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The Rafah Operation and Yom HaShoah: What’s the Meaning of ‘Never Again’?

An UNRWA aid truck at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Israel’s opening entry into Rafah in Gaza coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah). Israel’s plans and the Biden administration’s response should be understood in light of history and its lessons.

Before the Rafah operation, Israel closed down Al Jazeera, the ostensibly independent media outlet that is, in fact, wholly owned by the government of Qatar. Then, having worked for weeks to establish a temporary refuge outside the Rafah corridor for Gazan civilians, Israel began alerting Palestinians to move to safer quarters — by phone, email, text, loudspeaker, and leaflets — with maps and routes defined. This is in line with its previous efforts to minimize civilian casualties.

John Spencer, chair of urban warfare studies at West Point, wrote, “Israel has done more to prevent civilian casualties in war than any military in history — above and beyond what international law requires and more than the U.S. did in its wars in Iraq & Afghanistan.”

As the bombing began, the White House released President Joe Biden’s statement, mourning “the six million Jews who were killed by the Nazis during one of the darkest chapters in human history” and recommitting to “heeding the lessons of the Shoah and realizing the responsibility of ‘Never Again.’”

But as events unfold, the administration’s actions belie the president’s words and the “lessons of the Shoah” appear unlearned. The crucial first lesson is that “Never Again” is a pledge that Israel will defend the Jewish people.

The government of Israel articulated three goals after the Hamas-induced pogrom of October 7: to eliminate Hamas’ military and governing capabilities, to secure Israel’s borders and thus its people, and to rescue any surviving Israeli hostages. The rescue of Gaza civilians from their terrorist overlords would be a byproduct.

For the US, the articulated goal has become to negotiate a ceasefire with Iranian-sponsored, Qatar-financed terrorist Hamas, perhaps forgetting that there was a “ceasefire” between Israel and Hamas until October 6.

Elevating American goals above Israel’s goals misses the first lesson entirely. Israel is an independent, free, and democratic country with a first-class, ethical military. Its ability to make military and political decisions should be respected by its principal ally and others.

But Washington is adamant.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan — with exactly no military background — opined, “A major ground operation [in Rafah] would be a mistake. … [T]he key goals Israel wants to achieve in Rafah can be done by other means.”

He declined to specify the means.

Israel declined to substitute Sullivan’s judgment for its own.

The Biden administration then denounced the closure of Al Jazeera. White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said, “We believe in freedom of the press. It is critically important, and the United States supports the critically important work journalists around the world do. That includes those who are reporting on the conflict in Gaza. … [F]reedom of the press is important.”

Yes, it is. But the “journalist” tag can be — and has been — misused by propagandists and terrorists, including on October 7. While media outlets may not have been aware of their freelancers’ freelancing with Hamas, the free movement of Al Jazeera “journalists” can expose Israeli military information to Al Jazeera’s owners and thus to others. It should be noted that there have been closures and restrictions on Al Jazeera in countries including Australia, Bahrain, India, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine, the UAE, the UK, and the United States.

The administration’s insistence that humanitarian considerations trump military reality is a mistake with larger ramifications. Trying to “protect” civilians in the middle of the battle actually prolongs the war and increases casualties. But Biden demanded supplies, built a $320-million pier off the Gaza shore (taxpayer money and US service personnel), and failed until this week to recognize publicly that Hamas was stealing aid that entered Gaza. Taking the mantle of “guardian of Palestinian civilians” in the middle of a war for Israel’s current and future security fails to heed the lesson of “Never Again.” It is a publicity stunt at Israel’s expense.

The UN noted in August 2023 (well before Israel’s entry into Gaza) that 35 million people were on “the edge” of famine in seven countries: Afghanistan, Haiti, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Yemen, and Ethiopia. It later changed the number to 98.8 million people facing famine in nine countries, adding Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the list.

The administration has contributed to international aid organizations, certainly, but has done nothing directly to alleviate conditions for those 98.8 million people at the level it is advocating for the Palestinians — and only the Palestinians.

President Biden has been rhetorically good on Israel’s security requirements since October 7, and the coordination of Israel’s defense against Iranian attack was excellent. But its undermining of Israel’s decision-making is a mockery of the “mourning” on Yom HaShoah, as is his recent decision to withhold arms from Israel unless it does what Biden wants.

That’s not the lesson Biden — and certainly Israel — should take away from Yom HaShoah.

Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center.  An earlier version of this piece appeared at American Thinker.

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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 […]

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‘Israel Is Not Jewish People,’ New York Times ‘Daily’ Guest Really Wants You to Know

Anti-Israel protesters outside Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City, April 22, 2024. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

When producers from the New York Times podcast “The Daily” posted on social media looking for “Jewish students who represent a range of feelings and experiences, from being enthusiastically pro Palestinian to enthusiastically pro Israel, and everything in between,” I replied, “This is a trap! They’ll use the ‘pro-Palestinian’ (the polite term they use for the ones who want to wipe Israel off the map) ones to make it sound like the Jewish community is divided and give listeners the illusion that the anti-Israel protests aren’t antisemitic.”

Sure enough, the Times podcast episode that finally aired, headlined, “The Campus Protesters Explain Themselves,” included three students.

Mustafa Yowell, of Irving, Texas, said his mother was from “Nablus, Palestine” and described himself as a Palestinian Arab. He’s a student at the University of Texas, Austin who complained to the Times that “two IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers had infiltrated the campus.” By “IDF soldiers” he meant Israeli students at the university who had, like many Israelis, served in the army before college.

The second student interviewed, Elisha Baker, a student at Columbia University, described himself as a proud Zionist and a graduate of Jewish day school.

And the third student, Jasmine Jolly, a student at Cal Poly Humboldt, described herself as the daughter of a Catholic father and “of Ashkenazi descent on my mom’s side.” Jolly showed up at protests with a sign that said “in honor of my Jewish ancestors, I stand with Palestine.” Jolly also chanted “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.”

“There’s nothing that has come across to me as antisemitic if you are able to pause and remember that Israel is not Jewish people and Zionism is not Jewish people,” Jolly explained to the Times audience.

Jolly read an email from her Jewish grandfather claiming, “Israel is an increasingly apartheid state.”

This is just such a misleading view of reality on campus and in American Jewish life. Even polls like Pew that use an expansive definition of who is Jewish find overwhelming Jewish support for Israel and negligible support for Hamas, including among younger Jews 18 to 34.

In reality, a lot of the anti-Israel protesters aren’t even Palestinians; they are European or Asian students or white or black Americans who either have been brainwashed by their professors or who have underlying, pre-existing antisemitic attitudes. Few of them have been to the Middle East and many of them are ignorant about basic facts about it — remember the Wall Street Journal piece, “From Which River to Which Sea?

“The Daily” episode made it crisply concrete, with the Times representing Jews as being split 50-50, with one normative Jew and one Jew chanting “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.” That’s ridiculous, yet a similar approach contaminates other Times coverage of the Jewish community, misleadlingly portraying American Jewry as deeply divided rather than unified around the goals of getting the hostages back, eliminating the threat of Hamas, and making American college campuses safe for Jewish students.

The Times was at this game well before Oct. 7, 2023, proclaiming “the unraveling of American Zionism” and trotting out old chestnuts such as the Reform movement’s Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 and the New York Times‘ favorite Jew, Peter Beinart.

I find myself rolling my eyes at such depictions, but there is clearly some audience for them among the Times readership and top editorial ranks. The Times executive editor, Joe Kahn, told Semafor’s Ben Smith in a May interview, “I’m not an active Jew.” Maybe the New York Times can sell sweatshirts: “Inactive Jew.” Who, exactly, is supposed to find that distinction between “active” and “inactive” Jews reassuring? Maybe they can put it on top of the front page in place of “All the News That’s Fit to Print”: “Edited by someone who wants the public to know he’s not an active Jew.”

Of all the moments to choose to distance oneself publicly from the Jewish people, this is sure quite one to choose.

This “Daily” episode seems calculated to appeal to the inactive Jews, and to others who want justification to believe it’s not antisemitic to set up on Passover and falsely accuse Israel of genocide. It’s nice for the Times to include a Zionist voice on the program, but he wound up sandwiched in between a Palestinian and an “only one solution, intifada revolution” person. It’s fairly typical for the New York Times these days, but it isn’t pretty.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here. He also writes at

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad Releases Second Video of Israeli Hostage Sasha Troufanov

Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov as seen in an undated propaganda video released by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on May 30, 2024. Photo: Screenshot

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group on Thursday released a second propaganda video this week featuring Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov, 28, who was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists during Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

In the video, Trufanov says he is doing well and criticizes Israel’s prime minister and government in remarks that were likely scripted by his captors.

There was no information about when the video was filmed. However, Trufanov refers to Israel’s decision on May 5 to order the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network to close, indicating he may have been filmed in the last few weeks.

The latest video came just two days after Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed Palestinian terrorist group in Gaza, released its first video featuring Trufanov.

The 30-second undated video shows Trufanov, an Amazon employee, identifying himself and saying that he will soon discuss what has happened to him and other hostages in Gaza.

Similar videos have been released by terrorists groups in Gaza. Israel has lambasted them as psychological warfare meant to torture the Israeli public, especially the families of the hostages being held in Gaza.

Trufanov’s mother said after the first video was released that she was happy to see her son after all this time, but it was “heartbreaking” that he had been a hostage for so long.

“Seeing my Sasha on my TV was very cheering, but it also breaks my heart that he’s still been in captivity for so long,” she said in a video released by the family. “I ask everyone, all the decision-makers: Please do everything, absolutely everything, to bring my son and all the hostages home now.”

Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists abducted over 250 people during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Sasha was kidnapped alongside his mother, grandmother, and girlfriend. All three women were released as part of a temporary ceasefire agreement negotiated in November. His father, Vitaly Trufanov, was one of the 1,200 people killed during the Hamas massacre.

“The proof of life from Alexsander (Sasha) Trufanov is additional evidence that the Israeli government must give a significant mandate to the negotiating team,” the Hostages Families Forum, which represents the families of the hostages, said in a statement.

More than 120 hostages remain in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. Islamic Jihad is a separate but allied terrorist organization in the Palestinian enclave. Both are backed by Iran, which provides them with money, weapons, and training.

Negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt, and the US to reach a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have been stalled for weeks.

Trufanov was an engineer at the Israeli microelectronics company Annapurna Labs, which Amazon owns.

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