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US Launches Red Sea Force as Ships Reroute to Avoid Attacks

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meet, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Dec. 18, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Stewart

The United States on Tuesday launched a multinational operation to safeguard commerce in the Red Sea as attacks by Iran-backed Yemeni terrorists forced major shipping companies to reroute, fueling concern over sustained disruptions to global trade.

The Houthi terrorist group, which controls vast amounts of territory in Yemen after years of war, has since last month fired drones and missiles at international vessels sailing through the Red Sea — attacks it says respond to Israel‘s assault on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

This week, the attacks began to take their toll on global trade, disrupting a key trade route that links Europe and North America with Asia via the Suez Canal.

Oil major BP paused all Red Sea transits, and a slew of top shipping firms including Maersk started diverting shipments normally made through Suez around the Cape of Good Hope on Africa’s southern tip. The new route all the way around Africa adds days to journey times and incurs higher costs. The list of companies avoiding the Red Sea continued to grow on Tuesday.

The crisis, which has grown out of the war between Israel and Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, is the latest in the Middle East to pit the United States and its allies against Iran and its regional Arab proxy militias.

Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis in a cross-border raid on Oct. 7, drawing an Israeli military offensive of air strikes and ground operations targeting the terror group in Gaza.

Iranian proxies including the Houthis and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah have fired rockets at Israel since the conflict began. The Houthis have meanwhile stepped up their Red Sea attacks, threatening to target all ships heading to Israel and warning shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is on a trip to Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s headquarters in the Middle East, said Britain, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, and Spain were among nations involved in the Red Sea security operation.

The group, widely dubbed in media reports as a “task force,” will conduct joint patrols in the southern Red Sea and the adjacent Gulf of Aden.

“This is an international challenge that demands collective action,” Austin said in a statement, announcing the initiative as “Operation Prosperity Guardian.” He called on other countries to contribute as he condemned “reckless Houthi actions.”

But it was unclear how many other countries are willing to do what mostly US warships have done in recent days — shoot down Houthi missiles and drones, and rush to the aid of commercial ships under attack.

A European diplomat whose country will take part in the task force said the idea of the operation was for participating nations’ ships to shoot down missiles and drones and accompany vessels through the Red Sea.

A US military official who spoke on condition of anonymity played down the idea that naval ships would escort commercial vessels, given that hundreds normally travel the route daily, but said the US operation would position ships in areas where they could have the greatest security benefit.

IMPACT ON GLOBAL TRADE

BP’s decision to temporarily pause all transit through the Red Sea, and oil tanker group Frontline saying its vessels would avoid passage through the waterway, showed the crisis was broadening to include energy shipments. Crude oil prices rose on those concerns on Monday.

Shipping companies continued to reroute on Tuesday. Denmark’s Maersk, which had paused Red Sea shipping, said it would sail its ships around Africa until further notice.

Maersk said in a statement that the Red Sea task force was a “positive” development, but added that it was seeking more details on how it would work.

“With the line of impacted vessels building fast in the area, progressing with speed will be key for the coalition in order to minimize direct negative impact on global trade,” the statement said.

International firms said they were drawing up contingency plans. Sweden’s Electrolux said it had set up a task force to find alternative routes or identify priority deliveries if needed.

Many other ships were still plying the Red Sea. Several ships underway have armed guards on board, LSEG data showed.

Industry sources said the impact on global trade would depend on how long the crisis persists, but insurance premiums and longer routes would be immediate burdens.

Economic policymakers said it was too early to assess the broader financial impact, but the main concern was whether disruption would get serious enough to ignite a new round of global inflation, just as central banks are finally overcoming price pressures after the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 12 percent of world shipping traffic usually transits via the Suez Canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia, passing then as well into Red Sea waters off Yemen.

Normally, about 11,800 voyages are made each month through the Suez Canal — some 393 a day — according to a Reuters analysis of data from supply chain research firm Project44.

ATTACKS PERSIST, IRAN BLAMED

Austin said on Monday Iran was behind the Houthi attacks. Iran denies involvement but says it supports its Houthi allies.

The European diplomat said the task force aimed to send a strong signal to Iran and its proxies. “There is no doubt Houthis are acting on behalf of Iran,” they said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Houthis said the US-led security initiative would not deter them.

“Our position will not change in the direction of the Palestinian issue, whether a naval alliance is established or not,” Houthi official Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters, saying only Israeli ships or those going to Israel would be targeted.

“Our position in support of Palestine and the Gaza Strip will remain until the end of the siege, the entry of food and medicine, and our support for the oppressed Palestinian people will remain continuous.”

British maritime security firm Ambrey said on Tuesday it received information of a potential boarding attempt 71 nautical miles west of Yemen’s port of Aden, adding that the attack was unsuccessful and all crew were safe.

Many major Arab allies of the United States have so far declined to join the task force. Bahrain’s defense minister met Western counterparts to discuss maritime security, an official social media page said on Tuesday, but gave no other details.

The post US Launches Red Sea Force as Ships Reroute to Avoid Attacks first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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‘Despicable’: Harvard Denounces Nazi-Esque Image Shared by Anti-Zionist Faculty Group

Pro-Hamas students rallying at Harvard University. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

Harvard University denounced an antisemitic image depicting a Jew lynching an African American and an Arab which was released by a faculty anti-Zionist group on social media.

“The university is aware of social media posts today containing deeply offensive antisemitic tropes and messages from organizations whose membership includes Harvard affiliates,” the university said, speaking from its Instagram account. “Such despicable messages have no place in the Harvard community. We condemn these posts in the strongest possible terms.”

Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine (FSJP), a group which describes itself as a “collective” committed to falsely accusing Israel of genocide and dispossession — terms one finds on the fringes of the extreme right — initiated this latest controversy. The image it shared shows a left-hand tattooed with a Star of David containing a dollar sign at its center dangling a Black man and an Arab man from a noose. In its posterior, an arm belonging to an unknown person of color wields a machete that says, “Liberation Movement.”

“African people have a profound understanding of apartheid and occupation,” says a graphic in which the image appears. “The historical roots of solidarity between Black liberation movements and Palestinian liberation began in the late 1960s. This period was marked by a heightened awareness among Black organizations in the United States.”

It continued, “The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee [SNCC] linked Zionism to an imperial project while the Black Panther Party aligned itself with the Palestinian resistance, framing both struggles as part of a unified front against racism, Zionism, and imperialism.”

On Monday, Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine — whose 112 founding members include professors Walter Johnson, Jennifer Brody, Diane Moore, Charlie Prodger, Leslie Fernandez, Khameer Kidia, and Duncan Kennedy — apologized for sharing the image and suggested that it was unaware of its own social media activity.

“It has come to our attention that a post featuring antiquated cartoons which used offensive antisemitic tropes was linked to our account,” the group said. “We removed the content as soon as it came to our attention. We apologize for the hurt that these images have caused and do not condone them in any way.”

Two other student groups have apologized for sharing the image, according to The Harvard Crimson. In a joint statement, the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and the African and American Resistance Organization said “our mutual goals for liberation will always include the Jewish community — and we regret inadvertently including an image that played upon antisemitic tropes.”

The past four months have been described by critics of Harvard as a low-point in the history of the school, America’s oldest and, arguably, most prestigious institution of higher education. Since the October 7 massacre by Hamas, Harvard has been accused of fostering a culture of racial grievance and antisemitism, while important donors have suspended funding for programs. Its first Black president, Claudine Gay, resigned in disgrace last month after being outed as a serial plagiarist. Her tenure was the shortest in the school’s history.

As scenes of Hamas terrorists abducting children and desecrating dead bodies circulated worldwide, 31 student groups at Harvard, led by the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) issued a statement blaming Israel for the attack and accusing the Jewish state of operating an “open air prison” in Gaza, despite that the Israeli military withdrew from the territory in 2005. In the weeks that followed, anti-Zionists stormed the campus screaming “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “globalize the intifada,” terrorizing Jewish students and preventing some from attending class.

In November, a mob of anti-Zionists — including Ibrahim Bharmal, editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review — followed, surrounded, and intimidated a Jewish student. “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!” the crush of people screamed in a call-and-response chant into the ears of the student who —as seen in the footage — was forced to duck and dash the crowd to free himself from the cluster of bodies that encircled him.

The university is currently being investigated by the US House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce. It was recently subpoenaed by the body after weeks of allegedly obstructing the inquiry.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post ‘Despicable’: Harvard Denounces Nazi-Esque Image Shared by Anti-Zionist Faculty Group first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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The Red Cross Has Abandoned Israeli Hostages and Its Pretense of Neutrality

A Red Cross vehicle, as part of a convoy believed to be carrying hostages abducted by Hamas terrorists during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, arrives at the Rafah border, amid a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel, as seen from southern Gaza, Nov. 24, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

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.

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The Media Is Still Swallowing Hamas’ Lies About Israel

A supporter of Hamas demonstrates outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. Photo: Reuters/Piroschka van de Wouw

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.

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