News Roundup for October 20, 2023

October 20, 2023
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J Street In the News

What Do Leftist Critics of Israel Do Now?, Vox
“In the long run, progressive activists and organizers say they still stand by a more nuanced position for the US to be critical of Israel’s unequal treatment of Palestinian people …“This situation is also clear evidence of why the US needs to do more to prioritize and address resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that means securing self-determination and safety and freedom for both the Israeli and Palestinian people,” said Logan Bayroff, the communications director for the liberal Israeli American group J Street. “Those sentiments can coexist with full-throated, unequivocal condemnation of Hamas slaughtering civilians and support for Israel trying to counter Hamas.”

Your Turn: American College Students Share How the Israel-Gaza War is Affecting Life on Campus, The Forward
J Street U student leaders Meirav Solomon and Michael Farrell-Rosen share the impact of the Israel-Hamas war on college campuses. Meirav writes, “Gathering in community gives us power and strength to continue our work of peace-building in Israel/Palestine no matter what. People on the most extreme ends of the political spectrum will continue to paint me and my peers as cowards, anti-Israel or pro-terrorism. Nevertheless, I will stand up for my Israeli and Palestinian friends who have suffered.” Michael shares, “These were students who, like me, didn’t necessarily feel comfortable attending vigils that focused solely on the massacres perpetrated in Southern Israel and did not include the massive toll being inflicted on Palestinian civilians in Gaza. I also share in feeling disgust and anger at social media posts that glorified the actions of Hamas terrorists. I want there to be an alternative — a form of advocacy that values all life and pushes for a sustainable future for all people.”

J Street Statement on Ongoing Israel-Hamas War, Israeli-Palestinian Calamity, J Street
“Like the Biden Administration, J Street stands with the Israeli people in their grief, and we support Israel’s right to defend its citizens, disarm Hamas, and respond to this horror in accordance with international law. At the same time, we are profoundly worried for the safety of the over 2 million Palestinian civilians in Gaza – half of whom are children – as this conflict turns their streets and their homes into an active war zone.”

J Street Urges All Possible Action to Protect, Release Hostages in Gaza, J Street
“Even in the midst of the greater conflagration, efforts to guarantee the hostages’ safety and secure their release from terrifying Hamas captivity must be prioritized by the Israeli government, the US government, other mediator states, humanitarian organizations and all parties. J Street supports any and all efforts to broker the safe return of the hostages, and we will continue to emphasize their plight and urge action in our ongoing advocacy with Congress, the Biden Administration and beyond.”

Top News and Analysis

‘Drop in the Ocean’: UN-backed Aid Could Soon Enter Gaza from Egypt, but Only at a Trickle for Now, ABC News
President Joe Biden says he struck a deal with his Egyptian counterpart to allow a first run of 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, which Israel sealed off after the Hamas attack on October 7. Israel says it’s now ready to honor Biden’s request to let in limited humanitarian aid. The Egyptian and Palestinian Red Crescent Societies and the United Nations are expected to help oversee the operation, in part to ensure the supplies reaches civilians — not combatants. Officials at the UN health agency say they’re “praying” the first tranche will go in on Friday. Here’s a look at what could be expected to go in, and how.

Hamas Took More Than 200 Hostages. Here’s What We Know About Them, The New York Times
The Israeli military has told the families of 203 people that their loved ones had been taken hostage, according to Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesman. A preliminary assessment had suggested that the number was closer to 150 people. The Israeli authorities have not yet publicly provided specific details about the identities of the victims, but military officials have said they included older people and children. Most were captured from small Israeli border towns. The US State Department said that at least 13 Americans remained unaccounted for, but it was not clear how many were being held hostage.

Gaza Under Israeli Siege: Bread Lines, Yellow Water and Nonstop Explosions, AP
There are explosions audible in the cramped, humid room where Azmi Keshawi shelters with his family in Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis. The bombardments keep coming closer, he says, and they’re wreaking death and destruction. Keshawi, his wife, two sons, two daughters and tiny grandchildren are trying to survive inside. The Israeli military has relentlessly attacked Gaza in retaliation for a devastating Hamas rampage in southern Israel almost two weeks ago and the Keshawi family’s sense of desperation is growing.

‘Mutiny Brewing’ Inside State Department Over Israel-Palestine Policy, HuffPost
President Joe Biden’s approach to the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine is fueling mounting tensions at the US government agency most involved in foreign policy: the State Department. Officials told HuffPost that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his most senior advisers are overlooking widespread internal frustration. Some department staff said they feel as if Blinken and his team are uninterested in their own experts’ advice as they focus on supporting Israel’s expanding operation in Gaza, where the Palestinian militant group Hamas is based.

What to Know About Hamas’ Tunnel System Beneath Gaza, Axios
Israeli forces will have to contend with Hamas’ labyrinthian network of tunnels under the Gaza Strip should they launch a planned ground operation in the coming days. The tunnels, dubbed by Israel as the “Gaza Metro,” are vital for Hamas from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. The militants use them to smuggle and store weaponry and evade detection — compounding the immense difficulties of fighting in a dense urban environment.


Families of Israeli Hostages Held by Hamas Cling to Digital Clues, The Washington Post
The militants’ decision to film their reign of terror has deepened the anguish of Israelis, but it has also given experts in Israel’s vaunted cybersecurity and intelligence sectors a great deal of evidence to work with. They are leading a grass-roots effort now to comb through the footage and the photographs for clues about where hostages are being held. Many of the roughly 100 men and women in the “war room” have deep military and intelligence experience, and some are being called up by Israel’s most elite units.

Amid Concern About Wider War, Americans Give Mixed Reactions to Biden’s Approach Toward Israel-Hamas Conflict, CBS News
Americans overwhelmingly voice sympathy for the Israeli people in the current conflict, and there’s widespread support for sending humanitarian aid. But while a plurality think President Biden has shown the right amount of support for Israel, his approach draws only a mixed response. Amid that uncertainty, there is broad support for the US engaging in diplomacy to resolve the conflict, but there is a split on whether the US ought to send weapons to Israel.

EU Parliament Calls for ‘Humanitarian Pause’ in Israel-Hamas War, Politico
The Parliament called for a de-escalation of the conflict, a “humanitarian pause” and demanded Israel comply with international humanitarian law in its war against Hamas alongside the country’s right to self-defense. A humanitarian pause would allow for aid to enter Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

Senate Acts on ‘Unprecedented’ Lack of US Ambassadors, Spurred by Israel-Hamas War, NPR
With Israel at war with Hamas, the Senate is moving urgently to fill key US diplomatic posts throughout the Middle East — many of which have been sitting empty for months. Most glaringly, the US does not currently have an ambassador in Israel. That vacancy hobbles the Biden administration’s ability to pursue a number of goals, from negotiating the release of US hostages held by Hamas to easing the violence and preventing it from blossoming into a wider conflict.

‘You Feel Invisible’: Israeli Bedouins Fear Rockets and Apathy, The Forward
Most Israelis take comfort in the Iron Dome, the country’s highly effective missile defense system, and the sirens that warn of imminent air attacks. But Bedouin citizens of Israel like abu Sheich who live in unrecognized areas like El Baht have no such sense of safety. About 200,000 Bedouins live in the Negev, the vast expanse of desert that comprises southern Israel.

Biden Moves Up Program Allowing Israelis to Travel to US Without a Visa, The New York Times
Israelis can now travel to the United States for up to 90 days without a visa, the Biden administration announced Thursday, fast-tracking a travel benefit that was previously scheduled to take effect on November 30. The accelerated time frame means that eligible Israelis looking to flee the Israel-Hamas war will be able to get to the US sooner than expected, without having to go through the typical process to apply for a visa, which can delay travel.

Anti-Defamation League Staffer Publicly Quits Over Israel-Hamas ‘Messaging’, The Daily Beast
A senior researcher with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) quit on Thursday over the Jewish nonprofit’s “messaging” around the Israel-Hamas war. In a thread posted on the social media platform Bluesky, Stephen C. Rea, who focused on online hate and harassment as a member of the ADL’s Center for Technology and Society, said he resigned because he “couldn’t square my morals and politics with the direction I saw the org going in.”

Gazans Face Threat Of Cholera and Other Iinfectious Diseases, Oxfam
All five of Gaza’s wastewater treatment plants and most of its 65 sewage pumping stations have been forced to close. Untreated sewage is now being discharged into the sea and, in some areas, solid waste is accumulating in the streets. Clean water has now virtually run out. Some people are being forced to drink from farm wells. The UN Water and Sanitation cluster, of which Oxfam is a member, says that only three litres of water a day are now available per person in Gaza. The World Health Organisation recommends one person needs between 50-100 litres of water each day to meet basic health requirements.

Opinion and Analysis

Let Students Speak for Themselves on Israel and Hamas. We Don’t Need Outside Groups to Doxx or Threaten Anyone, The Los Angeles Times
J Street U student leader Rachel Burnett writes, “All this disproportionate attention paid to college campuses actually makes things worse for students who are trying to comprehend this catastrophe in Israel-Palestine. In a time of such horrific violence overseas, focusing on collegiate activity is a reflection on the egocentrism of the American attention span. If people want to know what it is like to be an American college student, then I believe students should tell our own stories”

What It Takes to Choose Life Over Revenge, The New York Times
Member of the Knesset Ayman Odeh argues, “A nation is defined as a group of people with a common language, a common past and common dreams. By this definition, any parent will tell you that all the world’s babies are children of a single nation. They have a common language, a common past, common dreams. They speak the same, get angry and cry at the same things, laugh the same way. When my three children were young, I marveled at how they communicated effortlessly with other babies, no matter the language of the lullabies their parents sang them at night. The whole of this nation of infants — Jewish, Arab, Palestinian, Israeli — wants just one thing: to grow up to a good life. It’s a simple dream. Our role as leaders is simple too: to make that possible.”

Is Hamas Winning the War?, The Washington Post
Yuval Noah Harari writes, “Hamas knew its attack would make Israelis livid, distraught with pain and anger, and the terrorists counted on Israel to retaliate with massive force, inflicting enormous pain on Palestinians. The codename Hamas gave its operation is telling: al-Aqsa Tufan. The word “tufan” means flood. Like the biblical flood intended to cleanse the world of sin even at the cost of nearly wiping out humanity, Hamas’s attack aimed to create devastation on a biblical scale.”

They are Tasked with Viewing ‘the Worst Imaginable Images’ of the Israel-Hamas War. It’s Taking a Heavy Toll, CNN
Oliver Darcy shares, “Journalists reporting on the Israel-Hamas war from outside the immediate region are also being confronted each day with graphic imagery that they cannot look away from as they work to verify reports on the expanding conflict online and deliver the facts to the public. While the challenges are dwarfed by the myriad of horrendous troubles afflicting those residing in the Middle East, they are without question leaving many reporters working in the digital battlefield scarred, with awful scenes forever imprinted into their memories.”