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Evidence of a shift among Democrats as calls for a ceasefire in Gaza grow

WASHINGTON (JTA) — As Joe Biden was speaking a political fundraiser in Minneapolis this week, a rabbi and activist with an anti-Zionist Jewish group stood up and shouted, “Mr. President, if you care about Jewish people, as a rabbi, I need you to call for a ceasefire right now.”

Biden’s response: “Well, I understand her emotion. I really do.” The president went on to enumerate the steps he’s taken to ease Palestinian civilian suffering in Gaza: urging Israel to pause the fighting so hostages can be released and pushing Egypt to let people exit Gaza into the Sinai Peninsula.

The next day, another expression of concern for Palestinian civilians came from Biden’s chief diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, before he boarded a flight to Israel.

“When I see a Palestinian child – a boy, a girl – pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building, that hits me in the gut as much as seeing a child from Israel or anywhere else,” he said. “So this is something that we have an obligation to respond to, and we will.”

Biden and Blinken’s statements are two of several signals that a shift of sorts is happening in the White House and among Democrats in D.C. Alongside the unabashed support Biden has shown Israel since Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7 killed and wounded thousands, the president and other leaders in his party are now placing increasing emphasis on protecting Palestinian civilians and pausing the fighting as the war marks its first month with thousands of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes.

One sign of a change came on Thursday, when Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the chamber’s number-two Democrat, called for a ceasefire — the first senator to at least partially endorse the central demand of pro-Palestinian and other progressive groups. Durbin said a ceasefire could happen only when Hamas releases the more than 200 hostages it kidnapped on Oct. 7.

“I think it is,” Durbin said when CNN anchor Poppy Harlow asked him if a ceasefire is needed now. “At least in the context of both sides agreeing. For example, the release of those who have been kidnapped should be a part of this. Immediate release. That should be the beginning of it. An effort should be made to engage in conversation between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

On Friday, he joined a dozen other Democratic senators in signing a statement endorsing Biden’s call for “a short-term cessation of hostilities that pose high risk to civilians” and other noncombatants. The statement endorsed a pause in the fighting, rather than a full ceasefire advocated by progressive and pro-Palestinian activists.

The calls for a ceasefire, which began almost as soon as the war started, have been endorsed by more than a dozen Democratic members of Congress — but rejected by Israel as a nonstarter. Israel has vowed to depose Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and a ceasefire would leave the terror group in power. Biden administration officials say they still oppose a permanent ceasefire, and back Israel’s ultimate aim of destroying Hamas.

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he told Blinken that he would reject a “temporary ceasefire” until Hamas released all of the hostages — a blow to the Biden administration’s push for humanitarian pauses in the fighting.

“We will not accept a temporary ceasefire that does not return our hostages,” Netanyahu said in a televised address to the nation after meeting in Israel on Friday with Blinken, who is in the region to seek relief for Palestinians while showing support for Israel. “We will not allow fuel into Gaza, and we object to the transfer of money into Gaza.”

Blinken went into his Israel trip determined to make the case for increasing the entry of aid into Gaza. At first, Israel fully barred aid from Gaza, but the daily inflow now stands at 50-60 trucks a day. “We need that and want that to increase, and I expect you’ll see that in the coming days,” Blinken said Thursday on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, just before leaving.

The same day, John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, said the Biden Administration would seek a series of humanitarian pauses to facilitate relief.

“We’re really not just talking about, like, one pause,” Kirby said at the daily White House press breifing. “What we’re trying to do is explore the idea of as many pauses that might be necessary to continue to get aid out and to continue to work to get people out safely, including hostages.”

Speaking to media after meeting Netanyahu, Blinken did not back down from his quest for pauses in the fighting, but recognized that they would not happen immediately.

“Each of these efforts would be facilitated by humanitarian pauses — arrangements on the ground that increase security for civilians and permit more effective and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance,” he said referring to bringing in relief, releasing hostages and allowing more Palestinians to cross into Egypt.

“How when and where these can be implemented, what work needs to happen and what understandings need to be reached — we recognize this would take time to prepare and coordinate with international partners,” he said. “A number of legitimate questions were raised today — how to use any period of pause to maximize the flow of aid, how to connect the pause to hostage release, how to ensure Hamas doesn’t use the pause to own advantage. We believe they can be solved.”

In his televised address, Netanyahu, his voice at times choked, said he showed Blinken a video of children wailing while watching terrorists murder their father.

Blinken also teared up at his own press conference, describing the video.

“I saw, for example, a family on a kibbutz, a father of two young boys — maybe 10, 11 years old — grabbing them, pulling them out of their living room, going through their very small backyard and into a shelter, followed seconds later by a terrorist who throws a grenade into that small shelter,” he said.

Netanyahu concluded his speech by describing the heroism of some Israeli troops who have fallen in the ground incursion into Gaza, which started last week.

“We will do everything that is needed to defeat our enemies, with the help of God, and with the help of you citizens of Israel,” he said in remarks screened just before the onset of Shabbat. “We will do it and we will be victorious.”

The post Evidence of a shift among Democrats as calls for a ceasefire in Gaza grow appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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UN Committee Says Not Enough Evidence to Declare a Famine in Gaza

Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid make their way to the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, at the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel, May 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The United Nations Famine Review Committee (FRC), a panel of experts in international food security and nutrition, has cast doubt on the notion that the northern Gaza Strip is suffering through a famine.

In a report released earlier this month, the committee responded to a claim by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) — a US-created provider of warning and analysis on food insecurity — that a famine was likely underway in northern Gaza. FEWS NET said that northern Gaza began experiencing famine in April and projected that the embattled enclave would endure famine until at least July 31.

The FRC rejected the assertion that northern Gaza is experiencing famine, citing the “uncertainty and lack of convergence of the supporting evidence employed in the analysis.” The panel carries out evaluations of humanitarian conditions on behalf of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), an international famine monitoring initiative. 

The FRC added that there is not sufficient evidence to confirm the existence of a famine within northern Gaza and called for more humanitarian access into the warzone, providing experts an opportunity to give an accurate assessment of the conditions. 

“The very fact that we are unable to endorse (or not) FEWS NET’s analysis is driven by the lack of essential up-to-date data on human well-being in northern Gaza, and Gaza at large,” the report stated. “Thus, the FRC strongly requests all parties to enable humanitarian access in general, and specifically to provide a window of opportunity to conduct field surveys in northern Gaza to have more solid evidence of the food consumption, nutrition, and mortality situation.”

However, the panel warned that Gaza is still enduring “extreme human suffering” and called for the “complete, safe, unhindered, and sustained” transport of aid into the enclave.

The report represents a course-reversal for the FRC, which claimed that Gaza likely surpassed the “famine thresholds for acute malnutrition” in March. The FRC now contends that civilians in Gaza are experiencing improved humanitarian conditions as a result of increased aid flowing into the war-torn enclave.   

“Since the FRC review conducted in March 2024, there seems to have been a significant increase in the number of food trucks entering northern Gaza,” the report read.

“The FEWS NET analysis acknowledges that humanitarian assistance in the area has increased significantly, finding that caloric availability from humanitarian assistance increased from 9 percent in February to 34 percent  to 36 percent in March and 59 percent to 63 percent in April. The opening of alternative routes to the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, the authorization of commercial truck entry, as well as airdrops, allowed for an increase of food availability,” the report continued.

Several aid agencies, media outlets, and politicians, as well as pro-Palestinian activists, have repeatedly accused Israel of inflicting famine on Palestinians since beginning its military operations in Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people throughout southern Israel. Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, accused Israel of using starvation as a “weapon of war.”

Despite these allegations, data produced by the United Nations showed that Israel allowed more than 100 food trucks to enter Gaza per day in March, an increase from the daily average of 70 trucks before the war. Moreover, many trucks transporting aid into Gaza have been hijacked and seized by Hamas terrorists, increasing the difficulty of distributing food to civilians.

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Hundreds rallied outside Toronto school board offices to protest a racism report that doesn’t mention antisemitism

Hundreds of people filled the lawn in front of the Toronto District School Board (TSDB) to oppose a proposed anti-discrimination policy being voted on by trustees that would include recognizing anti-Palestinian racism—while failing to acknowledge rising antisemitism in schools. The report, entitled Combating Hate and Racism: Student Learning Strategy, was received without any amendments by […]

The post Hundreds rallied outside Toronto school board offices to protest a racism report that doesn’t mention antisemitism appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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French President Denounces ‘Scourge of Antisemitism’ After 12-Year-Old Jewish Girl Raped

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference in Paris, France, June 12, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday denounced the “scourge of antisemitism” and called on schools to hold discussions on racism and hatred of Jews after three boys were charged with raping a 12-year-old Jewish girl in a Paris suburb.

The young girl told police that she was approached by three boys who raped and beat her in the northwestern Paris suburb of Courbevoie on Saturday in an incident that French authorities have described as a hate crime. According to French media, the assailants called the victim a “dirty Jew” and uttered other antisemitic remarks during the brutal gang-rape.

A police source told AFP that one of the boys asked the young girl questions about “her Jewish religion” and Israel, citing the child’s statement to investigators.

The boys — two aged 13 and one 12 — were arrested on Monday and indicted on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Macron’s office said the president asked French Education Minister Nicole Belloubet “to organize a discussion in all schools on the fight against antisemitism and racism, to prevent hate speech with serious consequences from infiltrating schools.”

The rape of the unnamed 12-year-old girl has caused outrage throughout France and among the Jewish community.

Elie Korchia, president of France’s Central Israelite Consistory, told BFM TV that the girl was raped “because she is Jewish,” adding, “We have never seen antisemitism that extends so far in all areas of life.”

Courbevoie Mayor Jacques Kossowski echoed that sentiment in a statement released on X/Twitter, saying, “The rape was carried out with antisemitic intent.”

Eric Ciotti, leader of Les Républicains, also condemned the “rise of antisemitism” in France, which he argued was “fueled by the alliance of the far left.” He added that “we must act as a bulwark” against antisemitism.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing National Rally party, decried the rape on social media. She noted “the explosion of antisemitic acts” in France since Oct. 7.

The recent gang-rape came amid a record surge of antisemitism in France in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. Antisemitic outrages rose by over 1,000 percent in the final three months of 2023 compared with the previous year, with over 1,200 incidents reported — greater than the total number of incidents in France for the previous three years combined.

In April, a Jewish woman was beaten and raped in a suburb of Paris as “vengeance for Palestine.”

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