News Roundup for March 20, 2024

March 20, 2024
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J Street works to promote an open, honest and rigorous conversation about Israel. The opinions reflected in articles posted in the News Roundup do not necessarily reflect J Street’s positions, and their posting does not constitute an endorsement from J Street.

J Street In the News

Schumer’s Point Was Bigger Than New Israeli Elections, Bloomberg
“Many Americans, Jewish or gentile, feel left out in this shouting match. “I like polls with a third option,” says Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a lobby that’s both pro-Israel and pro-peace and smaller than AIPAC. And that space is what Schumer is trying to re-occupy, he told me. It’s a zone where empathy, nuance and responsibility become possible, and with them, also solutions. It’s a frame of mind that Schumer urged on Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs and Americans alike.”

Student Op-Ed: Jews and Palestinians Deserve a Left That Values Their Full Humanity, J Street
J Street U student leader Joseph Hillyard writes, “Instead of elevating the diverse chorus of Palestinians, Israelis and Americans for coexistence, these voices have been marginalized. In a cruel irony, the movement that taught me intersectionality has helped normalize the isolated recognition of only one group’s pain, not both. Our progressive values should demand that we see this conflict beyond picking a “side” and recognize the shared suffering of both peoples. Jews and Palestinians deserve a left that values their full humanity, not one that flattens them into simplistic narratives.”

Top News and Analysis

Democratic Donors Warn Biden Over Israel-Gaza Policy, The New York Times
A group of more than 100 Democratic donors and activists on Monday sent a letter to President Biden’s campaign warning that progressive anger over Israel’s war in Gaza is “increasing the chances of a Trump victory.” The signed letter is the latest sign of Democratic disgruntlement about Biden’s alignment with Israel’s government as it executes the war. The letter’s signatories include a handful of donors who gave six-figure sums to Biden’s presidential campaigns in 2020 and 2024, though a preponderance of donors who signed the letter have given smaller amounts to candidates and causes more progressive than Biden.

Scoop: White House Will Propose Alternative Rafah Options to Israel, Axios
In recent days, several alternatives to an immediate Israeli ground invasion of Rafah have been discussed inside the administration. US officials said one idea is to delay a military operation in the city and focus on stabilizing the humanitarian situation in northern Gaza, where famine is “imminent,” according to a UN-backed report released Monday. This plan would also involve constructing shelters for civilians evacuated from Rafah. Another idea is to focus in the first stage on securing Egypt’s side of its border with Gaza as part of a joint US-Egypt-Israel plan to destroy tunnels under the border and create infrastructure to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza, US officials say.

Calling for Hostage Release Deal, Families and Supporters Block Tel Aviv Highway, The Times of Israel
Demonstrators unfurled a sign with pictures of members of the war cabinet that read: “It’s on you, don’t come back from Qatar without a deal.” Ayala Metzger, daughter-in-law of 80-year-old Yoram Metzger, who has been held in Gaza since October 7, said, “There will be no normal reality while Israeli civilians are languishing in Hamas captivity. Israel cannot be the same country while they are there, the government must do everything to make sure the deal goes through.”

In Gaza, Starving Children Fill Hospital Wards as Famine Looms, Reuters
Six-year-old Fadi al-Zant is acutely malnourished, his ribs protruding under leathery skin, his eyes sunken as he lays in bed at the Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza, where famine is bearing down. Fadi’s spindly legs can no longer support him enough to walk. More than five months into Israel’s ground and air campaign, launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, there are widespread shortages of food, medicines and clean water in Gaza, doctors and aid agencies say.

Drone Footage Raises Questions About Israeli Justification for Deadly Strike on Gaza Journalists, The Washington Post
Ninety journalists and other media workers in Gaza have been killed in just over five months, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists — the deadliest period for the profession since the group began collecting data in 1992. “It should be incumbent on the IDF to investigate what happened” on Jan. 7, Irene Khan, the U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Schumer Slams Trump Criticism of His Israel Speech as ‘Unadulterated Antisemitism’, CNN
Schumer criticized former President Donald Trump’s response to the New York Democrat’s speech on Israel, noting that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s remarks were “sick,” and “hateful,” and included antisemitic tropes. “The former president’s comments were utterly disgusting and a textbook example of the kind of antisemitism facing Jews, pushing the dangerous antisemitism trope of dual loyalty,” Schumer said Tuesday.


Trump’s Comments on Jews Who Vote for Democrats Draw Outrage, CBS News
Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said, “Another day, another depraved antisemitic screed from Donald Trump, who has repeatedly vilified the overwhelming majority of American Jews. He first called us ‘uninformed or disloyal’ in 2019 and essentially repeated it today. The feeling is mutual.”

Two Shin Bet Agents Wounded in West Bank Shooting Attack; Palestinian Killed in Separate Incident, Haaretz
The 30-year-old assailant from Jenin, who shot at the Shin Bet agents, was shot and killed. In a separate incident, A 43-year-old Palestinian was shot and killed by Jewish settlers, sources say. This claim is refuted by an IDF source, who said that the man was killed by IDF soldiers after he attacked them.

Doctors Who Visited Gaza Speak of ‘Atrocities,’ Collapsing Healthcare, Reuters
Nick Maynard, a surgeon who was last in Gaza in January with British charity Medical Aid for Palestinians, recalled seeing a child who had been burned so badly that he could see her facial bones. “We knew there was no chance of her surviving that but there was no morphine to give her. So not only was she inevitably going to die but she would die in agony.”

Heavy Fighting Rages Around Gaza’s Biggest Hospital as Israel Raids It for a Second Day, AP
The military said it had killed 50 Hamas militants in the hospital, but it could not be independently confirmed that the dead were combatants. The raid was a new blow to the Shifa medical complex, which had only partially resumed operations after a destructive Israeli raid in November.

Blinken Set for Fresh Mideast Swing to Push ‘Lasting Peace’ Amid Gaza Truce Talks, The Times of Israel
Blinken will hold talks with Saudi leaders in Jeddah on Wednesday, then travel to Cairo on Thursday for talks with Egyptian authorities, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said from the Philippines, where Blinken is touring. This will be Blinken’s sixth trip to the Middle East since war erupted in Gaza on October 7, sparked by Hamas’s brutal October 7 onslaught.

Biden Privately Told Bibi He’s Not Trying to Push Him Out, Axios
During the call with Biden on Monday, Netanyahu complained about Schumer’s speech and Biden’s endorsement of it. He also claimed the public political attacks against him in the US are interference in Israeli politics, the sources said. The sources said Biden pushed back and told Netanyahu he is not trying to undermine him and has no intention to intervene in Israeli domestic politics.

UN Human Rights Chief: Israel’s ‘Extensive Restrictions’ on Gaza Aid May Be War Crime, The Times of Israel
In a statement rejected by Israel, Turk blamed Israel for rampant hunger and looming famine in Gaza, saying that “the situation of hunger, starvation and famine is a result of Israel’s extensive restrictions on the entry and distribution of humanitarian aid and commercial goods.” “The extent of Israel’s continued restrictions on the entry of aid into Gaza, together with the manner in which it continues to conduct hostilities, may amount to the use of starvation as a method of war, which is a war crime.”

Incoming Palestinian Prime Minister Lays Out Plans for Reform but Faces Major Obstacles, AP
In the mission statement, Mustafa promised wide-ranging reforms of PA institutions and a “zero tolerance” policy toward corruption. He said he would seek to reunify the territories and create an “independent, competent and transparent agency for Gaza’s recovery and reconstruction and an internationally managed trust fund to raise, manage and disburse the required funds.”

Canada to Halt Arms Sales to Israel After Non-binding Vote in House of Commons, The Guardian
The decision follows a parliamentary motion, introduced by the New Democratic party, that called on the governing Liberals to halt future arms exports to Israel. The New Democrats, who are supporting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government, have expressed frustration with what they see as his failure to do enough to protect civilians in Gaza.

English-language Spokesman Eylon Levy Said Suspended After Angering the UK, The Times of Israel
Prominent English-language government spokesman Eylon Levy has been suspended from his post after complaints from the UK government, Channel 12 reports. London reportedly raised concerns with the Foreign Ministry after Levy responded to a March 8 post on X by UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron. […] Levy reportedly responded to the post saying there were no problems with the capacity of aid trucks entering Gaza. Following his tweet, the British Foreign Office asked if the tweet, seen as attacking Cameron, was Israel’s official position, Channel 12 reports. Levy was since suspended and has been at home for more than a week, the report says, noting that he was unlikely to return.

Documents Reveal Alleged Pattern of Israeli Harassment of UNRWA Workers in West Bank, The Guardian
“UN staff working with Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been subjected to a systematic campaign of obstruction and harassment by the Israeli military and authorities since the beginning of the conflict in Gaza five months ago, according to internal UN documents obtained by the Guardian. The documents record hundreds of incidents ranging from the alleged blindfolding and beating of UN staff at checkpoints to the use of UN facilities by Israeli troops as firing positions during raids on refugee camps in which Palestinians were killed.”

Opinion and Analysis

‘Part of My Core’: How Schumer Decided to Speak Out Against Netanyahu, The New York Times
“This is so part of my core, my soul, my neshama,” Schumer said in an interview, using the Hebrew word for soul. “I said to myself, ‘This may hurt me politically; this may help me politically.’ I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I didn’t do it.” His main purpose, he said, “was to say you can still love Israel and feel strongly about Israel and totally disagree with Bibi Netanyahu and the policies of Israel.”

Nothing Biden Does Can Remove Netanyahu, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Instead of cutting off arms supplies or ending the US veto on UN Security Council resolutions imposing a ceasefire on Israel, he is trying to target Netanyahu, just Netanyahu. So far, he has openly encouraged senior Democratic figures like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, known for their support for Israel, to openly criticize the prime minister and urge Israelis to replace him. This may be an outlet for the president’s frustrations, but it will not help end Netanyahu’s premiership any sooner. The only realistic way to get rid of Netanyahu is by dissolving the Knesset and holding early elections, and the Biden administration has no influence over the internal parliamentary machinations that can make that happen.”

What Biden Would Do if He Were Serious About Ending the War in Gaza, Mother Jones
Noah Lanard reports, “There is a strong case that even if the Biden administration wants to keep sending military aid to Israel, it is legally prohibited from doing so. Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act blocks the president from providing military assistance to a country that restricts access to US humanitarian assistance. Aid organizations, reporters, administration officials, and Israel’s own finance minister have made it clear that Israel is restricting humanitarian assistance from the United States and other countries for people in Gaza.”

The First Step Toward Disintegrating Israel’s Settler Machine, +972
Ori Kol reports, “[Biden’s] sanctions, which have so far mostly targeted lower-rung activists, are two-pronged. First, they amount to a ban on entering the sanctioning country; and second, they effectively prevent the targeted settlers from accessing the mainstream financial world, barring them from using most international banking services, including Israeli ones. Despite their relatively narrow focus, the language of the sanctions and the timing of their implementation imply that more consequential action is likely to follow. As a result, the whole settler machine could find itself facing a level of duress that it has not previously known.”

How Gaza Civilians Have Fared After Israel Has Asked Them to Flee, The New York Times
“For many civilians in Gaza, fleeing from Israeli attacks has become a grim cycle. Israeli evacuation orders have prompted more than a million people to move from one destination to another since October, each time packing belongings and seeking transport — by vehicle, cart or foot — to escape airstrikes and ground fighting between Israel and Hamas. The latest example is Rafah, in southern Gaza, a city swollen to more than 1.4 million people by forced displacement.”