News Roundup for January 2, 2024

January 2, 2024
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J Street In the News

J Street to Biden: Act Now to Save Lives, Hostages, Chance for Long-Term Peace, J Street
“We call on President Biden to heed the advice of this wide array of national security experts and veterans of counterterrorism operations and to convey to the Netanyahu government, both publicly and privately, that the time has come to end the all-out military campaign and massive aerial bombardment of Gaza and immediately shift to a far more targeted and limited operation.”

Israel Must Work to Maintain Progressive Support, The Jerusalem Post
J Street Israel Director Nadav Tamir writes, “If the State of Israel becomes synonymous with the extreme Right, it will eventually become a hated and ostracized country among all those who abhor the racism and totalitarianism that is characteristic of the populist politicians of the extreme Right. If Israel is able to strengthen its partnership with the progressive liberal elements, even if they have criticism of its policies, then Israel will be able to generate a positive progressive discourse that will curb the spread of anti–Zionism among many young men and women around the world.”

Top News and Analysis

Half of Gazans Are at Risk of Starving, UN Warns, The New York Times
Israel’s war in Gaza has created a humanitarian catastrophe, with half of the population of about 2.2 million at risk of starvation and 90 percent saying that they regularly go without food for a whole day, the United Nations said in a recent report. Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program, said the humanitarian disaster in Gaza was among the worst he had ever seen. The territory appears to meet at least the first criteria of a famine, with 20 percent of the population facing an extreme lack of food, he said.

Israeli Supreme Court Strikes Down Bibi’s Controversial Judicial Overhaul Law, Axios
Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday narrowly struck down a controversial law that’s part of the Netanyahu government’s judicial overhaul and limited the court’s ability to review government decisions. The dramatic ruling could thrust Israel back into a constitutional and political crisis amid the war in Gaza and concerns about a potential war with Lebanon.

‘Screams Without Words’: How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7, The New York Times
A two-month investigation by The Times uncovered painful new details, establishing that the attacks against women were not isolated events but part of a broader pattern of gender-based violence on Oct. 7. Relying on video footage, photographs, GPS data from mobile phones and interviews with more than 150 people, including witnesses, medical personnel, soldiers and rape counselors, The Times identified at least seven locations where Israeli women and girls appear to have been sexually assaulted or mutilated.

The Biden Administration Once Again Bypasses Congress on an Emergency Weapons Sale to Israel, AP
For the second time this month the Biden administration is bypassing Congress to approve an emergency weapons sale to Israel as Israel continues to prosecute its war against Hamas in Gaza under increasing international criticism. The State Department said Friday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had told Congress that he had made a second emergency determination covering a $147.5 million sale for equipment, including fuses, charges and primers, that is needed to make the 155 mm shells that Israel has already purchased function.

2023 ‘Most Violent’ Year for West Bank Settler Attacks, Watchdog Says, The Times of Israel
Israeli settlers killed at least 10 Palestinians and torched dozens of homes in the West Bank in 2023, making it the “most violent” year on record for settler attacks, an Israeli watchdog said Monday. Numerous West Bank attacks were carried out by large groups of settlers, with the violence spiking after Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel, said Yesh Din, a human rights group.

Israel Must Cease Hostilities and Bring the Hostages Home, Haaretz
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert writes, “The time has come for Israel to express its readiness to end the fighting. Yes, end the fighting. Not a pause and not a temporary cessation of two, three or four days. An end to the hostility – period. At that time, Israel will need to bring back the hostages, those who are alive and those who are dead. If we wait, it won’t be long before the only ones we can bring back will be the dead, because there won’t be any living ones. A cessation of hostilities must be conditioned on the release of all the hostages, every last one of them, the soldiers and the bodies of all those who have been held by Hamas for years.”

42 Survivors of the Nova Rave Massacre Sue Defense Establishment for Negligence, The Times of Israel
In the first civil suit of its kind, a group of injured survivors of the Supernova rave massacre on Monday sued Israel’s security forces for damages over their alleged negligence leading up to the October 7 Hamas onslaught, claiming that the tragedy could have largely been averted. The plaintiffs filed the claim for NIS 200 million ($56 million) against the Shin Bet security service, the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Police, and the Defense Ministry, alleging multiple instances in which they failed in their duties.

Israeli Military Report Reveals New Failures in Mission to Rescue Mistakenly Killed Hostages, CNN
The report into their deaths concluded that Israeli command ranks had information about the presence of hostages in the area where they were killed and “even took actions to prevent strikes on locations suspected of having hostages.” But the investigation also found that Israeli forces in the field had “insufficient awareness” of the possibility that hostages would approach them or that they would encounter them other than as part of a special operation to free the Israelis held.


The Number of Wounded Israeli Soldiers Is Mounting, Representing a Hidden Cost of War, AP
Israel’s Defense Ministry says roughly 3,000 members of the country’s security forces have been wounded since Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people. Nearly 900 of those are soldiers wounded since Israel began its ground offensive in late October, in which troops have engaged in close combat with Hamas militants. More than 160 soldiers have been killed since the ground operation began.

UN Says Israeli Forces Fired on Aid Convoy in Central Gaza, The New York Times
Israeli forces shot at a United Nations convoy of armored vehicles in central Gaza on Thursday evening as it was returning from delivering aid in the northern part of the territory, UN officials said. No one in the convoy was injured, the officials said, but the episode highlighted the severe challenges facing humanitarian efforts to help Palestinians struggling to survive amid Israel’s nearly 12-week bombardment of the enclave.

Israel Withdrawing Some Units From Gaza, NBC News
Israel says five of its military brigades, including many reservists, will be withdrawing from the Gaza Strip this week in an effort to pace itself for an expected long-term conflict and to mitigate damage to Israel’s economy. Yet the military took pains to signal that the withdrawal of those brigades did not mean an end to active, intensive combat in Gaza or any reduction in Israel’s mission there.

Palestinian, Arab Prisoners Report Surge in Violence by Guards in Israeli Prison Since Oct 7, Haaretz
Security prisoners and detainees at Gilboa Prison in northern Israel have reported that guards have assaulted, humiliated, and abused them since Hamas’s attack on Israel, and that top Israel Prison Service officials have ignored their complaints. According to inmates who say they were attacked, since the start of the war, prison guards beat them and threaten them with violence if they refuse to kiss the Israeli flag.

Smotrich Touts Revival of Gaza Settlements After War, Wants Gazans Encouraged to Leave, The Times of Israel
Israel should discuss the revival of civilian settlements within the Gaza Strip as part of its planning for the enclave once Hamas rule is toppled, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Saturday night, while denying that any of Gaza’s approximately 2 million residents were innocent and calling for Israel to “encourage voluntary emigration” from the territory.

Israeli Ministers Divert 75 Million Shekels to Illegal West Bank Outposts, Haaretz
Far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich transferred 75 million shekels ($20 million) into illegal West Bank outposts for the second time in a week last week, despite the objections of professional advisers. The Interior Ministry, notably, has 330 million shekels ($91 million) earmarked for settlements which has not yet been released.

Biden in “Frustrating” Call Told Bibi to Solve Palestinian Tax Revenue Issue, Axios
President Biden held a difficult conversation last weekend with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s decision to withhold part of the tax revenue it collects for the Palestinian Authority. A US official said this part of last Saturday’s call between the two leaders was one of the most difficult and “frustrating” conversations Biden has had with Netanyahu since the beginning of the war in Gaza.

2 Israeli-Americans Missing Since Oct. 7 Confirmed Killed in Hamas Attack, JTA
Judith Weinstein, 70, a member of Kibbutz Nir Oz, was fatally wounded during the terrorist invasion of southern Israel, Nir Oz said on Thursday. The statement confirmed her death, but did not say if she had died the same day. Last week, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said Weinstein’s husband, Gadi Haggai, 72, had been killed. Their bodies are being held in Gaza. Before the news of their deaths, their family had hoped they were still alive while in captivity.

Opinion and Analysis

For the Safety of Jews and Palestinians, Stop Weaponizing Antisemitism, The Harvard Crimson
Bernie Steinberg, former executive director of Harvard Hillel, argues, “As a leader in the Jewish community, I am particularly alarmed by today’s McCarthyist tactic of manufacturing an antisemitism scare, which, in effect, turns the very real issue of Jewish safety into a pawn in a cynical political game to cover for Israel’s deeply unpopular policies with regard to Palestine. What makes this trend particularly disturbing is the power differential: Billionaire donors and the politically-connected, non-Jews and Jews alike on one side, targeting disproportionately people of vulnerable populations on the other, including students, untenured faculty, persons of color, Muslims, and, especially, Palestinian activists.”

Reversing America’s Ruinous Support for Israel’s Assault on Gaza, War on the Rocks
Ryan Evans writes, “Despite America’s considerable leverage, Biden has not yet been willing to do what it takes to restrain Israel. The result has been a horror show for Palestinians in Gaza, as well as for the hostages held in Gaza and their families. Israel’s military operation in Gaza is both strategically and morally unrecoverable. The legacy of this maximalist assault will haunt Israel for years. Its costs have cascaded around the world and acutely affect Israel’s closest partner, the United States.”

It’s Not Just Bullets and Bombs. I Have Never Seen Health Organizations as Worried as They Are About Disease in Gaza, The Guardian
Professor Devi Sridhar shares, “Ultimately, unless something changes, the world faces the prospect of almost a quarter of Gaza’s 2 million population – close to half – a million human beings – dying within a year. These would be largely deaths from preventable health causes and the collapse of the medical system. It’s a crude estimate, but one that is data-driven, using the terrifyingly real numbers of deaths in previous and comparable conflicts.”

Netanyahu Can and Should Be Replaced, YNet News
Former ambassador Tova Herzl argues, “Whoever believes that Netanyahu was and remains a fitting prime minister, and is convinced that his function in the fields of security, diplomacy, economics and social cohesion is adequate or better, as is his personal conduct, will no doubt agree that his prior experience is a suitable foundation to become Israel’s prime minister. In that case, he can be replaced by anyone with a comparable background. There are many worthwhile candidates, and his supporters (as well as his detractors) will understand that there is no reason to stick with him, of all people.”