What Happened Today
December 1, 2023
The Big Story
On Friday, shortly before the 7 a.m. deadline for Hamas to submit its list of the next 10 living Israeli hostages to be released, the terror group launched a salvo of rockets into Israel, ending the seven-day cease-fire that had seen the release of 83 Israeli hostages and 24 foreign nationals from Hamas captivity. The precise timing of the cease-fire’s collapse—Hamas reneging on its end of the hostage deal and then firing rockets into Israel and hitting IDF troops with mortars—was apparently lost on Western media outlets, which reported on the outbreak of hostilities with headlines such as “Israel resumes strikes on Gaza” (The New York Times), “Israel resumes combat operations” (The Wall Street Journal), and “Airstrikes resume in Gaza” (The Washington Post). Questions of causality aside, though, they were right that the war had resumed: As of Friday afternoon in Israel, the IDF said it had struck more than 200 targets in Gaza, including in the southern cities of Rafah and Khan Younis. The latter is where many of Hamas’ senior leaders, such as Yahya Sinwar, are believed to be in hiding. Hezbollah also resumed its rocket attacks on Friday, after refraining from hostilities for the duration of the Gaza cease-fire.
This latest phase of the war came shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken clarified, in a Thursday meeting with Israel’s war cabinet, what’s been implicit in American messaging for several weeks now: that the clock is ticking on U.S. support for Israel’s operation in Gaza. In remarks leaked to Israel’s Channel 12 News and republished in English in The Times of Israel, Blinken was explicit about U.S. conditions:
Blinken: You can’t operate in southern Gaza in the way you did in the north. There are two million Palestinians there. You need to evacuate fewer people from their homes, be more accurate in the attacks, not hit UN facilities, and ensure that there are enough protected areas [for civilians]. And if not? Then not to attack where there is a civilian population. What is your system of operation?
IDF Chief Herzi Halevi: We follow a number of principles—proportionality, distinction, and the laws of war. There were instances where we attacked on the basis of those principles, and instances where we decided not to attack, because we waited for a better opportunity.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant: The entire Israeli society is united behind the goal of dismantling Hamas, even if it takes months.
Blinken: I don’t think you have the credit for that.
Blinken’s remarks would seem to rule out alleged IDF war plans, reported Friday morning in the Financial Times, for a “long war” with intensive ground operations stretching into early 2024. As the paper put it:
The renewed high-intensity ground operation will probably require a few more months, taking it into the new year, the people familiar with the preparations estimated. “This isn’t going to be weeks,” said one person familiar with US-Israel discussions over the war.
Israeli officials quoted in the FT acknowledged that renewed ground operations—which are likely to concentrate on Khan Younis, where the IDF dropped leaflets on Friday urging civilians to evacuate—cannot replicate the scale and destructiveness of the initial campaign in the north but stressed that Israeli political and military leaders remain committed to destroying Hamas and have developed “flexible” plans to account for varying degrees of international pressure. But it remains an open question whether Israel has the capability to continue operations should Washington attempt to play hardball; in her Nov. 27 JNS column, Caroline Glick quoted retired IDF Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Brik, who said in a recent interview, “All of our missiles, the ammunition, the precision-guided bombs, all the airplanes and bombs, it’s all from the U.S. The minute they turn off the tap, you can’t keep fighting.”
Blinken attempted to clarify after his remarks leaked that the United States remains supportive of Israel’s goal of destroying Hamas. But we have a recent example of what it looks like when Washington actually wants a terror group crushed: the battle to evict ISIS from Mosul, Iraq, which took more than nine months, despite coalition forces having a far greater advantage in manpower than what the Israelis have in Gaza. But in that case, Washington’s various partners in the region, including the Iran-backed “Axis of Resistance,” were united in their desire to destroy the Islamic State. This time around, Israel finds itself in a war against a group, Hamas, that is a client of another U.S. ally, Qatar, and an “equity” of the Iranian regime, which the Biden administration still hopes to court. And so U.S. “support” looks like what we’re seeing now: public declarations of commitment to Israeli victory coupled with private messages to the Israelis that their time is running out.
IN THE BACK PAGES: Julio Rojas’s eyewitness account of the “Flood the Tree Lighting for Gaza” protest in Rockefeller Center
→Israel obtained a detailed blueprint for Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack more than a year before it happened but judged that the terror group lacked the capabilities to carry out the operation, The New York Times reports. According to the Times, which reviewed the document in translation:
Hamas followed the blueprint with shocking precision. The document called for a barrage of rockets at the outset of the attack, drones to knock out the security cameras and automated machine guns along the border, and gunmen to pour into Israel en masse in paragliders, on motorcycles and on foot—all of which happened on Oct. 7.
The report also cites an encrypted email from a senior IDF intelligence analyst who dismissed the scenario as “imaginary.” While the Times stresses that Israeli leaders did not believe Hamas was capable of such an assault, it also seems clear that this belief was embedded within larger faulty assumptions about what the group and its leadership wanted. As Amos Harel writes in Haaretz, “The intelligence appraisal was that Hamas would continue to maintain quiet and that the organization was pleased with Israel’s commitment to increase the number of permits for Gazans to work in Israel.” In other words, the Israelis believed, along with senior officials in the Obama and Biden administrations, that the jihadist group was a rational actor that could be coaxed into good behavior through economic incentives. It’s that assumption, as much as any flawed beliefs about the group’s capabilities, that has been decisively refuted by events.
Read the Times report here: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/30/world/middleeast/israel-hamas-attack-intelligence.html
→An Amazon engineer is among the Israeli hostages still in Hamas captivity, and Amazon is yet to comment on his plight. Sasha Troufanov, 28, was kidnapped on Oct. 7 from his home in Kibbutz Nir Oz along with his girlfriend, mother, and grandmother. His mother and grandmother were released on Wednesday. An anonymous Amazon employee told the New York Post that the company fears that talking about Troufanov would “hurt” him, but contrasted the tech giant’s response to that of Nvidia, which also has an employee in Hamas captivity and has kept in close contact with the victim’s family and paid out a large bonus. The employee also said that “there’s a lot of hate growing in [Amazon’s] Slack channels”—presumably referring to virulent anti-Israel sentiment posted by other employees. Sequoia Capital partner Shaun Maguire alleged on X on Wednesday that Amazon leadership believed that a statement on Troufanov would be “too controversial,” but the source of that quote was unclear.
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→Quote of the Day:
We really racked our brains to figure out where they’re at and why. At some point I decided to stop making excuses for them. They abandoned us in an immoral and terrible way. From the moment it dawned on me how much time and energy we were wasting trying to convince them—just to listen to us, just to believe us—the realization sunk in that these groups are not the ‘address’ where we can turn.
That’s Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy, the head of the Israeli civil commission documenting Hamas’ sexual violence, speaking about her attempts to convince the United Nations to acknowledge the systematic rape, torture, and murder of Israeli women on Oct. 7. In a new profile/interview in Haaretz, Elkayam-Levy explains the work of her commission and the process of her disillusionment with U.N. Women and the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, both of which have refused to issue a clear statement on Oct. 7. What does count as sexual violence for these organizations? Well, on Thursday, U.N. Women posted a video on X listing various forms of “violence against women,” including “catcalling her,” “harassing her online,” and “sharing intimate pictures of her without her consent.” Either what happened on Oct. 7 doesn’t clear that high bar or—who are we kidding?—the United Nations doesn’t care as long as the victims are Israeli.
Read the profile here: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-11-30/ty-article-magazine/.highlight/hamas-campaign-of-rape-against-israeli-women-is-revealed-testimony-after-testimony/0000018c-2144-da36-a1de-6767dac90000
→Despite repeated assurances from Hamas’ Western sympathizers that the terror group was treating its captives well, concrete details are beginning to emerge about the conditions of life as a hostage in Gaza, and they’re about what you would expect from the group that perpetrated the Oct. 7 massacres. Israeli channel N12 reported yesterday that Hamas fighters received instructions to burn the legs of kidnapped children on their motorcycle exhaust pipes to create brands to identify the captives in the event of escape. Yaniv Yaakov, the uncle of two children who were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz and released during the recent prisoner exchange, also reports that the children were drugged whenever Hamas changed their location. Another hostage, Yocheved Lifshitz, who was released in October, described being beaten in the ribs with sticks by her captors. Other freed hostages have said they were not abused, but described spending weeks underground in Hamas’ vast labyrinth of tunnels.
→The U.S. House of Representatives voted 307-119 on Thursday to permanently freeze the $6 billion that the Biden administration made available to Iran as part of a Qatari-mediated prisoner-swap deal earlier this year. Ninety Democrats and 118 Republicans voted in favor of the resolution, with 118 Democrats and one Republican, Kentucky’s Thomas Massie, voting against. House Republicans also passed an amendment on a party-line vote prohibiting the use of any federal funds on Iran. The bill, which will now go to the Democrat-controlled Senate, where it is likely to fail, would require the Biden administration to impose sanctions on “any foreign entity moving to unfreeze the funds for Iran.” In November, the Biden administration granted Iran another $10 billion sanctions waiver that would allow it to collect money from electricity payments from Iraq and send the proceeds to France and Germany to be converted into Euros.
→For a refresher on that and the other steps that Team Biden has taken to court Iran, both before and after its proxy perpetrated the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, Richard Goldberg of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has an excellent essay in the new edition of National Review magazine, “Biden’s Imaginary Iran.”
TODAY IN TABLET:
Bad Medicine, by Ian Kingsbury and Jay P. Greene
A wave of open Jew-hatred by medical professionals, medical schools, and professional associations in the wake of the Hamas slaughter suggests that a field entrusted with healing is becoming a licensed purveyor of hatred
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Pro-Palestine Mob Targets Rockefeller Center Christmas-Tree Ceremony
Oblivious to the cease-fire in Gaza, a mob chanting “from the river to the sea” attacks NYPD officers, vandalizes midtown Manhattan
By Julio Rojas
Despite the cold temperatures, Wednesday saw massive crowds around Rockefeller Center for New York City’s annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. A few blocks away, a large crowd gathered in an attempt to disrupt the holiday tradition in solidarity with Gaza.
Organizers of the rally declared that there could be no celebrations in the United States while a “genocide” was taking place in Gaza, although the temporary cease-fire to facilitate the exchange of Israeli and foreign hostages was still in effect Wednesday night. The ensuing protest was the most chaotic and violent demonstration I have covered since Hamas’ terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7.
As has become common in these demonstrations, ostensibly devoted to ending violence, members of the pro-Palestinian crowd quickly became confrontational with New York City police officers. The officers were telling the protesters to stay out of the road, but the protesters kept pushing back. A Black man in a kaffiyeh started heckling a Black NYPD officer: “Listen to that white man. … Get your dumb a** in the back!” Eventually the officers retreated to the perimeter, much to the enjoyment of protesters who saw that they had successfully forced the police out of “their” area.
The confrontations escalated from there. When some in the crowd started to move barricades again, the NYPD officers resisted and the crowd started to fight the officers. The brawl became massive as more in the crowd tried to help their comrades from being taken into custody. Spectators at the tree-lighting ceremony were caught on the crowded sidewalks, unable to easily get away from the brawls. One mother told me she was taking her daughter to see the Christmas tree for the first time. I told her to leave the area because it was not safe for either of them.
Large-scale fights broke out at least twice more before officers used pepper spray on the crowd and most of the protesters marched away. As the crowd roamed the streets, individual members with cans of spray paint broke off and vandalized buildings with pro-Palestinian graffiti. Others placed anti-Israel stickers on stores like Starbucks that they believed had conducted business in Israel. The pro-violence chants by the crowd ranged from “Long live the intifada” to “Resistance is justified when people are colonized.” The crowd was large enough to take up a whole street as they walked by, constantly blocking traffic in any direction they marched.
Confrontations between the NYPD and protesters were sparked again when the mob tried to stop officers from taking someone into custody. Once that person was secured, the crowd chased away an assistant chief and his outnumbered officers. Close to the end of the march, one protester started taunting officers who were blocking a road, praising occasions on which police officers had been killed or injured.
“Which one of y’all want to get Derek Chauvin’d?” he asked. “I’d give you that Chris Dorner treatment real quick!”
While there is no shortage of far-left groups who have put together protests for Gaza in the aftermath of Hamas’ terrorist attacks in Israel, one of the main organizers in New York City behind the protests here, like the one that took place Wednesday night, is Within Our Lifetime. Expertly using social media, WOL is the go-to group to check in with to find the next protest, big or small.
Originally called NYC SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine), WOL was co-founded in 2015 by Nerdeen Kiswani, an activist with a long history of making it clear that she does not want Israel to exist and wants Palestine to be free “within our lifetime,” hence the name of the organization. On March 3, 2017, Kiswani posted on Instagram, “Israel must be annihilated."
Banners stating “Resistance By Any Means Necessary” are common, as Kiswani talks about how refugees will return to Palestine as liberators. At one last-minute rally outside the CUNY School of Law on Nov. 15, held to protest the school canceling an event featuring Kiswani, one speaker proudly explained why he is tearing down flyers featuring Israelis who were taken as hostages during the Oct. 7 attacks.
“These flyers, they’re targeted around areas where there is heavy Palestinian support—that is why they’re always around our school,” the speaker explained, to cheers from the crowd. “That’s why the same Zionist motherf**ker who waits here to catch people ripping them off tries with failed attempts to intimidate us—to silence us, to put us to shame and to ruin our lives, because over here we have rights and they’re upset about that. … I tear these flyers down, and when they question me, I only give them a chilling stare.”
At WOL’s “Flood Staten Island for Gaza” protest on Nov. 14, one speaker warned politicians who support Israel: “We will go to them in restaurants! We will go to them in front of their homes,” adding, “Keep shutting down New York City and the entire world until Palestine is free from the river to the sea!” Kiswani started expressing her sympathy with Hamas’ recent actions, before quickly redescribing the terrorist group merely as Palestinians.
That protest also became violent, after the crowd prevented buses from leaving the Staten Island Ferry terminal and then started to vandalize some of the buses. When the NYPD moved in and arrested one person, the crowd became enraged and followed the officers, resulting in fights. The man who was arrested that night was back out on the street the next day, participating in protests organized by WOL. I overheard him telling fellow protesters he was fine and it was only annoying that he had to spend the night in jail before being released.
But WOL’s activism goes beyond protests. On their social media, they took it a step further and created an infographic with a map that listed Jewish organizations in New York City to help followers “Globalize the Intifada.” It appears that WOL deleted the post after the map generated outrage.
WOL is just one of the many far-left groups that have organized “direct actions” in the United States in support of Gaza since the terrorist attacks. One of those groups is the far-left Berkeley-based Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a group supported by millions of dollars in grants from wealthy foundations including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, George Soros’ Open Society network, the Tides Foundation and the Kaphan Foundation, which was founded by Amazon’s first employee. Another is IfNotNow, which has many of the same big-money funders as JVP and is a Jewish-branded group with ties to the Momentum Community organizing network—the vaguely cultlike movement incubator that has been a source of considerable organizing energy over the past decade on the progressive left—which has been funded by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Amalgamated Charitable Foundation, and other donors.
Together, JVP and IfNotNow organized the Nov. 15 protest outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., that resulted in police having to remove people who were blocking the building’s entrances and exits while lawmakers were inside. Last Sunday, Jewish Voice for Peace halted traffic on the Manhattan Bridge for hours.
In Florida, Palestine Action US, Miami Anti-Fascist Newsletter, Miami Democratic Socialists of America, Broward County Democratic Socialists of America, Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward, and Broward Dream Defenders promoted a “shutdown” event on Nov. 9 outside Real-Time Laboratories, an Elbit Systems of America company, at their Boca Raton office. Jewish and Israeli counterprotesters showed up and the Boca Raton Police Services Department did not appear to be prepared to handle dueling rallies. Scuffles between the two sides were constant, as people from each side crossed the street to confront the other. One masked man on the Palestinian side shouted that he would go fight in Gaza if it meant he could kill the Israel supporters across the street “right now!”
Speakers expressing violent rhetoric against Israel and calls for global “decolonization” are a feature, not a bug, at these events. At what has been called the biggest rally for Palestine in Washington, D.C., in early November, activist Marte White told the crowd from the main stage that people should not think of decolonization “conceptually” or “metaphorically” because “this sh*t is real,” adding that those in Gaza have the right "to free their land from the river to the sea by any means necessary. And I DO MEAN any means necessary!”
Even with no fighting taking place in Gaza on Black Friday, protesting crowds still jeered and heckled shoppers in cities such as Los Angeles and New York, screaming, “Why are you shopping? Bombs are dropping!” One of the protesters gave the middle finger to people who were ignoring their demands. Police officers guarded the entrances of the big-name stores to prevent the protesters from going inside. This allowed shoppers to still enter and exit, even if they had to walk by the angry crowd.
It seems clear that progressive activists have established “Palestine” as this year’s rallying cry, and it is therefore likely that the momentum of these protests, with their consistently violent edge, will continue into next year’s election. At the CUNY School of Law protest, WOL’s Kiswani implored the activists to keep up the fight even if they are tired and have to make sacrifices to protest nearly every day.
I have made it clear to those who will listen that even if they do not consider the Israel-Hamas war to be America’s problem, the far-left within the United States considers it to be, because our nation is the problem—and they will do unreasonable things to force everyday Americans to care. Covering the BLM and Antifa riots in 2020 taught me that when the fire is in their eyes, these demonstrators will go to great lengths to achieve their goals by following the destructive mantra of “the ends justify the means.” In Thousand Oaks, California, a 69-year-old Jewish man, Paul Kessler, lost his life on Nov. 6 when he was bashed in the head with a megaphone by a pro-Palestinian protester, Loay Alnaji, a professor of computer science at Moorpark College. As these demonstrations continue, it seems likely that more injuries and deaths will follow.