News Roundup for November 13, 2023

November 13, 2023
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J Street In the News

The Long Wait of the Hostages’ Families, The New Yorker
J Street Israel Director Nadav Tamir shares, “[The hostages’ families] live in an impossible situation — every development that takes place, they worry how it will affect their loved ones,” Tamir, a volunteer with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, an organization that represents families of those abducted, told The New Yorker two days into Israel’s ground operation. “Statements about a ground incursion have to do with deterrence and negotiation tactics. But the families hear them, and it tears them apart.’”

Organizers of Mass Pro-Israel Rally in Washington Seek to Pitch Broad Tent for Jews, The Times of Israel
Organizers have curated the rally to feature speakers and branding that attract a broad consensus. The rally has no official cosponsors, and leaders of organizations will not be delivering any major speeches from the stage. The emphasis from the podium, Daroff said, will be on the tragedy of October 7 and the need to free hostages, as well as the danger of antisemitism on campus and elsewhere. […] The rally is being promoted by major Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Orthodox groups. Along with APN, the pro-Israel left will be represented by the liberal lobby J Street.”

As the Death Toll Rises in Gaza, AIPAC Lobbies for War, The Nation
“We’re seeing the emergence of a very complex and wide political map,” says J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. “What you see among elements of the progressive left has been a conflation of the movement for liberation of Palestinians from the occupation and the desire for peace…with what Hamas just did, touching off a tremendous amount of anti-Semitism on the left on campuses and other places.” At the same time, he adds, “on the far right, they don’t miss an opportunity to look for a war to get started. I think where the majority of both parties are is that they don’t want to see us pouring all sorts of resources into a war and getting troops engaged in some way.”

For Biden, Being the Leader of the Free World Is More Relevant Than Ever, The Jerusalem Post
J Street Israel Director Nadav Tamir writes, “The US continues to leverage its influence to demand the provision of urgent humanitarian aid while calling for temporary truces to enable treatment of the wounded, the supply of food, water, and medication to the residents of Gaza, and hopefully the release of hostages. Biden understands the threat of Hamas, but also recognizes that Israel deploying military force with US backing also serves the purpose of deterring Iran and its proxies – Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen – vital to preventing the escalation and spreading of the war into other fronts.”

Top News and Analysis

The Tragedy of Al-Shifa Hospital: Israel’s Biggest Moral Challenge in the Gaza War, Haaretz
More than a month after the war in Gaza broke out, the fighting has one salient symbol: Al-Shifa Hospital in the western part of Gaza City. The combination of it being the largest, most important hospital in Gaza, a fast growing refugee camp for desperate Gazans of all ages, and a tool used by Hamas – as a vast human shield above the organization’s main command center – embodies the impossible challenge it presents for Israel. Evidence accumulating since the war’s onset indicates that Al-Shifa has become the central headquarters for the Hamas leadership’s activity. In the past week the Israeli army has been laying the groundwork for justifying an attack on the medical center, by releasing almost daily evidence of the terror activity occurring beneath and around it, framing it as a war crime by Hamas.

Hamas Envisioned Deeper Attacks, Aiming to Provoke an Israeli War, The Washington Post
The evidence, described by more than a dozen current and former intelligence and security officials from four Western and Middle Eastern countries, reveals an intention by Hamas planners to strike a blow of historic proportions, in the expectation that their actions would compel an overwhelming Israeli response. The findings also shed new light on the tactics and methods used by Hamas to deceive Israel’s vaunted intelligence establishment and thwart initial efforts by the IDF to stop the attack.

‘A Nightmare, We’re Not Living’: Tens of Thousands Rally for Hostages’ Return, The Times of Israel
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere on Saturday night to demand a return of at least 239 hostages held by Hamas, as they marked 36 days since they were taken during Hamas’s harrowing assault on southern Israel. In Tel Aviv, activists also marked the birthday of Sasha Trupanov, who was kidnapped with his entire family and girlfriend. His friends from university, where Trupanov finished studying electrical engineering a year ago, stood on stage for a tearful rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

As Israel Orders Gaza Hospitals to Evacuate, Health Care Is ‘On Its Knees’, NPR
Palestinians said the hospitals, already overwhelmed with patients, are barely functioning, or have suspended services in some cases. The increased pressure from the Israeli military on Gaza’s hospitals to evacuate over the past two days has further stressed an overtaxed medical system in the besieged area.

What We Know About the Death Toll in Israel From the Hamas-Led Attacks, The New York Times
Israel revised its official estimated death toll of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, lowering the number to about 1,200 people, down from the more than 1,400 initially cited, a spokesman for the country’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday night. The spokesman, Lior Haiat, said the original figure was an “initial estimate” that had now been updated. He declined to provide further details on the change, but emphasized that the numbers could continue to fluctuate as the remains of those killed are identified.

Netanyahu: ‘We’ll Defy the World if Needed to Defeat Hamas; PA Can’t Run Gaza After War’, The Times of Israel
The leaders in charge of directing Israel’s war in Gaza vowed Saturday to soldier on with the grinding military offensive aimed at vanquishing the Hamas terror group, pushing back at international pressure to slow down or halt it, and pledging to “stand firm against the world if necessary.” In a joint press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz rejected mounting international criticism over the civilian costs of the war, urging Western leaders to throw their support behind the Jewish state.

The Day After Netanyahu, The Atlantic
Yair Rosenberg writes, “As Israel’s crony-filled Netanyahu government flailed and its security services faltered, ordinary citizens—many of them dissenters against the current ruling coalition – took charge. Crisis tends to separate the poseurs from the professionals, and the deadliest day in Israel’s history did just that. Much has already been written about what Gaza might look like after this war. But just as important is what Israel will look like. We can already discern some hints, by looking at who gained political and moral credibility on October 7 – and who lost it.”

‘They Don’t Want People to Know We Exist’, New York Magazine
Alex Shams speaks to Palestinians across the West Bank, from Nablus in the north to the villages of the South Hebron Hills, about how the war has affected their daily lives. Eid, a photographer in Umm al Khair, says, “All roads have been shut down by the Israeli army. Our children can’t go to school. People who work outside the village can’t go to work.” Issa, an activist in Hebron, shares, “On October 7, Israeli soldiers arrested me and held me for ten hours. They tied me up so hard I lost feeling in my arms and fainted twice.” Elias, a tour guide in Bethlehem, says, “Two days after the war started, the Israeli military closed all the main entrances to Bethlehem. They put up roadblocks and shut the roads. They’ve shut down all movement between different cities.”

Israel’s Humanitarian Pauses in Gaza, Explained, Vox
Ellen Ioanes writes, “Israel has agreed to four-hour daily humanitarian pauses in areas of northern Gaza, as US officials announced Thursday. The pauses, meant to allow civilians to safely leave for southern Gaza, comes amid an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis as Israel continues to bombard one of the most densely populated places on the planet. The windows have so far allowed 100,000 people to move, according to Israeli officials — but it’s not clear that the safe routes and pauses are enough as more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed and calls for a ceasefire grow louder.”


Gaza’s Salah Al-Din Highway ‘Road of Death in Every Sense of the Word’, Al-Monitor
Israeli tanks stood at the ready, their cannons aimed in the direction of the displaced people traveling on foot, the road too badly damaged from bombing for donkey-drawn carts or cars to navigate. The bodies of women, men and children lie scattered among them — in the middle of the road, on sidewalks — as they passed. More bodies occupied otherwise abandoned vehicles. The stench of death filled the air. That is what Khamis Mansour saw along Salah al-Din Road, the main north–south highway running the length of Gaza, connecting major cities and towns.

America’s Top Diplomat Says ‘Far Too Many Palestinians Have Been Killed’, The New York Times
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that “far too many Palestinians have been killed” in Gaza, in the latest indication that the Biden administration is growing increasingly concerned about the civilian death toll under Israel’s bombardment and ground invasion. “Much more needs to be done to protect civilians and to make sure that humanitarian assistance reaches them,” Blinken told reporters. “Far too many Palestinians have been killed. Far too many have suffered these past weeks. And we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them and to maximize the assistance that gets to them.”

‘They Are Behaving in a Fascist Way:’ An Israeli-Arab Lawmaker on the Stifling of Anti-War Voices, Time Magazine
As Israel continues its war to eliminate Hamas in Gaza, its government is waging a simultaneous battle to root out dissent at home. On Thursday, Israeli authorities detained several high-profile Israeli Arab leaders — among them former parliamentarian Mohammad Barakeh, the chairman of the High Follow-Up Committee, the national representative body of Palestinian citizens of Israel — for organizing a protest vigil against the ongoing war in Gaza.

Biden Under Growing Pressure From Democrats to Change Approach to Israel-Hamas War, Haaretz
The Biden administration is facing growing pressure from within both the Democratic Party and lower-level government officials over its approach to the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. The White House is currently attempting to maintain support for Israel’s war, all while pushing it to operate within the confines of international law and minimize civilian casualties.

A Sizeable US Demographic, Many Evangelicals Are Sending Money and Manpower to Israel, The Times of Israel
Over a month into the Israel-Hamas war, American Evangelicals are providing moral and material support to Israel, hosting fundraisers and poster campaigns, and sending volunteers and supplies. With more than 100 million Evangelicals in the United States, it is a deep well from which to draw.

Palestinian Journalists in Israel Say They Face Intimidation and Harassment, NBC News
Palestinian journalists working in Israel say they have faced increased intimidation and harassment since Hamas’ attacks. Israeli authorities have cracked down on broadcasts, reports and social media posts that they consider to be a threat to national security or in support of terror organizations since Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault. Press freedom and human rights groups say the approach is stifling speech and freedom of the media.

Top Biden Adviser to Visit Israel, Qatar to Discuss Efforts to Free Hostages, Axios
Brett McGurk, President Biden’s senior Middle East adviser, is expected to travel to Israel and several other countries in the region this coming week to discuss the war in Gaza and the efforts to secure the release of the hostages held by Hamas, four Israeli and US officials told Axios. McGurk’s trip is part of the Biden administration’s ongoing engagement with key parties aimed at preventing a regional war and getting a hostage deal that includes a longer pause in the fighting in Gaza.

Columbia University Suspends Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, JTA
Columbia University has suspended two pro-Palestinian student groups — Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine — saying they violated university policies and expressed “threatening rhetoric and intimidation.” The suspension runs through the end of the fall semester, about six more weeks, and marks a significant crackdown by the school on the two groups as campuses nationwide have erupted in debate, activism and occasional violence surrounding the war.

US Strikes Iran-Linked Facilities in Syria as Lebanon-Israel Border Heats Up, Al-Monitor
The US military carried out airstrikes in Syria on Sunday, targeting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-linked facilities in the third such round since the Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7. The strikes came as clashes intensified on the Lebanon-Israel border on Sunday. The Israeli army and Hezbollah traded fire following an attack by the Iran-backed militant group that left 17 Israelis wounded.

Opinion and Analysis

The Extreme Ambitions of West Bank Settlers, The New Yorker
Isaac Chotiner interviews settler movement leader Daniella Weiss on expanding into Gaza and her vision for the Jewish state. Weiss says, “In Israel, there’s a lot of support for settlements, and this is why there have been right-wing governments for so many years. The world, especially the United States, thinks there is an option for a Palestinian state, and, if we continue to build communities, then we block the option for a Palestinian state. We want to close the option for a Palestinian state, and the world wants to leave the option open. It’s a very simple thing to understand.”

I Will Not Lose My Compassion For All, Israeli and Palestinian, Hey Alma
Rabbi Emily Cohen shares, “Fully acknowledging the “and” is challenging — more challenging, in many ways, than picking a side and letting empathy for the other go. And it’s the only way forward. We have to live with these ands. We have to build a better world with these ands. We Jews, we humans, are capable of holding multiple things at once. Multiple understandings, multiple narratives, multiple hopes. We can grieve the horrific acts of Hamas and also grieve the 8000 and counting Palestinians, including thousands of children, killed by Israeli bombs.”

‘We Cannot Kill Our Way Out of This Endeavor’, The New York Times
Nicholas Kristof notes, “Looking ahead, the next initiative must be a major push by Biden for an Israeli-Palestinian peace. A peace process is not possible now, even if the war weren’t underway, because both sides lack credible leaders to get there — but perhaps it’s feasible to create conditions that will encourage the emergence of decent leaders after the war is over.”

A Silent Desperation on the Slow March Out of Gaza City, The Washington Post
David Ignatius writes, “The line of desperate Palestinian civilians stretched for hundreds of yards along Salah al-Din Road on Sunday as they moved away from the shattering violence toward what they must hope will be a safer place in southern Gaza. It was dead quiet as the line stopped and started. The only sound was occasional shellfire in the distance. Every 50 feet or so, you could see someone with a white flag. People trudged forward with sacks containing whatever they could carry from their homes. I counted five wheelchairs. I saw one bed on wheels bearing someone too young or infirm to walk.”