December 5, 2023
Special Report
A project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israel's Global Embassy for National Security and Applied Diplomacy

In-Depth Issues:

Israelis Warned On Travel to 80 Countries - Lahav Harkov (Jewish Insider)
    Israel's National Security Council on Monday raised its travel warning for Israelis in 80 countries, including much of Western Europe and South America.
    A senior official told reporters that "many terrorist attacks" on Jewish and Israeli targets around the world "were prevented since the start of the war."
    "There is an awakening among global jihadist groups, like al-Qaeda and ISIS."
    The NSC said, "from the start of the war, we see increased efforts by Iran and its proxies, as well as by Hamas and other global jihad factors, to harm Israeli destinations and Jews around the world, together with a continuing and significant rise in incitement, attempted attacks, and antisemitic acts in many countries."
    The official said, "We're not saying don't travel; but that every Israeli who wants to travel should consider the alert level."

Israel Weighs Plan to Flood Gaza Tunnels with Seawater - Nancy A. Youssef (Wall Street Journal)
    Israel has assembled a system of large pumps it could use to flood Hamas' vast network of tunnels under Gaza with seawater, a tactic that could destroy the tunnels and drive the fighters from their underground refuge but also threaten Gaza's water supply, U.S. officials said.
    Israel is weighing its feasibility and effect on the environment against the military value of disabling the tunnels.
    Because it isn't clear how much seawater would seep into the soil, it is hard to assess the impact of pumping seawater into the tunnels, said Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
    Egypt in 2015 used seawater to flood tunnels operated by smugglers under the Rafah border crossing with Gaza.

White House Blasts Protest at Israeli Restaurant in Philadelphia - Daniel Arkin (NBC News)
    The White House has condemned a group of protesters who massed and chanted in front of an Israeli-style falafel shop in Philadelphia on Sunday night.
    "It is antisemitic and completely unjustifiable to target restaurants that serve Israeli food over disagreements with Israeli policy," White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Monday.
    In a video clip on X, pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside Goldie in Center City, one of several restaurants co-owned by Israel-born chef Michael Solomonov.
    The protesters shouted: "Goldie, Goldie, you can't hide. We charge you with genocide."
    Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro on Sunday described the protest as "a blatant act of antisemitism - not a peaceful protest." Shapiro said Goldie was "targeted and mobbed because its owner is Jewish and Israeli. This hate and bigotry is reminiscent of a dark time in history."
    Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) said: "They could be protesting Hamas. They could be protesting Hamas' systematic rape of Israeli women and girls or demanding the remaining hostages be immediately released. Instead, they targeted a Jewish restaurant. It's pathetic and rank antisemitism."

Virginia Festival Cancels Hanukkah Menorah Lighting over Israel-Hamas War (United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula)
    The organizers of the Second Sundays Art and Music Festival in Williamsburg, Virginia, have canceled a menorah lighting scheduled for Dec 10, claiming they did not want to appear to choose sides in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
    The menorah lighting, to be led by a local community rabbi, had nothing to do with Israel or the conflict.
    The event organizer claimed that a Hanukkah celebration would send a message that the festival was "supporting the killing-bombing of thousands of men, women, and children," and offered to reinstate the event if it was done under a banner calling for a ceasefire.
    We should be very clear: it is antisemitic to hold Jews collectively responsible for Israel's policies and actions, and to require a political litmus test for Jews' participation in community events that have nothing to do with Israel.
    Those standards would never be applied to another community.
    Since October 7, we have repeatedly seen cases of Jewish people and institutions - including synagogues, Jewish homes and businesses - being targeted, sometimes violently, by those opposed to Israel or its actions.
    At a time of well-documented, rising antisemitism, the singling out and targeting of Jews is dangerous and harmful.

Israel at War: Daily Zoom Briefing
by Jerusalem Center Experts
View Daily Briefing at 4:00 p.m. (Israel), 9:00 a.m. (EST)
    View recent briefings

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: If Hamas Cared about Palestinian Civilians, They Would Surrender
    U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked about Palestinian casualties in Gaza on Monday. He responded: "You have to step back and remember that the Israeli military is one of the most professional militaries in the world. They have legal determinations that they make when conducting strikes. They go through procedures where they weigh civilian harm when they conduct any of these strikes. They have put in place these plans...to evacuate specific neighborhoods to keep civilians out harm's way rather than just telling an entire population to move. So they are going about this with a certain degree of deliberateness to try to minimize civilian harm."
        "The underlying problem of this entire situation...is that Hamas has embedded itself inside civilians - inside civilian homes, inside its mosques, in schools....It is Hamas that is putting these civilians in harm's way....I'm surprised I don't hear more people saying, why doesn't Hamas lay down its arms? Why doesn't Hamas move out of schools? Why doesn't Hamas take additional steps to protect civilians? Because we think they should."
        "We would welcome Hamas laying down its arms and surrendering at any point....They have sufficient firepower to have killed 1,200 people on October 7. So don't tell me that Hamas can't lay down their arms and take additional steps to protect civilians, let alone moving out of all the areas that are putting Palestinian civilians in harm's way. They absolutely can. They could do it today if they cared at all about civilian life."
        "We support Israel's right to continue to take action to ensure that Hamas can never conduct terrorist attacks like it did on October 7 again....When you look at all of the atrocities that Hamas carried out on October 7 and the atrocities that they've carried out since, the fact that they continue to hold women hostages, the fact that they continue to hold children hostages, the fact that it seems one of the reasons they don't want to turn women over that they've been holding hostage and the reason this pause fell apart is they don't want those women to be able to talk about what happened to them during their time in custody - certainly there is very little that I would put beyond Hamas when it comes to its treatment of civilians, and particularly its treatment of women."  (State Department)
  • U.S. Considers Task Force to Guard Red Sea Ships from Iranian Proxy Forces - Peter Baker
    The U.S. is in discussions with its allies to set up a naval task force to guard ships traveling through the Red Sea after the latest attack on several commercial vessels by Iranian-proxy forces. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday that such patrols or escorts could be the appropriate response to the targeting of ships in the region. He compared the mission to similar task forces in the Gulf and off the coast of Somalia.
        Sullivan said he did not believe all the commercial ships targeted on Sunday had ties to Israel, adding that their targeting would not have been justified even if they were. "This is an issue for the entire world, for every country that relies upon maritime commerce to sustain their economy," he said, adding that the attacks were "fully enabled by Iran."  (New York Times)
  • U.S. Kills 5 Iran-Backed Militia Members in Drone Strike in Iraq - Haley Britzky
    U.S. forces killed at least five Iran-backed militia members in a drone strike after the U.S. "identified an imminent attack" likely to be launched by militia forces in Kirkuk, Iraq, on Sunday, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said Monday. There have been 76 attacks by Iran-backed proxy groups on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17, a defense official said. (CNN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Forces Continue Offensive in Northern Gaza - Amos Harel
    On Monday, the 59th day of the war in Gaza, two Palestinian rocket barrages were fired at central Israel, while rocket fire intermittently hit the western Negev. In northern Gaza, Israeli forces are gradually conquering the Shujaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City. The local Hamas battalion commander and most of the company commanders have been killed. The Palestinian resistance in Shujaiyeh and in Jabalya further north involves small squads of armed men emerging from tunnels to attack Israeli troops. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel's Military Pushes into Southern Gaza - Hazem al-Balousha
    Dozens of Israeli military vehicles have crossed into southern Gaza and were seen 1.7 miles north of Khan Yunis, the largest city in Gaza's south, new satellite imagery showed Monday.
        Israeli forces "have actually taken the quite unusual step for a modern military and identified precisely the area that they intend to have ground maneuver," said U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. "And they have asked the people in that area to move out." The IDF identified bypass roads residents should travel on, aimed at reducing civilian casualties. IDF spokesman Nir Dinar said Gaza civilians were notified of the evacuation route through recordings, leaflets and text messages.
        Israel has "entered a new phase in our war against Hamas," IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said Monday. "We pursued them in northern Gaza; we are now pursuing them in southern Gaza, too. We will operate in maximum force against Hamas terrorists and infrastructure while minimizing harm to the civilians that Hamas places around them as shields."  (Washington Post)
  • What We Know about the Victims of the Hamas Massacre
    Two months after the Hamas onslaught on Israel on Oct. 7, authorities have identified 274 soldiers and 859 non-soldiers killed. The latter figure includes 57 Israel Police officers and 38 local security officers. The civilians include two infants, 12 other children under the age of 10, 36 civilians aged 10-19, and 25 people over the age of 80. Not included are 15 civilians and members of security forces who were killed and whose remains are held by terrorists in Gaza.
        There are 122 Israelis and foreigners currently being held hostage in Gaza, an unknown number of whom are dead. An additional seven Israelis are currently missing. Around 100 bodies are still awaiting identification. In summary, Israel has officially identified 1,151 people murdered by Hamas, with an unknown number still awaiting confirmation. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Debunking Hamas Casualty Figures - Salo Aizenberg
    A close review of Gaza casualty figures reported by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), based on daily Hamas Ministry of Health numbers, proves they are falsified, with the numbers of women and children grossly inflated.
        On Oct. 19, Hamas reported 3,785 deaths vs. 3,478 the previous day or +307. But the number of children killed magically moved up from 853 to 1,524 or +671. The Oct. 18 report said deaths were 25% children, but next day the figure jumped to 40%.
        On Oct. 26, Hamas reported 481 new fatalities. Remarkably, the number of women and children killed jumped by 626 that same day. Apparently no men died that day. On Oct. 29, 302 new fatalities were reported, which somehow comprised 199 women and 129 children, which totals 328, 26 more than total fatalities.
        On Oct. 31, 216 new fatalities were reported. Fatalities of women and children were 210, which means only 6 men were killed that day. On Nov 7, Hamas reported 306 new fatalities, 302 of whom were women and children, which means only 4 men were killed. (X)
        See also The Casualty Figures in Gaza Are a Scam - Lenny Ben-David (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israeli Arabs Shun "Palestinian" Identity - Seth Mandel
    Israeli columnist Nadav Eyal points to a new study by Tel Aviv University, as part of the Konrad Adenauer Program for Israeli-Arab Cooperation. There has been a decrease in the percentage of Israeli Arabs who describe their most important identity factor as Arab since the Hamas Oct. 7 attack, down from 37% to 32%.
        Additionally, there's a striking increase in Palestinians who say the most important part of their identity is Israeli citizenship, which now stands at over 33%, surpassing all other factors (religious affiliation, Palestinian identity, and Arab identity). The least popular choice? "Palestinian," with 8%. (Commentary-X)
  • Saudi Arabia Would Quietly Welcome the Demise of Hamas - David Rundell
    A historic peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel has been put on hold since the outbreak of war in Gaza. And Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has called for an "immediate halt to Israeli military operations in Gaza."
        In 1948, the Saudis contributed two companies of infantry, which fought under Egyptian command. In the Six-Day War of 1967, a Saudi brigade moved slowly towards Jordan, arriving only when a ceasefire was about to be declared. And during the 1973 Arab-Israel War, Saudi Arabia sent one brigade to join the Arab Foreign Legion with strict instructions not to become involved in the fighting. By the time it reached Damascus, the hostilities were over.
        In recent years, the benefits for Saudi Arabia of making peace with Israel have significantly increased, while the costs have appeared to decline. Today, Saudis are far more concerned with threats from Iran and its proxies in Yemen and Iraq than they are with Israel. Peace with Israel would be a massive boost to Saudi Arabia's national security and would strengthen its hand against Iran, which since the 1979 Iranian Revolution has challenged Saudi leadership in the Muslim world. Despite the recent Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, Saudi and Israeli leaders still share many reasons to resist Iran's pursuit of regional hegemony and nuclear weapons.
        The Saudis have another goal in common: suppressing radical Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Many radical Sunni Islamist groups seek to destroy both Israel and the Arab monarchies. The Saudis understand the threat of jihadist militants. They have arrested or deported Hamas supporters in Saudi Arabia and would quietly welcome the organization's demise.
        The writer is a former chief of mission at the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia.  (Unherd)

Why Is It So Difficult for Israel to Decipher Hamas? - Dr. Michael Milshtein (Jerusalem Strategic Tribune)
  • The West is stricken by distortions in its perceptions of the Middle East, where key players are driven by ideological fervor, largely religious in nature. Westerners adhere to theories of realpolitik which center on the belief that realities and the very essence of being can be shaped by material means.
  • Israel's 36-year confrontation with Hamas constitutes a unique test case of the difficulty in reading another culture, generally, and modern Islamism, specifically. It is an experience that exemplifies the projection of one's own logic on "the other."
  • Contrary to the common myth, Israel did not set up Hamas as a counterweight to Fatah and the PLO in the 1980s. For decades prior to that, the Muslim Brotherhood movement had been active in Gaza and the West Bank and gave birth to Hamas. Israeli thinking at the time assumed that the Brotherhood was less dangerous than other Palestinian groups, since it was focused on faith and social activism.
  • Hamas has been engaged in a constant dynamic of building up its political and public base. Its domestic goals are taking over the Palestinian system and posing an alternative to the PLO and its secular nationalist creed. This was to be the way station to the destruction of Israel and the establishment of Shariah-based religious governance in all of historic Palestine.
  • Israelis falsely assumed that after its takeover in Gaza in 2007, with its coming to power Hamas would find itself facing constraints that would force it to moderate its stances. But, as modern history has taught us, extremist ideological elements who take power usually move in the opposite direction: they gain more resources which enable them to set in motion more violent action than ever, aimed at realizing their vision. Nazi Germany, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and ISIS all followed this path.
  • Since the round of fighting between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, Israel conducted a strategic experiment in Gaza. At its core was an attempt to improve the conditions of life there, mainly through the promotion of civilian projects, allowing for the flow of money into Gaza and more Gazans to work in Israel. All this was driven by the basic assumption that these were means to prevent escalation and create for Hamas a disincentive for war. The steady rise in the quality of life would over time lead to the transformation of Gaza's rulers. In hindsight, this was a fundamentally false conceptual framework.
  • While Israeli decision-makers focused on promoting civilian advancement for Gaza, Hamas leaders were busy at the very same time planning the most painful attack ever launched by the Palestinians against Israel. Analysts and pundits still fail to understand that for Hamas, the duty of Jihad is paramount. Hamas' purpose is to undermine the foundations of Israeli existence, paving the way for its utter elimination. This attack was Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar's life's mission, not a step taken to derail Israeli-Saudi normalization.
  • The accusation of being cut off from reality applies to those who studied Sinwar, yet could not figure out his intentions. Instead of cracking open the enemy's logic, and carefully reading its value system which reflects a different model of rationality, many of the analysts and pundits were projecting their own logic upon Sinwar, effectively playing chess with themselves.

    The writer heads the Forum for Palestinian Studies at the Dayan Center of Tel Aviv University and is a senior researcher at the Institute for Policy and Strategy of Reichman University.

Daily Alert is published Sunday through Friday during the war.
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert.