Detailed documentation of the brutal Hamas mass slaughter of October 7, 2023, which included rape, torture and other heinous crimes, is essential in preserving the historical record, particularly in an era dominated by social media propaganda and disinformation. Documentation has begun through Israeli frameworks, both governmental and private, and also by journalists, including at The New York Times. In addition, Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation is conducting a project to document the “unspeakable brutality.”
In parallel, there is discussion of a special tribunal under the Israeli court system for trials of the perpetrators, particularly Hamas leaders who surrender or are taken alive. As in the trials of Nazi war criminals, including Adolf Eichmann, the testimonies of survivors will inform future generations in the face of campaigns working to erase and deny the atrocities.
A third layer is also required: the systematic documentation of the complicity of Hamas enablers and allies. This category includes numerous UN agencies and officials operating in Gaza, governmental aid organizations and diplomats, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) claiming to promote human rights and humanitarian aid. Evidence of their involvement and behavior– specifically with respect to the large-scale theft (“diversion”) of aid for construction of the massive terror infrastructure beneath Gaza and tens of thousands of lethal rockets — is available in numerous photographs and videos from the IDF. This and other information needs to be consolidated and systematically organized and made available in different forms to the general public.
The compilation of verifiable evidence is also essential in planning for “the day after” the war in Gaza and is independent of whatever political arrangements are eventually implemented. By carefully examining the activities of the organizations operating under international humanitarian aid frameworks, policies can be formulated to prevent a repetition of this behavior.
Many of the agencies and organizations comprising the multibillion-dollar Gaza aid industry have been active since at least June 2007, when Hamas violently overthrew the Palestinian Authority, which had taken control when the Israeli government unilaterally ended its presence in Gaza in 2005. These agencies and organizations allowed Hamas to devote all available resources to building the terror network underground while relying on aid providers to supply the general population with food, water, and essential above-ground services. As Hamas official Musa Abu Marzuk boasted in October 2023, “We built the tunnels to protect ourselves from airplanes … The refugees, the UN is responsible for protecting them.”
Throughout the 17 years since the Hamas takeover, numerous reports have been published and videos posted detailing the growth of the terrorist capabilities inside Gaza. The frequent clashes with the IDF exposed additional information on the terror network and command centers located under and inside civilian locations, such as hospitals, mosques, schools, and residential buildings. In the course of the operation that began following the October 7 attack, the IDF and journalists have added to this information, posting numerous pictures and videos showing the links between the aid operations and Hamas installations.
UNRWA makes up the largest aid framework operating in Gaza. It employs 30,000 staffers, mainly Palestinians, as well as about 200 international staff members, many based in Gaza or periodic visitors. It strains credulity to claim that the heads of the organization were unaware of the Hamas activities under and in the immediate proximity of their facilities and residences. In fact, evidence indicates that UNRWA international officials maintained a code of silence and cooperation with Hamas and associated terror groups, including promoting their propaganda and incitement and training of children for terror.
Many UNRWA teachers have participated in antisemitic social media platforms, as documented repeatedly by UN Watch and other watchdogs. (On UNRWA corruption, see “UN Aid Chief Quits Amid Probe Into Palestinian Refugee Program.”) In May 2021, following the 11-day conflict, the top UNRWA international staffer in Gaza was forced to resign after acknowledging that the IDF counter-terror strikes had been “precise” and “sophisticated.” The logical assumption, to be examined in this documentation process and evaluation, is that other UNRWA officials would have had similar information.
In addition to UNRWA, at least 12 other UN agencies are active in Gaza, including UN-OCHA (the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), the World Food Programme, and the World Health Organization. A preliminary review of the history indicates that the officials and employees of these organizations also followed a policy of silence, and in some cases, directly cooperated with Hamas.
Similarly, UNICEF maintained direct and open cooperation with terror-linked NGOs, such as Defense for Children in Palestine (DCIP). UNICEF also provided medical services during the Hamas-organized violent confrontations along the border with Israel under the facade of the “Great March of Return” (2018-2019), which served as rehearsals for the October 7 massacre. In addition, UNICEF’s disregard for Israeli children targeted in missile attacks from Gaza, including those who were murdered, is another important part of the record.
The same questions and issues apply to documenting the terror-enabling activities of diplomats and officials from government aid organizations. The EU is the largest single financial supporter and aid donor to the Palestinians, and therefore likely to have been a major source of materials diverted to terror. In this context, it should be noted that the European Union’s Head of Delegation (ambassador) to the West Bank and Gaza, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff (2019-2023), met with officials of NGOs linked to terror organizations (see below), and in February 2022, participated in an EU-funded workshop “focused on the strategies and mechanisms needed to combat counter-terrorism policies, regulations, and policies (sic).” In July 2023, von Burgsdorff smuggled a paraglider into Gaza and demonstrated its use, declaring, “Once you have a free Palestine, a free Gaza, you can do exactly the same thing.” Three months later, the Hamas attack involved terrorists using paragliders.
The third category concerns leaders and employees of NGOs that operated in Gaza. NGO Monitor has compiled a list, based on UN financial information, of 70 NGOs that were active in recent years, and the total is likely to be higher. The largest, as measured by budgets and extent of involvement, include the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), and Islamic Relief. Many major donor countries, including the US, maintain a list of “trusted partners,” whose activities and personnel are exempt from detailed oversight and review.
As has been documented in detail in other conflict zones and areas controlled by terrorist groups, the officials of self-defined humanitarian aid NGOs often adopt policies of silence and cooperation, including aid diversion, and justify their actions by claiming that assisting the population is the more important imperative. NRC head Jan Egeland, among others, actively and consistently opposes anti-terror oversight requirements in government aid grants. In December 2020, he spoke at a conference of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, demanding “exemptions from counter-terrorism laws and sanctions regimes …We need blanket humanitarian exemptions …. We need you to champion that there will be no vetting of the ultimate beneficiaries of humanitarian relief.” From the evidence available, this unaccountable policy characterizes NRC activities in Gaza, as well as those of other aid organizations.
The result of such willful blindness to terror, both in general and specifically in Gaza, was documented in the case of World Vision (WV). In 2016, the head of WV’s Gaza operations was arrested and charged with diverting approximately $50 million over ten years to Hamas, using fictitious humanitarian projects and agricultural associations to divert money and materials. He was convicted in 2022. The court’s verdict included strong criticism of WV officials in Australia (which provided most of the funds), who, the judge observed, “are apparently trapped in a preconceived notion that does not accord with the circumstances in the region…” Gaza, he continued, is “controlled by a cruel regime, in the form of a terrorist organization that nearly has a state, whose resources — including economic resources — are, inter alia, taken advantage of through trickery, threats, and force, for terrorist activity, including from organizations like World Vision…”
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is another important case study pointing to silent cooperation with Hamas. MSF has had a major presence in Gaza for many years. Yet throughout this period, and particularly during the current conflict, MSF officials have remained silent or denied any knowledge of terror activity, while condemning the IDF for military operations near and in hospitals. In a few cases, individual doctors (not affiliated with MSF) broke the code of silence, admitting that access to the lower floors of Shifa Hospital was off-limits. A senior American aid official acknowledged that this information was well known, and a Dutch journalist posted: “I have been to the Al Shifa Hospital several times as a reporter during the Israel-Gaza war in 2014 and also afterward. … It is a vast complex. I have personally seen Hamas fighters there. Everyone in Gaza including UN staff knows about the dual use of these facilities.” The same journalist posted photographs taken secretly of “uniformed Hamas fighters (in blue) sitting cautiously next to the entrance where ambulances arrive.”
During the years of Hamas control, many of these organizations have also provided Hamas with political and propaganda support, consistently condemning Israeli counter-terror actions and erasing the Hamas rocket attacks (each a war crime) that triggered the Israeli responses. They similarly erased the barbaric attacks by Hamas on October 7 that sparked the current war. The social media posts and press releases from NRC and MSF repeat accusations of “collective punishment” and “war crimes,” and dismiss the violence of Hamas as the actions of a few “extremists.”
Powerful NGOs proclaiming to promote human rights have a long history of systematically demonizing Israel and labeling all counter-terror efforts “war crimes” and violations of international humanitarian law. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have led these campaigns, which began over 20 years ago (the 2002 Jenin massacre lie) and have continued throughout the era of Hamas control over Gaza. Their demonization of Israel includes numerous “reports,” condemnations and media campaigns based on false or unverifiable accusations, such as “apartheid” and “genocide.” It is important to document the role that NGOs claiming to promote human rights have played in enabling Hamas war crimes since 2007, and in the systematic demonization of Israel that contributed to the current flood of antisemitic attacks.
From the first days of the war, the UN agencies, government aid groups, and NGOs have used their access to media platforms and image of neutrality to campaign intensively for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, which would leave Hamas intact and in control of Gaza. In most cases, there was either token mention of the Israeli hostages still in captivity or no mention of them at all.
Moving forward: Transitioning from aid dependency to economic development
Beyond the massive diversion of aid for terror, absence of accountability, and political advocacy on behalf of Hamas, 75 years of Palestinian dependence and the label of “refugee status” across generations has been central in perpetuating the conflict. As documented by Yishai Schwartz and Einat Wilf (The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace), the aid industry is central to reinforcing the Palestinian belief that Israel’s existence is temporary, and its creation can be reversed. UNRWA and powerful NGOs like NRC have a direct interest in this destructive inversion and do their best to reinforce it.
It is critical to begin Gaza’s transition away from aid and toward economic development, and to do so quickly. The current division of labor (aid and civil services above ground, Hamas and terror below) must not be allowed to continue. This will require different international actors — ones that can develop productive industry and jobs, and that can lead the construction and operation of civilian transportation and communications services. Large-scale funding, particularly from governments, will still be required, but it should be administered by different organizations. In contrast to the aid industry, it must be accompanied by careful vetting, continuous oversight, transparency, and accountability.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg is professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University, where he founded the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation. His research interests include international relations, Middle East diplomacy and security, the politics of human rights and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Israeli politics and arms control. He is a member of Israel Council of Foreign Affairs; the Israel Higher-Education Council, Committee on Public Policy; the research group of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI); and the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA). A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.
The post The Enablers of Hamas War Crimes: UN Agencies, Government Aid Programs, and NGOs first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
In implied jab at Trump, evangelical pro-Israel leader John Hagee blasts antisemitism and racism among Republicans
(JTA) — Pastor John Hagee, the influential pro-Israel evangelical leader, blasted Republicans for trafficking in “thinly veiled racism” and a “contagious viral strain of anti-American, anti-Christian, and antisemitic politics.”
Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, has long been associated with the pro-Israel right and has praised and endorsed a series of Republican presidential candidates, including Donald Trump. He gave a benediction at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem in 2018, and the following year, five Trump administration officials — including Vice President Mike Pence — spoke at CUFI’s annual conference.
But this year, Hagee distanced himself from Trump, delivering a prayer at the launch of Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign. And on Monday, the eve of the Republican primary in New Hampshire, he published an op-ed in the Christian Post containing implied jabs at Trump, whom he did not mention by name.
“Multiple would-be Republican standard bearers consistently appeal to the worst in their audience by trafficking in thinly veiled racism while cynically trampling on our Constitution,” he wrote. “Likewise, faith is not ornamental, and the Word of God is not a political prop.”
He continued, “It is far from unprecedented for people to be led astray by those promising an unrealistic view of a nostalgic past, but when this nostalgia is rooted in insult, racism and antisemitism, it is fundamentally un-American and most assuredly evil.”
Hagee has long aimed his rhetorical fire at Democrats, and the piece also criticizes that party at length, including President Joe Biden. “Socialists and authoritarians are on the precipice of taking over both of America’s political parties” Hagee wrote. He added, “I fundamentally disagree with most mainstream Democratic policies.”
But even when naming Biden, who Hagee said “failed to save his party from the perils of socialism,” Hagee took a veiled swipe at Trump and his baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged: “President Biden was duly elected,” Hagee wrote.
Trump and his allies have championed the rioters who sought to overturn Biden’s 2021 election, and Trump has recently said immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the country, language that resembles phrases in “Mein Kampf,” by Adolf Hitler. At a rally in December, Trump denied plagiarizing Hitler and said he had never read the book.
Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, is the last remaining serious challenger to Trump in the primary and has staked her campaign on a strong showing in New Hampshire. She has drawn support from establishment Jewish Republicans who want to see an alternative to Trump and favor her interventionist foreign policy and robust embrace of Israel. Haley spoke last year at CUFI’s annual Washington conference.
In his piece, Hagee singled out the GOP in his home state for condoning antisemitism by rejecting a ban on associating with Nazi sympathizers and Holocaust deniers. Referring to that rejection, Hagee wrote, “To add insult to injury, the vote on this resolution was taken in secret, effectively reserving the party’s right to collaborate with Nazis.”
CUFI is one of the biggest and most influential right-wing pro-Israel lobbies on the federal and state level. It has led efforts to pass state laws targeting the movement to boycott Israel, and on the federal level was one of the first groups to lobby for the successful effort to link funding Palestinian institutions to cutting off payments for families of terrorists.
In addition to leading CUFI, Hagee is the founder of Cornerstone Church and of Hagee Ministries, a charitable organization that directs millions of dollars to Israeli charities, including some in West Bank settlements.
Hagee endorsed the late Republican Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election but withdrew his endorsement when some of his past remarks drew scrutiny, including comments suggesting Adolf Hitler was fulfilling the words of the Bible, and a reference to the Catholic Church as “the great whore” — remarks for which he later apologized. He has also made anti-Muslim statements.
His statements havre continued to spark controversy. A contingent of dovish pro-Israel groups objected to his having a speaking role at the massive pro-Israel Washington rally in November, in part because of his incendiary rhetoric about LGBTQ people.
Israel’s AM Radio Pierces Gaza Tunnels in Bid to Soothe Hostages
After conquering a Hamas tunnel in the northern Gaza Strip, a group of Israeli soldiers went down it with some unusual kit in hand – not explosives, robot probes or pistols for close combat, but rather: old-style, dial-operated transistor radios.
Their mission was to descend until the devices could no longer receive AM transmissions from Israel. That point, they found, was at about 10 to 12 metres depth, generally the upper “storeys” of Palestinian terrorists’ subterranean network.
The Jan 4 experiment was ordered by their commander at the behest of Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, who had just expanded the country’s most popular broadcaster, Army Radio, from industry-standard FM into complementary AM channels.
AM’s greater range meant emergency updates would have a better chance of being heard by civilians in bomb shelters. Troops in Gaza would also benefit, as they were being allowed transistor radios to keep themselves informed while being asked to surrender their cellphones lest those be geolocated by Hamas.
The tunnel experiment dangled another possibility for a country tormented with worry for 132 people held hostage by Hamas-led gunmen in the enclave: reaching out to them with custom-composed, morale-raising Army Radio broadcasts.
“It suddenly occurred to me that maybe some of those hostages also had access to transistor radios,” Karhi told Reuters. “If they had the means to hear their families’ voices it would have a huge value in terms of morale – and for their relatives, too.”
The gambit would likely need Hamas’ cooperation, a prospect its initiators hope is within the bounds of possibility.
Hamas officials in Gaza were not immediately available for comment on the idea – a testament to Palestinians’ shattered infrastructure under an Israeli offensive, as well as their reluctance to release information on the hostages’ conditions.
ACCESS TO TVS, RADIOS
Of scores of hostages freed in a November truce, several said captors had allowed them limited access to TVs or radios.
One of them learned from the radio that her husband and daughter, from whom she had been separated during the Oct. 7 cross-border Hamas killing and kidnapping spree that sparked the war, had survived. For another, an Israeli broadcast was the first notification that two relatives were among the dead.
But the accounts often left unclear whether the hostages were kept just under the surface, or in tunnels well out of range, or in above-ground safe houses with regular reception. Tunnels shown to journalists by advancing Israeli forces have sometimes included upper levels of about 10 metres depth.
Asked to respond to the Army Radio initiative, ex-hostage Nili Margalit said part of her captivity was spent 40 metres underground. “It is too deep,” she told Reuters, declining to discuss the matter further for fear “that the terrorists will use my words to hurt the captives that are still there”.
Dan O’Shea, a former Navy SEAL and hostage coordinator for U.S. forces in Iraq, said that while he “completely agrees” with the AM-radio initiative he saw scant chance of Hamas cooperating while Israel pursues search-and-rescue operations in Gaza.
“If Hamas knew that these radios could be picked up by Israeli forces, it’s the last thing they would want,” he said. “They’re paranoid about anything that’s going to track an IDF bomb to their position.”
Peter Duffett-Smith, emeritus reader in astrophysics at the University of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, said AM transistor radios, which are designed to passively receive broadcasts, cannot easily be traced. But he did not rule it out.
Most such radios use oscillators which emit faint signals, he said, “and it is possible that (these) could be detected at a distance using specialised equipment. These signals decrease rapidly with distance, especially through ground.”
Asked whether Israel could mount such location operations, Army Radio director Danny Zaken said: “We cannot. It (a broadcast received by the radio) is not coming back. I mean, it’s not like sonar … It’s only one-way, unfortunately.”
STAVING OFF DESPAIR
Karhi said he knew of neither Israel nor Hamas being able to track passive AM reception – hence the permission for troops in Gaza to use transistor radios.
Staving off despair or rebelliousness among the hostages might prompt captors to consider taking a risk on the radios.
But Ruth Pat-Horenczyk, a clinical psychology professor with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said if Hamas felt it would weaken its control of captives it would prevent them listening.
Army Radio‘s shift into AM is backed by the Defence Ministry’s National Emergency Management Authority and Israel’s largest telecom group, Bezeq. The station has been pre-recording messages by hostage families for airing several times a day.
“They’re telling them: ‘Stay strong. We are fighting for you. Don’t worry. We’ll get to you. Stay strong,” Zaken said.
At a Tel Aviv rally to mark the first birthday of Kfir Bibas, the youngest of the hostages, an Army Radio reporter approached one of the baby’s relatives, Yosi Shnaider, to explain the station’s new reach and ask to record an interview.
He agreed: “If they are hearing us … We want to tell you that the families love you, that no one has forgotten you.”
The post Israel’s AM Radio Pierces Gaza Tunnels in Bid to Soothe Hostages first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Picture book about family that celebrates Rosh Hashanah and Lunar New Year nabs top Sydney Taylor Jewish children’s book award
(JTA) — A lavishly illustrated children’s book about a Chinese Jewish family who celebrate both Rosh Hashanah and Lunar New Year is among the top winners of this year’s Sydney Taylor Book Awards for Jewish children’s books.
Meanwhile, the publisher of the imprint behind the popular Sammy Spider Jewish holiday books won an award for her lifetime of contributions to Jewish children’s literature.
Both prizes were revealed Monday as part of the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards. Michelle Margolis, president of the Association of Jewish Libraries, made the announcement on a livestream from the ALA’s multi-day LibLearnX conference in Baltimore.
Named in memory of Sydney Taylor, the author of the “All-of-a-Kind- Family” series that is being made into a TV show, the Sydney Taylor Book Awards honor work that “exemplify high literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience,” according to an statement by Aviva Rosenberg, chair of the Sydney Taylor awards committee.
“Two New Years” by Richard Ho, illustrated by Lynn Scurfield, took the top prize in the picture book category.
“The Dubious Pranks of Shaindy Goodman” by Mari Lowe won in the middle-grade category, marking the year in a row that Lowe has snagged the top prize in that category. Last year, her debut novel “Aviva vs. the Dybbuk,” like “Dubious Pranks” a story centered on an Orthodox girl character, won in the same age category.
And “The Blood Years,” by Elana K. Arnold, a stirring historical novel about a young Holocaust survivor from Romania, won in the young adult category.
In addition to the annual Sydney Taylor awards, the AJL awarded Joni Sussman its coveted body-of-work award, granted biennially “to an author or entity who has made a substantial contribution over time to the genre of Jewish children’s literature,” according to the AJL’s press statement.
Sussman is the publisher of Kar-Ben Publishing and the award-winning author of “My First Yiddish Word Book” and four Jewish-themed Sesame Street board books.
Sussman “has greatly increased the reach of Jewish children’s literature by producing a significant number of high-quality titles over an ever-expanding variety of Jewish topics,” In recognizing Sussman, the Sydney Taylor committee wrote that for the last 20 years at the helm of Kar-Ben. “Her efforts have put Jewish books in the eyes of the public and the hands of children on a new scale.”
Among Kar-Ben’s popular titles for readers of all ages is the best-selling Sammy Spider series, which depict a family of spiders learning about Jewish holidays from the family whose home they scurry about. More than 20 Kar-Ben titles have won Sydney Taylor awards.
“Two New Years” follows a Chinese Jewish family as they celebrate Rosh Hashanah in the fall and Lunar New Year in the spring. In straightforward, lyrical prose, Ho — whose own family observes both holidays — introduces young readers to Jewish and Chinese traditions for welcoming the new year. Scurfield’s brightly colored illustrations evoke the paper-cutting traditions of both cultures. Notably, the book adds to the growing list of books that reflect the wide range of diversity in contemporary Jewish life.
In “The Dubious Pranks of Shaindy Goodman,” readers meet Shaindy, a totally relatable, socially-awkward sixth grader in an all-girls Orthodox Jewish day school who yearns to fit in.
In spot-on self reflection and dialogue, Shaindy reveals that she feels like “a shadow. The girl no one notices,” at school, in her religious neighborhood or at summer camp, Lowe writes in this first person narrative.
As the new school year begins and the High Holidays approach, Shaindy is unexpectedly befriended by Gayil, the most popular girl in her class who lures Shaindy in to a series of seemingly harmless school pranks that target their classmates. When the pranks turn mean-spirited, Shaindy grapples with the search for identity and the meaning of friendship, as she comes to understand her own resilience and, the power of seeking forgiveness.
“The Blood Years” is Arnold’s poignant fictional story of 13-year-old Frederieke Teitler and her older sister, Astra, who, before the start of World War II, are raised by their mother and grandfather in the Romanian town of Czernowitz. When the war breaks out, their lives in the tight-knit Jewish community, are transformed with the invasion by the Soviet and Nazi Germany armies. Readers follow Frederieke as she is forced to make hard choices and navigates the harsh and sometimes brutal realities of survival.
The gripping story is based on the life of Arnold’s maternal grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. Maintaining accuracy about the historical events and honoring the victims and survivors was a priority for Arnold. “It was incredibly important not to sensationalize the Holocaust,” she told Publishers Weekly. An Author’s Note gives historical context and elaborates on her grandmother’s extraordinary life story.
The Sydney Taylor committee named 11 honor books; three were designated as notable. The manuscript award went to Marlaina Cockcroft for “Ava’s Golem.”
Among the other awards announced at the Youth Media awards by the ALA were the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards. “The Blood Years” was a Prinz award finalist.
Neil Shusterman (“Game Changer,” “Bruiser,”), whom the Jewish Journal dubbed “a Jewish literary powerhouse,” won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. His most recent work, the graphic novel “Courage to Dream: Tales of Hope in the Holocaust,” was a finalist for a Sydney Taylor award, though his work has otherwise largely not focused on Jewish stories. Shusterman has spoken about the influence of his Orthodox Jewish grandmother on his writing and previously authored a book about mental illness based on his experience parenting one of his sons.