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I was the victim of settler violence in the West Bank. Looking away from it will endanger all of us.

(JTA) — Last Friday, I experienced firsthand — again — the dangers of life in the West Bank right now.

I had joined Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the director of the Israeli human rights NGO Torat Tzedek, to deliver food to a Palestinian community whose residents are fleeing due to Jewish settler violence. Afterward, we were accompanying residents of yet another village — a small community located near the Palestinian town of Turmus Aya — that is also fleeing settler violence.

While there, about a dozen settlers showed up, many of them armed. They attacked Rabbi Ascherman, who had blocked the road with his car and then exited the vehicle. I was filming from the passenger’s seat inside the car, and one settler entered the unlocked driver’s side door. He repeatedly demanded I give him the keys, which I did not have. I was filming him, but he grabbed my phone out of my hands. Rabbi Ascherman’s car was also stolen during the incident.

As I began exiting the car, the same settler who stole my phone told me, “Take one more step and you’re finished. I’ve already seen enough to do it.” Several soldiers, including an officer, quickly arrived on the scene, but they made no effort to detain our assailants or ensure our phones were returned.

After the incident, Rabbi Ascherman planned to file a police report. I told him that I wouldn’t be able to join.

I had a good reason. In May 2021, against the backdrop of rampant violence throughout Israel-Palestine and the war between Israel and Hamas, I was attacked by settlers. After that attack, I called the police. They arrived at the scene and told me that I was a suspect and needed to come to the police station. At the station, I was interrogated for two hours. This interrogation largely consisted of bad-faith questions such as “Are you a terrorist?” and “What were you wearing?” Two days later, I had a panic attack. Having been arrested for the crime of which I was the victim, I was too traumatized to put myself through that again.

On Oct. 7, Hamas invaded southern Israel, killing 1,400 Israelis and kidnapping over 200 civilians. Since then, Israel has been engaging in a nonstop bombardment of the Gaza Strip; one of the most densely populated areas on Earth. More than 8,000 Palestinians, including 3,000 children, have died, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

Related: In the West Bank, spiking violence and an idle economy spur fears of a broadening conflict

Meanwhile, since Oct. 7, more than 100 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been killed, mostly by soldiers but also by settlers, sometimes seemingly working together. In one instance, four Palestinians were killed by armed settlers who entered the Palestinian village of Qusra. Israeli human rights group B’tselem said of the incident that “settlers are utilizing the fact that public attention is focused elsewhere to … add fuel to the fire of violence.” Two more Palestinians were killed at the subsequent funeral. The Palestinian communities in the villages of Zanuta, Wadi Al-Siq and more have fled due to settler violence. According to the left-wing Israeli NGO Eyes on the Occupation, 10 West Bank Palestinian communities have fled since Oct. 7.

In Wadi Al-Siq, soldiers and settlers were accused of binding, stripping, beating and urinating on three Palestinians, and zip-tying and stealing the phones of Israeli activists. Some of the attackers wearing military uniforms were identified as settlers from nearby illegal outposts.

In the village of Tuwani, located in the Masafer Yatta region, a settler is seen in a video shooting a Palestinian point-blank in the stomach. A soldier was seen escorting the shooter away from the scene.

With Israeli and international media attention almost entirely focused on Gaza, reporting has lagged on the violence currently taking place in the West Bank. Giving short shrift the West Bank has exacerbated the already existing trend in which the victims of right-wing violence in the West Bank are reluctant to report their crimes to the police.

According to Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Din,  between 2013 and 2015, out of “416 cases of ideologically-motivated violence, 43% of the victims of these incidents clearly stated an unwillingness to file a complaint with the Israeli police.” This percentage is sure to rise given the current political landscape. A source close to the shooting victim in Tuwani informed me that that family did not bother going to the police.

Sometimes, victims of settler violence do not go to the police because it seems like a waste of time. In cases like mine, traumatic experiences with the police and the fear of more trauma discourage victims from coming forward. In Wadi Al-Siq, state actors took part in the crime in the first place.

With all eyes on the Gaza Strip, what little accountability police and settlers faced in the West Bank may disappear. It is not in spite of the horrors occurring in Gaza, but because of them, that we must pay more attention to the similar horrors occurring throughout the West Bank.

Since the Holocaust, the story of Jewish peoplehood has been one of trauma. But inflicting trauma upon others will not heal us, and no amount of violence or killing — in Gaza or in the West Bank — will bring anyone back to life or make us safer. The violence in the West Bank is sure to invite retaliation and endanger all of us.

The post I was the victim of settler violence in the West Bank. Looking away from it will endanger all of us. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Biden Administration Urges Israel to Tone Down Response to Hezbollah Aggression in Bid to Avert Wider Conflict

Mourners carry a coffin during the funeral of Wissam Tawil, a commander of Hezbollah’s elite Radwan forces who according to Lebanese security sources was killed during an Israeli strike on south Lebanon, in Khirbet Selm, Lebanon, Jan. 9, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Aziz Taher

The Biden administration has been pushing the Israeli government to de-escalate hostilities with Hezbollah to prevent a full-scale war from breaking out along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where the powerful Iran-backed terrorist group wields significant political and military influence.

In Israel’s north, Hezbollah terrorists have been firing rockets at Israel daily from southern Lebanon since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre, leading Israeli forces to strike back. Tensions have been escalating between both sides, fueling concerns that the conflict in Gaza — the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas, another Iran-backed Islamist terrorist group, to Israel’s south — could escalate into a regional conflict.

More than 80,000 Israelis evacuated Israel’s north in October and have since been unable to return to their homes. The majority of those spent the past eight months residing in hotels in safer areas of the country. The mass displacement has ramped up pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to find a swift resolution to the situation.

The ongoing conflict between both sides escalated on Tuesday when senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah was killed in an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah responded by launching over 200 missiles into northern Israel. 

During Abdullah’s funeral, senior Hezbollah official Hachem Saffieddine vowed that the terrorist group would intensify its strikes on Israel. 

“Our response after the martyrdom of Abu Taleb will be to intensify our operations in severity, strength, quantity and quality,” Saffieddine said. “Let the enemy wait for us in the battlefield.”

In Israel, meanwhile, officials have said they prefer a diplomatic solution to the current crisis but are prepared to escalate military action to push Hezbollah back from the border in order to allow internally displaced Israelis to return home. Polling has shown that the majority of the Israeli public wants the military to engage in expanded actions against the Lebanese terrorist group, which is committed to Israel’s destruction.

The Biden administration has been advising Netanyahu against pursuing the idea of a “limited war” against Hezbollah, arguing that it could spark a regional war throughout the Middle East. According to multiple reports, US officials have warned Israel that Iran could dispatch militants from Syria, Iraq, and Yemen into Lebanon to bolster Hezbollah’s effort.

The White House has also expressed concern  that Israeli officials do not have a clear strategy on how to keep the war contained to solely Lebanon. Fear of a broader regional war has intensified the Biden administration’s urgency to finalize a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas, which launched the ongoing war in Gaza by slaughtering over 1,200 people throughout southern Israel and kidnapping more than 250 others on Oct. 7.

“We are concerned about an increase in activity in the north. We don’t want this to escalate to a broad regional conflict and we urge de-escalation,” a Pentagon spokesperson told reporters this week.

The Pentagon also released a statement saying that Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and his US counterpart Lloyd Austin discussed efforts to “de-escalate tensions along the Israel-Lebanon border in the wake of Lebanese Hezbollah’s increased aggression.”

According to multiple reports, Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to US President Joe Biden for energy and investment, will head to Israel on Monday in an effort to temper tensions between the Jewish state and Hezbollah. Hochstein will meet with Netanyahu and Gallant with the goal of swaying them against green-lighting a “limited ground invasion” in Lebanon. Hochstein will reportedly also journey to Beirut to conduct discussions with Lebanese officials.

“There was a lot of work, diplomatic work done behind the scenes by several folks in the US administration, working with regional powers and our allies to try and tamp this down,” Hochstein has said regarding the prospect of a regional war erupting in the Middle East.

Hochstein argued that preventing a large-scale war between Israel and Lebanon requires “active engagement” with both parties and for the public of both countries to “understand the risks” of further escalation. He added that “despite the bravado talk” coming from government officials, Lebanese people do not to go to war with Israel.

“The bottom line is a lot of civilians will die,” Hochstein said.

Despite chest-thumping by Hezbollah leaders, experts believe that the elimination of Abdullah might cause Hezbollah to exercise caution in engaging further with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). 

The powerful elimination worries Hezbollah members. They now understand that the IDF knows much more about them than we do,” Professor Amatzia Baram told The Jerusalem Post. “Additionally, the operation indicates that Hezbollah’s field security is not airtight and that the organization’s intelligence system has been penetrated to such an extent that we were able to eliminate such an important sector commander. The IDF managed to infiltrate their networks and systems and identify the right people for elimination.”

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Iranian Court Sentences Woman to 18 Years in Prison for Supporting Israel

Iranian protesters carry a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a Yemeni flag as they burn an Israeli flag during an anti-US and anti-British protest in front of the British embassy in downtown Tehran, Iran, Jan. 12, 2024. Photo: Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Reuters Connect

Fatemeh Sepehri, a prominent Iranian dissident and political prisoner, has been sentenced to an additional 18 and a half years in prison after she publicly expressed support for Israel.

The harsh prison sentence appeared to be at least partly in response to a video clip released on Oct. 16 from Ghaem Hospital in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad in which Sepehri, who suffers from a heart ailment, condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. Hamas is backed by the Iranian regime, which provides the Palestinian terror group in Gaza with funding, weapons, and training.

“I emphatically declare that the Iranian nation stands in solidarity with the people of Israel,” she said. “I hope [Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks] closes the Islamic Republic’s chapter in history.”


For 45 years, Iranian women have tirelessly battled for their rights, freedom, and advancement. Among them, Fatemeh Sepehri has boldly challenged the ideals of the Islamic Republic. NUFDI proudly awards her the 2024 Humanitarian Award.

— سه خط طلا (@misanthropgirl) March 19, 2024

Although Fatimeh’s court records are unavailable to the public, her brother Asghar Sepehri tweeted details about the sentence. According to her sibling, Fatimeh was sentenced earlier this month by a judge of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Mashhad to seven years for supporting Israel, another seven years for conspiring against internal security, three years for insulting Iran’s so-called “supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and one year and six months for propaganda against the Islamist regime.

Iran’s rulers regularly call for the destruction of Israel, often referring to the Jewish state as a “cancerous tumor” or “the Zionist entity.”

Sepehri was originally arrested in Sept. 2022 following the killing of Mahsa Amini, a young woman whose death at the hands of Iran’s morality police sparked nationwide protests against the ruling Islamist regime on an unprecedented scale.

Sepehri’s pro-Israel video was posted after she was temporary released from prison to undergo open-heart surgery. According to her family, Sepehri has been subjected to intense “psychological torture” while in prison. Her brothers, Mohammad-Hossein and Hossein, have also received severe sentences for similar charges: eight years and two years and 11 months, respectively.

In the past, Sepehri has been an outspoken critic of Khamenei and the Islamic Republic more broadly. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported in 2021 that Sepehri said on video that she hoped to see the day when Khamenei would be dragged through the streets and killed like Libya’s late ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Days after Sepehri received her sentence, Iran released political prisoner Louis Arnaud, a French citizen, on Thursday. Arnaud was arrested in Sept. 2022 as anti-government protests were erupting across Iran. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted shortly after Arnaud’s release, “Louis Arnaud is free. Tomorrow he will be in France after a long incarceration in Iran.”

Louis Arnaut is greeted by Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné at Paris’ Le Bourget Airport following his release from Iran. Photo: Screenshot

Three French nationals remain imprisoned in Iran as political prisoners. French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné posted on social media that securing their release remains a top priority.

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Former ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Star Patricia Heaton: Every Human Being Should Be Against Antisemitism

One of the billboards erected in partnership between JewBelong and O7C. Photo: Instagram

Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton said this week that following the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, it should be a “natural” reaction among all humans to want to combat antisemitism, as well as support the Jewish people and Israel’s right to exist.

The “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Middle” star, who is a devout Catholic, made the comments during her guest appearance on the NewsNation show “CUOMO,” where she also advocated for Christians to voice solidarity with Jews and Israel after Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 people and took 250 hostages during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Heaton began by telling host Chris Cuomo that after the Oct. 7 atrocities, she was “confused by the lack of outcry from the churches.”

“I even posted on Instagram, ‘Did you ever have that thought that if you were in Germany during World War II, you hoped that you would be that good German that helped to hide your Jewish neighbors? Well, today you have that opportunity,’” she added.

Following the Oct. 7 attacks, Heaton founded a nonprofit called the Oct. 7 Coalition (O7C) to urge Christians to be visibly outspoken against antisemitism, and in support of Jews and Israel’s right to exist. Heaton’s O7C has since teamed up with the nonprofit JewBelong to launch a nationwide billboard campaign to raise awareness about antisemitism in the US.

Talking about why she wanted to get involved in rallying support for Israel and Jewish communities facing a rise in antisemitism in the US since the Oct. 7 attacks, Heaton said, “I think if you’re a human being, that should be your natural response to what we saw.” When asked about how people in the entertainment industry have reacted to her avid pro-Israel stance, she said Jewish friends in the business have called her “brave and courageous.”

“[But] I just think this is just a normal human reaction,” she said. “I have heard ‘We have projects we have to promote. We don’t want to bring politics into it.’ I guess if someone spent 50 or 100 million on a movie, they don’t want to introduce this subject matter and I guess you can understand that. But generally speaking I think Hollywood could do more to support our Jewish community.”

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