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‘My Colleagues Don’t Have Spine to Defend Jews’: Musicians, Influencers Discuss Digital Advocacy for Hamas Hostages

(From left) Moderator Ido Daniel with panelists Daniel-Ryan Spaulding, Ashley Waxman-Bakshi, Daniel Braun, and David Draiman at an event on June 17, 2024. Montana Tucker participated via a live video that played on the screen behind the panelists. Photo: Screenshot

David Draiman, frontman of the American heavy metal band Disturbed, and musician Montana Tucker were among the panelists at an event in Israel on Monday that focused on media and digital advocacy for the hostages abducted from southern Israel on Oct. 7 by Hamas terrorists.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum hosted in Sderot an event titled “Impacting Public Opinion Under Fire,” and it featured a panel discussion about “impacting public opinion on the hostages through social media.” The panelists included stand-up comedian Daniel-Ryan Spaulding, beauty influencer Ashley Waxman-Bakshi, and Daniel Braun, who has over 4 million followers on TikTok.

“It’s very hard to be one of the only ones; one of the only prominent Jews supporting our people during this incredibly difficult time,” said Draiman.

The “Sound of Silence” singer is currently in Israel touring the country and visited some of the kibbutz areas impacted by the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks. The singer talked during the panel discussion on Monday about losing many friends in the music industry because of his avid support for Israel, especially following Oct. 7.

Draiman shared that he used to have dinner on a regular basis in Los Angles with “two very dear friends of mine” — Serj Tankian, lead singer of System Of A Down, and American guitarist and singer-songwriter Tom Morello from the band Rage Against the Machine. Tankian has accused Israel of committing “war crimes” and “genocide” during the Israel-Hamas war, and Morello was among the anti-Israel activists who pressured the Download music festival to remove Barclays Bank as a sponsor of the event because of its association with Israel.

“I used to pride myself on being a man who always tried to cross the divide with everyone everywhere all the time … I can’t even speak to these people anymore,” Draiman said. “There’s no point trying to convince someone who’s been so seduced by the narrative of the other side.”

“Most of my colleagues simply don’t have the spine and the wherewithal to stand fast and to stand true in defense of the Jewish people,” he added. “They simply don’t.”

Draiman admitted that he gets “250, 500 [and] sometimes 1,000” death threats a week. He also had to hire additional private security but is not bothered by what he is facing for showing solidarity with Israel.

“It’s all worth it and I’d do it 1,000 times over,” he explained. “What we’re fighting against is very unique and it’s hard to combat against a society that is uncivilized; that threatens people with death, with the death of their children, with harming their families. It’s very hard for it to go through one ear and out the other. But visiting Sdoret, the kibbutzim and being an addict of everything informational that has happened since Oct. 7 — it’s only convinced me to continue to push even harder. We’ll never give up. We will keep going and we will not be intimated by those who seek to intimidate us. We are not Jews with trembling knees.”

Tucker wore a gown to the 2024 Grammy Awards in February that featured an oversized yellow ribbon that said, “Bring Them Home,” calling for the release of the remaining hostages. She also wore a Star of David necklace. During Monday’s panel discussion, Tucker was asked by the panel’s moderator Ido Daniel about the backlash she received for wearing the gown, from members of the entertainment industry and others outside of the business.

Recalling her experience at the Grammys, she said, “when I walked off the red carpet, someone from the Recording Academy asked if I could leave because they were disappointed in my dress. They said it was too political and they don’t do politics at the Grammys … They proceeded to ask me if I could remove the ribbon. I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ And then I went back out there [on the red carpet] and two minutes later [Recording Academy CEO] Harvey Mason Jr. actually came up to me and said, ‘Thank you for wearing that dress. Let’s take your photo.’”

“But the stares I received all night were insane,” she added. “I made it to Us Weekly’s worst dressed at the Grammys list. But the love I received from the Jewish community was beyond incredible and some of the families of the hostages that I keep in contact with said they felt seen [and] heard. That’s why I will continue no matter what to use my platform, whether it’s at an award show or online, to call for the release of the hostages. I will always continue to do so until they are all home.”

Waxman-Bakshi’s cousin Agam Berger, 19, is still held in Hamas captivity in Gaza after being abducted during the Oct. 7 attack on the Nahal Oz military base. Waxman-Bakshi, a Canadian-born social media influencer who has a masters degree in counterterrorism and previously worked for Israel’s Ministry of Defense, has met with world leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, members of the US Congress, and other politicians about the hostages.

She even spoke at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday, which was the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. The UN Human Rights Council discussed a new report submitted by the Council’s Commission of Inquiry that concluded Hamas terrorists perpetrated sexual violence on Oct. 7, “primarily against Israeli women.”

Waxman-Bakshi talked during Monday’s panel discussion about how content creating ties in to her speaking out about the hostages. She said getting politicians to follow her on social media, continuing to engage with them, and “keeping that conversation going” furthers her advocacy regarding the hostages.

“Once my face continues to show up on their screen and in their parliaments, they stop and listen,” she said. “So I’m really in this unique position where I’m doing both. Both things need to be happening simultaneously — not only diplomatic work but also strategic work online.”

The full video of the panel discussion can be seen on the Facebook page of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

The post ‘My Colleagues Don’t Have Spine to Defend Jews’: Musicians, Influencers Discuss Digital Advocacy for Hamas Hostages first appeared on

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One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.


Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

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Putin Jails US Reporter Gershkovich in Sham Trial

A Russian secret court found U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich guilty of espionage on Friday and sentenced him to 16 years in a maximum security penal colony in what his employer, the Wall Street Journal, accurately called “a disgraceful sham conviction.”

Gershkovich, a 32-year-old Jewish American who denied any wrongdoing, went on trial in the city of Yekaterinburg last month after being accused of trying to gather sensitive information about a tank factory.

He was the first U.S. journalist accused of spying in Russia since the Cold War, and his arrest in March 2023 prompted many U.S. and other Western correspondents to leave Moscow.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Gershkovich did not commit any crime and has been wrongfully detained.

“We are pushing hard for Evan’s release and will continue to do so,” Biden said in a statement. “Journalism is not a crime.”

Video of Friday’s hearing released by the court showed Gershkovich, dressed in a T-shirt and black trousers, standing in a glass courtroom cage as he listened to the verdict being read in rapid-fire legalese for nearly four minutes.

Asked by the judge if he had any questions, he replied “Nyet.”

The judge, Andrei Mineyev, said the nearly 16 months Gershkovich had already served since his arrest would count towards the 16-year sentence.

Mineyev ordered the destruction of the reporter’s mobile phone and paper notebook. The defense has 15 days to appeal.

“This disgraceful, sham conviction comes after Evan has spent 478 days in prison, wrongfully detained, away from his family and friends, prevented from reporting, all for doing his job as a journalist,” the Journal said in a statement.

“We will continue to do everything possible to press for Evan’s release and to support his family. Journalism is not a crime, and we will not rest until he’s released. This must end now.”

Gershkovich’s friend, reporter Pjotr Sauer of Britain’s Guardian newspaper, posted on X: “Russia has just sentenced an innocent man to 16 years in a high security prison. I have no words to describe this farce. Let’s get Evan out of there.”

Friday’s hearing was only the third in the trial. The proceedings, apart from the sentencing, were closed to the media on the grounds of state secrecy.

Espionage cases often take months to handle and the unusual speed at which the trial was held behind closed doors has stoked speculation that a long-discussed U.S.-Russia prisoner exchange deal may be in the offing, involving Gershkovich and potentially other Americans detained in Russia.

The Kremlin, when asked by Reuters earlier on Friday about the possibility of such an exchange, declined to comment: “I’ll leave your question unanswered,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Among those Russia would like to free is Vadim Krasikov, a Russian serving a life sentence in Germany for murdering an exiled Chechen-Georgian dissident in a Berlin park in 2019.

Officers of the FSB security service arrested Gershkovich on March 29, 2023, at a steakhouse in Yekaterinburg, 900 miles (1,400 km) east of Moscow. He has since been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

Russian prosecutors had accused Gershkovich of gathering secret information on the orders of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency about a company that manufactures tanks for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

The Uralvagonzavod factory, which he is accused of spying on, has been sanctioned by the West. Based in the city of Nizhny Tagil near Yekaterinburg, it has publicly spoken of producing T-90M battle tanks and modernizing T-72B3M tanks.

Earlier on Friday, the court unexpectedly said it would pronounce its verdict within hours after state prosecutors demanded Gershkovich be jailed for 18 years for spying. The maximum sentence for the crime he was accused of is 20 years.

Russia usually concludes legal proceedings against foreigners before making any deals on exchanging them.


Gershkovich, his newspaper and the U.S. government all rejected the allegations against him and said he was merely doing his job as a reporter accredited by the Foreign Ministry to work in Russia.

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia is open to a prisoner exchange involving Gershkovich, and that contacts with the United States have taken place but must remain secret.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that Washington was working every day to bring home Gershkovich, former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and other Americans.

He declined to go into details when asked why Putin would reach a deal on Gershkovich’s release ahead of the U.S. election.

“Any effort to bring any American home is going to be part of a process of back and forth, of discussion, potentially of negotiation,” Blinken said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

“Depending on what the other side is looking for, they’ll reach their own conclusions about whether it meets whatever their needs are, and we can bring someone home – and I don’t think that’s dependent on an election in the United States or anywhere else,” he said.

Mark Warner, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, called Gershkovich’s sentence “outrageous,” and said he thinks “it’s clear that the Russians view Evan almost as a bargaining chip at this point.”

Speaking in an interview with Reuters, Warner declined to discuss whether efforts are underway to arrange an exchange for Gershkovich’s release, but said “all options have to stay on the table” with regards to how the Biden administration responds.

Friends who have exchanged letters with Gershkovich say he has remained resilient and cheerful throughout his imprisonment, occupying himself by reading classics of Russian literature.

At court appearances over the past 16 months – most recently with his head shaven – he has frequently smiled and nodded at reporters he used to work with before he himself became the story.

Since Russian troops entered Ukraine in 2022, Moscow and Washington have conducted just one high profile prisoner swap: Russia released basketball star Brittney Griner, held for smuggling cannabis, in return for arms dealer Viktor Bout, jailed for terrorism-related offenses in the United States.

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VP Harris Hits Fundraising Trail Amid Ongoing Calls for Biden to Quit Race

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will headline a fundraiser in Massachusetts on Saturday as President Joe Biden faces continued pressure from fellow Democrats and big money donors to end his floundering campaign.

Biden and top aides on Friday vowed to continue with the campaign, even as major donors signaled they were unwilling to open their checkbooks unless the 81-year-old president stepped aside.

The crisis-in-confidence in Biden’s ability to win has placed a huge spotlight on Harris, widely believed to be the most likely replacement if he steps down.

Her fundraising events, including the one on Saturday in Provincetown, Massachusetts are getting added interest from donors who want to signal they are willing to coalesce around her potential bid for the White House, according to three Democratic fundraisers.

More than one in 10 congressional Democrats have now publicly called on Biden, who is isolating at his Delaware home with a case of COVID-19, to drop out following a disastrous debate last month against Republican former President Donald Trump that raised questions about the incumbent’s ability to win the Nov. 5 election or carry out his duties for another four years.

Biden’s campaign hoped to raise some $50 million in big-dollar donations in July for the Biden Victory Fund but was on track for less than half that figure as of Friday, according to two sources familiar with the fundraising efforts.

The campaign called reports of a July fundraising slump overstated, noting that it anticipated a drop-off in large donations due to vacations. It said the campaign still has 10 fundraisers on the schedule this month.

Harris assured major Democratic donors on Friday that the party would prevail in the presidential election as more lawmakers called for her running mate, Biden, to stand down.

“We are going to win this election,” she said on a call arranged on short notice to calm donors, according to a person on the call. “We know which candidate in this election puts the American people first: Our president, Joe Biden.”

Harris attended the call “at the direct request of senior advisers to the president,” one of the people said, an account confirmed by another person familiar with the matter.

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