Netanyahu’s ‘day after’ plan for Gaza is unviable (Ishaan Tharoor, 2/26/24, Washington Post)

Much of this flies in the face of the stated expectations of the United States, European and Arab governments. The Biden administration has repeatedly stressed that Israel should not maintain an indefinite occupation of Gaza and wants to see the Palestinian Authority assume responsibilities there. Egypt has rejected any Israeli role on its border with Gaza. UNRWA is a vital institution for the delivery of services to millions of Palestinians, especially in Gaza, and, for all the controversy surrounding some of its employees, would be difficult to replace.

In the West Bank, Palestinian Authority officials rejected Netanyahu’s approach. “The plans proposed by Netanyahu are aimed at continuing Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “Israel will not succeed in its attempts to change the geographical and demographic reality in the Gaza Strip.”

On Monday, the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister presented the resignation of the beleaguered entity’s entire government, as the United States and other governments look to it to reform and pick up the slack after the fighting eventually stops. The PA is deeply unpopular among Palestinians for its role as handmaiden to Israel’s occupation, as well as the alleged corruption of its entrenched political elites.

Recognizing Likud’s mission of the river to the sea is Israel’s existential threat.


How Israel’s war went wrong (Zack Beauchamp, 2/20/24, Vox)

At the end of November, Israeli reporter Yuval Abraham broke one of the most important stories of the war in Gaza to date — an inside look at the disturbing reasoning that has led the Israeli military to kill so many civilians.

Citing conversations with “seven current and former members of Israel’s intelligence community,” Abraham reported that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had changed its doctrine to permit far greater civilian casualties than it would have tolerated in previous wars. IDF leadership was greenlighting strikes on civilian targets like apartment buildings and public infrastructure that they knew would kill scores of innocent Gazans.

“In one case,” Abraham reported, “the Israeli military command knowingly approved the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in an attempt to assassinate a single top Hamas military commander.”

Abraham’s reporting showed, in granular detail, the ways that this war would not be like others: that Israel, so grievously wounded by Hamas on October 7, would go to extraordinarily violent lengths to destroy the group responsible for that day’s atrocities. In doing so, it would commit atrocities of its own.

At least 28,000 Palestinians are already confirmed dead, with more likely lying in the rubble. Around 70 percent of Gaza’s homes have been damaged or destroyed; at least 85 percent of Gaza’s population has been displaced. The indirect death toll from starvation and disease will likely be higher. One academic estimate suggested that nearly 500,000 Palestinians will die within a year unless the war is brought to a halt, reflecting both the physical damage to Gaza’s infrastructure and the consequences of Israel’s decision to besiege Gaza on day three of the war. (While the siege has been relaxed somewhat, limitations on aid flow remain strict.)

It’s not about Hamas.



Jewish Israelis, however, see things differently: 95% of Jewish Israelis believed the Israeli military had used either the “appropriate” amount of force or “too little” force in Gaza, according to a mid-January 2024 poll. That’s 95% support for a plausible genocide:

Polling data from the Agam Institute suggests that some 60% of Israeli Jews oppose allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza. That is, 60% of Jewish Israelis believe all 2.2 million people in Gaza should die of dehydration and starvation.

Israel’s problem is not its lunatic fringe, as Gideon Levy said earlier this week, “Israel’s problem is its mainstream.”


Could Barghouti be the Palestinian to make peace with Israel? (Alain Catzeflis, 1/19/24, the Article)

For decades the international community has clung to the idea that peace in the Middle East could be imposed from the outside: essentially by American power and Arab money. Time and again this has proved a dangerous illusion. A go-between can, well, go-between warring parties. But, as every peace initiative in history shows, all you can do is take a horse to water.

Ami Ayalon is a straight-talking Israeli war hero with the ageing good looks of a combat veteran from central casting. Ayalon headed both Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, and the country’s navy. He thinks he has the answer.

Ayalon believes the Palestinian who ticks all the boxes has been sitting in an Israeli jail for 22 years. He’s talking about Marwan Barghouti, the most senior Palestinian leader behind bars and by far the most popular, though not a man widely known to the world beyond.

A veteran of the 1987-93 and 2000-2004 intifadas or uprisings, Barghouti is serving five life sentences for his role in the death of Israelis during the second intifada.

Ayalon told the Guardian recently, that Barghouti is the only leader who can lead Palestinians to a state alongside Israel “because he believes in a two-state solution and because he won his legitimacy by sitting in our jails.”


Return of the False Messiah: The Blind Ambitions of Benjamin Netanyahu. (David Stromberg, 1/18/24, Hedgehog Review)

Understanding the extent of the threat posed by Bibi requires a broad historical perspective. Many people have noted that October 7, 2023, was the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. But the evocation of the Holocaust, even when accurate, conceals part of the complexity of this Black Shabbat: namely, that it took place amid one of the greatest crises that has ever gripped Israel, all of it orchestrated and overseen by a single person with unmatched power. Many have noted that Bibi is not solely responsible for every mistake or miscalculation that led to this disaster. But there is no question that he failed to take steps to avoid the kind of division that tore Israel’s social fabric apart in the months leading up to this Black Shabbat and that he failed to establish any lasting unity among its peoples. If Bibi is Israel’s leader, he leads the nation straight into darkness. And while Israel’s citizenry has shown unparalleled heroism and leadership since the attack, putting the political echelon to shame, Israel’s politicians—led and enabled by Bibi—continue to reveal the depths of their cynicism.

We should consider these developments in relation not only to the relatively few years of modern Israel’s existence but to the millennia of Jewish history. Considered against the sweep of Jewish history since the destruction of Jerusalem, the disaster of October 7 actually pales in comparison to the violence of the Crusades, the Inquisition, or the Khmelnytsky massacres, and it certainly pales in comparison to the Holocaust. So what makes this event so singular in the minds and hearts of Jews across the world today? Certainly, it has to do with the sense that this Black Shabbat echoes the barbarity of these horrific events. But it also appears to substantiate one of the more ostensibly radical claims that certain Israeli writers, journalists, and scholars have been making for quite some time: that Bibi is the most dangerous Jewish leader to have emerged since the seventeenth-century false messiah Sabbatai Zevi.

Unlike the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, or the repeated expulsions from one corner of the world to another—all of which forced Jews to contend repeatedly with extreme violence as well as attempted annihilation—the influence of Sabbatai Zevi (1626–1676) could not be attributed to outside powers. As a cataclysmic event, it shaped Jewish history from within, precipitating the greatest internal crisis that is known to have taken place in centuries and leading to such internal upheavals across so many communities that scholars today consider him as ushering in the modern Jewish era across the globe—including the rise of the secular Zionist movement. Because, mysticism aside, what Sabbatai Zevi tried to bring about —in practical terms—was a mass return of Jews to Zion.

The movement that came to be known as Sabbateanism was not self-propagated. It is true that Sabbatai Zevi was banned from his hometown of Smyrna, modern-day Izmir in Turkey, after declaring himself the messiah at the age of twenty-two and spending the next two decades traveling through Turkey, Greece, Palestine, and Egypt. But it was not until he met a mystic and ascetic named Nathan of Gaza that he was proclaimed messiah by someone else. Nathan of Gaza, who claimed to be Sabbatai Zevi’s prophet, spread his prophecy to Jewish communities throughout the world with letters and pamphlets, some of which were fake texts attributed to ancient figures. Nathan of Gaza was able to establish a cult of personality that eventually led much of the Jewish world to believe that the messianic era had arrived and that a return to Zion was imminent. But in 1666, the year in which Nathan of Gaza declared that redemption would arrive, Sabbatai Zevi ended up converting to Islam, setting off a crisis that would reverberate across Jewish culture for hundreds of years.

We are now at the threshold of a crisis no less severe. Watching Bibi speak ever since October 7, one senses that, for far too long, he has been told that he is King Bibi—and that he truly believes in the prophetic claims of his role as Israel’s unrivaled and divinely installed leader. Even though Bibi is not religious, he presides over the most religiously extreme and messianic coalition in Israel’s history, a throwback to the kind of ideologically tainted mysticism invoked by Nathan of Gaza to elevate Sabbatai Zevi to the status of messiah—and to promise a new era to Jews across the world. Bibi’s promises at the 2023 United Nations General Assembly of “a new Middle East that will transform lands once ridden with conflict and chaos into fields of prosperity and peace”—just a few weeks before the Hamas massacre and the destruction of Gaza that ensued—smack of the kind of delusional dreams that seemed just as real to Sabbatai Zevi when he was brought before the Turkish Sultan Mehmed IV for sedition.


Misunderstanding antisemitism in America (Musa al-Gharbi, 1/11/24, Slow Boring)

Contrary to widespread narratives, students do not internalize the views of their professors very often. Young people’s attitudes tend to be fairly stable throughout their college careers, and the limited change that occurs seems to be driven much more by peers than professors.

And far from pushing politics in the classroom, surveys suggest that more than 80 percent of scholars who work on Middle East issues self-censor on the topic of Israel and Palestine. Overwhelmingly, this self-censorship entails refraining from criticism of Israel, typically out of fear of retaliation by external stakeholders, university administrators or student mobs.

Moreover, rather than education pushing people to hold antisemitic or anti-Israel views, college attendance and completion are inversely correlated with antisemitism. The overwhelming majority of college graduates embrace one or fewer of the Anti Defamation League (ADL)’s fourteen antisemitic attitudes. And even people who just attended some college but didn’t graduate tend to be significantly less antisemitic than those who didn’t go to college at all:

Higher education also corresponds to greater knowledge about the Holocaust and lowered propensity to engage in Holocaust denial.

And although this question is importantly distinct from antisemitism per se, the more college Americans get, the more likely they become to express positive views of Israel (and the less likely they become to view Israel unfavorably).

Why are so many people convinced that the opposite is true?

In part, it’s because, as has chronically been the case in “campus culture war” discourse, narratives about colleges and universities after October 7 have been driven heavily by sensationalized events at a small number of elite schools whose culture, policies and students are deeply unrepresentative of higher ed writ large.

Exacerbating this problem, many inappropriately conflate trends among young people as a whole with trends among college students in particular and then inappropriately blame institutions of higher learning and “radical professors” for trends that are common among young people writ large, even those that did not attend college.

The widespread tendency to conflate opposition to Zionism, criticism of the Israeli government, or support for the Palestinian cause with antisemitism reinforces these misperceptions.

There’s nothing more American than the insistence on universal self-determination.


Biden faces growing internal dissent over supporting Israel’s war on Gaza (Brooke Anderson, 16 January, 2024, New Arab)

This initiative by federal workers follows at least two significant resignations from the Biden administration over his handling of the war. In October, Josh Paul, a State Department official, resigned, saying in a (now unavailable) LinkedIn post that he made the decision “due to a policy disagreement concerning our continued lethal assistance to Israel.”

Earlier this month, Tariq Habash, who served in the Department of Education, himself a Palestinian American, became the first Biden appointee to resign over the war. In his resignation letter, he wrote, “I cannot stay silent as this administration turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed against innocent Palestinian lives…”

Adding to the pressure on Biden is South Africa’s accusation of genocide by Israel in Gaza at the International Court of Justice.

“We unequivocally join world leaders and international human rights organizations in support of South Africa’s case before the International Court of Justice alleging Israel violated the Genocide Convention,” said the congresswomen in a joint statement on Thursday.

“There must be an end to the violence—and there must be accountability for the blatant human rights abuses and mass atrocities occurring in the region,” they continued.

The congresswomen noted the historical importance of South Africa as a post-apartheid state being the country to bring the case to court, and they vowed to continue advocating for a ceasefire.



[E]ven among many Jews absolutely committed to the continuing relevance of the Bible the idea of humans starting a state in Israel was long considered destructive—even blasphemous. Israel Prize winner and Hebrew University Jewish Thought Professor Aviezer Ravitzky begins his widely respected Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish Religious Radicalism with a startling fact: the first Hebrew appearance he can find of “The State of Israel” (Medinat Yisrael) is in the writings of the Polish Rabbi Elyakum Shapira of Grodno in the year 1900. Shapira, outraged by secular Zionist plans for a humanly created Jewish state rather than, as Jewish law requires, a Davidic kingdom led by a divinely chosen Messiah, wrote: “How can I bear that something be called ‘The State of Israel’ without the Torah and the commandments (heaven forbid)?”

And the greatest Jewish philosopher of the Enlightenment, Moses Mendelssohn, wrote in 1770 that “The Talmud forbids us to even think of a return to Palestine by force. Without the miracles and signs mentioned in the Scripture, we must not take the smallest step in the direction of forcing a return and a restoration of our nation.”

It turns out that opposition to a Jewish state isn’t an isolated theological quirk but a central conviction among Jews for most of the history of Rabbinic thought. It’s contained in the Talmud itself, expounded by Rashi (the most important Jewish Bible interpreter, whose interpretation every Jewish Day School student learns first), and detailed by Maimonides, arguably Jewish tradition’s single most influential thinker.

Indeed, according to Ravitzky, Shapira’s response and that of the many Ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionists today reflects “fundamental tendencies and patterns of thought anchored in a long-standing tradition. In fact, they faithfully reflect the Messianic view prevalent among Jewish believers for many generations.”

This Messianic view is anchored in the Talmud, which says that the Jewish people must swear to keep faith in God’s plan for the world. The messianic end, when God will redeem all of reality, is a goal so desirable as to be like a bride in waiting for marriage. Thus it is in a mystical commentary on the Song of Songs that Israel is first commanded to swear three oaths: not to “ascend the wall” to where the Messiah (the Bride) waits, not to “rebel against the nations of the world,” and not to “force the End [times].”¹

The statement is enshrined in the Babylonian Talmud, the richest source of Jewish law and theology. Rashi and later authoritative commentators make clear that they understand this to mean that it is forbidden to use political or military power to establish a Jewish kingdom. In keeping with these admonitions, Maimonides does not include any command to settle Israel among the 613 commandments Jews are divinely obliged to keep, and authorities from the medieval Ashkenazic Pietists (who transmitted much of the earliest known mystical literature) through 15th century Spanish Kabbalists held to it.

Theological resistance to the early Zionist movement was thus based in the mainstream of Jewish tradition. This resistance spanned the theological spectrum from Orthodox to Reform Judaism which, through the early 20th century,² officially opposed a state of Israel. A principle adopted at its 1869 conference in Philadelphia could scarcely have been more clear:

“The Messianic aim of Israel is not the restoration of the old Jewish state under a descendant of David, involving a second separation from the nations of the earth, but the union of all the children of God in the confession of the unity of God.”

A principle adopted a few years later at the 1885 Pittsburgh conference only reinforced this view:

“[w]e consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.”

On the other end of the spectrum, one of the founders of the populist Chabad movement, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Sholom DovBaer Schneersohn) who was most influential in bringing Hasidism to the masses, describes political Zionism as an out-and-out denial of central tenets of Judaism; namely that, because it’s the prerogative of God alone to bring a messiah, and because human activity merely usurps his role, placing the state in the role of God indicates that “the Zionists must give nationalism precedence over the Torah.”


Report: Israel Police unable to find victims, witnesses of alleged Hamas sex crimes (MEMO, January 5, 2024)

Israel Police are struggling to locate the victims or witnesses of alleged sexual assaults that are said to have occurred during Hamas’ infiltration of Israel on 7 October, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.

The paper said: “In the few cases where police have already amassed testimony about the sexual assaults Hamas committed during its massacre in southern Israel, they haven’t yet been able to identify the specific victims of the acts to which witnesses have testified.”

According to Haaretz, most of the testimonies covered by the Israeli and foreign media, including a New York Times report about the alleged sexual assaults, are based on the testimony of a young Israeli woman identified only as S.. An edited video clip of her testimony was shown at the United Nations.

Amid war and urgent need to ID bodies, evidence of Hamas’s October 7 rapes slips away (Carrie Keller-Lynn, 9 November 2023, Times of Israel)

[I]n the wake of the unprecedentedly large mass-casualty event, physical evidence of sexual assault was not collected from corpses by Israel’s overtaxed morgue facilities amid their ongoing scramble to identify the people killed, many of whose bodies were mutilated and burned. More than a month after Hamas rampaged through border communities near the Gaza Strip and a massive outdoor music festival, Israel is still identifying the dead through disaster victim identification protocols.

The decision — made under war footing and a pressing need to identify the dead — to not use time-consuming crime scene investigation protocols to document rape cases has, however, fueled international skepticism over Hamas’s sexual abuse of victims while it held control over parts of southern Israel on October 7.


Anti-Zionism isn’t the same as antisemitism. Here’s the history. (Benjamin Moser, January 2, 2024, Washington Post)

[T]his conflation has nothing to do with history. Instead, it is political, and its purpose has been to discredit Israel’s opponents as racists.

Race has always been at the heart of the debate. Many anti-Zionists believed the Jews were, in their parlance, “a church.” This meant that, while they shared certain beliefs, traditions and affinities with coreligionists in other nations, they nonetheless belonged as fully to their own national communities as anyone else. For them, an American Jew was a Jewish American, just as an Episcopalian American or a Catholic American was an American first of all. They were unwilling to subscribe to any idea suggesting that the Jews were a race, separate and, as the antisemites would have it, unassimilable. These people did not consider themselves to be in exile, as the Zionists would have it. They considered themselves to be at home. They feared that the insistence on ethnicity or race could open them to the old accusations of double loyalty, undermining attempts to achieve equality.

In fact, anti-Zionist thinking predates Zionism. It emerges from the possibility that first appeared at the end of the 18th century. In 1790, in his famous letter to the Jews of Newport, R.I., George Washington declared that “all possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”