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Port of No Return: The US Plan for Aid Relief in Gaza

Aerial view shows a World Central Kitchen (WCK) barge loaded with food arriving off Gaza, where there is risk of famine after five months of Israel’s military campaign, in this handout image released March 15, 2024. Photo: Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS

The US has chosen to cross the Rubicon. In his 2024 State of the Union address, President Biden reminded Americans, “The United States has been leading international efforts to get more humanitarian assistance into Gaza.” He said, “I’m directing the US military to lead an emergency mission to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean on the Gaza coast that can receive large ships carrying food, water, medicine, and temporary shelters.”

Washington has taken ownership of the crisis by committing significant US resources to mitigate the Gaza humanitarian emergency. It is now America’s problem to solve. The Marshall Plan saved Western Europe from starvation and Soviet domination, but it came at a serious price: the US became intimately and inextricably involved in European affairs, effectively becoming “the most important country in Europe.” The US Gaza port plan is the first step in a “Marshall Plan for Gaza.” It is the Port of No Return.

However, when we look at American aid missions that were attempted in other areas embroiled in war and conflict in the years since the original Marshall Plan, the US has had less success.

In the early 1980s, President Reagan deployed US Marines to Lebanon as part of a multinational peacekeeping force to stabilize the country amid its civil war and facilitate the withdrawal of Israeli forces. While their goal was to provide a neutral intervention to restore peace and order, the US forces increasingly found themselves embroiled in the conflict, as they were perceived as siding with the Lebanese government and its Christian allies against Muslim factions. The situation deteriorated dramatically on October 23, 1983, when a Hezbollah truck bomb destroyed the US Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 American service personnel. The devastating attack, one of the deadliest against US forces since World War II, led President Reagan to withdraw the remaining US forces, marking an end to the ill-fated intervention.

Similarly, in the early 1990s, the US initiated a humanitarian aid operation in Mogadishu, Somalia, to alleviate the severe famine and restore order amidst the country’s civil war. What was meant to be a UN-backed aid distribution operation escalated into a military engagement when local warlords appropriated all the aid and monopolized its distribution. The US resolved to end the control of the warlords through military force, culminating in the infamous 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, vividly depicted in the book and film Black Hawk Down. Intense urban warfare resulted in significant casualties, with 18 US soldiers killed and 73 wounded. On the Somali side, hundreds, perhaps as many as 1,000 Somalis were killed. The dramatic failure of the operation prompted another embarrassing US withdrawal.

There is significant risk in endeavors of this kind. Hamas uses its monopoly on the distribution of resources, including foreign aid, to reward its members and supporters. It withholds these resources as a means of control. Power is a finite resource, and an increase in power for one party directly corresponds to a decrease in power for others. Should an alternative source of aid distribution emerge, this lever of Hamas’s power will greatly diminish. There is therefore a strong likelihood that Hamas or a related group will employ violence against aid distribution personnel (civilian or military) to provoke an American withdrawal.

It is also important to bear in mind that some in Gaza have adopted a strong Islamist worldview. These individuals will see the US effort not as a form of international aid relief but as the US attempting to gain a foothold in Dar al-Islam (the territory of Islam). During the Gulf War (1991-92), al-Qaeda made an argument about the sanctity of Dar al-Islam by criticizing the presence of US military forces in Saudi Arabia.  Bin Laden argued that it was a violation of Islamic principles for non-Muslim forces to be stationed in the land of the believers. He called for the expulsion of US forces and for Muslims to unite against what he perceived as a Western intrusion into Islamic territory. Some Palestinians are already calling the US port just another form of occupation. For Gazans who embrace Islamist ideology, expelling a US presence would be part of their jihad, and the use of force against Americans would be sanctioned.

In the current conflict, Iranian proxies are already targeting Americans. The Houthis of Yemen are attacking US warships and neutral shipping nearly daily.  US forces in Iraq and Syria have faced over 130 attacks since October. In all probability, Iran’s surrogates in Gaza will also attack US forces when they arrive  in the hope of driving them out. As one analyst put it, “The port will be a bullet magnet.” If casualties mount and the US abandons the project, it will strengthen Iran and deepen Tehran’s impression that the US is wavering in its regional support.

Contrary to media representation, Israel has been providing aid. A recent Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) report noted that “Since Hamas’s October 7 massacre, Israel has supported the transfer of 11,943 humanitarian aid trucks into Gaza. As of February 4, these deliveries included 144,030 tons of food, 20,780 tons of water, 23,160 tons of shelter equipment, 16,700 tons of medical supplies, 146 tanks of fuel, and 222 tanks of cooking gas.” This aid is being delivered while major combat operations are still ongoing, putting IDF soldiers, aid workers, and Gazan residents at risk.  In a recent aid delivery attempt, Gazans rushed toward an aid truck, causing a stampede with significant loss of life.

Even with the significant risk involved, the effort may be worthwhile. The US has a storied history of successful humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) programs. The most celebrated would be the aforementioned Marshall Plan (1948-52). The Berlin Airlift (1948-49) was also a major US success. The US has achieved positive results in more recent HADR programs as well, including its responses to a massive tsunami in the Indian Ocean (2004), an earthquake in Haiti (2010), the massive Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines (2013), Cyclone Idai in Mozambique (2019), and a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey and Syria (2023).

In Gaza, the relief plan calls for a combination of forward basing out of Cyprus and non-combatant “seabasing” nearer to Gaza with a temporary pier and infrastructure. Gaza has a port, but it is a small fishing boat marina that is not suitable for this sort of operation.

The US military is planning a Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore (JLOTS) operation. JLOTS is designed to facilitate the transport and distribution of personnel, equipment, and supplies from sea to shore in environments where traditional port facilities are limited or nonexistent. It involves a coordinated effort among multiple branches of the armed forces, utilizing various specialized equipment and techniques such as roll-on/roll-off ships, causeways, barges, and amphibious vehicles to offload cargo directly onto the shore. It is used when conventional ports are unavailable due to damage, conflict, or lack of infrastructure in remote or austere environments.

Pentagon spokesman Gen Ryder said, “[JLOTS] is a capability… that we are going to execute and enable us to get… up to 2,000,000 meals in [to Gaza] a day.” Also, the EU has donated barges laden with foodstuffs that will be consolidated in Cyprus. According to a recent article in the Jerusalem Post, the operation would involve the screening of cargo in Cyprus, with Israeli officials’ involvement.


Examples of JLOTS capabilities. Source: DoD screenshot republished in “DOD to Construct Pier to Deliver Humanitarian Aid to Gaza” by Mathew Olay, DoD News.

US Military Sealift Command (MSC) conducted a demonstration of its JLOTS capabilities in 2017 through an exercise involving an Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD) ship. The USNS MONTFORD POINT (T-ESD-1) is a large vessel with a wide-open deck area and low freeboard, facilitating cargo transfer from conventional ships. The exercise demonstrated the feasibility of the “floating pier” concept. It showcased the ability to transfer large cargo at sea by using the MONTFORD POINT as a floating pier that would receive freight from traditional logistics vessels for further transfer by lighters or similar small vessels.

One day after President Biden’s speech, US Central Command announced that it is deploying five ships and 1,000 troops to build the offshore port and has already dispatched the US Army Vessel (USAV) GENERAL FRANK S. BESSON (LSV-1).  The BESSON departed from Virginia and will arrive no earlier than the end of March. The BESSON is tasked with delivering the equipment necessary to establish the temporary pier. The USNS BENAVIDEZ (T-AKR-306), a BOB HOPE class ship, has been activated from the ready reserve to participate. The BENAVIDEZ is a large vessel that carries modules to build both floating and shore-based piers.  The 7th Transportation Brigade from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, will oversee the JLOTS operation. Their mission is to “conduct multi-modal transportation operations in support of the Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (RSOI) of joint and/or combined forces into a theater of operations.”

President Biden assured Americans in his speech that there would be no US military personnel with “boots on the ground.” It is unclear how the pier can be built securely and aid safely provided without a military presence. In addition, the pier facilities themselves need regular tending and maintenance. “No boots on the ground” likely means highly paid US and foreign contractors to do the job so US military and government personnel can avoid having to do so.

At a recent Pentagon press briefing, General Ryder was asked, “Does the DoD anticipate that Hamas will fire on them, on the JLOTS operation?” He replied, “That’s certainly a risk, but if Hamas truly does care about the Palestinian people, one would hope that this international mission to deliver aid to people who need it would be able to happen unhindered.” If the US is depending on Hamas’s goodwill for the success of this operation, it is likely to be disappointed.

By spearheading the Gaza Port operation, the US has not only underscored its commitment to addressing the dire humanitarian needs in Gaza but is also taking on significant inherent risks. The initiative mirrors historic US humanitarian missions, highlighting America’s capacity to mobilize substantial resources in response to global crises. While the plan aims to deliver essential aid and foster stability, it also exposes the US to risks associated with local power dynamics and anti-American sentiment, echoing past challenges in Lebanon and Somalia. Those were places where the US found itself entangled in local conflicts, with varying degrees of success and failure, all with a fair share of unintended consequences.  For Washington this is a serious gamble with high stakes of either peace and stability or calamity and conflict.

David Levy is a retired US Navy Commander. He was the Director for Theater Security Cooperation for US Naval Forces Central Command and the US Air and Naval Attaché in Tunis, Tunisia. CDR. Levy is a Ph.D. candidate at Bar Ilan University in the Department of Political Science.

A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

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Iran’s ‘Supreme Leader’ Welcomes Anti-Israel Campus Protesters to ‘Resistance Front’

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Official Khamenei Website/Handout via REUTERS

Iran’s so-called “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, applauded the anti-Israel protesters who have thrown university campuses across the US into chaos over the past several weeks, declaring them part of a new “branch of the Resistance Front” against the Jewish state.

“Dear university students in the United States of America, this message is an expression of our empathy and solidarity with you,” Khamenei wrote in an open letter published on Thursday. “As the page of history is turning, you are standing on the right side of it.”

Rehashing antisemitic conspiracies of Jewish control, he derided “the global Zionist elite” for speaking against the campus demonstrations.

“The global Zionist elite — who owns most US and European media corporations or influences them through funding and bribery — has labeled this courageous, humane resistance movement as ‘terrorism,’” Khamenei wrote. “You have now formed a branch of the Resistance Front and have begun an honorable struggle in the face of your government’s ruthless pressure — a government which openly supports the usurper and brutal Zionist regime.”

Khamenei also praised students in other countries who have launched anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses, noting the leading role that faculty have played in fostering and supporting the unrest.

“Besides you students from dozens of American universities, there have also been uprisings in others countries among academics and the general public,” he wrote. “The support and solidarity of your professors is a significant and consequential development. This can offer some measure of comfort in the face of your government’s police brutality and the pressures it is exerting on you. I too am among those who empathize with you young people, and value your perseverance.”

Khamenei’s letter came amid an outpouring of praise for the anti-Zionist students by Islamist terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

“While we support the assassination of the infidel Zionists and the beheading of them, we also appreciate and value the movement of Western demonstrators and sit-in students from Western universities, who through their sit-ins and protests expressed their rejection of the genocide taking place in Gaza,” al-Qaeda leadership wrote in a recent communique

Hamas and Hezbollah, both backed by Iran, have also cheered the protests.

“Today’s students are the leaders of the future, and their suppression today means an expensive electoral bill that the Biden administration will pay sooner or later,” Hamas official Izzat Al-Risheq said in a statement last month.

Naim Qassem, the deputy head of Hezbollah, also praised the protesters during an interview with Al-Manar TV earlier this month.

“We appreciate and value this very much. Perhaps in the future, there will be cooperation among the youth of the world — in America, France, Britain, Germany, and all the activists,” he said. “The [campus protests] are important, especially because they will have an impact on US elections. They will have an impact on the American position.”

Earlier this month, when some universities suspended students who had occupied sections of campus and refused to leave unless school officials agreed to condemn and boycott Israel, the Iran-backed Houthi militia, a terrorist organization that has repeatedly violated freedom of the seas by attacking international shipping vessels passing through the Red Sea, offered to admit the disciplined students as transfers to Sanaa University, an institution it administers.

Some anti-Zionist student groups have reciprocated the admiration.

Last week, Columbia University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) endorsed Hamas, the latest sign of its growing extremism and willingness to embrace Islamic extremism and antisemitism.

“The Palestinian resistance is the only force materially fighting back against isr*el [sic],” the group said in a series of posts shared by Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus, a social media account which exposes antisemitism on college campuses. “There is no way to eliminate the resistance without ending the occupation. When you see a video of a young palestinian [sic] boy traumatized in a hospital talking about how iof [the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF] shot his pregnant mother in cold blood in front of his own eyes, do not question how he chooses to resist years later.”

Campus Reform, a higher education watchdog which first reported Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus’ posts, noted that Columbia SJP has added an “inverted red triangle” to its social media biography, further indicating its support for Hamas. The Palestinian terrorist group has used an inverted red triangle in its propaganda videos to indicate an Israeli target about to be attacked, and anti-Israel protesters on university campuses have been using the symbol in their demonstrations.

Columbia SJP, a group that has re-formed under multiple names since being suspended by school administrators during the fall semester, was central in staging a slew of riotous demonstrations in which anti-Zionist activists verbally assaulted Jewish students with antisemitic epithets, clamorously expressed support for terrorism and Hamas, and caused thousands of dollars in damages to school property.

The anti-Zionist student movement’s support for terrorism and anti-American ideologies has been expressed before.

Footage of the protests which erupted on college campuses at the end of spring semester showed demonstrators chanting in support of Hamas and calling for the destruction of Israel. In many cases, they lambasted the US and Western civilization more broadly.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas at Columbia University, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Advocacy Group Attempts to Shore Up Support for Israel Among US Democrats

US President Joe Biden addresses rising levels of antisemitism, during a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony, at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, US, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

A pro-Israel advocacy group is attempting to quell fears among US Democratic politicians that expressing support for the Jewish state amid the ongoing war in Gaza will lead to electoral defeat in November. 

Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a group that advocates for pro-Israel policies within the Democratic Party, circulated a memo this week explaining that the war in Gaza is simply not a top priority for most of the electorate. The memo, first acquired by Axios news website, asserts that “it just isn’t true” that Democratic support for Israel will come at an electoral cost. 

The group argues that a series of misleading polls has caused Democratic elected officials to become more tepid in their support for the Jewish state. 

To bolster its claims, DMFI points to a poll conducted by the New York Times in May which revealed that only 2 percent of voters cite Israel, Palestinians, Hamas, or Gaza as their most important issue. Nonetheless, the Times tried to exaggerate the extent to which voters care about the Israel-Hamas war by highlighting the 5 percent of voters who cite foreign policy as their biggest issue, according to DMFI. However, these 5 percent of voters did not identify if the war in Gaza is their major foreign policy concern.

The group also points out a Harvard-Harris poll from April which showed that Americans overwhelmingly side with Israel in its ongoing war effort. Eighty percent of Americans support Israel and only 20 percent back Hamas, the poll revealed.

DMFI also suggests that Israel’s ongoing military offensive against Hamas has not had a noticeable impact on President Joe Biden’s national standing. According to polling data aggregated by FiveThirtyEight, the president’s approval rating on Oct. 7of last year stood at 39.6 percent, and on April 23 last month, his approval stood at 40 percent. The same poll reveals that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s lead over Joe Biden did not grow over the same time period. 

DMFI president Mark Mellman told Axios that anti-Israel activists represent a small fringe of the American electorate. 

“People sometimes mistake volume for percentage, and the fact that some people are very loud doesn’t make them the majority. … It doesn’t even make them a substantial minority,” Mellman said.

The group’s efforts to reach out to Democrats come on the heels of a high-pressure effort by left-wing groups to force the Democratic establishment to stop supporting Israel. Anti-Israel organizations have organized efforts to encourage voters in Democratic primaries to vote “uncommitted” in lieu of voting for Biden. Moreover, nearly every appearance by Biden in recent months has been marked by the presence of scores of angry anti-Israel protesters

The relationship between Democratic politicians and the Jewish state has significantly soured in the months following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people in southern Israel. High-profile Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) have suggested that Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinian civilians.

Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) signed onto a letter urging Biden to pause weapons shipments to Israel. Biden vowed to stop arms deliveries to Israel if the Israeli army attempts to dismantle the remaining Hamas battalions within the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, expressing concern about the prospect of civilian casualties during such an offensive.

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Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander

Antisemitic hate crimes continue to account for more than any other category of reported hate crimes in Toronto, according to the head of Toronto police intelligence. Superintendent Katherine Stephenson of Toronto Police Service (TPS) confirmed the ongoing spike in hate occurrences during a presentation at Holy Blossom Temple on May 29, where she addressed 350 […]

The post Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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