News Roundup for December 12, 2023

December 12, 2023
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Top News and Analysis

Under US Pressure, Israel Allows Palestinian-Americans to Travel From West Bank, Axios
The Biden administration last month warned Israel it is violating a visa waiver agreement with the US by preventing Palestinian Americans who live in the West Bank from traveling to Israel. Shortly after the Oct. 7 attack, the Israeli government imposed a closure of the West Bank for security reasons and barred entry for Palestinians who live there, including more than 100,000 Palestinian workers who previously entered Israel every day. Tens of thousands of Palestinian Americans had unprecedented access to Israel in recent months as a result of the reciprocity conditions of the visa waiver agreement.

They Were Held Captive by Hamas, but Their Biggest Fear Was Israeli Airstrikes, Haaretz
Released hostages Chen Goldstein-Almog and daughter Agam want to bear witness for the nearly 140 hostages still in Gaza. It’s for them that they want to talk about their seven weeks in Gaza: the terrible silence when they were kidnapped, the long days under threat of Israeli airstrikes, the horrors they heard from other hostages, and the horrors they heard about their own family. During their weeks in Gaza, Chen, Agam, Gal and Tal were repeatedly moved from one location to another, on foot or on donkeys, as the Israeli bombs fell. “We were in real danger. At some point they started moving us every night,” Chen says.

Israel’s Gaza War Raises Fears of a Palestinian Exodus Into Egypt, The Washington Post
Ishaan Tharoor writes, “There may be no concrete government plan, but there’s plenty of talk. A document leaked in late October from the Israeli Intelligence Ministry appeared to propose the permanent and forcible transfer of Gaza’s Palestinian population into Egypt. A leading Israeli think tank published a paper encouraging the country’s wartime cabinet to exploit the “unique and rare opportunity to evacuate the whole Gaza Strip.” A host of right-wing Israeli politicians and former senior officials have openly called for the removal of Palestinian civilians, the destruction of their homes, the resettlement of Gaza by Israelis or some combination of the three.”

Ravaged Israeli Border Community Ponders: What’s Next?, The New York Times
Once a lush communal farm surrounded by sunflower fields, Kfar Aza, among the hardest hit communities in the Hamas-led attacks of Oct. 7, is now blackened and scarred. The terrorists who stormed the kibbutz that day went house to house for hours, methodically murdering more than 60 people, including grandparents and children. They abducted 19 others, according to community members and the authorities. Seven men and women from the kibbutz are still being held hostage in Gaza. Their absence is as palpable as their fates are unknown.

‘Diseases Are Spreading Rapidly’: In Jabalia Camp, Thousands Shelter in One School, +972
Ibrahim Mohammad shares, “These shelters are far from being safe places, and are not immune to Israel’s attacks. The Israeli army has already directly bombed two schools in the Jabalia camp where thousands of displaced people had sought refuge, killing dozens and wounding hundreds more. Moreover, conditions in the schools are incredibly dire. There is no electricity and the bathrooms are barely usable. We drink non-potable water from groundwater wells, which is salty and contaminated with sewage. We are constantly getting sick, whether from gastrointestinal issues — likely as a result of the lack of clean water — or from respiratory illnesses.”

Overcrowded Hospitals, Few Supplies Causing ‘Complete Collapse’ of Gaza Health System, ABC News
Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), was forced to stop providing support to clinics in southern Gaza more than a week ago due to evacuation orders from Israeli forces, it said in a statement Sunday. Since then, MSF said its workers have seen “the complete collapse of health care services in the area, along with the rest of the health care system in Gaza.”

The Israeli Army Has Dropped the Restraint in Gaza, and the Data Shows Unprecedented Killing, Haaretz
Yagil Levy writes, “The broad conclusion is that extensive killing of civilians not only contributes nothing to Israel’s security, but that it also contains the foundations for further undermining it. The Gazans who will emerge from the ruins of their homes and the loss of their families will seek revenge that no security arrangements will be able to withstand. We also need to remember that since the start of the ground offensive, the total number of Gazan civilians killed has approximately doubled. But in the absence of any attentiveness by the political leadership to the voice of the future, it’s hard to expect that the course of the war will be adjusted to address that concern.”


US ‘Concerned’ About Reports That Israel Used White Phosphorus, Kirby Says, Politico
“We’ve seen the reports, certainly concerned about that. We’ll be asking questions to try to learn a little bit more,” he told reporters. Kirby’s comments follow an analysis by a journalist working for The Washington Post, who found remains of three 155-millimeter artillery rounds fired into Dheira, a small town near the border of Israel. White phosphorus can be used to obscure troop movement as the smoke falls haphazardly over an area.

Israeli Hostage Freed by Hamas Says ‘Time Is Running Out’ for Captives as She Describes Harrowing Conditions, NBC News
Lifshitz described the harrowing conditions in which she was held for more than two weeks, painting a dismal picture of what the remaining hostages could be facing. “The lack of air in the tunnels, as well as the shortage of food and medicine, could bring people to complete exhaustion,” she said. “And they just won’t make it.” Living with the sound of constant bombardment above ground was a terror of its own, Lifshitz said.

Activists Claim Harassment After Israeli Reservists Ransack Rural Palestinian Hamlet, The Times of Israel
Dozens of reserve IDF soldiers raided the small Palestinian hamlet of Halat al-Daba in the South Hebron Hill last week, causing heavy damage. Pictures and videos from the aftermath of Friday’s raid showed homes turned upside down, windows smashed, doors damaged, sacks of flour cut open, and the belongings of the villagers strewn across their premises, while activists said five villagers were beaten.

Palestinian American’s Family Detained, NPR
Hani Almadhoun was shocked to see many of his own family among the detained. Almadhoun is a Palestinian American, a humanitarian, and he’s based in DC. In the pictures, he saw his brother, a shopkeeper who suffers from epilepsy; his 72-year-old father, a teacher; and his two nephews, Aboud, who’s 27, and Omar, who is 13. Almadhoun also saw a lot of his cousins. His immediate family has all been released, but two relatives are still unaccounted for.

Gaza Ceasefire Negotiations Unlikely to Restart for Weeks, Diplomats Say, The Guardian
Diplomats at the annual Doha Forum conference in Qatar have said they are not expecting any reopening of Gaza ceasefire talks for some weeks and say their resumption may turn on Israel being able to point to the killing or capture of some of Hamas’s key leaders as a sign that its military operation has achieved its purpose. The US believes this can be achieved as early as Christmas, but different timeframes are circulating.

Graphic Videos and Incitement: How the IDF Is Misleading Israelis on Telegram, Haaretz
The channel, which boasts of “exclusive content from the Gaza Strip” and has published over 700 posts, images and videos of terrorists being killed and of destruction in the Strip, encourages its 5,300 followers to share the content so that “everyone can see that we’re screwing them.” The Israel Defense Forces denies that it operates the channel, but a senior military official confirmed to Haaretz that the army is responsible for operating it.

Palestinians in West Bank and East Jerusalem Go On Strike Over War in Gaza, The Times of Israel
Businesses, schools and government offices shut across the West Bank and East Jerusalem Monday as Palestinians staged a general strike protesting against the war in the Gaza Strip. The strike was organized by Palestinian national and Islamic groups, labor unions, and civil society organizations in solidarity with the people of Gaza, according to Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Biden Alludes to Disagreements With Israel’s Netanyahu, Reuters
President Joe Biden on Monday alluded to the complex relationship he has with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, suggesting the prime minister is in a “tough spot” and that the two have had their share of disagreements over the years and at present. Biden, speaking at a White House reception for the Jewish Hanukkah festival, recalled his decades-long relationship with Netanyahu.

Opinion and Analysis

The US Must Change Course on Gaza Today, The New York Times
Leaders of some of the world’s largest global humanitarian organizations write, “Among leaders in Washington, there is constant talk about preparing for the “day after.” But if this relentless bombardment and siege continues, there will be no “day after” for Gaza. It will be too late. Hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance today. So far, American diplomacy in this war has not delivered on the goals President Biden has conveyed: protection of innocent civilians, adherence to humanitarian law, more aid delivery. To stop Gaza’s apocalyptic free fall, the Biden administration must take tangible measures like it does in other conflicts to up the ante with all parties to the conflict and bordering countries.”

The University Presidents Were Right and American Jews’ Moral Panic Is Wrong, The Forward
Jay Michaelson shares, “As a vulnerable minority, Jews are safer in a country that values reflection, tolerance, education and reason — none of which our self-appointed guardians are displaying right now. Antisemitism is real, but these academic scapegoats are not the cause of it. We are being exploited by people who do not have our best interests at heart. Jews are entirely justified in being hurt and angry — I certainly feel that way. But we need to pause for a moment before we hurt somebody. Starting with ourselves.”

Republicans Say They Believe in Free Speech. Except When It Comes to Israel, The Washington Post
Shadi Hamid writes, “Lost in Republican grandstanding is perhaps the most far-reaching effort yet to punish pro-Palestinian speech — a seemingly innocuous bill in Congress to establish a commission to investigate antisemitism in the United States. The legislation uses verbatim the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.” The bill doesn’t specify what constitutes “a certain perception of Jews” and neglects to mention the alliance’s own elaboration, which includes the “targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity” and “applying double standards” to Israel as examples of potential antisemitism.”