News Digest — 11/11/22

Tens Of Thousands Attend Rare Fatah Rally In Hamas-Controlled Gaza Strip

Turning a huge park in Gaza City into a sea of yellow flags, tens of thousands of Palestinians on Thursday (10th) commemorated the anniversary of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat  – a rare show of support for the Fatah faction in the heartland of its Islamist rival Hamas.

The rally passed without incident, though Gaza’s Hamas rulers have in the past blocked and violently dispersed demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian Authority head, Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.  The Palestinian parties have been bitterly divided between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for 15 years.

Crowds marched to Gaza City’s Katiba Park waving the yellow flags of Fatah, which Arafat founded in the 60s.  They also raised photographs of Abbas, Arafat’s successor.

Arafat died in 2004 at a hospital in France after two years of an Israeli siege on his West Bank headquarters.  

For Fatah, the ability to mobilize the masses serves as a referendum on its popularity in Hamas-run Gaza.  In 2007, Hamas routed pro-Abbas forces and seized the territory after a bloody week of street fighting.

The reputation of Hamas, which administers Gaza under an Egyptian-Israeli blockade and the threat of repeated destructive conflicts with Israel, has suffered among Palestinians in recent years.  The group has hiked taxes on residents but struggled to provide even basic services for them.  Four wars with Israel and the 15-year blockade (to prevent Hamas from stockpiling weapons) have devastated Gaza’s economy.

In a recorded message played at the rally, Abbas called for Palestinian unity saying, “This pain and agony will not end unless the division, which took our cause backward, ends.”

Hamas does not easily grant permits for such Fatah demonstrations in its territory.  In 2007, a few months after taking over Gaza, Hamas attacked Arafat’s anniversary rally and killed six Palestinians.  In 2014, authorities prevented Fatah from holding another gathering.

But at the height of Egyptian efforts to reconcile the Palestinian factions and end the enduring political and geographical schism in 2017, Hamas allowed Fatah to hold an Arafat celebration.

Last month, officials from Hamas and Fatah held a new round of reconciliation talks in Algeria and signed an outline for an agreement that would pave the way for elections.  But few are optimistic the factions can overcome their differences, as they have failed to implement past deals.



For Over A Decade: Lebanese Farmers Have Crossed Into Israel’s Territory To Harvest Olives

For over a decade, the IDF has been making the humanitarian effort of allowing Lebanese farmers to cross the Blue Line into Israeli territory for the seasonal olive harvest.

These olive groves, which are located between the Blue Line and the Israeli security fence, prove a vital source of income for Lebanese farmers.

This source of income becomes all the more important when put in the larger context of the economic and social crisis that plagues Lebanon.

According to an IDF official, “The direct and indirect economic damage caused to the people of Lebanon and their livelihood by the Hezbollah terrorist army is severe and substantial.  While Hezbollah destabilizes the area surrounding the Blue Line and harms the citizens of Lebanon, the State of Israel works to alleviate the plight of the residents living along it.”

“UNIFIL has a central role in ensuring the conduction of humanitarian gestures,” the official added.



WJC President Calls Emergency Meeting On Antisemitism In Colleges

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald Lauder has called an emergency meeting to intensify the fight against antisemitism on college campuses, Lauder announced at a gala dinner on Wednesday (9th).

“Today’s hatred of Jews has set its focus on one target: the world’s only Jewish state, Israel,” Lauder said, adding that its enemies “are using a new weapon. … Now they may be succeeding at undermining Israel politically.  And they are concentrating their efforts in high schools, colleges and universities to turn the next generation, even Jewish students, against Israel.”

The WJC president underscored the need for a unified global Jewish community.

At the gala dinner, Lauder awarded the organization’s top honor, the Theodor Herzl Award to former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin for his leadership of Israel and Jewish communities around the world.

“During a challenging moment in Israeli politics, Reuven Rivlin’s positive voice, his optimism and his spirit, has always been a reminder of the profound vision of hope for the Jewish State that welcomes all people, of all religions, and all ethnic groups,” said Lauder.  “From his earlier work in the Knesset through his presidency, Reuven Rivlin represents the very best of Israeli leadership.” 

Rivlin stressed that while the Jewish people have the “the historical, legal and moral right to sovereignty” in Israel, “sovereignty must also be earned by responsibility, by the fact that we respect our rights as a sovereign nation to uphold the civil rights of all citizens in our state.”

“The State of Israel was built in 1948 according to two values…that Israel must be Jewish, Jewish and democratic – in one tone, in one breath,” said Rivlin.

Later on in the event, Ken Burns, award-winning documentary filmmaker, received the seventh WJC Teddy Kollek Award for the Advancement of Jewish Culture for his 2022 series “The US and the Holocaust,” which depicts the plight of Europe’s vulnerable Jews and underscores the importance of WJC’s mission.

Burns was introduced by Dr. Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State and 2014 Theodor Herzl Award honoree.

Wednesday’s dinner was conducted on the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.  The WJC displayed digitally reconstructed images of four destroyed synagogues burned to the ground during the Kristallnacht pogroms in Berlin, Dortmund, Frankfurt and Munich, Germany.



Four Men Hurl Slurs, Make Hitler Salutes At Jewish Elementary Students

Four men jumped into a school bus full of Jewish elementary students, hurled antisemitic slurs, and performed the Heil Hitler salute at the group of terrified children on Wednesday (9th) before the bus driver succeeded in forcing them off the bus.

The bus was dropping off Jewish elementary Jewish students from a local Orthodox Jewish school in Chicago, in the West Rogers Park neighborhood.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading global Jewish human rights NGO, has expressed its alarm over the antisemitic hate crime.  The organization has been in close contact with the Chicago Police Department and a number of the parents of the children affected by this antisemitic encounter.

“The Simon Wiesenthal Center is urging anyone with information about the antisemitic incident to contact the Chicago PD or the Midwest offices of the Simon Wiesenthal Center,” said Allison Pure Slovin, the SWC Midwest Director.

“This shocking incident took place on the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogroms that destroyed almost all synagogues across Germany and Austria in November, 1938.  Many in the Jewish community have family members who lived through those horrors.”

“The Chicago Commission on Human Relations reported that hate crimes targeting Jews are up 75% in the city of Chicago.  But for our community, it is not just statistics but the fear and anger such incidents generate,” Slovin said.

She noted that members of the City Council of Chicago recently passed a resolution reaffirming their commitment to the Jewish community in the face of growing antisemitism.

The Israeli-American Council (IAC) School Watch Initiative reported a rise of hundreds of percent of complaints on behalf of Jewish children on antisemitism in schools, one year after the watchdog’s founding.

School Watch was designed to “contribute to a safe school environment and reduce incidents of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, national origin discrimination and hate,” according to its mission statement.

Students, parents, or educators that have experienced antisemitism or encountered antisemitic or anti-Zionist content in schools are able to file complaints.  The IAC then brings them to the attention of the school or district levels and follows them through.

“I cannot remember the last time that there were so many cases of teenagers using the word ‘Hitler’ in American public schools,” IAC’s CEO Shoham Nicolet told The Jerusalem Post, from his home in California.

Nicolet shared that there has been a rise in incidents in public schools overall.  Nicolet said he thinks some of them may be credited to the antisemitic statements made recently by rapper Kanye West and basketball player Kyrie Irving.



Iran’s Ballistic Missiles And The Folly Of Appeasement – Michael Doran And Can Kasapoglu

The news that Iran’s contribution to Russia’s war effort in Ukraine will soon include ballistic missiles as well as kamikaze drones has alerted the world to the surprising advances the Islamic Republic has made in disruptive weapons technologies.  To the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, these technologies are as important as its nuclear-weapons program.

Recently-retired commander of US Central Command, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, said on October 6th: ”Over the past five to seven years, Iranian capabilities…have risen to such a degree that now they possess what I would call effective ‘overmatch’ against their neighbors.  ‘Overmatch’ is a military term that means you have the ability to attack, and the defender won’t be able to mount a successful defense.”

The IRGC combines ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones in strike packages, each with different flight characteristics, radar signatures and homing angles.  When launched simultaneously, they tax the sensors of missile-defense systems.  Even the most sophisticated systems operating at peak performance can’t prevent at least some of Iran’s weapons, when launched in significant quantities, from hitting their targets.

Solely defensive weapons can’t reverse an offense-dominant regime.  A shield alone can’t fend off a powerful sword.  A shield is most effective when wielded together with a sword.  Only the US has the power to persuade Khamenei that his aggressions will result in unbearable pain for him.  But the current US administration has systematically taught him the opposite, that it much prefers to cover acts of Iranian aggression rather than to punish them.

Mr. Doran is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Peace and Security in the Middle East.  Mr. Kasapoglu is a nonresident senior fellow at Hudson.



German Jewish Refugees Held In UK Internment Camps During World War II – Amy Spiro

In May 1940, fearing an imminent German invasion, the British government authorized the arrest and detention of all German citizens residing in the UK.  Around 30,000 Germans were rounded up and sent to internment camps – the vast majority of whom were Jewish refugees who had fled the Nazis, many with British assistance.  Among them were my grandfather, great-grandfather and great-uncle, held in Hutchinson Camp on the Isle of Man.

A new book from British journalist Simon Parkin, The Island of Extraordinary Captives, illustrates the lives of the men held in Hutchinson Camp, many of whom were prominent artists, musicians and intellectuals.  Some of the refugees had arrived in Britain as teenagers on the Kindertransports.  Others had been imprisoned in concentration camps and managed to escape to the UK.

Articles in the Hutchinson Camp newspaper revealed anger, bewilderment and a sense of betrayal at being locked up by the British.  The front page of the October 15, 1940 edition included a call to the camp commander begging for inmates to be allowed to work for the war effort and “prove our loyalty to Great Britain and our hatred of Nazidom.”  Many were terrified that they would be repatriated to Germany or exchanged in a prisoner-of-war swap.  Others feared that the Nazis would invade the Isle of Man and delight to find so many Jews already rounded up as easy targets.