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West Point Urban Warfare Expert: IDF ‘Implemented More Measures to Prevent Civilian Casualties Than Any Other Military in History’

Israeli military vehicles move near the Israel-Gaza border, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in southern Israel, Dec. 31, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura

The chair of urban warfare studies at West Point’s Modern Warfare Institute released an op-ed on Wednesday arguing that, during Israel’s war on Hamas, the country “has implemented more measures to prevent civilian casualties than any other military in history.”

John Spencer, who served in the U.S. Army for 25 years and did two tours in Iraq, took to the pages of Newsweek to push back on allegations that Israel is indiscriminately targeting civilians and even committing genocide. 

“As someone who has served two tours in Iraq and studied urban warfare for over a decade,” Spencer explained, “Israel has taken precautionary measures even the United States did not do during its recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

He wrote: “One of the best ways to prevent civilian casualties in urban warfare is to provide warning and evacuate urban areas before the full combined air and ground attack commences. This tactic is unpopular for obvious reasons: It alerts the enemy defender and provides them the military advantage to prepare for the attack. The United States did not do this ahead of its initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, which involved major urban battles to include in Baghdad. It did not do this before its April 2004 Battle of Fallujah (though it did send civilian warnings before the Second Battle of Fallujah six months later).”

“By contrast,” Spencer continues, “Israel provided days and then weeks of warnings, as well as time for civilians to evacuate multiple cities in northern Gaza before starting the main air-ground attack of urban areas. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) employed their practice of calling and texting ahead of an air strike as well as roof-knocking, where they drop small munitions on the roof of a building notifying everyone to evacuate the building before a strike.”

Israel’s use of hundreds of thousands of leaflets, almost 20,000 cell phone calls, 65,000 texts, and 6,000,000 voicemails to civilians, along with alerting civilians where its ground operations would be on a day-to-day basis, is also unprecedented, says Spencer. Not to mention pausing fighting for four hours “over multiple consecutive days” to allow civilians to leave war zones.

Israel may have needed to take such unprecedented measures because the conditions in which they are fighting are also unprecedented, according to analysts. Gaza is a small piece of land — only 25 miles long and, at its widest point, 7.5 miles wide — and extremely densely populated. To make matters more difficult, there are between 350 and 450 miles of tunnels under the strip, which is only 141 square miles, meaning almost the entire territory has Hamas infrastructure under it.

On this point, Spencer writes, “No military in modern history has faced over 30,000 urban defenders in more than seven cities using human shields and hiding in hundreds of miles of underground networks purposely built under civilian sites, while holding hundreds of hostages.”

Protecting civilians in such an environment is particularly challenging, which is likely one of the reasons Israel took the measures they have.

At the same time, the destruction in Gaza is widespread. More than half of the buildings are likely no longer habitable and the war has created a humanitarian crisis where people are unable to gain access to food and necessary medical care.

Additionally, the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health says almost 27,000 Palestinians have been killed during the war, although it does not differentiate between civilians and terrorists. Based on Israeli and U.S. estimates, the civilian-to-combattant casualty ratio is somewhere between 1.5-to-1 and 3-to-1, which is significantly better than the international average, which is 9-to-1 according to the United Nations, but still means thousands of uninvolved civilians have been killed.

“To be clear, I am outraged by the civilian casualties in Gaza,” Spencer makes sure to emphasize, “But it’s crucial to direct that outrage at the right target. And that target is Hamas.”

The post West Point Urban Warfare Expert: IDF ‘Implemented More Measures to Prevent Civilian Casualties Than Any Other Military in History’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Biden sanctions 4 Jewish settlers based on allegations of violence against Palestinians and Israeli peace activists

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Joe Biden ordered crippling sanctions on four Jewish West Bank settlers for alleged violence against Palestinians and Israeli peace activists.

Biden’s executive order Thursday represented an escalation of the diplomacy and pressure he has exerted on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rein in extremists.

A White House statement framed the action as part of the multiple sanctions Biden has levied against officials of Hamas, the terrorist group that launched the war with a wave of massacres on Oct. 7.

“Since October 7, the United States has issued five rounds of sanctions against Hamas, including the most recent round of sanctions against Hamas last week,” the White House said in a statement. “President Biden has also spoken about his concern about the rise in violence that we have seen in the West Bank from extremist actors — in particular the rise in extremist settler violence, which reached record levels in 2023. This violence poses a grave threat to peace, security, and stability in the West Bank, Israel, and the Middle East region, and threatens the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The sanctions essentially bar the four from transactions that involve the U.S. financial system, and make it nearly impossible for them to carry out business with U.S. dollars.

The United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs has reported that settlers, or settlers joined with Israeli forces, have killed 10 Palestinians and wounded 137 since Oct. 7.

The four named settlers are: David Chai Chasdai, who allegedly led a riot in the Palestinian village of Huwara, which resulted in the death of  a Palestinian; Shalom Zicherman, who allegedly attacked Israeli peace activists in the West Bank; Yinon Levy, who allegedly intimidated and assaulted Palestinians with the aim of driving them from lands where they lived and farmed; and Einan Tanjil, who allegedly assaulted Palestinians and Israeli peace activists.

Biden has held Israel tight since the launch of the war, accelerating arms transfers, relaying troop ships to the region to deter others from joining the war, and leading airstrikes against Houthi militants in Yemen who in solidarity with the Palestinians have been targeting commercial ships headed for Israel’s Eilat port.

But he has also grown increasingly exasperated with Netanyahu, who has defied any post-war scenario that would lead to Palestinian statehood, a key Biden priority. Netanyahu was slow to respond to U..S. requests to accelerate the entry of humanitarian assistance into the Gaza Strip and to conduct a more targeted war inside Gaza. 

More than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched counterstrikes after Hamas killed 1,200 people, brutalized thousands more and took more than 250 people hostage. Israel says a third of the Palestinian dead are combatants. The strip is on the verge of mass famine, international aid organizations have said, most of its homes are destroyed and most of its people are displaced.

Most galling to Biden however, has been Netanyahu’s unwillingness or inability to rein in extremists in his Cabinet, whom Biden called on Netanyahu to disavow before the war, and to control accelerated anti-Palestinian violence in the West Bank. 

Biden reportedly considered adding to the sanctions list Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister who has armed settlers with few restrictions since Oct. 7, and who has been convicted of terrorist-related activity. He decided against it, Axios reported. Biden also considered sanctioning Bezalel Smotrich, the far-right minister responsible for the West Bank.

Smotrich lashed out at the order on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, saying without evidence that it targeted the entire settlement movement.

“The ‘settler violence’ campaign is an antisemitic lie spread by the enemies of Israel to smear and harm the movement of settler pioneers,” Smotrich said. “Too bad the Biden administration is participating in this action while settlers are paying a steep price in the blood of their children in the war in Gaza.”

Smotrich said he would not stop in his efforts to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and to expand settlement. “If the price I pay is American sanctions imposed on me, so be it,” he said.

The Biden administration in December levied visa restrictions on settlers found to be involved in attacks, but to little effect.

A senior administration official, briefing reporters on Thursday just before the executive order was released, suggested that Biden was frustrated with the deaf ear that Netanyahu seems to have turned to the pleas of Israel’s most important ally.

“The president has also spoken about his concern repeatedly and consistently publicly and also in almost every diplomatic conversation he has with Israeli leaders about the rise in violence that we have seen in the West Bank from extremist factors,” the officials said. “And these actions pose a grave threat to peace, security and stability in the West Bank, Israel, and the Middle East region, and they also obstruct the realization of ultimately, an independent Palestinian state sitting side by side with the State of Israel.”

The order came on the day Biden traveled to campaign for reelection in Michigan, a key swing state where he overwhelmingly won the substantial Arab American vote in 2020. There is an organized campaign in the state to persuade voters to vote neither for Biden or for his presumptive rival, former President Donald Trump, because of anger with Biden over his support for Israel.

It was not immediately clear if any of the four named settlers have U.S. ties, but the order puts on notice any organization in the United States found to have funded any movement associated with the violence.

Individuals or organizations found “to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any person blocked pursuant to the order” will face the same sanctions, the order said.


The post Biden sanctions 4 Jewish settlers based on allegations of violence against Palestinians and Israeli peace activists appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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This under-the-radar Westchester charity manages funding for hardline pro-Palestinian groups

(New York Jewish Week) — When a planned rally seeking to “globalize the intifada” descends on Columbia University on Friday, it will be because a group called Within Our Lifetime brought its supporters to the campus to protest against the school’s suspension of pro-Palestinian groups.

The group has become known in recent months for its frequent marches and disruptive protests endorsing Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel and for its calls to eliminate Israel. It was co-founded by a former leader of Students for Justice in Palestine, which is currently suspended at Columbia and whose national organization praised the Oct. 7 invasion as a “historic win.”

In the months following Oct. 7, both groups have become among the most visible public opponents of Israel in New York City and beyond. But despite their prominence, their finances and internal operations are hard to track. That’s because both route all of their donations through a small, low-profile nonprofit in Westchester chaired by Howard Horowitz, a left-wing Jewish activist who came to his current anti-Zionist views partly through his time living in Israel decades ago.

Horowitz told the New York Jewish Week that Israel “has displaced, dispossessed and dehumanized — and is now annihilating — those who would be embraced as equals according to the Jewish values I believe in and value.”

And while he condemned the Oct. 7 attack, Horowitz added that his horror was soon replaced by anger at Israel’s response, which he called genocidal.

“October 7 was horrible and emotionally devastating,” he wrote in a lengthy email responding to questions. “Even as I am horrified by the atrocities committed by Hamas, I believe it is important to understand why these Palestinian fighters broke out from the ghetto wall. My outrage at Hamas’s atrocities quickly gave way to my outrage as Israel announced and began the ongoing implementation of genocide.”

Horowitz, a market researcher by profession, is the board chair of the Westchester People’s Action Coalition Foundation, known as Wespac. Founded in 1974, Wespac’s guiding principle, he said, is “nonviolent protests against injustice, discrimination, war and the causes of climate change.” 

The group also quietly serves as the financial linchpin for Within Our Lifetime, National SJP and other pro-Palestinian groups by acting as their fiscal sponsor — an arrangement in which a nonprofit collects donations on behalf of other groups that do not have nonprofit status themselves. Wespac’s revenue has more than doubled since 2019.

For the pro-Palestinian groups, the fiscal sponsorship means they can receive tax-deductible donations and grants. It also means they don’t need to file the tax documents expected of nonprofits, such as laying out their operating budget, total assets and spending. Likewise, the arrangement doesn’t require the fiscal sponsor to detail the organizations it collects funding for. 

Wespac does not make its fiscal sponsorships public. For National SJP and Within Our Lifetime, the only sign of the relationship is a line of text at the bottom of an online donation page or a notice of Wespac’s office address on the donation receipt. The groups did not respond to requests for comment. 

Horowitz wrote to the New York Jewish Week that the fiscal sponsorship accords with Wespac’s goal of supporting “those who would otherwise be unrecognized victims of war, injustice and environmental degradation.” He said the groups’ “peace and justice mission is aligned with ours,” and that their “principles of nonviolence align with ours.” 

Wespac’s office is in White Plains and the group’s roots are in the anti-Vietnam War and civil rights movements, said Horowitz, who got involved in the 1970s, following stints living in Jerusalem and on a kibbutz. The time living among secular Israelis was a departure for Horowitz, who grew up in an Orthodox family from New York, and it led to another shift in his views: he became disillusioned with Israel, which was undergoing a rightward shift at the time, and in particular with its policies toward the Palestinians.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators at a rally near Bryant Park, November 9, 2023. (Luke Tress)

“My Zionist beliefs were shattered by the historical facts,” he wrote in his email. He explained that his opposition to Israel stretches back to its founding, following a United Nations vote that recommended partitioning the land into separate Jewish and Palestinian states. 

“The partition plan robbed the Palestinian population of their homes, livelihoods, and land,” he wrote. Using the term, meaning “catastrophe,” that Palestinians use to refer to Israel’s creation, he added, “This was the Nakba.”

Horowitz’s pro-Palestinian stance is echoed by Wespac’s executive director and sole employee, Nada Khader, who has Palestinian roots and relatives in the West Bank and Israel, according to the local publication Lohud. Wespac has long campaigned in support of the Palestinians and the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, known as BDS. 

Khader condemned the Oct. 7 attack and, in an Oct. 10 statement, decried “crimes against humanity” by both Hamas and Israel. She accused Israel of “indiscriminate and deliberate bombing of civilians,” a charge Israel strenuously denies. The statement also said, “The attack from Gaza has a context.”

“We do not condone attacks on civilians or violence of any kind. We do recognize its root causes in oppression, injustice and apartheid,” Khader wrote.

One of the main avenues by which Wespac aids pro-Palestinian activism is through its fiscal sponsorships. The Anti-Defamation League said in a 2022 report that Wespac sponsored a total of 15 groups related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, far more than for any other cause. It is unclear how many groups it sponsors in total. 

Among the other groups are the US Palestinian Community Network, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, the Palestinian Feminist Collective, the Palestine Freedom Project, and Adalah-NY, which all collect donations through Wespac online. Wespac has sponsored National SJP since at least 2019 and Within Our Lifetime since 2020, according to archived web pages.

“While WESPAC is not an exclusively anti-Israel organization, the significant number of groups and projects it fiscally sponsors, which have repeatedly propagated antisemitism or called for violence against Israel, is deeply troubling,” the ADL report says. “WESPAC’s administrative support of these groups helps ensure that inflammatory and at times antisemitic language remains an issue in a notable segment of left-wing spaces.”

That administrative support, however, is not apparent from Wespac’s website or tax documents, which give no indication that it accepts and disburses donations for a broad range of the pro-Palestinian activist sphere. Wespac had revenue of $1.07 million in 2021 — the most recent year for which financial information is publicly available — including $750,000 in contributions and grants. It also had assets amounting to $1.05 million. 

That revenue includes the money Wespac takes in through its fiscal sponsorships, said Doug White, a philanthropic adviser and author who has written five books on nonprofits. Fiscal sponsorship leaves “a lot of gray area” legally, he said, since the organizations involved are not required to detail their relationships and transactions.

“There’s really no statutory way to track the money that ends up in those Palestinian groups’ hands,” White said. “As a result, you’re left with best practices,” which he said recommend that fiscal sponsors be transparent about their activities. 

For Wespac, he said, that kind of transparency would be especially warranted now, while the world’s attention is on the Israel-Hamas war and the pro-Palestinian groups are receiving increased exposure. 

Pro-Palestinian protesters at a rally in Times Square, Oct. 13, 2023. (Luke Tress)

“Let’s say I were the head of Wespac and I’m funding a Palestinian group, or maybe more than one, I would be clear about that and I would be clear about why,” White said. “If you don’t have time to put it onto an annual report or anything, put it on the website, saying, ‘Look, we understand that this is a big, hot topic right now. We want you to understand what we’re doing and why.”

Joshua Avedon, the CEO of Jumpstart Labs, a Jewish nonprofit that acts as a fiscal sponsor, also said that according to widely-accepted best practice guidelines, fiscal sponsors and the groups that are sponsored should make the arrangements public. 

“There really are no strict rules about what must or must not be done by a fiscal sponsor, which makes it a little bit of a Wild West. There are best practices,” Avedon said, adding that “lack of transparency is a red flag.”

If a group requests funds without making it explicit that they do not have nonprofit status, “or if there’s a group that’s acting as a sponsor but is unwilling to say who they’re a sponsor for, those are both signs that they are not operating within the best practices of the industry,” he said.

The donation pages for National Students for Justice in Palestine and the Palestinian Youth Movement say that contributions to the groups go through the Wespac Foundation. Within Our Lifetime’s donation page said it was fiscally sponsored by Wespac until May 2022, according to an archived web page; a recent small donation to the group was routed through Wespac’s office address. Within Our Lifetime currently makes no mention of Wespac on its donation page or website.

According to tax documents, Wespac’s revenue has shot up since 2019, a year in which it took in a little more than $400,000. Its most recent tax filing also says it spent more than $600,000 on office expenses, the majority of its costs, and far more than the rent for other units in its office building. Arthur Allen, an expert in nonprofit accounting, said that might be a case of inappropriately combining expenses, which is common practice for nonprofits, even though it’s against IRS guidelines.

Recent donors to Wespac include the Elias Foundation, a progressive advocacy group that has also funded Jewish Voice for Peace; the environmental group Grassroots International; and the Virginia-based philanthropy group the Kiblawi Foundation. The Sparkplug Foundation, a New York nonprofit, reported that it had donated $20,000 to “National Students for Justice” through Wespac in 2022, and California’s Bafrayung Fund contributed $20,000 that year to the Palestinian Youth Movement via Wespac. Several donor advised funds have also contributed to Wespac recently.

Neither Horowitz nor Khader responded to follow-up questions about Wespac’s fiscal sponsorships.

The group has ties to other progressive organizations and politicians. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who represents the area, featured Khader at his campaign kickoff rally last week, alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The group is not Horowitz’s only volunteer pursuit. He is also a member of the local chapter of the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace. And he is active with at least two local Jewish institutions that are supportive of Israel: Temple Israel of New Rochelle, a Reform congregation that recently held an event titled “Donate Challah to the IDF,” and the Westchester Jewish Coalition for Immigration, which has supported displaced Israelis and Hamas hostages since Oct. 7. 

He has for years called on mainstream Jewish institutions to abandon their backing of Israel — writing as far back as 2018 that Israel was committing genocide. 

“Where are our rabbis to call out against this violence perpetrated by Israel? They are few and far between. Instead, the vast majority repeat the ‘I stand with Israel’ declarations, disregarding the horrific facts on the ground,” he wrote in his email. “This is the liquidation of the ghetto called Gaza, a complete atrocity. There is no other way to look at what is happening at this very moment.”

He added, “It is time to do ‘T’shuva,’ repentance. Indeed, I believe the future of the Jewish people depends on justice for Palestine. Truth and reconciliation are the only way forward.”


The post This under-the-radar Westchester charity manages funding for hardline pro-Palestinian groups appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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My Trip to Morocco Reaffirmed My Faith in Humanity and Support for Jews

The Lazama Jewish Synagogue in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: David Berkowitz/Flickr.

Save for Israel, Morocco is probably the place where I’ve heard the most Hebrew. This was likely because I traveled there with a Kippah on my head. Whenever I travel, I always have to make the judgment about where I will wear a baseball hat and where I will proudly display my Kippah. For Arab countries, owing to tensions with Israel, I usually opt for the hat, but Morocco’s rich Jewish history served as my impetus for choosing the latter.

Since October 7, antisemitism has spiked globally, and tensions have grown, especially in Muslim countries. Morocco was no different. Rabat, the capital city, was the site of countless anti-Israel rallies, and Moroccan opposition to the State of Israel spiked. My trip to Morocco, however, proved to be different than expected.

While I was surrounded by “Free Palestine” graffiti and shirts in every market stall I passed — and every synagogue was guarded by police — I rarely felt unsafe. Most Moroccans didn’t bother to ask if I was Israeli; rather, they would simply blurt out words in Hebrew and smile. In Marrakesh, locals even were eager to point me towards the Jewish museum and synagogue.

The question, “You are Jewish?” rang out over and over, and I eventually began replying yes. Muhammed, an antique vendor, spoke of antisemitism and how he hurts from seeing it, and how he misses his Jewish visitors. He sold Judaica and Jewish antiques, including a beautiful Menorah that I bought.

Khalid, the Muslim guard of the Marrakesh Jewish cemetery, who spoke fluent Hebrew, gave me a special tour of the cemetery. This care for Jewish people and respect seemed to be the common theme among Moroccan Muslims that I interacted with. Every antique vendor upon seeing my Kippah was eager to showcase their Judaica, and one even went as far as gifting me a free Falus, an old Moroccan coin emblazoned with a Star of David in the front. These Moroccan Muslims appreciated their country’s Jewish heritage, but most of all, were eager to see Jewish tourists.

I had similarly positive interactions with Jews as well. At the Casablanca Chabad house, the rabbi and his congregation welcomed me with open arms. I marveled at Moroccan liturgy and enjoyed an incredible meal put together by the rabbi’s family. Abraham Cohen, one of the last Jews of Fez, cried and prayed upon seeing that I was Jewish, and insisted on making tea for me. We chatted in Hebrew about life in Morocco, and he told me how his entire congregation left for France and Israel, so Jewish tourists were a rare delight. Gavriel, a Jewish barber in Marrakesh was eager to play a Shofar and show me his Judaica collection, covering the walls of his barber shop — alongside Jewish flyers and posters.

Being Jewish in the Diaspora has never been easy, but it’s rarely been as difficult as it is now. We must not, however, forget the importance of a strong Diaspora. The State of Israel and Jews around the world are intrinsically tied in the deepest way possible, and both need to be strong for Jewish life to survive.

Morocco reminded me that our history in the Diaspora is so strong, and that we have partners willing to help maintain our communities, something we now need more than ever. Having been in a shell of fear and uncertainty since October 7, it took a trip to Morocco, a Muslim country, to restore my faith in humanity and remind me of those willing to fight alongside us for a brighter world. With partners like Khalid and Muhammed, and with people like Abraham and Gavriel in mind, we can and will continue despite any hardship, and must live strongly and proudly as a Jewish people, now more than ever.

Despite everything, there are good people in the world — lots of them. If you ever forget that, make your way to Morocco, where the beautiful architecture and delicious food somehow is outdone by the kindness of the people.

The author is a student, writer, and community activist.

The post My Trip to Morocco Reaffirmed My Faith in Humanity and Support for Jews first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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