel did not outright reject the idea that a Palestinian state could be formed as part of a larger peace agreement.

Why, then, did some media outlets distort the contents of Sunday’s announcement to suggest that Israel had said it would refuse to accept a two-state solution to the conflict?

The Telegraph, for example, characterized Israel’s position as Israel declining outright the possibility of two states existing side by side in a misleading headline that also hinted at Israeli aggression by linking the supposed rejection to a ground offensive in Rafah.

The Israeli cabinet rejected an imposed two-state solution from outside without Israeli agreement.@Telegraph‘s headline is disingenuous and fails to make this clear.#HeadlineFailhttps://t.co/QBt1o1tFKb pic.twitter.com/5eba0rWwSY

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) February 19, 2024

Taking a similar line was LBC News, which led with Israel’s plan to root Hamas from its last stronghold in Rafah — painting it instead as effectively an assault on the 1.5 million people sheltering there, and tying it to Israel’s allegedly stymying Palestinian aspirations for a sovereign state.

The New York Post chose to obscure what had occurred to suggest that the Israeli government was rejecting “all calls” for a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, the Irish Times, the Financial Times and Voice of America all produced vague headlines that claimed Israel is opposed to a state as part of any resolution after the war against Hamas in Gaza, without noting that its objection was to unilateral recognition.

Irish Times:

Financial Times:

Voice of America:

The fact is, Israel has shown time and time again that is willing to negotiate with Palestinians and is not opposed to the actualization of a Palestinian state.

Indeed, one only needs to look at the many occasions over the years in which Israel has come to the negotiating table offering the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state — only for the Palestinians to, invariably with violence, reject its creation.

From the UN partition plan to the Camp David proposals, Israel’s willingness to accept Palestinian statehood is etched in the history books.

For the media to suggest otherwise is just historical revisionism.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The post Media Distort Israel’s Refusal to Be Bullied Into Rewarding Terrorists first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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