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Why Is the Gaza War Different?

FILE PHOTO: A militant fires a rocket launcher during what the terror group Hamas says is an engagement with its fighters during a battle with Israeli forces amid Israel’s ground offensive in a location given as near Beit Hanoun, Gaza, in this still image taken from video released November 17, 2023. Hamas Military Wing/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

JNS.orgThe current Israeli operation in Gaza has led to an unprecedented wave of fury against the Jewish state in Western capitals. Massive demonstrations have brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets in Washington, London, Paris and elsewhere. Muslim residents of these cities are clearly over-represented among the demonstrators, but they are not the only participants.

The official slogans of such protests tend to focus on a call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Many of the banners and slogans on display, however, are unambiguous in their support for Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs Gaza and which carried out the Oct. 7 massacres that precipitated the current war.

The scale and volume of these protests are without precedent. The Gaza war itself, however, and the massacre that preceded it, are neither unique nor without very recent parallel. This raises an interesting question as to the reasons for the particular virulence and fury currently directed against the Israeli war effort.

The closest recent parallel to the current Gaza war, both in terms of the actions that triggered it and regarding the way it is being conducted from a military point of view is the U.S.-led Coalition’s war against Islamic State in the period 2014-19. This war indeed contained a number of episodes of urban combat that directly resemble the current action being undertaken by the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip.

Mosul and Gaza

I am one of the fairly small group of journalists who covered the ISIS war from close up and who are currently engaged in reporting on the Gaza war. Both the similarities in the wars and the enormous difference in Western perception of them are striking.

Regarding the actions that triggered the conflicts, the similarities are unmistakable. In each case, an Arab movement of Sunni political Islam set out on a campaign of wholesale slaughter against a non-Arab and non-Muslim population in the Levant: Kurdish-speaking Yazidis in the ISIS case, Israeli Jews in that of Hamas.

But can one usefully compare the 21st century, Start-Up Nation, Westernized Israelis with the beleaguered, impoverished non-Arab minorities of northern Syria? The answer is yes. The similarity lies not in the area of their technological development, but rather in the intentions of their enemies towards them.

This became apparent on Oct. 7, 2023. For around 12 hours on that day, the ultra-modern technological defense structures of the State of Israel malfunctioned and ceased to operate. In that mercifully short period, there was little to differentiate between the treatment meted out to the Israeli Jewish communities of the “Gaza envelope,” and that afforded the non-Arab, non-Muslim minorities that faced the onslaught of ISIS on the Nineveh Plains in the summer of 2014.

I was in the Gaza area on Oct. 8, 2023, and in Syria in August 2014. The murderous, indiscriminate slaughter that triggered the ISIS and Hamas wars was of a piece.

When one turns to look at the response, there are also clear parallels. The war to destroy Islamic State required the conquest of an area far larger than that of the Gaza Strip. But in the episodes of urban combat which this included, the similarities are striking.

The current Israeli campaign in Gaza particularly resembles the Coalition’s battle against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The latter was the largest urban center that the ISIS jihadis controlled. Getting them out of there took nine months of fighting. The brunt on the ground was borne by units of the Iraqi armed forces, with U.S. air support crucial to their eventual success.

The Mosul fighting—involving the slow enveloping by conventional infantry and armored forces of a well-dug-in jihadi enemy—closely resembled what has been taking place in Gaza since the Israeli ground incursion began on Oct. 27.

The ratio of the dead

Examination of the casualty rates of civilian and military dead in Mosul and currently in Gaza further indicates the similarities. In both cases, the figures must be treated with some skepticism.

Regarding Mosul, estimates vary widely. Figures for the number of ISIS fighters killed range from 7,000 to 25,000. Regarding the number of civilians killed, again, the span is wide. At the lower end, the Associated Press quoted figures suggesting between 9,000 and 11,000 civilians died in the course of the Mosul fighting. The Iraqi Kurdish Asayish intelligence service, meanwhile, estimates that around 40,000 civilians were killed.

In terms of ratio, this means that estimates suggest that there were anywhere between one and four civilians killed in Mosul for each ISIS fighter slain.

Regarding Gaza, the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in the Strip claims that 20,000 Gazans have been killed so far in the Israeli incursion. The ‘ministry’ records that all those killed are civilians, i.e., it asks observers to believe that not a single Hamas fighter has lost his life in the fighting.

Ron Ben-Yishai, most veteran of Israel’s war correspondents (and very far from an apologist for the current Israeli government), quoted Israeli military sources this week as estimating that somewhere between 7,000 and 9,000 Hamas fighters have been killed in the fighting.

In so far as it can be currently ascertained, the ratio of civilian to military dead in Gaza appears then to broadly resemble that of Mosul.

So similar precipitating events, and comparable military campaigns. Yet the response in the West has been starkly different. No one demonstrated for the civilians killed by coalition bombing during the ISIS war (I personally witnessed enormous mass graves in Raqqa city, rapidly dug by Islamic State to bury the victims of that bombing). There were no furious crowds in Western cities denouncing “genocide.” Most in the West understood, rather, that the deeds of Islamic State and its ideology made it necessary that it be removed from power, in spite of the undoubted ugliness and the deaths of innocents that this would involve.

So what’s the answer? Why this stark contrast? It is difficult not to conclude that the unique place of the Jew in parts of both Islamic and Western political culture and consciousness lies somewhere at the root of the cause. Perhaps some more pleasant explanation can be found. The discrepancy, in any case, is obvious, and enormous.

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US is ‘hopeful’ for a truce in Gaza as Netanyahu says ‘total victory’ is the only option

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel would achieve a “total victory” in its war against Hamas as Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he is “hopeful” that the sides are nearing an extended truce.

Blinken’s comments came while Hamas said it was considering Israel’s latest proposal for a temporary ceasefire, which would include an exchange of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian security prisoners.

Hamas has called for a total Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the release of all of the estimated 6,000 Palestinian security prisoners. But on Tuesday Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, gave a defiant speech in which he vowed that Israeli forces would not leave the territory and that not all prisoners would go free.

“We will not withdraw the IDF from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists,” he said. “None of this will happen. What will happen? Total victory.”

Blinken met with the Qatari foreign minister on Tuesday to discuss the proposed deal. In a speech the previous day, Blinken did not address the details of the reported deal under consideration, brokered in recent days by CIA chief William Burns, but said he was optimistic about its prospects.

“The proposal that is on the table and that is shared among all of the critical actors – of course Israel, but also with Qatar and Egypt playing a critical role in mediating and working between Israel and Hamas – I believe the proposal is a strong one and a compelling one that, again, offers some hope that we can get back to this process,” Blinken said at a press conference with Jen Stollen, the secretary general of the NATO alliance.

“What I can tell you is this:  I think the work that’s been done, including just this weekend, is important and is hopeful in terms of seeing that process resume,” Blinken said.

Reports have said the deal would suspend fighting for up to two months and would see an exchange of the remaining 136 hostages held by Hamas, some of them dead, for Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was quoted Tuesday by the New York Times as saying Hamas is considering the deal that emerged this weekend after Burns met with Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian officials in Europe. Qatar, which funds Hamas and houses its leadership in exile, and Egypt, which borders the Gaza Strip, are key interlocutors between the combatants.

President Joe Biden until now has not backed down from supporting Israel’s war aim of removing Hamas entirely from the Gaza Strip. But he is under increasing pressure to get Israel to scale the war back as it threatens to expand across the Middle East.

Lawmakers from both parties in Congress want increased oversight of the air strikes Biden has ordered against Houthi militants in Yemen, who are launching missiles at commercial vessels in the Red Sea, ostensibly to get Israel to stand down in Gaza.

That scrutiny is likely to increase as Biden considers how to strike back against an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq that sent a drone over the weekend into Jordan, killing three U.S. troops on a base.

Israel is also under pressure to roll back its counterstrikes. Last Friday, the International Court of Justice gave Israel 30 days to report on measures to mitigate civilian deaths. South Africa had taken Israel to court on charges of genocide.

Those pressures underscore the urgency Biden and his top aides are attaching to the negotiation process. The State Department statement summing up Tuesday’s meeting with the Qatari foreign minister underscored the differences between the Biden administration and Israel. The statement effusively praised Qatar, a nation Netanyahu recently derided. It also promoted the establishment of a Palestinian state, an outcome Netanyahu rejects.

Blinken “expressed gratitude for Qatar’s indispensable mediation efforts, especially since October 7,” the day Hamas terrorists invaded Israel, launching the war, killing more than 1,200 people and abducting more than 250 hostages. “Secretary Blinken underscored the U.S. commitment to a more peaceful, integrated, and prosperous Middle East region with security for Israel and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”

Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he will not countenance a Palestinian state. His top adviser, Ron Dermer, is on his way to Washington on Wednesday to discuss scenarios for the “day after” the war, Axios reported.

Blinken also wants to get assistance into Gaza at an accelerated rate, as world health officials say the territory is on the brink of starvation. More than 26,000 people have been killed since Israel launched counterstrikes following Oct. 7, including thousands of children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. Israel does not dispute the figures, and says about a third of the dead are combatants.

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Ahmed Hussen announced a Liberal government commitment to another $40 million in aid for Gaza

It comes on the heels of suspending funds to UNRWA.

The post Ahmed Hussen announced a Liberal government commitment to another $40 million in aid for Gaza appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Delaware school district promises changes in response to federal probe of antisemitic bullying

(JTA) — A Delaware public school district will send staff to anti-harassment training and compensate the family of a Jewish student who alleged antisemitic bullying.

The agreement followed a U.S. Department of Education investigation into how Red Clay Consolidated School District handled allegations of antisemitic incidents, detailed in a complaint to the agency last June. 

The agreement marks the first time in nine months that the education department announced the closure of an antisemitism-related investigation filed under Title VI, the clause of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination on the basis of “shared ancestry” or “national origin.”

It comes as the department embarks on a wave of antisemitism investigations at schools and colleges in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, which has triggered widespread allegations of antisemitism on campuses. What happened in Red Clay, the department said, should be seen as a model for its work.

“This important agreement requires the Red Clay Consolidated District to fulfill its federal civil rights obligation to ensure that all of its students, including Jewish students, can learn safely and without discriminatory harassment in its schools,” Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights in the department, said in a statement announcing the resolution. “We look forward to active work with this district going forward to protect Jewish students, and all students, from targeted discrimination that impedes their equal access to education.”

The department said that a student in the district, which includes parts of Wilmington and its suburbs, was targeted by her classmates for being Jewish. Classmates had written “Blood of the Jews” and drawn swastikas on paper airplanes, and raised their arms in Heil Hitler salutes at the student. 

The department’s Office of Civil Rights said it had further determined that the district’s responses to these incidents “were often haphazard; were inconsistently enforced as well as inconsistently reflected in district documentation; did not consistently include effective or timely steps to mitigate the effects of the harassment on the student or other students; and did not appear to respond to escalating and repeated incidents.” The department opened its investigation into the district in June 2023.

In response, Red Clay has agreed to implement new annual Title VI harassment training for its staff; publicize a new anti-harassment statement; conduct a new audit of past student discrimination complaints; revise its procedure for investigating such claims, and report back to the civil rights office with student climate surveys. 

It will also reimburse the student’s family “for past counseling, academic, or therapeutic services they obtained for the student as a result of the antisemitic harassment the student experienced,” according to the department’s announcement. 

The listed agreements do not include specific antisemitism-related training that some Jewish groups have pushed schools to adopt. They do include training to recognize discrimination based on “shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics,” the Title VI language.

“A recent Office of Civil Rights investigation has highlighted the need for a collective effort to address hate and discrimination, and we want to assure our community that we stand firmly against hate in all its forms, including antisemitism,” district superintendent Dorrell Green said in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Green’s statement added that the district would undertake a “comprehensive audit” and that it would encourage open dialogue with the community.

Jewish groups including the American Jewish Committee and the Orthodox Union praised the settlement agreement.

“This resolution from the Department of Education is an important step forward and contains numerous action steps that all schools can and should take to create and maintain a safe learning environment for Jewish students,” Ted Deutch, the head of AJC, said in a statement. “Discipline is not enough, and these steps crucially can create a safe, inclusive climate for learning.”

In his own statement, OU executive vice president Rabbi Moishe Hauer tied the resolution into the more than 50 Title VI investigations that have been opened since Oct. 7.

“Antisemitism has become a significant factor in the lives of Jewish students at universities and public schools,” Hauer said. “Schools must fulfill their responsibility under Title VI to maintain an environment where all students can study and thrive without experiencing hostility based on their shared ancestry or ethnicity.”

The department’s last resolution of an antisemitism investigation took place in April 2023, and involved the University of Vermont, which had agreed to take similar steps to address the problem on its campus. It has closed some investigations without publicizing them. Investigations remain ongoing in antisemitism-related cases at Columbia, Brown, the University of North Carolina and others. The Department of Education’s dockets list still-opened Title VI shared ancestry cases dating as far back as 2016.

The post Delaware school district promises changes in response to federal probe of antisemitic bullying appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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