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Hamas Drugged Freed Hostages to Make Them ‘Look Happy,’ Israel’s Health Ministry Says

Hostages who were abducted by Hamas terrorists during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel are handed over by Hamas terrorists to members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as part of a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel amid a temporary truce, in an unknown location in the Gaza Strip, in this screengrab taken from video released Nov. 27, 2023. Photo: Hamas Military Wing/Handout via REUTERS

Hamas drugged hostages seized from Israel during the terror group’s Oct. 7 massacre as they were being released “so that they would look happy” to the outside world, according to Israel’s Health Ministry.

Dr. Hagar Mizrahi, head of the ministry’s general medicine division, told Israeli lawmakers on Tuesday that Hamas terrorists gave tranquilizer pills to the captives who were set to be freed from captivity in Gaza as part of a temporary ceasefire deal in order to make them appear calm and happy.

Speaking to the Health Committee of Israel’s parliament, known as the Knesset, Mizrahi specifically named the drug Clonazepam. The drug — known as Clonex in Israel and sold under the brand names Klonopin and Rivotril elsewhere — is used to prevent and treat various mental health issues, including bipolar mania and anxiety disorders.

Mizrahi did not disclose whether the drugging had been confirmed by the testimony of freed hostages, blood tests done on the released hostages at Israeli hospitals, or both.

Israel has decried clips of Israeli hostages waving goodbye to Hamas terrorists during their release as propaganda, urging the public not to buy the forced act. Hamas-affiliated media even released a letter supposedly written by Danielle Aloni, an Israeli mom freed from captivity, praising the terrorists for their “extraordinary humanity” towards her 5-year-old daughter, Emilia. Relatives warned the public not to believe the letter, similarly dismissing it as propaganda.

Mizrahi’s testimony came amid a flurry of recent reports highlighting the trauma and torture — both physical and psychological — that the hostages endured.

Last week, for example, the aunt of a 12-year-old boy who was released from captivity in Gaza revealed disturbing details of threats and psychological abuse inflicted on her nephew by Hamas terrorists. Beyond physical abuse, child hostages were forced to watch the Oct. 7 massacre — in which Hamas-led terrorists murdered over 1,200 people across southern Israel and took more than 240 hostages — on film in silence, and any cries they made resulted in threats at gunpoint.

Dozens of the hostages, who included the elderly and young children, were recently released as part of a temporary week-long ceasefire and hostage-prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas. The arrangement ended on Friday when both sides could not reach an agreement to extend the truce.

Israeli health authorities have examined the freed hostages and found they suffered severe weight loss during their captivity in Gaza, the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas.

On Tuesday, Mizrahi highlighted the cruel treatment that the hostages suffered at the hands of the terror group.

“In the hospitals, forensic doctors documented the war crimes left on the returnees” Mizrahi told Israeli lawmakers. “Some of the crimes are starvation, lack of medical treatment, and prolonged shackles.”

The Health Ministry representative added: “War crimes were also documented, the main of which was the lack of adequate medical treatment. There was certainly evidence of this. There were cases of poor feeding that I ask not to expand on — not only because of the secrecy but also because of the meaning it has on the people who are there.”

Israeli hospitals have been working to document the medical condition of released hostages to paint a clearer picture of the atrocities inflicted on them — and what those still in captivity may be enduring.

Relatives of those still being held hostage have pleaded with the Israeli government to do more to bring their loved ones home. Yarden Gonen, whose sister Romi is among those still captive, described the pain of the situation. “I think about it every day that she is there,” Gonen said. “She lives knowing that her soulmate is being murdered in front of her eyes. Someone lost their soulmate in front of their eyes? How do we leave them there? I have no words to emphasize how much we cannot contain it anymore.”

There are still well over 100 hostages being held by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, many of whom are the fathers, brothers, and relatives of those already released. Only women and children were freed under the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

While most reports have focused on the hostages’ physical health, it is unclear how captivity will impact their mental health after experiencing such trauma.

Thomas Hand, the father of nine-year-old Emily Hand who was released by Hamas during the ceasefire, revealed last week that his daughter initially cried herself to sleep and spoke in a whisper because she was conditioned in captivity not to make any noise.

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Hezbollah’s Deadly Rocket Attacks Raise Questions About New Tactics

A general view shows the town of Majdal Shams near the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights March 25, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

JNS.orgIn the past seven days, two rocket attacks by Hezbollah targeting moving Israeli vehicles—one military and one civilian—in the Golan Heights have prompted a review within the Israel Defense Forces.

The attacks, which resulted in the deaths of a civilian couple on Wednesday and an IDF major on July 4, have raised serious questions about the operational capabilities of Hezbollah and local Israeli air defenses.

The first incident occurred on July 3, when a rocket struck a vehicle at a military camp, killing Maj. (res.) Itai Galea, 38, a deputy company commander in a reserve armored brigade.

The attack was launched by Hezbollah in response to an Israeli targeted killing of senior Hezbollah commander Muhammad Nimah Nasser, head of the territorial Hezbollah Aziz Unit. Nasser was killed in an airstrike on his vehicle in the Tyre region of Southern Lebanon. Hezbollah fired more than 200 rockets and 20 drones at locations in the Galilee and the Golan Heights, with one rocket striking Galea’s vehicle.

On Tuesday, reports emerged that an airstrike in Syria on the Damascus-Beirut highway killed Hezbollah operative and former Hassan Nasrallah bodyguard Yasser Qarnabsh, with I24 News reporting that a second casualty of that attack was an officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Saudi state-owned Al Arabiya news channel reported on Wednesday that Qarnabash was responsible for transporting personnel and weapons to Syria.

Following that attack, Hezbollah unleashed a barrage of rockets targeting the Golan Heights on Tuesday, killing Israeli couple Noa and Nir Barnes, from Kibbutz Ortal in the northern Golan Heights. The attack left three children orphans.

Military investigations are underway to determine whether Hezbollah used any line-of-sight or drone-assisted targeting for these strikes.

The IDF’s initial findings suggest that these were not precision-guided munitions but rather parts of larger salvoes aimed at Israeli targets in the area.

But that doesn’t rule out the possibility that Hezbollah used lookouts or drones to help guide its barrages against moving vehicles.

The twin incidents have led to outrage and frustration among residents and local officials in the Golan Heights.

Living under threat

Katzrin Mayor Yehuda Doa expressed anger at the government’s lack of a clear strategy to deal with the persistent threat from Hezbollah. He emphasized the daily reality of living under the threat of rocket fire, which has become a grim routine for the north’s inhabitants.

The IDF’s air defense system has also come under scrutiny. The road where the Barnes couple was killed, near the Nafah Junction, was classified as an open area by the Israeli Air Force’s air defense network.

This designation could mean the rockets fired into the area were not intercepted because they were expected to strike uninhabited terrain. However, the road in question, Route 91, is a major road in the Golan Heights, frequently used by residents, raising concerns about the criteria used to classify areas for rocket interception.

Air defense policy generally avoids intercepting rockets aimed at open areas to conserve interceptor missiles.

The IDF has confirmed it is performing a thorough review of recent attacks to ensure improved protection.

Another layer of complexity is added by the GPS disruptions common in the Golan Heights, Army Radio noted. These disruptions can prevent the IDF Home Front Command’s alert app from functioning correctly, making it difficult for residents to receive timely warnings of rocket attacks. This technical issue may have played a role in the failure to alert residents in the targeted area about the danger they faced.

While the Home Front Command has recommended marking areas of interest on its official application for better alert coverage, this advice would not be relevant if the area in question is designated as “open.”

Ultimately, as Israel continues with its targeted killings of senior Hezbollah terrorists, the Lebanese organization has proved its ability to exact painful prices, leading to wider strategic questions about Hezbollah’s ability to absorb the deaths without losing most of its core terrorist–military capabilities.

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Jews in Europe ‘More Frightened Than Ever Before’ Amid Surging Antisemitism, New Survey Finds

Sign reading “+1000% of Antisemitic Acts: These Are Not Just Numbers” during a march against antisemitism, in Lyon, France, June 25, 2024. Photo: Romain Costaseca / Hans Lucas via Reuters Connect

A striking 96 percent of Jews in Europe had encountered antisemitism in their daily lives even before the historic surge in anti-Jewish hate crimes that followed the outbreak of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, according to the European Union’s rights watchdog.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on Thursday released an extensive survey of nearly 8,000 self-identified Jews from 13 European countries that found shocking levels of antisemitism across the continent. The largest participant countries in the survey were France, Germany, and Hungary.

“Jews are more frightened than ever before,” FRA director Sirpa Rautio said in the survey’s foreword. “We need to do more to ensure the safety and security of our Jewish communities. The EU and Member States must remain firm in their commitment to stem the rising tide of antisemitism. They must ready themselves to respond to heightened intensity and threats.”

According to the results, 80 percent of Jews surveyed said they feel antisemitism has worsened in recent years, while 76 percent of respondents reported hiding their Jewish identity “at least occasionally.” Meanwhile, 34 percent said they avoid Jewish events or sites “because they do not feel safe.”

About 60 percent said they were not satisfied with their national government’s efforts to combat antisemitism. The same number expressed concern about their family’s safety and security.

While nearly all Jews in the survey — 96 percent — said they had encountered antisemitism in the 12 months before the survey, 64 percent reported encountering it “all the time.” The most common occurrence was experiencing negative stereotypes about Jews, such as “holding power and control over finance, media, politics, or economy.” Some 37 percent of respondents said they were harassed over the past year, and 4 percent said they had experienced antisemitic physical attacks in the same period.

Because of antisemitism, 45 percent of European Jews reported that they had considered emigrating from Europe, mostly to Israel.

The survey of European Jewry was conducted from January through June of last year, before the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7 and the start of the war in Gaza. Several European countries have experienced record spikes in antisemitic incidents since the atrocities of Oct. 7.

Of note, the shocking report — which includes some information on antisemitism collected from Jewish organizations this year — employed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Beyond classic antisemitic behavior associated with the likes of the medieval period and Nazi Germany, the IHRA definition includes denial of the Holocaust and newer forms of antisemitism targeting Israel such as demonizing the Jewish state, denying its right to exist, and holding it to standards not expected of any other democratic state.

In the past few weeks, leaders of European Jewry have echoed the sentiment found in the FRA’s report.

“It seems France has no future for Jews,” Rabbi Moshe Sebbag of Paris’ Grand Synagogue told the Times of Israel following France’s recent parliamentary elections. “We fear for the future of our children.”

Meanwhile, Belgium’s only Jewish member of parliament, Michael Frielich, sounded the alarm to Mishpacha Magazine. “The situation is so awful [in Belgium] that at a meeting I attended at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, I told those present, ‘The whole well here is poisoned,’” he said. “People drink the anti-Israel claims in the media all day. And even if we try to explain things, however gently — they are hardly accepted.”

A top European Rabbi recently called on Israel to “develop a practical contingency plan for the absorption of European Jewry in Israel,” as antisemitism spreads across the continent.

“We are in a battle for the continuation of Jewish life in Europe,” European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin said last month. “Jews in traditional dress or those with mezuzahs on their doors are experiencing relentless harassment. Jewish students face threats to their lives and are excluded from university courses, while hate slogans are freely scrawled on Jewish homes, synagogues, and cemeteries.”

The FRA’s report included a section incorporating data compiled after Oct. 7. Each European nation that was featured in the survey reported a shocking increase in antisemitic incidents in the wake of Hamas’ atrocities in Israel — in some cases by over 1,000 percent.

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‘The Neck and the Sword’ is Rashid Khalidi’s Distortion of History

Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi. Photo: Thomas Good / NLN via Wikimedia Commons.“The Neck and the Sword” is the title of an extensive interview with the prominent Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi in the latest issue of New Left Review, a London-based Marxist journal that, despite its name, is deep in the throes of middle age.

The interview’s title stems from one of the points made by Khalidi’s interlocutor, Tariq Ali, an aging New Leftist who used their discussion as an excuse to revisit his late 1960s heyday as a political activist.

Ali recalled that on a trip to the Middle East following the 1967 Six-Day War, he asked the Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani whether a negotiated settlement was possible with these “bastards”—his term for the Israeli people. “Tariq, explain to me how the neck negotiates with the sword,” Kanafani apparently replied.

Ali was, of course, thrilled with this answer, because it reinforced through a poetic metaphor one of the key elements of the Palestinian self-image: We are powerless; we are always and everywhere the victims of others, especially the Zionists; and we resist whenever we can garner the strength.

As romantic as that notion seems to the Western leftists who have adopted Palestine as the core element of their political identity, it is more properly understood as a license for Palestinian terrorist groups to carry out the sorts of monstrosities we witnessed on Oct. 7—articulated by the adulation of their outside admirers—instead of admitting and accepting moral culpability.

Aided by Ali’s fawning line of questioning, Khalidi uncomplicatedly pushes this notion of perpetual victimhood throughout the interview. In my view, it is the clearest expression of an essentially secular Palestinian nationalist standpoint to have appeared in the last nine months, which is why it’s worth reading.

A Columbia University professor who is arguably the most erudite exponent of the Palestinian cause today, Khalidi certainly sounds more nuanced and historically literate when compared to the imbecilic, expletive-laden sloganeering disseminated by violently antisemitic groups like Within Our Lifetime and Students for Justice in Palestine.

For example, rather than denying the rapes, decapitations, hostage-taking and mass murder on Oct. 7—as these vile organizations do whenever they are not celebrating them—Khalidi acknowledges that these took place. Rather than denying or denigrating the Holocaust, he concedes that the Nazi genocide “produced a kind of understandable uniformity in support of Zionism” among the Jews who survived.

But does this cursory nod to the humanity and historical experience of the Jews meaningfully alter Khalidi’s perspective? The answer to that is negative. Khalidi’s softer touch on these questions actually makes the rest of his interview all the more disturbing. He has a historian’s knack for remembering dates, names, locations and quotes, and he marshals this information into a narrative that, for those who don’t know any better, is highly compelling. But for those who do know better, what stands out are the multitude of omissions and distortions in his account.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in his claim that Palestinians were also victims of the antisemitism that culminated in the Holocaust, albeit “indirect” victims.

“Palestinians are paying for the entire history of European Jew-hatred, going back to medieval times,” he says. “Edward I expelling the Jews from England in 1290, the French expulsions in the following century, the Spanish and Portuguese edicts in the 1490s, the Russian pogroms from the 1880s, and finally, the Nazi genocide. Historically, a quintessentially European Christian phenomenon.”

This is an old and discredited line. I can remember interviewing a PLO official on the eve of the Gulf War in 1991 who told me, while wearing an obsequious smile, that “we Palestinians are the victims of the victims”—a neat formula with no historical basis.

The term “antisemitism” may have been coined in Europe by a 19th-century German pamphleteer who chose the term “antisemitismus” to distinguish his “scientific” understanding from the religiously inflected Jew hatred of medieval times—but raging hatred of the Jews is also rooted in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

As Bernard Lewis once argued, the Jews of the Middle East may not have had it as bad as their brethren in Europe, but they never had it as good either. For centuries, Jews, along with other minorities, were subjected to humiliating legal codes across the region, rendering them at best second-class citizens.

During the 20th century, there were numerous episodes of mass violence—what the Ashkenazim called “pogroms”—in Mandatory Palestine and neighboring countries. Among the worst was the June 1941 Farhud (“violent dispossession”) in Iraq, in which hundreds of Jews in Baghdad were murdered amid untold numbers of rapes and other cruelties.

These and similar episodes go entirely unmentioned by Khalidi, as does the fact that within a decade or so following Israel’s emergence as a sovereign state, nearly one million Jews across the region had been dispossessed and expelled.

To recognize that antisemitism was and remains a hard-wired feature of the region, and to perceive the legacy of the Farhud in the atrocities of Oct. 7, is altogether inconvenient for Khalidi, who clearly believes that his audience won’t do any independent research on the history he covers. To admit to its presence would upend his analysis, forcing him to confront the reality that Oct. 7 wasn’t just an explosion of anger by a colonized people who engaged in some regrettable excesses, but another milestone in the long history of Arab violence towards the Jews in their midst.

If a scholar like Khalidi can’t summon the honesty and humility to address this history, one can hardly expect keffiyeh-draped protestors to do so. Yet this isn’t simply a question of intellectual integrity: The Palestinian and broader Arab refusal to reckon with the persecution of their Jewish communities has for nearly a century been an immovable obstacle in the quest for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

As the historian Martin Kramer noted in an excellent piece on another aspect of this problem—the legacy of the pro-Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini—Palestinians continue to ignore the skeletons in their closet. The mufti, Kramer writes, “personified the refusal to see Israel as it is and an unwillingness to imagine a compromise. Until Palestinians exorcise his ghost, it will continue to haunt them.”

Khalidi’s interview with Tariq Ali demonstrates that other, no less significant ghosts need to be exorcised as well. Until that happens, if it ever happens, Ali’s “bastards”—the government and people of Israel, along with the vast majority of Diaspora Jews who support them—have no choice but to remain on a war footing. The alternative is a sword on our necks.

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