News Digest — 1/25/24

Hamas Rejects Hostage Deal, Gallant Blames Its Leadership Abroad

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant blamed the Hamas leadership abroad for thwarting a hostage deal by taking a hardline stance as KAN news reported that the terror group had rejected the latest Israeli initiative.

“I am now hearing the beginning of all kinds of announcements on behalf of all kinds of Hamas officials, who are talking about hostage deals, as a result of their contacts in Egypt and Qatar,” Gallant told soldiers during a visit down south.

He charged that “the most extreme people in the Hamas negotiations are the ones who are the furthest away from the Gaza Strip – those who fly in luxury planes and sit in luxury hotels.”

“Those who suffer in Gaza and are constantly under your tanks’ chains are not such heroes.  I hear what they say; most of them want to stop fighting,” Gallant said.

Hamas has insisted that any deal must include a permanent ceasefire, while Israel has stood on its principled-position that the war can only end when the terror group is ousted from the enclave.

Kan said that Hamas, in rejecting the latest proposal, had wanted the IDF to fully withdraw from Gaza in the first stage of the deal.  Many of the proposals have included phased releases of the 132 hostages still held in Gaza.



Israeli Ambassador At Security Council Meeting: Iran’s Terror Will Reach All Of  You

On Tuesday afternoon (23rd), Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan delivered a speech at a high-level Security Council meeting on the Israel-Hamas war.  The Foreign Ministers of Russia, France, Slovenia, Iran, and more participated in the meeting.

Ambassador Erdan strongly criticized the calls for a ceasefire in the Council: “Yet shockingly, many here on the Security Council are advocating for a permanent ceasefire, while giving no thought to the implications.  What do you think will happen if there is a ceasefire?”

“I’ll tell you what will happen: Hamas will remain in power.  They will regroup and rearm.  And soon the Israelis will face another attempted Holocaust.”

“Is this the outcome you seek for all of us?  That once again, Israel will be forced to carry out another defensive operation in Gaza?  Do you truly expect us to leave our hostages in Hamas terror tunnels?  As long as Hamas remains in power, a very dark future is inevitable for all of us.”

“How can you call for a ceasefire and mention a solution to the conflict at the same time?  This is a complete oxymoron.  You cannot have both  – it’s impossible.”

“Hamas seeks to annihilate Israel and if you support a position that will leave Hamas in power, you cannot pretend to wish for a solution to the conflict.  The past 18 years have proven this.”

In addition, Ambassador Erdan referred to the complete absurdity of inviting Iran’s Foreign Minister to deliver a speech at the United Nations on Israel and the situation in the Middle East, stating, “Minister Amir Abdollahian  represents the regime that arms and instructs Hezbollah to target our civilians.  He represents the regime that transfers weapons and intelligence to the Houthis.”

During his remarks, Ambassador Erdan presented a photograph of Iranian weapons on their way to the Houthis that were intercepted by the United States Navy.  “This is clear proof of who is masterminding this so-called spillover.”

Ambassador Erdan also asked, “Has Iran’s Foreign Minister come here to be held accountable?  We all know the answer.”

“The Iranian regime murders women, murders innocent protestors, and just yesterday another innocent Iranian, Mohammad Ghobadloo, was executed.  And while innocent Iranians swing from the gallows, Minister Amir-Abdollahian will sit here and lecture us on the sanctity of human life.”

Ambassador Erdan also addressed Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who was present at the meeting. saying “Iranian drones are being used by Russia to kill civilians in Ukraine.  Iran’s terror will reach all of you.  We all know this, even Russia who collaborates with Iran.”



UN Chief Antonio Guterres To Sit Out Of Holocaust Event For First Time In 10 years

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will not make his usual appearance at a prominent New York City Synagogue’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day event this year.

Guterres and his predecessor Ban Ki-moon, have been featured guests at the annual event at Park East Synagogue for at least the past decade.

But this year, Guterres said he would sit the event out because it should be centered on survivors, as well as the “pain” of the Jewish community as it contends with anti-Semitism amid the Israel-Hamas war.

“Following the terror attacks by Hamas on October 7, and the subsequent rise of anti-Semitism and the continued pain of the community, the Saturday (27th) service at Park East Synagogue will be focused on healing and the testimony of survivors,” a spokesperson for Guterres told the New York Jewish Week via email.  “It will not be an event for the diplomatic community so, therefore, the Secretary-General will not be attending.”

It was not clear if the decision to exclude Guterres from the ceremony was made by the synagogue or the secretary-general, or mutually.  It will be held at the Upper East Side Orthodox congregation on Saturday (27th), a date designated by the UN General Assembly in 2005 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In response to an inquiry, Park East said via email that this year’s event “will focus on the Shoah and the barbaric attack on Israel October 7, the kidnapped hostages, the rise of worldwide anti-Semitism, and internal pain.”

Israel’s acting consul general in New York, Aviv Ezra, will attend the event, alongside the synagogue’s Rabbi, Arthur Schneier, and the families of Holocaust survivors.  The event will include testimony from a former Gaza hostage and from the brother and sister of a hostage still being held by Hamas, the synagogue said.

Guterres’ absence from the event will come as he has faced heavy criticism from Israel and its supporters for his response to the war.

On October 7, he incensed Israelis by saying that the Hamas attack “did not happen in a vacuum,” linking the terrorist atrocities to occupation, settlements and economic woes.  That statement led to Gilad Erdan, Israel’s UN ambassador, to call for Guterres’ resignation.

Guterres is also not expected to attend a Holocaust Remembrance Day event hosted by the Israeli mission to the UN on Wednesday (31st), the mission said.  The UN chief will attend a Friday (26th) memorial ceremony at UN headquarters that will be attended by Erdan and the State Department’s anti-Semitic envoy, Deborah Lipstadt, according to the UN schedule.

Guterres has delivered a speech at Park East for International Holocaust Remembrance Day each year since he assumed office in 2017.  Last year Guterres said it was “an enormous privilege” to speak at the event.

At the time, he said, “The Holocaust did not happen as a ‘lesson’ for humanity.  But, it did happen.  And because it happened, it may happen again.  We must be forever vigilant.  Anti-Semitism has been described as the canary in the coal mine of freedom.  Throughout millennia, the persecution of Jews was a mark of rotten societies.”



Hundreds Of Israelis, Jews From North America Volunteer On Israel Farms

The months following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war have seen an increase in the arrival of Jews from North America to volunteer in Israel.

OU Israel provides them with opportunities to help the hundreds of farmers in need of assistance following the devastation of communities in the Gaza periphery and the mass departure of foreign workers.

The organization has been sending on average fifty volunteers a week, both those from Israel and those from abroad, on buses to go to different areas to help with various needs in Israel.

Hundreds of volunteers and tourists have been joined by English-speaking immigrants, both new and veteran olim, from teenagers to senior citizens who want to help.

Volunteer Adina Muehglay, from Passaic, NJ, who volunteered to pick citrus fruits together with her son in the Hod Hasharon area said, “We cannot thank the OU enough for this opportunity.  I am ecstatic to be here in Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel], walking the land, being with the Jewish people – it is such an incredible privilege.”

Peri Garfinkel, a resident of Jerusalem, who volunteered to pick fruit with her granddaughter, said, “I made aliyah two and a half years ago to live in Jerusalem.  We are so happy to be helping in the war effort and picking oranges.  I heard that they really need us so I feel very good about it.”

OU Israel Program Director Rabbi Sam Shor said, “There is such a spirit of unity and desire on behalf of Jews across the globe to give and support Israel in any way possible during this difficult period.  Through OU Israel’s efforts to provide support to Israeli farmers, so many people have found a meaningful and enjoyable way to do their individual part, assist the farmers, and provide the farmers with tremendous emotional support and encouragement as well.  Our many busloads of volunteers of all ages have been made up of both veteran and recent olim as well as many tourists who have come specifically to help Israel during this time.  OU Israel is happy to provide these opportunities, which make it possible specifically for English speakers who might have a harder time learning about and finding opportunities to volunteer, with meaningful ways to contribute.”

According to OU Israel Executive Director Rabbi Avi Berman, “We are seeing a unity in Am Israel that warms our hearts.  Despite the many difficulties since the beginning of the war, Jews from all walks of life have turned to us every day with a desire to give, a desire to be part of the story of the Jewish people.  They want to travel the country, help the youth who are evacuated from their homes, pick its fruits, and help the soldiers in any way necessary.  The unity is incredible and we pray that we will continue to see this spirit of togetherness long-term.”   



‘October 7’ Restaurant Opens In Jordan, Appearing To Fete Hamas’ Massacre

A new restaurant in Jordan is named “October 7,” apparently celebrating Palestinian terror group Hamas’ massacre of Israelis on that day.

The shawarma eatery has been opened in the southern Mazar district, south of the city of Kerak near the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, according to a video posted on social media.

The clip was published approvingly Wednesday evening (24th) on X by Dima Tahboub, a former member of parliament, writer, political analyst and a member of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative Islamist organization, of which Hamas is an off-shoot.

In the two-minute video, an unidentified man films the customer-packed restaurant from outside, as well as its surroundings, and then goes into the eatery, where customers and employees with “October 7” robes greet him.

There were no immediate reactions from Israeli officials Thursday morning (25th).

Jordan became in 1994 the second Arab state to make peace with Israel, after Egypt in 1979.  Thousands of protesters have called for Amman to rescind its peace treaty with Israel because of the war against Hamas.  Jordan’s population is believed to be 50% Palestinian.

War erupted on October 7 when Hamas terrorists broke through the border with Gaza and rampaged through southern Israel communities, slaughtering more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians and kidnapping 253 others, under the cover of a deluge of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

Two weeks into the war, Israel issued a warning against travel to Jordan and other Arab countries.



A Just War, With An Overwhelming Cost – Editorial

In the horrific explosions in central Gaza on Monday (22nd), just meters away from Israel’s border, 21 fathers, sons, husbands, and brothers were extinguished, 21 dreams were snuffed out, 21 families were left devastated.

One might have expected that a tragedy of this magnitude would have led to a chorus of voices inside Israel saying, “Enough is enough; it is time to end the war and bring the soldiers home.”  But that chorus did not emerge, and that is telling.  To the contrary, the dominant message heard Monday (22nd) was the need to continue forward, despite the mind-numbing loss.

That message – keep fighting, despite the cost – is one heard often at the funerals of fallen soldiers as well as in conversations with soldiers and reservists who have fought in Gaza.  These reactions showed that almost 16 weeks into a war that Israel neither expected, wanted, nor triggered, the country has not lost sight of what it is all about.

Israel is fighting because its people were murdered, mutilated, and raped; Israel is fighting to get back those hostages taken by a maniacal terrorist regime; Israel is fighting to ensure that Hamas can never do this again; and Israel is fighting to send a message to others who may seek to emulate Hamas that it would not be in their best interests to do so.

This war with Hamas is a just war of no choice.  This explains the widespread support to continue it, despite the exorbitantly high price and the pain and sorrow felt by millions of Israelis.