March 1, 2024
Special Edition
A project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israel's Global Embassy for National Security and Applied Diplomacy

In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Authority Police Officer Murders Two Israelis at Gas Station - Elisha Ben Kimon (Ynet News)
    Muhammad Manassara, 31, a major in the Palestinian Authority police, murdered two people on Thursday in a shooting attack at a gas station near the Israeli community of Eli.
    Manassara is associated with the Fatah movement and has spent time in Israeli prisons. He was killed at the scene.
    Eight months ago, four people were killed in a shooting attack at the same gas station.
    See also Rabbi, Teen Hitchhiker Killed in Terror Shooting - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    The victims of the shooting Thursday at the Eli gas station were Rabbi Yitzhak Zeiger, 57, a volunteer with rescue services and a father of three, and Uria Hartum, 16, a high school student who had been hitching a ride with Zeiger.
    Zeiger was shot while getting gas and Hartum was killed as he sat inside the car.

U.S. Survey Reports Increase in Antisemitic Prejudice (Anti-Defamation League)
    The number of Americans who hold antisemitic beliefs increased to 24%, up from 20% in 2022, according to a survey of 4,000 adults on Jan. 5-18, 2024, by the ADL Center for Antisemitism Research.
    42% of Americans either have friends/family who dislike Jews or find it socially acceptable for a close family member to support Hamas.
    33% at least somewhat agree that Israeli operatives are manipulating U.S. national policy. 30% at least somewhat believe that Israel controls the media.

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The War in Gaza Had a Crushing Effect on the Egyptian Economy - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    The Egyptian economy has suffered a serious, unexpected blow from the war in Gaza.
    Before the war, it was limping along - with the lingering effects of the pandemic, the Russian war in Ukraine having caused grain prices to soar, the Egyptian pound having fallen to an unprecedented low against the dollar, and the International Monetary Fund having halted loan payments to the country.
    The war in Gaza had a crushing effect on two crucial sources of revenue. The tourism industry, in which three million Egyptians are employed, was swiftly crippled.
    Cancellations, primarily at Red Sea resorts, hit more than 70%, many hotels shut down and many thousands of employees, guides and service providers were out of work.
    The Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping and the diversion of shipping routes from the Suez Canal reduced the country's revenue from the canal by 40-60%, which translates into a loss of $4-6 billion a year.
    This situation also has a direct effect on Egypt's textile industry, which relies on imported raw materials from India and the Far East.

Why Do the EU and U.S. Have Separate Security Operations in the Red Sea? - Agnes Helou (Breaking Defense)
    There are now two separate Western missions to protect commercial vessels in the Red Sea: the EUNAVFOR Aspides mission launched by the EU last week and the U.S.-led Operation Prosperity Guardian launched in December.
    Analysts said the move by European nations to launch their own mission signals a push for independence from the U.S.-led operation's more aggressive approach to taking on the Houthi threat.
    David Des Roches, associate professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Security Studies, said the Europeans "do not want to be seen as part of a U.S. operation, which they fear will have an offensive component."
    U.S. officials have stressed that Prosperity Guardian is a "defensive coalition" and is separate from the offensive American and British military strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen.

If Protests Are Not Anti-Jewish, Stop Attacking Jews - Editorial (Toronto Sun-Canada)
    Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Canada have insisted they're not against Jews, just "Zionists" and Israel's military response in Gaza.
    But if these protests are not against Jews, why are Jewish neighborhoods, businesses, places of worship, community centers, university students, and a hospital in Toronto founded by Jews which treats everyone regardless of their faith, being targeted?
    Why have bullets been fired at Jewish day schools, Jewish gathering places firebombed, and Jewish homes defaced with Swastikas? Why are reported hate crimes against Jews skyrocketing across the country, if it's not about hating Jews?
    The reality is that holding Jews living in Canada responsible for the military actions of the Israeli government in Gaza is Jew-hatred.
    It is as morally repugnant as holding Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians living in Canada responsible for the terrorism of Hamas in Israel.
    So if it's not about Jews in Canada today, stop attacking them.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Aid Delivery in Gaza Turns Deadly - Miriam Berger
    More than 100 people were killed Thursday, Gazan health officials said, after a crowd converged on a humanitarian aid convoy in Gaza City. Israeli officials blamed the casualties on a stampede. Nir Dinar, head of the IDF's international press department, said there was "no IDF involvement" in the "mass casualty" event. He said IDF troops on one end of the convoy did fire at people who approached Israeli forces in a threatening manner, but he said the deaths occurred as the result of a crush at the other end of the convoy.
        IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said Thursday, "We have been conducting a humanitarian operation of this kind for the last four nights without any problem. This was the first night that we had this kind of event."  (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Blocks Security Council Motion Blaming Israel for Deadly Gaza Aid Convoy Incident - Emanuel Fabian
    Amid American opposition, Arab nations failed Thursday to get immediate support for a UN Security Council statement blaming Israel for the more than 100 reported deaths as Palestinians in northern Gaza swarmed an aid convoy. U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said, "The problem is that we don't have all the facts here," adding that he wanted the wording to reflect "the necessary due diligence with regards to culpability."
        The IDF said it did not fire at the crowd rushing the main aid convoy. It acknowledged that troops opened fire on several Gazans who moved toward soldiers at an IDF checkpoint, endangering them. (Times of Israel)
        See also below IDF: "We Didn't Fire at Humanitarian Convoy" in Gaza - Meir Turgeman (Ynet News)
  • Pentagon Walks Back Austin's Gaza Casualty Figures
    U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Congress on Thursday that more than 25,000 women and children had been killed by Israel in Gaza since Oct. 7, but the Pentagon later clarified that estimate, saying the figure came from the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, not U.S. intelligence. Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokesperson, said that Austin was referring to total Palestinians killed, not just women and children. "We cannot independently verify these Gaza casualty figures," she said. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF: "We Didn't Fire at Humanitarian Convoy" in Gaza - Meir Turgeman
    IDF Spokesman Daniel Hagari on Thursday discussed the incident in Gaza in which more than 100 Palestinians who swarmed humanitarian aid trucks were killed. "We did not fire at the humanitarian convoy, we secured it," Hagari said. "As these vital humanitarian supplies made their way toward Gazans in need, thousands of Gazans ambushed the trucks, some began violently pushing and trampling other Gazans to death, looting the humanitarian supplies. Dozens of Gazans were killed and injured as a result of the stampede. Unfortunately, the Palestinian trucks ran over them."
        "The IDF was securing the humanitarian corridor so that the aid convoy could reach its destination in northern Gaza. The tanks that were there to secure the convoy saw the Gazans being trampled and cautiously tried to disperse the mob with a few warning shots." Referring to a video from a drone during the incident, he said, "You can see how cautious they were when they were backing up. They were backing up securely, risking their own lives, not shooting at the mob. This humanitarian aid was coordinated by Israel for the people of Gaza. We want the aid to reach the people of Gaza. We are working around the clock to make this happen."  (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Seeks to Use Gaza Stampede to Stop the War - Ron Ben Yishai
    The Palestinians are trying to turn the tragic incident in Gaza into a "massacre" for which Israel and the IDF are responsible, in order to halt IDF ground operations in Gaza. We encountered a similar situation at the beginning of ground operations when an Islamic Jihad rocket fell in the courtyard of a hospital and killed dozens of Palestinians.
        Humanitarian aid trucks carrying food entered northern Gaza through an IDF checkpoint. Gazans who stormed and attempted to loot the food from the trucks were either trampled by the crowd or run over by drivers trying to escape. This is clearly seen in drone footage and the IDF had no involvement. In a second incident, armed individuals - likely from Hamas or other terror organizations - fired at the crowd to deter them or to steal from the trucks themselves.
        In a third incident, part of the Gazan crowd that tried to approach the trucks came within tens of meters of IDF soldiers. According to an IDF officer on-site, IDF soldiers felt threatened, fired warning shots in the air, and then fired at the feet of the advancing crowd. From the footage taken from the air, it can be shown that most of the casualties occurred in incidents where the military wasn't involved. The Palestinian claims are clearly exaggerated and false.
        Journalists from CNN and other international media outlets interviewed Palestinians who were present there, with the Gazans recounting that the truck drivers ran over a significant portion of the looters, and that the crowd trampled over many others. (Ynet News)
  • Airdropped Aid to Gaza Lands in Israel
    Due to strong winds, humanitarian aid that was airdropped into northern Gaza by the Jordanian army was blown into Israeli territory, Israeli media reported on Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Hamas Still Believes It Can Survive - Con Coughlin
    It is a cardinal rule when dealing with Islamist terrorists to make it clear that only their total and unequivocal capitulation will bring hostilities to an end. Anything less gives them the impression that they may yet turn a situation, no matter how bleak, to their advantage. It is a policy that has worked extremely effectively in dealing with the likes of al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
        The Hamas fanatics responsible for carrying out the worst terrorist attack in Israel's history on Oct. 7 look set to suffer a similar fate - so long as the Israel Defense Forces are allowed to continue with their punishing offensive to wipe the movement off the face of the earth, which is the Israeli government's declared aim. Yet, far from conceding defeat, Hamas still believes it can ultimately survive the Gaza conflict.
        It is remarkable that those campaigning in support of Hamas fail to grasp the full extent of the movement's total commitment to resorting to acts of extreme violence to achieve its ends. The Palestinian convicts whose release Hamas is demanding from Israeli prisons are not political prisoners of conscience. Many of them are calculating killers similar to those who carried out the Oct. 7 attacks, who think nothing of murdering innocent women and children. (Telegraph-UK)
  • The Origin of Hamas' Human Shields Strategy in Gaza - Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib
    In November 2006, months after Hamas won parliamentary elections and after the group began entrenching its rule in Gaza, Nizar Rayan, a fiery Hamas religious cleric, introduced a novel strategy to protect the houses of Hamas militants from IDF bombardment.
        Rayan marshaled hundreds of civilians into a house that had received IDF warnings of an impending strike. Instead of fleeing, Rayan called on people to swarm the house and cover its rooftop with as many civilians as possible to force the Israeli military into a choice: Either commit a massacre or call off the airstrike. Israel called off the strike, and the incident received widespread international attention.
        Rayan proclaimed victory and vowed to use the self-described "human shields on rooftops" strategy to prevent future destruction of Hamas members' houses and infrastructure. It would be used dozens of times in the years leading up to the first major war between Israel and Hamas in 2008-2009.
        The human shields strategy progressively grew as part of Hamas' defensive posture in which it counted on its activities and assets within urban and crowded areas being immune from Israeli attacks that could result in widespread civilian casualties. (Newsweek)
  • I Saw How Hamas Was Embedded in Gaza's Civilian Population - Natan Kohn-Magnus
    American political commentator Jon Stewart is an intelligent and caring person, but in his latest monologue on the current war in Gaza he critiques Israel's "incessant bombing of civilians."
        I served in the IDF's 5th reserve infantry brigade, spending nearly a month and a half inside Gaza. During the fighting, I spent time in nearly 20 different buildings. In nearly every location, we found Palestinian terror infrastructure, from assault rifles and ammunition to grenades, explosives, and mines, detailed intelligence maps (including of Israeli targets), uniforms, and propaganda.
        Then there is the underground infrastructure, tunnels used to fire rockets indiscriminately at Israel (often landing inside Gaza, killing Palestinian civilians) and to house Israeli hostages. The extent to which Hamas is embedded in civilian infrastructure is truly unprecedented.
        Facing this reality, and given Hamas' brutal attack, Israel has been forced to systematically dismantle Gaza's terror network - tunnels that go under hospitals and schools, launch sites from mosques, weapons caches in children's bedrooms. The blood of each civilian death is on Hamas' hands for forcing Israel into a war of no-choice and then cowering behind its human shields. In this context, the IDF's actions are not indiscriminate but unavoidable.
        The reality remains that the current fighting is, in the words of former U.S. army general David Petraeus, the "most fiendishly difficult and challenging urban operation since 1945." This context cannot be ignored. (Times of Israel)
  • The Gaza War Is Testing Hizbullah's Strategic Capability - Dr. Lina Khatib
    After Hamas' assault on Israel on Oct. 7, Hizbullah was the first to attack Israel on another front. Despite being the instigator of the fight, Hizbullah is not setting the agenda. Its main priority is survival rather than victory.
        Over the last four months, Hizbullah has been trying to retain its credibility as a major actor in Iran's "axis of resistance," while steering clear of escalation with Israel. Hizbullah knows that there is little appetite for all-out war among its supporters - and also that such a war would end up hurting, not serving, Iran.
        The majority of Israeli attacks on Lebanon have carefully targeted Hizbullah sites and personnel, exposing the vulnerability of Hizbullah's military and security apparatus. Hizbullah's inability to protect civilians in Lebanon will act as a brake on its actions. Hizbullah is unable to compensate Lebanese civilian households which have been affected by Israel's ongoing operations, in stark contrast to its large-scale compensation campaign in the aftermath of its war with Israel in 2006.
        At that time, Hizbullah largely delivered on its promises, due to Iranian backing and Gulf Arab funding of reconstruction in the south. But Hizbullah's ability to harness funding for its supporters is not what it once was, with a financial crisis in Lebanon, the halting of unconditional Gulf Arab aid, and stepped-up Western sanctions on Hizbullah's and Iran's international financial networks.
        For now, with Iran unwilling to be drawn into the Gaza war and domestic support uncertain, Hizbullah's hands are tied - despite its large arsenal and an Israeli assault that is set to widen.
        The writer is an Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Program, at Chatham House policy institute in London. (Chatham House-UK)
  • Berkeley Lets Loose an Antisemitic Mob - Editorial
    On Monday at the University of California, Berkeley, a pro-Palestinian mob surrounded a campus auditorium, broke a window, and harassed Jewish students trying to enter the building. Israeli lawyer Ran Bar-Yoshafat was invited by a Jewish student group to address the subject of Israel and international law. But the speech never happened, as some 200 protesters chanted "intifada" and "free Palestine" and banged on windows, surrounding and shouting at those trying to enter. Students and the speaker were evacuated for their personal safety.
        Shouting down unpopular speakers is common on campus, but the vitriol directed at students sets this incident apart. One student captured on a video clip said the protesters shouted "Jew, Jew, Jew" in his face and spat at him. Silencing and intimidation are the intended outcome. Progressives claim that being anti-Israel or anti-Zionist isn't the same as being antisemitic. Events at Berkeley shows how dishonest that claim is. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also UC Berkeley Police Begin Criminal Probe of Anti-Israel Protest that Turned Violent - Maya Mirsky (Jewish News of Northern California)

President Biden Reverses U.S. Policy on Settlements - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
  • Now is the time, President Biden has decided, to campaign against Israeli settlements. If this were a priority, he could have done it at any point in the past three years. The policy change occurred in the lead up to Tuesday's Michigan Democratic primary, in which Arab-American groups sought to embarrass the President. Some coincidence.
  • The West Bank area was included in the League of Nations' Mandate for Palestine granted to Britain to create a Jewish "national home." Israel has a real claim, and so do the Palestinians - hence the dispute. The area, also known as Judea and Samaria, is the biblical Jewish heartland. Israel conquered it in 1967 not from Palestine, but from Jordan, which had invaded Israel.
  • Jordan had occupied the West Bank since seizing it in 1948, after which it expelled every Jew. Can the Israelis who later returned - and their children and grandchildren - all be condemned as squatters and international criminals?
  • U.S. policy has generally maintained that the dispute is fundamentally political, to be resolved in final-status negotiations rather than by lawyers or biased international bodies. President Reagan rejected the view that Israeli settlements are illegal, and that position held across U.S. administrations until President Obama's parting shot. In 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo found that the settlements are "not per se inconsistent with international law."
  • Criminalizing all 500,000 Israelis in the West Bank won't bring peace closer. It tells the Palestinians, who have rebuffed every offer of statehood, that they needn't make concessions. The U.S. will make their dreams come true.
  • On Feb. 1, Biden created an open-ended sanctions regime that can hit any Israelis deemed to "threaten the peace, security, or stability of the West Bank," as well as their U.S. supporters. The entire Palestinian leadership would fit that criteria, but Biden is trying to award them a state.
  • Violence by Israelis is thankfully a marginal phenomenon, and it has declined since Oct. 7. The picture of wanton violence by Israeli civilians against peaceful Palestinians is an inversion of West Bank reality. In the first half of 2023, Israeli civilians living there faced more than 500 attacks a month.

        See also Misreporting the U.S. Position on the Legality of Israeli Communities in Judea and Samaria - Tamar Sternthal
    The Biden Administration's decision on Feb. 23 to reinstate President Obama's position that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law has been the subject of recurrent misreporting on American policy. Reuters said the move signaled "a return to long-standing U.S. policy on the issue." The New York Times alleged that the move "restores a decades-old U.S. policy."
        In fact, the Trump administration's 2019 decision overturned a policy that was in place for just three years - and not decades as reported. Prior to the 2016 Obama decision, and dating back decades until the Carter administration, U.S. policy did not take a stance on the legality of Israeli settlements. Since the Reagan administration, which explicitly said it did not believe the settlements were illegal, U.S. administrations had not characterized them as illegal.
        The writer is director of CAMERA's Israel Office. (CAMERA)
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