News Digest — 9/29/23

Bnei Menashe Indian Jews Celebrate Sukkot Despite Ethnic Unrest

The Bnei Menashe Jewish community of northeastern India will gather to celebrate the Sukkot holiday this week, despite widespread violent unrest that has targeted this ethnic Jewish minority in the region since May 2023.

This community,which numbers roughly 5,000 total inside India, has become a victim of ethnic tensions in the northern state of Manipur.  The world’s most populous nation has seen attacks on Bnei Menashe Jews carried out by local tribes since May 3 when ethnic majority Meiteis and the tribal minority Kukis began a violent conflagration experts say had been building up for years.

According to Shavei Israel, an NGO that helps “lost tribe” Jewish communities immigrate to Israel, over 1,000 members of the community, or 20% of their total, have been displaced amid the violence.  One community member was killed  – Yoel Baite, a father of 4 – while another was shot in the chest and hospitalized.  Jewish centers such as synagogues and mikvot (ritual baths) have been burned down.

“Despite these challenging times for the Bnei Menashe and even in the farthest reaches of northeastern India, they have continued to uphold the ancient tradition of building Sukkot in honor of the festival,” said Shavei Israel founder and chairman Michael Freund.  “We fervently hope that next year, they will be able to do so in Israel.”

Shavei Israel, which has promoted the aliyah of Bnei Menashe Jews to Israel for two decades, has thus far opened a relief center to assist more than 1,000 Bnei Menashe who have sought a refuge there.  The organization’s staff has been arranging for temporary shelter for the families and have been distributing food to victims.  In addition, Shavei Israel has given diapers and baby formula to parents with infants, medicine to the sick and elderly, and has also purchased clothing items since many of the refugees were forced to leave their belongings behind.

Shavei Israel is also extending their helping hand behind their new relief center.  Shavei staff are helping 200 refugees in Kangpokpi, Manipur, 350 refugees in the border town of Moreh and 350 people in the neighboring state of Mizoram.

The BNEI MENASHE (Sons of Manasseh) claim to be descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were taken into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago.  Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries before settling in what is now northeastern India along the borders of Burma and Bangladesh.

Throughout their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals, and upholding other Jewish traditions.  Bnei Menashe Jews continued to practice their traditions while dreaming of someday returning to the land of their ancestors.

“Thus far, more than 2,000 Bnei Menashe (representing 40% of the entire community in all of northeastern India) have been forced to flee their homes,” said Freund about the recent unrest.  “This figure is nearly double the number that had been displaced just two months ago, as the situation has continued to deteriorate.  Nearly all those who have fled have been left destitute.”

Freund and the Shavei Israel Foundation hope to help the Bnei Menashe avoid further persecution and fulfill their dream of returning to the Jewish homeland.



Israel Reopens Gaza Crossings, Workers Return After Two Weeks

Israel reopened crossing points with Gaza Thursday (28th), allowing thousands of Palestinian workers to get to their jobs in Israel and the West Bank, after nearly two weeks of closure prompted by violent protests along the border, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced Wednesday night (27th).

Almost 18,000 Gazans have permits from Israeli authorities to work outside the blockaded enclave, providing an injection of cash amounting to some $2 million a day to the Gaza territory’s economy.

The move comes amid stepped-up international efforts by Egypt and the UN to defuse tensions and prevent a new round of armed conflict in the enclave.  Riots that have gone on for nearly two weeks, as well as incendiary balloon launches on Wednesday afternoon (27th) prompted the decision to open the crossings.

Until the decision was made, dozens of Palestinians gathered on the border setting off explosives, burning tires, and firing at Israeli forces near the border fence.  However, with the decision to open the crossings, heads of groups responsible for the daily protests stated that “all violence, including balloon launches would be suspended until further notice.” 

The continued opening of the crossings will be subject to situational assessments and the stability of the security situation.  A Palestinian official familiar with mediation efforts told Reuters the development came “upon the request of mediators to de-escalate tensions.”

Desperate to go back to their jobs, workers began to flock to the Palestinian side of the crossing soon after Israel made the announcement late on Wednesday (27th).

IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari told Kan radio earlier on Wednesday (27th) that the IDF was working to keep the situation limited to events along the fence.  “The situation did not reach the residents of the communities near the border.”

Hagari stressed to Kan, that “no concessions will be received through terrorism.”

The IDF posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Wednesday (27th) as well, that “Whoever terrorizes us will be hurt to the point of being killed.  We will not allow terrorism, we have room to breathe and a wide toolbox.  The IDF will continue to protect the borders in order to allow a peaceful holiday for the citizens of the State of israel.”

According to authorities, per capita income in Gaza  is only a quarter of that of Palestinians in the West Bank.  The World Bank says unemployment in Gaza is nearly 50%.



The 2023-2024 Gaza Terror Campaign – Lt.-Col. Maurice Hirsch

• Hamas has earned its international designation as a terror entity by carrying out thousands of terror attacks.  Hamas’ Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and declares all of Israel is Islamic territory – that no one has the right to place it under the rule of any non-Islamic foreign entity.

• Over the last 18 years, terrorists in Gaza who belong to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and a host of other organizations have used Gaza as a launching pad for over 20,000 attacks against Israel and Israelis.

• These attacks have included over 17,000 missiles and mortars, hundreds of IEDs and firebombs, hundreds of shooting attacks, thousands of incendiary kites and balloons, and attempted successful infiltrations of terrorists into Israel to murder Israelis.

• In recent months, $30 million in monthly aid from Qatar to Gaza has been “delayed” because the Qataris are annoyed with the growing relations between Hamas and the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah axis of terror.  As a result of the cumulative effects of the worsening financial situation and ongoing disillusion with the Hamas leadership, throughout the summer, different groups of Gazans took to the streets to protest.

• In response, Gaza’s Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar needed to do something to divert attention of Gazans and so chose violence.  He seeks to drag Israel into a battle and then peddle dead Palestinians as a means to rally the troops – both internally and in the international community – and redirect the public hatred of Hamas towards Israel.

• Destroyed buildings would mean another international effort to “reconstruct Gaza” which in turn would bring in more building materials and provide jobs for thousands.

The writer, director of the Palestinian Authority Accountability Initiative at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps and was director of Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.  



Jews Are Not “Stealing” Judea – Rabbi Yaakov Menken

Less than a century after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is sweeping across America to a degree unimaginable a few decades ago.  Though just 2% of the US population, Jews are the most targeted group in America.  An identifiably Jewish person is several times more likely than a member of any other minority to be a victim of a hate crime.  Diversity advocates engaging in willful blindness have pronounced Jews, whom the Nazis massacred for being non-white, to be beneficiaries of “white privilege.”

Today, society’s supreme concern is respect for human rights.  But this noble cause has been derailed by antipathy towards Jews.  As the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks observed, “most anti-Semites do not think of themselves as anti-Semites.”  In other words, anti-Semites will define anti-Semitism in ways that exonerate their own bigotry.

The story of the “Promised Land” is part of common Parlance.  Everyone knows what it is, where it is, and to whom it was promised – and how central it is to the faith of Moses and the Jewish people.  Yet millions of Americans, including many who claim to value both religious tolerance and human rights, have adopted a fictional narrative built upon a European colonialist term for the Jewish homeland: Palestine.

In this alternate reality, descendants of Arab marauders are “indigenous Palestinians,” whose homeland, by miraculous coincidence, happens to trace the borders of modern Israel.  The Jews, in other words, are “stealing” Judea.  By the way, the word “Palestinians” referred to Jews for over 2,000 years.  In the 1930s, the “Palestinian” soccer uniform featured the Star of David.  Today, “Palestinian” is used to exclude those same Jews and to call them “colonialists” for returning home.

The writer is managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values (Newsweek)



Palestinians: Israeli Concessions Are A Sign Of Weakness – Bassam Tawil

Palestinian terror groups still see Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 not as a humanitarian gift but as the beginning of the “comprehensive liberation” of all the land stretching “from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea” – a euphemism for the elimination of Israel.  The Palestine Liberation Organization’s 1974 “Ten Point Plan” states that the Palestinians should take whatever land they are given and use it as a launching pad for getting the rest.

Hamas and other Palestinians never saw the withdrawal from Gaza as a sign that Israel seeks to live in peace and coexistence with its Arab neighbors..  They saw the withdrawal as an Israeli retreat – a defeat in the face of a massive wave of terror.  The message the Palestinians came away with was not that the Israelis had given them land in the hope of peace, but rather: “We were shooting and they ran away, so let’s keep on shooting and they will keep on running away.”

The Palestinian terror groups are trying to drive Jews out of the West Bank through drive-by shootings, stabbings, rockets and car-rammings.  They want to turn the West Bank into another launching pad for attacking Israel the same way they did with Gaza.  The Palestinians want all “settlers” removed –  from the West Bank, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and all of Israel.  In their view, “all of Israel” is just one big settlement.

 The Palestinians’ rhetoric and actions since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza have clearly proven that the conflict with Israel is not about borders and settlements, but about the refusal to allow Israel to exist.  It is time for decision-makers in Washington and other countries to trust what the Palestinians are saying: that they perceive Israeli concessions not as gestures of peace, but as gestures of surrender.