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Talk of Gaza Ceasefire Continues as Israel Strikes Hamas Positions

Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters/IDF Handout

Israeli forces carried out new air strikes in Gaza on Wednesday as Hamas studied a new proposal for a ceasefire and the release of hostages held in the Palestinian enclave seized following the Islamist organization’s pogrom of Oct. 7 in southern Israel, in which more than 1200 people were killed amid widespread atrocities.

Witnesses said Israel had stepped up air strikes on Gaza City in the north, and bombarded parts of Khan Younis in the south, despite what appeared to be the most serious peace initiative for months in the Israel-Hamas war.

World powers hope to prevent a wider conflict, but tensions in the Middle East remained high after Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels said they would keep attacking US and British warships in the Red Sea in solidarity with Palestinians.

Relations between Tehran and Washington are also tense after the deaths of three US soldiers in a drone strike in Jordan that American officials blamed on Iran-backed militants. Washington has not yet outlined its response, but Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said on Wednesday they would respond to any US threat.

The Gaza health authorities, which are entirely controlled by Hamas, said 26,900 Palestinians had been killed during Israel’s military response. No breakdown of military to civilian casualties has been issued, however.

A senior Hamas official told the Reuters news agency that the Gaza ceasefire proposal currently on the table involved a three-stage truce, during which Hamas would release the remaining civilians among hostages captured on Oct. 7, then soldiers, and finally the bodies of dead hostages. The civilian hostages would be freed over a six-week pause in fighting, in exchange for three times as many Palestinian security prisoners released from Israeli jails, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

The outline has been partly accepted in principle by Jerusalem and is being weighed by Hamas leaders, the report said, adding that even if the terror group accepts it, many hurdles remain and numerous details will have to be hammered out over some time — and major disagreements sure to come up will have to be overcome — before a deal can be struck.

The proposal followed talks in Paris involving intelligence chiefs from Israel, the US and Egypt, with the prime minister of Qatar.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated his vow not to pull troops out of Gaza until “total victory”.

Israel says it will not stop fighting until Hamas is eradicated. Hamas says it will release its remaining captives only as part of a wider deal to end the war permanently.


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Media Outlets Continue to Conceal the Appalling Truth About UNRWA

Palestinians pass by the gate of an UNRWA-run school in Nablus in the West Bank. Photo: Reuters/Abed Omar Qusini.

Following the release of evidence by Israel that Palestinian UNRWA employees took part in the Hamas massacre on October 7, most of the organization’s major donors have suspended funding to the Palestinian refugee agency.

The United States, UNRWA’s biggest donor, was the first to announce its decision to withdraw aid, in a statement that said officials were “extremely troubled” by the allegations that Palestinian agency workers participated in the kibbutz atrocities, kidnapped Israeli hostages, and helped coordinate the movement of weapons that were used in the attack.

According to a dossier handed over to the US State Department, at least 1,200 UNRWA employees were found to be members of either Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

When it comes to @Refugees, most are looked after by the UNHCR. However, Palestinians have their own agency, @UNRWA.

So what’s going on here?

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) January 27, 2024

None of these revelations, however, will come as a surprise to anyone who’s a bit more clued up about UNRWA’s chequered history.

What we (and other organizations) have repeatedly demonstrated over the years, is how UNRWA is completely rotten to its core.

From UNRWA employees discovered to be members of terrorist groups, to teachers in its schools who encouraged students to murder Jews, and the agency’s facilities being used as terror bases, UNRWA has repeatedly shown that it is corrupt, inefficient, and, as the evidence indicates, exacerbating the plight of Palestinians.

Despite all of this — specifically, the disturbing truth about UNRWA being laid bare — a strange incredulity emerged among media outlets regarding the latest revelations. This was followed by a rush to either downplay the findings or engage in excessive handwringing about the potential consequences for Palestinians without UNRWA.

The BBC, for example, obscured the horrifying accusations against UNRWA that resulted in it being defunded, by referring to the situation as a “diplomatic storm” in the headline of a piece that suggested heartlessness by donor states that have removed the “lifesaving assistance on which two million Gazans rely…”

Indeed, the whole piece reads as a sort of press release for UNRWA, which is described in positively glowing terms as running Gaza’s “medical and educational facilities, including teacher training centres and almost 300 primary schools — as well as producing the textbooks that educate young Palestinians.”

While the BBC does reference some of UNRWA’s troubling history, it frames these issues as mere accusations from Israeli governments, which have “long denounced the agency’s teaching and textbooks for, in their view, perpetuating anti-Israel views.”

A note to the BBC: children’s textbooks that explicitly call for the genocide of Jews, encourage youngsters to become suicide bombers, and glorify Palestinian terrorists go beyond “perpetuating anti-Israel views.”

Is UNRWA finally facing a reckoning? Maybe.

The US has pulled funding and the UN Secretary-General is allegedly horrified, despite knowing UNRWA’s history. What happens next? We’ll have to wait and see, but we’re not holding our breath.

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) January 27, 2024

The BBC also dismisses criticism of UNRWA as suggestive of the agency becoming “something of a political football” while its “very existence is criticised by Israel as entrenching the status of Palestinians as refugees, encouraging their continued hopes of a right of return to land from which they were driven in 1948 or during successive wars.”

Unsurprisingly, given its sympathetic tone, the piece fails to clarify that barely any of the 5.9 million Palestinians deemed “refugees” worldwide were actually alive in 1948. Additionally, it omits that UNRWA’s definition of refugee status diverges from all accepted definitions, being so broad that it allows inheritance of this status from parents and grandparents.

Likewise, Newsweek also steered its coverage away from the unmasking of UN workers as terrorists to focus on UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ plea for donors to carry on funding the organization on the grounds that humanitarian workers in the region “should not be penalized.”

While the piece quotes Guterres at length, including his praise of UNRWA’s Philippe Lazzarini, Newsweek doesn’t actually bother to go into any real detail about the latest allegations or any of the other claims made against UNWRA over the years.

The Guardian went even further, to emphasize how “outraged” aid agencies are at UNRWA’s defunding.

With no mention in the headline of what prompted the funding cut — details of which are buried toward the bottom of the story — the piece also ignores the many other accusations against UNRWA that stretch back years.

Meanwhile, Sky News’ Diplomatic Editor Dominic Waghorn was apparently so desperate to rehabilitate UNRWA’s image that he desperately attempted to discredit one of the journalists who wrote a Wall Street Journal exclusive that revealed some 10 percent of UNRWA’s 12,000 staff members in Gaza have links to terror groups.

Is the @cjkeller8 behind WSJ report that 10 percent of UNRWA staff have Islamist links the same Carrie Keller Lynn who served in the Israeli military and is a close friend of a pioneering IDF propagandist?

— Dominic Waghorn (@DominicWaghorn) January 30, 2024

UNRWA benefits from the halo effect. We’ve repeatedly observed how the media portray UNRWA as a paragon of virtue while simultaneously failing to scrutinize it as rigorously as they would any other organization receiving substantial public funding.

However, the incredulity displayed by numerous news outlets in response to the latest allegations is astonishing.

What more could it possibly take for UNRWA’s halo to finally fall in the eyes of the international media?

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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MSNBC: Four Months of Disinformation on Israel and Gaza War

An aerial view shows the bodies of victims of an attack following a mass infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip lying on the ground in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, in southern Israel, Oct. 10, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ilan Rosenberg

Since the barbaric Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023 — an attack in which 1,200 women, children, and men were tortured, raped, and killed — MSNBC has churned out multiple biased reports. Mehdi Hasan’s recent departure from the network is a positive step, but it does not go far enough to address the problems there. Many of the network’s other commentators continue to distort events related to the war, which Hamas started.

CAMERA has examined nearly four months of MSNBC coverage. One common distortion we found was the presentation of Hamas casualty statistics without caveat, emphasizing the alleged number of civilian and child casualties, without noting that Hamas itself does not distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties. MSNBC has also presented these statistics without noting that Hamas recruits child soldiers; that some of those casualties have been caused by shortfalls of Palestinian rockets; that the numbers can’t be verified by any outside or unbiased source; and that the numbers of combatants the IDF claimed to have eliminated have not been subtracted from this number. Moreover, CAMERA noted at least two cases — NBC reporter Matt Bradley on January 25, and guest Kevin Baron on December 17 — in which MSNBC falsely characterized the entire Hamas-supplied casualty count as “civilians.”

Another recurring issue is the elevation of Jews who hold fringe positions and have limited credentials, such as Sarah Schulman, a fiction writer who teaches at the College of Staten Island and is an advisory board member of Jewish Voice for Peace (October 29); Daniel Levy, presented as an “Israeli peace negotiator,” but who never negotiated anything that was successful (December 14 and January 14); Masha Gessen, a staff writer at the New Yorker who has no particular expertise in the Middle East (December 17); Simone Zimmerman, co-founder of the fringe group IfNotNow (December 17); or even MSNBC’s own Peter Beinart. The vast, vast majority of both American and Israeli Jews support Israel in its defensive war against Hamas. But MSNBC presents such guests as if they hold expertise or authority, creating a false impression of a division in Jewish opinion about the war. Such individuals represent a tiny and extreme minority opinion at best, and are not representative of the Jewish community.

Perhaps most disturbingly, in two cases, we found that guests on the show had, functionally, called for the US to force Israel to surrender: Ilan Pappé on December 10 called on the US to “bring an end to the destruction of Gaza,” and Daniel Levy on January 14 called for the Biden administration to “use [its] leverage,” to curb Israel’s military campaign.

But another trend that we saw was an even more harmful form of misinformation by omission — specifically, minimizing or outright ignoring the 2005 Israeli withdrawal and complete disengagement from Gaza in order to blame Israel for the October 7 attack.

In 2005, Israel withdrew every single civilian and soldier from Gaza, leaving Gaza with a greenhouse agricultural business, a beautiful coastline for tourism, and the opportunity for the people to chart their own course for the future. In 2006, when the people of Gaza had the opportunity for freedom, and the opportunity to build a peaceful and prosperous society, they elected Hamas, a group dedicated to the destruction of Israel. On October 7, 2023, Hamas acted on that sentiment, starting the most recent war (it previously had started numerous others by attacking Israel in other ways). But in one segment after another, MSNBC commentators repeatedly ignored this, blaming Israel’s “siege” or “occupation” of Gaza, rather than the election of Hamas, for the October 7 attack as well as for the current war.

This first happened on October 9, just two days after the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust. As previously noted by CAMERA, Joy Reid and her guests Peter Beinart, Ayman Mohyeldin, Ali Velshi, and Lt. General Stephen Twitty ignored Hamas’ dedication to genocidal violence against all Jews, as expressed in its charter and in its leaders’ rhetoric, omitted Israeli offers of Palestinian sovereignty and independence, and sought to imply that the carnage was inevitable due to Israel’s actions.

Reid did note that Israel withdrew from Gaza, and that subsequent to that withdrawal, Gaza elected Hamas, but she was either unable or unwilling to see the causal connection between the election of Hamas and Israel’s legal blockade of Gaza. Instead, she and her guests blamed Israel for the attack.

Later that month, on October 29, Sarah Schulman, as noted above, appeared as a guest on the network. She falsely claimed that, “for 75 years Palestinians have been murdered and displaced and incarcerated,” that “the conditions have been created that are completely untenable and they exploded,” and that “the violence is a consequence of the oppression,” even while insisting that she was not “excusing” Hamas’ attack. 

On November 19, guest Omar Baddar stated, “we are here in the first place precisely because Palestinians have been denied freedom for decade after decade.” His co-panelist Peter Beinart agreed, saying, “ultimately, it’s only if Palestinians have a path to freedom, and they can see that ethical resistance, not what happened on October 7, but an ethical fight for freedom, is working, that’s the only way ultimately you’re going to weaken Hamas and make it an irrelevant political force.” And on November 27, guest Noura Erekat claimed that “there’s no military solution to this. … You actually have to end the occupation.”

On November 28, guest Omer Bartov, a Brown University professor, repeated the trope, saying, “if you keep people under siege for 16 years without any hope, without proper sanitation, without proper education, with very heavy unemployment, a place where they cannot leave, it becomes a pressure cooker. And people will want to break out.” And on January 2, Peter Beinart, again, said that “this Israeli government isn’t offering any vision whatsoever that might suggest that after Hamas, Palestinians, even if they had a completely different kind of leadership, might have any path to freedom. It’s basically just offering occupation and, frankly, apartheid. … The only way, it seems to me, to undermine Palestinian support for the kind of horrifying attack that we saw on October 7 is by showing Palestinians that by ethical resistance, resistance that follows international law, that they can actually achieve their freedom.”

All of these commentators ignored the Hamas Charter, which states, “Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it….” It further states, “The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: ‘The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: “Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,” except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.’”

When the people of Gaza had freedom, in 2006, that is who they elected.

The war is not a consequence of the people of Gaza having been denied freedom by Israel, as so many of the MSNBC contributors want their viewers to believe. The war is a direct consequence of what happened when the people of Gaza had freedom. When MSNBC anchors allow guests and commentators to ignore Israel’s 2005 disengagement and Gaza’s 2006 election, they are promoting a form of misinformation.

Karen Bekker is the Assistant Director in the Media Response Team at CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis.

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Jewish Life Stories: The Nobelist who confirmed the Big Bang, the ‘Bagel Queen’ of Atlanta

This article is also available as a weekly newsletter, “Life Stories,” where we remember those who made an outsize impact in the Jewish world — or just left their community a better or more interesting place. Subscribe here to get “Life Stories” in your inbox every Tuesday.

Arno Allan Penzias, 90, the Nobelist who confirmed the Big Bang

Arno Allan Penzias, a child survivor of the Holocaust who shared the 1978 Nobel Prize in physics for discoveries that would confirm the Big Bang theory, died Jan. 21 in San Francisco. He was 90.

In 1964, he and a colleague at Bell Labs, Robert Wilson, were trouble-shooting a radio telescope in Holmdel, New Jersey when they noticed an unexplained hiss. They would later determine it was a “cosmic echo” of the incendiary event that gave birth to the universe 13.7 billion years ago.

“The interference you see on an analogue television screen as you try to tune in to channels might seem an unlikely form of time travel, but within this static hiss lies a glimpse of the first moments of the universe,” the Nobel Foundation explains on its website. “Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson’s fortuitous discovery of a form of radio noise that bathes the cosmos provided a crucial piece of evidence for how the universe was created.”

Penzias was born in Munich to parents who had immigrated to Germany from Poland. In 1938 his family was placed on a train with other Jews of Polish origin for deportation to Poland. The Polish authorities refused to admit them and the train was turned back at the border. In 1939, Penzias, 6, and his brother Gunther, 5, were sent to London for safety as part of the Kindertransport rescue effort. They were reunited with their parents in 1940 and managed to secure passage to the United States.

The Holmdel horn antenna at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey. In 1964, radio astronomers Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation with it, for which they were awarded the 1978 Nobel prize in physics. (NASA/Wikipedia)

Penzias grew up in the Bronx where he attended public schools and later City College of New York. After serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps he received a doctorate in physics from Columbia University and joined Bell in 1963. In 1954 he married Anna Barras, a student at Hunter College who, according to his daughter, Rabbi L. Shifra Weiss-Penzias of Temple Beth El in Aptos, California, came from eight generations of rabbis.

Penzias and Wilson’s initial attempts to locate the source of the mysterious “hiss” included a theory that it was ambient radiation from pigeon droppings inside the telescope. Their search even inspired a bit of pop culture: In a 2015 episode of the Comedy Central series “Drunk History,” Jewish comedian Jenny Slate narrates a ribald version of their discovery. Actor Justin Long portrayed Penzias.

In 1992, Penzias arranged for the donation of parts of the telescope, known as the “Holmdel Horn,” to a museum in Munich. (The device itself  is a National Historic Landmark.) “It was very important to my father to remind [the Germans] what they lost,” Weiss-Penzias told the Boston Globe. “He wanted his work to be a living reminder of the refugees who left and the people who died.”

Carol Lee Meyer Carola, 68, the “Bagel Queen” of Atlanta

Bagel shop owner Carol Lee Meyer Carola appeared on the cover of the Atlanta Jewish Times wellness supplement in 2021. (Atlanta Jewish Times)

For over 30 years, the Bagelicious bagel shop in East Cobb, Georgia, has been a mainstay of the Atlanta Jewish community, known for catering simchas at area synagogues. In recent years the community rallied around co-owner Carol Lee Meyer Carola in her fight to save the shop during the pandemic and in her own battle with breast cancer, which was first diagnosed in 2013. Friends and customers walked in Team Boobuleh’s A Breast Cancer Schmear campaign in support of Georgia’s annual 2-day Walk for Breast Cancer. “It’s not going to get to me. It will not get me,” the “Bagel Queen” told the Atlanta Jewish Times in 2021. “I have a business to run and people who depend on me. I can’t give up.” The Queens, New York native died from cancer on Jan. 28. She was 68. “She knew every customer by name, including their children and grandchildren,” according to a family obituary. “Despite the demands of the business, her husband Tommy, their children, and their grandchildren were the center of her world.”

Berish Strauch, 90, a pioneering plastic surgeon

Berish Strauch was the chief of reconstructive surgery at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. (American Society of Plastic Surgeons)

Berish Strauch grew up watching his father, a tailor, and his mother, a hatmaker, wielding knives and scissors in their jobs. Their dexterity inspired him to become a surgeon, and after earning his degree at Columbia University’s medical school he became one of the most influential plastic surgeons of the past 50 years. He pioneered the toe-to-thumb transplantation technique, patented the “Strauch clamp” to restore male fertility post-vasectomy and developed the first inflatable prosthetic penis. The chair of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx from 1987 until 2007, he died Dec. 24, 2023, at the age of 90. His wife of 68 years, Rena Strauch, a former teacher and a stalwart at Beth El Synagogue Center in New Rochelle, New York, predeceased him by six weeks.

Michael S. Berman, 84, a consummate Washington insider 

Michael Berman, a longtime Democratic politico and lobbyist, seen at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, August 2000. (Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Michael S. Berman, 84, an old-school Washington political operative and lobbyist who served as deputy chief of staff and counsel to Vice President Walter Mondale, died Jan. 12. A consummate insider who programmed Democratic National Conventions for decades, he helped prep future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her Senate confirmation hearings. He and Kenneth M. Duberstein, President Ronald Reagan’s last chief of staff, formed a lobbying firm that worked both sides of the aisle. When he was a kid growing up in Duluth, Minnesota, Berman’s parents became godparents of another Minnesota Jewish boy, Bob Zimmerman, who later changed his last name to Dylan.

Howard Golden, 98, Brooklyn borough president who helped Crown Heights heal

Howard Golden, Brooklyn’s borough president from 1977 to 2001, seen in 1996. (Kenneth C. Zirkel, Wikipedia)

Howard Golden, whose 24-year tenure as Brooklyn borough president overlapped with what became known as the Crown Heights Riots, died Jan. 24. He was 98. For three days in August 1991, Black residents of the neighborhood attacked members of its largely Hasidic Jewish community after a car in the motorcade of the Lubavitcher Rebbe struck and killed a Black child. Within days of the unrest, Golden created what became known as the Crown Heights Coalition, an intergroup forum that met in his office for the following 10 years to keep the peace. “There are some 90 languages spoken in this borough,” the former City Council member and son of a deli owner told the Jewish Press. “Brooklyn is an amazing mosaic.”

Joel Lind, 68, a “mainstay of Cincinnati community theater”

Joel Lind of Cincinnati acted in local theater and did audience research for new and traditional media properties. (Courtesy)

Joel Lind, who ran a media research firm in the Cincinnati area, died Jan. 24 at age 68. His personality comes through in a family obituary:

A lifelong New Yorker in spirit and Yankees fan — memorably described in youth as “fuzzy in an intelligent sort of way, and intelligent in a fuzzy sort of way” — Joel was raised in New Rochelle, NY. He attended the University of Rochester as an undergraduate and Columbia Law School, but left a Manhattan entertainment-law career behind to return to his true calling in radio. Joel spent 20 years as the perceptual-research guru behind the “Mental Weaponry” division at Critical Mass Media, where his presentations blended quantitative analysis, the art of the monologue, and obscure lyrical references. 

Joel taught a generation of Congregation Beth Adam Sunday-school students a Humanistic reading of Torah stories, under his “nom de chalk” Mr. Bozo. In his later life, Joel was a mainstay of Cincinnati community theater, and especially of his home group, Mason Community Players — a community whose care and generosity he described as boundless.

Joel’s last days were spent peacefully at Hospice of Cincinnati in Blue Ash, a decision he undertook, along with his children, after months of debilitating illness. He was gratified to learn that he outlived Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign.

The post Jewish Life Stories: The Nobelist who confirmed the Big Bang, the ‘Bagel Queen’ of Atlanta appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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