(JTA) — Elan Kornblum, the creator of the popular Facebook group Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies, has not been shy about marshaling the group’s 98,000 members in support of a charitable cause.
The group, whose usual fodder focuses on the quality of food (and rabbinic certification) at kosher restaurants around the world, has mobilized in response to extreme weather events, community members’ medical expenses and to feed the hungry. In the days following Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel, it sent boxes upon boxes of food to JFK Airport, to be loaded onto specially chartered flights to Tel Aviv.
Five weeks later, though, the group erupted over another of Kornblum’s donations to Israel: an IDF artillery shell headed for Gaza that was scrawled with the text, “GKR Foodies stands with Israel.” Kornblum said he was able to get the message on the missile via a gift of $180 to an Israeli charity.
“On behalf of the group, the IDF soldiers will be sending a present to Hamas tomorrow,” Kornblum wrote in a post on Nov. 12. “Specifically this 155 mm artillery shell. Yes, you can get writing on a missle [sic]. Jewish ingenuity at its finest– Introducing the MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE CAMPAIGN!”
Kornblum wrote that the money would go to purchase supplies for soldiers. The public post received more than 750 likes and was shared more than 60 times outside of the group. But not everyone agreed that it was a good idea.
“I hate it,” one member said. Another replied to the post, “May Hashem have mercy on us all.”
The discussion over the fundraiser, which spawned more than 200 comments, is an example of how debate over the Israel-Hamas war has seeped even into Jewish spaces that are meant to be a sanctuary from the sometimes all-consuming political discourse on social media. And, in a forum composed largely of observant Jews, who tend to be more centrist and right-wing, on average, than American Jewry at large, it threw the fault lines of communal discussion into stark relief.
Some commenters objected to the fundraiser because they support a ceasefire — a calling-card of left-wing Jews. But even some who support Israel’s campaign in Gaza said they were uncomfortable with having the name of their Facebook group written on a weapon of war.
“If somebody said, ‘Do you consent to being part of this?’ I would have said, ‘absolutely not,’ and I would probably have a much stronger reaction,” said Daniel Saleman, a New Jersey-based accountant and member of Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies since 2015. “I had absolutely no say in it.”
Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies isn’t the only social media operation to find itself dealing with matters of war and peace post-Oct. 7. Jewish influencers whose content does not typically center around Israel have found their roles shift over the past six weeks, as they feel compelled to use their platforms to weigh in on the war.
“I feel a moral responsibility to speak about it, specifically because I don’t feel like anyone who is not Jewish does talk about it,” Morgan Raum, a Jewish food influencer with more than 150,000 followers on Instagram, told NBC News earlier this month. “If I’m not talking about it, who is?”
The “Foodies” Facebook group was born from a print magazine, Great Kosher Restaurants, that has since become an online guide to kosher dining options. The Facebook group has 10 administrators, including Kornblum, along with one moderator, all of whom manage group membership, settings and posts.
Many dissenters on Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies objected to the tone of the post. Saleman commented that the post was “in poor taste.” He added that because the post settings were public, it could be used as anti-Israel propaganda. Other commenters shared similar sentiments.
Comments on the post called it “very misguided and in terrible taste,” and “abhorrent and gut wrenching.” A member who said they were a parent of two Israeli soldiers wrote, “Let’s not glorify war, let’s not make light of the war that is being fought for our country and our people.” Another group member wrote, “This is one of the most horrific things I have ever seen. That a Jew would do this.”
The backlash came quickly. Less than an hour after the post went up, Kornblum commented defending it. “I’ll say it again, IDF uses missles [sic] to destroy Hamas buildings and targets, it does not use it for civilians,” he wrote. “I can’t believe we need to explain that in this group.”
As discussion on the post devolved from criticism of the campaign to personal attacks on group members, Kornblum shut down the comments section, one of his tools when conversation gets too negative. He reopened the comment feed the following morning, then closed it down again — after posting another comment defending the missile message, at least his fourth since publishing the post.
“For the record, I’ll just note there are about 450 reactions on this post,” he wrote. “287 likes, 145 loves, 3 angry. We keep posts up dependent on what the group as a majority wants. I think the group has spoken. Thanks. Talk later.”
Kornblum told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he saw the donation as a standard way to demonstrate support for Israel at war — of a piece with the group’s other efforts.
“Being that we run the group and we stand behind Israel, this was my way of showing it,” Kornblum told JTA. He’s used the group’s name in other contexts such as deaths or lifecycle events, he said.
“A lot of times I’ll say, ‘On behalf of the group, we send condolences,’ ‘We send mazel tov,’” he added. “So when I speak on behalf of the group, it’s myself and my company and the group. So I thought it was a nice message.”
This is not the first time a message written on an Israeli rocket has spread online. On Oct. 29, the day after “Friends” co-star Matthew Perry died, an image of a rocket with the Hebrew message, “This one is for Chandler Bing,” appears to have first been shared on Instagram by comedian and digital creator Matan Zur, who is currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces. The image went viral when it was shared by Israeli tech blogger Hillel Fuld on X. That picture, too, generated backlash for making light of both the war and of Perry’s death.
Writing messages on rockets is a tradition that dates back at least to World War II. American soldiers in a Black platoon in 1945 famously posed for a picture with a basket of ammunition tagged with the words “Happy Easter Adolph.” Another famous photo from 1944 or 1945 shows Joseph Wald, who served in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army, holding an artillery shell bearing the Hebrew words “Gift for Hitler.”
And over the course of the Ukraine war, a project similar to the Israeli campaign run through SignMyRocket.com was created by Ukrainian information technology student Anton Sokolenko. The initiative has raised nearly $1.7 million dollars and written more than 5,100 messages across a variety of weapons, according to its website.
The donation page for the Israeli project, on the website of a charity called the Chesed Fund, says more than $12,000 has been raised for this particular fundraiser for IDF soldiers, which pays for protective gear. But the Chesed Fund did not respond to a JTA inquiry about the missile messages, and it isn’t clear from the webpage that having a message written on a bomb is an option. To tag a missile, donors must first donate through the webpage and then call one of two U.S. phone numbers to relay the proposed text. The phone numbers do not appear on the Chesed Fund site, and the missile initiative has spread only through word-of-mouth and social media posts like Kornblum’s.
Kornblum is unfazed by the debate over his post. He said this was not the first time discussion on the group has veered away from its namesake subject, kosher restaurants. He has no regrets, says he would write the same post again, and added that if members left the group over the missile message, “that’s totally up to them, that’s OK.”
“I’m not afraid to talk about hot topics,” he said. “We do it a lot. We’ve spoken about the Pride Parade and we’ve spoken about BLM on the group, we’ve spoken about, obviously, COVID.”
Saleman, who objected to Kornblum’s post, agreed that discussion of the war wasn’t necessarily out of place in the Facebook group.
“You can’t really separate Jewish culture and kosher food and Israel,” he said. “So obviously, as things are happening in Israel, it makes sense that there are definitely certain portions of the group that are kind of dedicated to that.”
And he said he’d seen more contentious arguments between the group’s users — about condiments.
“There’s definitely lots of controversy but it’s not this type of controversy,” Saleman said. “People can get very heated about charging for spicy mayo. And the people have probably gotten more heated about that than they did about the bomb thing.”
The Red Cross Has Abandoned Israeli Hostages and Its Pretense of Neutrality
The Red Cross has once again failed the Jewish people by choosing to appease its enemies rather than help those in need.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in its mission statement, claims to be “an impartial, neutral, and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance.”
The actions of the Red Cross since October 7, however, show that it does not consider the lives and dignity of all victims to be equal. Instead, the Red Cross has fallen in line with those who refuse to condemn Hamas and ignore the atrocities perpetrated against Israelis.
This isn’t the first time that the Red Cross has ignored the suffering of Jewish people to avoid offending those who seek to eliminate the Jewish people. The Red Cross has received three Nobel Peace Prizes, including one in 1944 for its services in World War II, but decades later, we know the whole truth.
Documents released after the war revealed that the Red Cross was well aware of the Nazis’ genocide of the Jews and chose to remain silent. The Red Cross defended itself by claiming that if it had disclosed what it knew, “it would have lost its ability to inspect prisoner-of-war camps on both sides of the front.” Although the Red Cross has apologized for its inaction in confronting the Holocaust, the bias the ICRC has shown against Israel makes that apology ring hollow.
Magen David Adom, Israel’s official emergency service, was founded in 1930 and ratified as a National Red Cross Society by the Knesset in 1950. However, the Red Cross refused to allow Magen David Adom entry to the international organization because the latter wanted to use the Star of David as its symbol in place of a red cross. Even though Muslim Red Cross organizations use a red crescent as their symbol, Israel is singled out for refusal. Only after 76 years of life-saving work was Magen David Adom finally accepted by the ICRC in 2006.
The Red Cross has conducted itself similarly since Hamas took Israeli hostages. The Red Cross gained much acclaim for bringing Israeli hostages home after they were released. However, the Red Cross played no part in the negotiations that led to the release, and made no effort to visit the hostages while they were imprisoned.
This is in stark contrast to past hostage crises. During the Iranian hostage crisis, the Red Cross visited the occupied US embassy in Tehran. When 72 Japanese hostages were kidnapped by guerrilla forces in Peru in 1996, the Red Cross provided food and medical assistance. When New York Times reporter David Rohde was held by the Taliban in 2008, the Red Cross delivered him a letter from his wife. When more than 240 hostages were taken from Israel, however, the Red Cross did nothing.
The Red Cross responded to a recent lawsuit filed by Israeli hostages, which claims that the Red Cross neglected its duty to visit prisoners of war, by saying: “The more public pressure we seemingly would do, the more they [Hamas] would shut the door.”
The evidence shows that the Red Cross did not try very hard. UN Watch compiled a report showing that the ICRC’s social media posts were heavily biased in favor of Hamas, and refused to acknowledge Hamas’ atrocities and the plight of the Israeli hostages.
When families of the hostages asked the Red Cross to deliver life-saving medications to their family members in captivity, they were scolded and told to “think about the Palestinian side.” by the ICRC.
Since the beginning of the current war, the Red Cross has pumped millions of dollars into Gaza, along with supplies, infrastructure, and medical teams. Hamas, of course, has a long history of shamelessly stealing money and supplies that were intended for civilians, a fact that the ICRC knows, and, unsurprisingly, Hamas has continued to do so during this current war.
The Red Cross has both the leverage and the stature to gain access to the Israeli hostages and even to push for their release. They were even able to leverage the Taliban into granting access to hostages in the past. People listen to the Red Cross. But they also hear the Red Cross’ silence.
When the Red Cross speaks about the Israel-Hamas conflict without mentioning Hamas’ attacks, and its president meets with Hamas’ leader but does not advocate for Israeli hostages, the message is clear.
The Red Cross’ historical and current actions seem to suggest that it does not value Israeli lives as much as other people’s. It is time for the international community to ask the Red Cross why it looks out for all of those in need, except for Jews.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum and a former official in the Israeli Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense.
The post The Red Cross Has Abandoned Israeli Hostages and Its Pretense of Neutrality first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
The Media Is Still Swallowing Hamas’ Lies About Israel
While Israel is winning its war to eliminate the existential threat posed by Hamas’ massive tunnel complex/fortress in Gaza, Israel is losing the propaganda battle against a pro-Palestinian narrative demonizing Israel’s conduct of the war. That narrative puts aside Hamas’ horrific crimes against humanity that triggered Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip, and adopts an account that Israel is “indiscriminately killing” Gazans as part of a “genocidal” campaign.
Hamas displays emotional images of Gazans massed in crowded hospital wards, or combing ruins for lost loved ones, and then proclaims to the world that there have been more than 25,000 innocent victims of Israel’s invidious conduct.
To begin with, there is no way to verify any of those numbers, or to tell who among the actual numbers killed are innocent civilians, and who are associated with Hamas and other terror groups. (Remember the hospital bombing at the start of the war, where they claimed 500 casualties, but we later learned from US intelligence analysts that far fewer were killed, and the “attack” was the result of a misfired terrorist rocket).
Furthermore, the issue is not whether Gazans have experienced dreadful suffering. They clearly have. The issue is whom to blame.
Major media outlets have frequently adopted the portrayal of Israel’s conduct in the war as a wanton destruction of Gaza, and the purposeful targeting of civilians.
Unlike Hamas, however, Israel never intentionally targets civilians — nor does it aim for wanton destruction in Gaza.
Any fair assessment of Israel’s military behavior must account for Hamas’ decision to fight in civilian areas, and use civilians and civilian infrastructure as human shields. Hamas’ vast underground fortress is accessed through shafts in or near residential buildings and public structures. Hamas also stores weaponry in civilian structures, and launches rockets and mortars from populated areas.
Experts in urban warfare confirm that the IDF has taken considerable measures to avoid civilian casualties. John Spencer teaches urban warfare at West Point Military Academy. Spencer wrote in Newsweek last week that the IDF, “has implemented more measures to prevent civilian casualties than any other military in history.” He marvels that the IDF has delayed scheduled assaults, furnished copious advance warnings, and provided designated civilian evacuation routes before attacks.
Colonel Richard Kemp is a former British infantry battalion commander with 30 years of experience, including rounds of urban combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kemp commends the IDF on its adherence to the laws of armed conflict — in its choice of munitions, proportionality in choosing targets according to strategic gain versus civilian risk, and advance warnings enabling civilians to evacuate. As to the leveling of civilian structures, Kemp points to the nature of Hamas’ current operations — fighters in civilian clothing moving on thoroughfares to collect weapons stashed in civilian buildings in order to carry out ambush attacks. The structures look abandoned, but may well be booby trapped or may house anti-armor weaponry.
Hamas regularly employs the stratagem of distorting and manipulating casualty figures to suit its narrative that Israel is maliciously and unjustifiably killing civilians. Hamas’ casualty counts are consistently inflated and do not distinguish between combatants and civilians. The intended implication is that only civilians have been targeted by the IDF. Mass media regularly buys into this Hamas stratagem by simply reciting Hamas’ asserted casualty figures and not mentioning when people killed are terrorists or affiliated with terror groups.
An article in the Feb. 12 New York Times by Patrick Kingsley and Hiba Yazbeck typifies the media’s willingness to slant reportage in favor of a pro-Hamas narrative. (“Israeli Raid in Rafiah Rescues 2 Hostages and Kills Dozens.”) The article was prompted by an IDF special forces raid into a Hamas stronghold, Rafah, in order to rescue two Israeli men, aged 60 and 70, who had been kidnapped on October 7 from their kibbutz and held captive for 125 days. The Times report devotes no attention to the incredible sophistication of the rescue operation — the intelligence that pinpointed the locus of captivity, the daring dispatch of a special forces unit to the heart of Hamas’ Rafah, and a coordinated execution that extracted the hostages from their heavily armed Hamas captors without unnecessarily harming civilians.
The Times article’s first sentence mentions a rescue raid, and then promptly shifts to an accusation that Israel “launched a wave of attacks that killed dozens of Palestinians…” Like Hamas in its casualty reports, the article makes no distinction between combatant and civilian deaths. There’s no mention of the fact that many of those Palestinian deaths were Hamas combatants killed as the IDF burst in to rescue the hostages, and as the IDF escaped through armed resistance in the city.
The Kingsley/Yazbeck story also glosses over the Hamas war crimes that necessitated the IDF raid. Two-thirds of the way through the article, it notes in passing that the two freed hostages had been held in captivity for over 120 days (but the article does not note that they had been violently wrenched from their kibbutz homes along with their spouses who were later ransomed or that other family members were murdered on October 7). In short, the focus on “dozens of Palestinians killed” in the rescue mission is a parroting of Hamas propaganda that Israel is engaged in malicious killing of innocent Gazan civilians.
While experts like Spencer and Kemp credit Israel with commendable adherence to the norms of warfare, there have been some ostensible IDF deviations from those norms. An IDF spokesman has acknowledged that at least on one occasion, an excessively large bomb was employed that caused unnecessary civilian casualties. In another incident, Israelis were shocked and disturbed when an IDF unit killed 3 bare-chested men advancing toward the unit while waving a white flag. (The victims turned out to be Israeli hostages who had escaped from their Hamas captors). Another report exists of an Israeli soldier shooting and killing a captive Hamas fighter following an interrogation — a clear war crime if confirmed. These possible crimes are being probed by the IDF military police and, if documented, hopefully will be punished. Hamas, by contrast, proudly flaunts its most glaring war crimes by celebrating the intentional massacre of civilians, and by demanding the return of terrorist murderers in exchange for the remaining civilian hostages.
There is no equivalence between the two sides; but the media will never tell you that story.
Norman L. Cantor is Professor of Law Emeritus at Rutgers University Law School where he taught for 35 years. He also served as visiting professor at Columbia, Seton Hall, Tel Aviv University, and Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has published five books, scores of scholarly articles in law journals, and dozens of blog length commentaries in outlets like The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, and The Algemeiner. His personal blog is seekingfairness.wordpress.com. He lives in Tel Aviv and in Hoboken, NJ.
The post The Media Is Still Swallowing Hamas’ Lies About Israel first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
On being a ‘garbage human being’: Phoebe Maltz Bovy checks in on the state of antisemitism discourse in February 2024
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