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US Lawmakers, Jewish World React to Biden’s Threat to Israel to Change US Policy Toward Gaza

US President Joe Biden, left, pauses during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: Miriam Alster/Pool via REUTERS

Members of the US Congress and major Jewish and pro-Israel organizations reacted swiftly to US President Joe Biden’s administration calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza and threatening to fundamentally change US policy toward the Jewish state, expressing both outrage and approval at the sharp shift in messaging from Washington.

In a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, Biden issued his toughest public rebuke of Israel since its war against Hamas began in the fall, warning that US policy moving forward will be determined by whether Israel takes certain actions to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

According to a White House readout, Biden said that “an immediate ceasefire is essential to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians.”

It is unclear whether such a ceasefire is expected to be implemented unilaterally and unconditionally by Israel or come through an agreement with Hamas. Over the past few months, Hamas has rejected all ceasefire offers, while Israel agreed to a deal that would end fighting for six weeks and release 700 Palestinian terrorists from jail, in exchange for 40 hostages seized during Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

The readout also noted that Biden “made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers.”

Without such steps, Biden threatened to fundamentally change the US-Israel relationship: “He made clear that US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.”

Likewise, Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters on Thursday: “We will make sure Israel is never left without an ability to defend itself. At the same time, if there are not changes to their approach, it’s very likely we’re going to change our approach.”

Meanwhile, in a press conference in Brussels, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “If we don’t see the changes that we need to see, there will be changes in our own policy.”

Blinken also implied that Israel risks becoming “indistinguishable” from Hamas, a terrorist group committed to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews, if it does not do more to protect Palestinian civilians. “If we lose that reverence for human life, we risk becoming indistinguishable from those we confront,” he said.

In response, Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) made a sharp break with the Biden administration, arguing that US support for Israel should be unconditional. “In this war against Hamas — no conditions for Israel,” he wrote on X/Twitter.

In this war against Hamas—no conditions for Israel.

— Senator John Fetterman (@SenFettermanPA) April 4, 2024

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) concurred, writing, “It’s Hamas that has rejected a ceasefire — not Israel. Instead of attacking our ally, Joe Biden should demand Hamas release the hostages.”

Without Hamas on board, it is unclear how a bilateral ceasefire would be reached. The only apparent alternative would be a unilateral ceasefire by Israel that would leave Hamas in power and all the hostages in Gaza.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, launched the current war with its invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, when the terrorist group murdered 1,200 people and took 253 others as hostages. Over 100 of those kidnapped were released as part of a temporary ceasefire agreement in November.

Israel responded to the invasion with a military offensive in neighboring Gaza aimed at freeing all the hostages and incapacitating Hamas to the point that it could no longer pose a major threat to the Israeli people. Hamas leaders have pledged to carry out massacres against Israel like the one on Oct. 7 “again and again.”

Some US lawmakers expressed regret at the rising civilian casualty toll in Gaza but noted Israel has gone to great lengths to minimize such casualties while targeting Hamas, which embeds itself in the civilian population and uses civilian sites such as schools and hospitals as its command centers.

“War is chaotic, and urban warfare more so,” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) wrote in response to Thursday’s events. “I believe that Israel is doing as good a job as can be done and is working hard to avoid civilian casualties. Analysts indicate that Israeli efforts in this area are favorable to US military actions in Fallujah and Mosul. And of course, ISIS forces in Fallujah and Mosul were not firing rockets at the American homeland.”

In a statement to Jewish Insider, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) said, “Every conceivable effort should be made to minimize casualties and maximize humanitarian aid for Palestinians in distress. But any attempt to fundamentally undermine the US-Israel relationship will only serve to benefit Hamas, which perpetrated the deadliest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust — a fact that the world seems to have forgotten.”

Others, however, are supporting Biden in his sharp change of rhetoric. In an interview on CNN, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said he believes it is “at that point” where conditions on aid to Israel are prudent.

“If Benjamin Netanyahu were to order the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] into Rafah at scale … and make no provision for civilians or for humanitarian aid, I would vote to condition aid to Israel,” he said.

Coons is a long-time supporter of Israel and is considered a moderate Democrat.

Others offered more enthusiastic praise for Biden’s warning to Netanyahu.

“I commend President Biden’s call for an immediate ceasefire and warning to Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israel must change course immediately, and that US policy toward Israel will depend on it,” Rep. John Larson (D-CT) said.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), on the other hand, argued that “calls for an ‘immediate ceasefire’ should be directed exclusively to Hamas.”

“Threatening or conditioning American support for Israel only serves to embolden Hamas and make a deal to pause fighting, free hostages, and surge aid harder to achieve,” the pro-Israel lobbying group added, hinting at the fact that such declarations from the US give Hamas leverage in negotiations.

The American Jewish Congress took a less combative approach.

“We welcome President Biden’s clarity and leadership in protecting America’s interests and in supporting our ally Israel at war while striving to mitigate the inevitable harm that a military conflict does to innocent people on all sides. The president speaks and acts like a true friend of Israel,” the group said in a statement.

“While Israel should hold itself to a higher moral standard, the fact remains that Hamas has methodically delayed negotiations and avoided the decisions that could have ended the war,” the statement continued. “Hamas does not share the American and Israeli concern for the innocent suffering in Gaza.”

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OCAD University student is seeking $1M in damages—alleging a lack of protection from threats and abuse

Samantha Kline, 22, presented photos of antisemitic graffiti she says targeted her.

The post OCAD University student is seeking $1M in damages—alleging a lack of protection from threats and abuse appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad Releases New Propaganda Video of Israeli Hostage

Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov as seen in a propaganda video released by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Photo: Screenshot

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

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.

Trufanov’s mother said in a video released by the family 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.

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

Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists abducted over 250 people during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Trufanov was kidnapped alongside his mother, grandmother, and girlfriend.

All three 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.

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Gal Gadot’s Action Movie Nabs Second Place on Netflix List of Most Watched Films in Second Half of 2023

Gal Gadot as Rachel Stone in a scene from the trailer for “Heart of Stone.” Photo: YouTube screenshot

Netflix released its engagement report that details the films with the most views from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2023, and Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s action thriller Heart of Stone secured the number two spot with 109.6 million views.

The film — starring Gadot alongside Jamie Dornan and Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt in leading roles — was the runner-up to Leave the World Behind, the drama starring Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, and Ethan Hawke that garnered 121 million views on Netflix.

Heart of Stone, directed by Tom Harper, was released on the streaming giant on Aug. 11 of last year. The action film is about international intelligence operative Rachel Stone, played by Gadot, who goes on a mission to protect an artificial intelligence system, known as The Heart, from falling in the wrong hands. The film was produced by Pilot Wave, a company founded by Gadot and her husband Jaron Varsano.

Gadot also stars in Netflix’s most popular film of all time, Red Notice, alongside Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds.

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