Common Grounds

Our Friday News Analysis | What the World Reads Now!

December 22, 2023


A Shared Identity (Part 4 of 5): Defiling God’s Covenant of Righteousness and Justice


The Hague, The Netherlands 22 December 2023 | If you know of any story that is decisive, tell the world. We're still searching.




An event was held by Agudath Israel on 30 October 2023 in Holmdel, New Jersey, offering support for Israel. According to a report on the Agudath Israel website, Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum "noted that the words of Torah are our weapon: 'every blatt gemara is a missile; every Tosfos is a rocket; and every Kapitel tehillim is a bomb.'"

Our Friday News Analysis | What the World Reads Now!

Photo: Agudath Israel


By Michael Lesher
17 December 2023



“… a whole world, formerly one of profound faith, thought, feeling, and virtue, is ending. And that world is not Palestine (heaven forbid).


Palestinians are being martyred, yes – there are no words sufficient to howl one's grief and outrage over what is being done to them.


But the world that is dying is a Jewish world.
And it's being killed by Jews: the same Jews who claim to be its heart and soul.”


Over the last week or so, some of my friends – horrified, as I am, by the near-universal support of prominent Jewish organizations for Israel's genocidal campaign in Gaza – have shared with me their attempts to understand how something like this can be happening. Since I am an Orthodox Jew, I've been asked about the role played by "religious Zionists" in the current degradation of Judaism. And anyone who listens to the rabid fascism-cum-mysticism articulated by Jewish "settler" fanatics in support of literally any crime Israel commits can only be bewildered and appalled.

But I take a somewhat different view of the problem – in part, no doubt because Judaism is my religion, and I see Judaism from the perspective of what is often called the "Orthodox right-wing" or "yeshiva" community. The following is what burst out of me when I was asked (on Facebook) how the great majority of Orthodox Jews can publicly celebrate genocide and ethnic cleansing – the worst crimes in the canon of international humanitarian law – while watching them unfold in real-time on their television sets and computer screens. These are my observations of the religious world. I'm not yet prepared to back them up with sociological scholarship. But they've been building inside me for many years, and I want to share them.

Here's the point – which I'll state as briefly as possible. First of all, much of the easily recognized extremism among lawless Orthodox fanatics in the West Bank is foreign to the "yeshivish" or "Haredi" environment that, at the bottom, is my own intellectual and spiritual milieu. For instance, Rabbi Meir Kahane was despised in the yeshivoth. I can't remember hearing a good word about him or his disciples in my experience – except from people who rebelled against the Haredi culture. (I describe one such person in my memoir Turning Back, which gives as good a picture of my journey into traditional Judaism as I'm capable of delivering.) I was living in the intensely Orthodox enclave of Monsey, New York, when Kahane was murdered, and the only people I heard even mention the news said, more or less, that he got what he asked for.


Likewise, Zionism – and the hysterical identification with Israel that is its modern counterpart outside Israel – meets with little but hostility or derision among the leadership of the more traditional Orthodox community. Agudath Israel (the right-wing Orthodox organization that takes its marching orders from old-style Talmudists like the late Moshe Feinstein, Elya Svei, Yaakov Kaminetzky, etc.) will tell you emphatically that it rejects Zionism.


And yet it proudly "stands with Israel" precisely in its most vile crimes. I've just received an email about an effort backed by Agudath Israel to get 100,000 signatures on a petition to Congress to give more support to Israel in its genocidal slaughter and to "do something" about "anti-Semitism" that is supposedly rife in the US – a palpable fiction designed to give propaganda cover for Israel's crimes.


And that, to me, is the real problem. It's less about an "extremist" ideology – a sort of Jewish nationalism modeled on the romantic German nationalism of the late 19th century – than about a kind of withering away at the moral core, a dulling of the collective mind and heart, a sort of willed infantilism that has reduced the Orthodox Jewish tradition to a kind of mindless cult of rabbi-worship and fear and hatred of everyone else.

I will concede that these tendencies have long been present to some extent among the Orthodox. And I know some people will claim (though I disagree) that they are dominant and that today's ugly efflorescence of violent stupidity was inevitable. I won't argue the point except to say that if I believed that, I wouldn't be living the religious Jewish life I am still living.


But right now, the victory of senseless hatred in my religious community is unmistakable. I don't call it "extremism" because that implies a conscious point of view, at the very least, a kind of religious ideology, and in my opinion, that would be giving the mainstream Orthodox too much credit. They and their rabbis don't support Israel because they are Zionists. They keep it because Israel enacts, in their eyes, the only outward manifestation of religious faith that their infantilized minds can still grasp: a perpetual Manichean violence in which our side, the Jews, is always right, always innocent, constantly victimized, and the other side is always entirely evil and subhuman.

They support it because they have been trained, first through the Orthodox educational system and then by living in Orthodox communities, to efface themselves as individuals, to have no backbone, to do as they're told, and never to question rabbinic authority – and because this training makes them admire a state which seems to have militarized an entire Jewish public and which has no doubts about its superiority and its right to dominate.

They support it because they have been taught to regard with suspicion anything that promotes truth, accuracy, subtlety, intellectual sophistication, and, above all, the aesthetic dimensions without which a genuinely cultivated morality is impossible. Instead, they have been taught that what matters is which side you're on and that lying to promote "our side" is infinitely preferable to truth for truth's sake.

They have reached that fatal point of spiritual degradation at which they are genuinely incapable of knowing whether angels or demons are driving their emotions, much as a person, below a certain depth, cannot tell whether one is swimming toward the surface or away from it.


They support Israel most of all (I think) because murder, torture, and cruelty are the only things that can stir souls that are nearly dead from the lack of any natural nourishment. They have reached that fatal point of spiritual degradation at which they are genuinely incapable of knowing whether angels or demons are driving their emotions, much as a man, below a certain depth, cannot tell whether he is swimming toward the surface or away from it.

Most of us know what it is to be jolted by a terrible thought and, paradoxically, to be tempted by it somehow, but most of us immediately recoil from something we know to be repulsive. The great bulk of Orthodox Jews today (though, of course, there are some very honorable exceptions), and virtually all of the dominant rabbinate, are unable to make this distinction because these Jews have cut out of themselves, slowly but surely, the kind of human faculties that instinctively recoil from what is ugly and welcome what is beautiful and sweet and genuine.

I know I am writing very generally and somewhat apocalyptically. And I apologize for what is bound to sound like an oversimplification. But I've been seeing this for years – for decades, to be honest – and I've always feared that the correct set of circumstances would bring out the very worst of these tendencies in a way so blatantly vile that the rest of humanity if shown accurately what was being espoused in Orthodox Jewish circles, would probably react with a universal gasp of horror.

And now I am seeing exactly what I feared. So forgive me if I strike notes appropriate to a modern Jeremiah: I can't help feeling as though such words should be screamed into the ears of the Orthodox Jewish world today, again and again, if not to awaken some consciences then at least to remind oneself that the voice of God cannot be silenced – to cry out, in other words, to set up echoes of the inescapable divine judgment that I feel must roll through our streets and cloud our skies and waver over the desert, to howl to heaven, as Jeremiah did, simply to show that there is a heaven and that nothing the evildoers can say will ever replace it.

In my small way, I've been trying to do that lately. And the results have justified my worst fears. My questions or challenges don't move the Orthodox Jews to whom I've written. They don't even seem to understand what I am saying, though I do my best to use their language and to limit myself to the most uncomplicated moral propositions. (Such as genocide and torture are bad things. Killing children and destroying hospitals are bad things…) They don't hear me. Invariably, they respond as if I had taken sides against them, joined with the "enemy" – right now, they call that enemy "Hamas." Still, a year ago, it would have been a different label, and it will be something else again. And then they either denounce or disregard me, literally incapable of seeing, let alone acknowledging, the enormity of what they are supporting at the moment of our exchange.


Continue reading...



Editor’s Note |


Dear Mr. Lesher, thank you for your heartfelt thoughts.
I am proud of you.

No! Our world cannot die despite the many bumps on the road.


You and others like you will help straighten this crooked road,
like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who effectuated a lasting difference in the 1940’s.


What is the Side of the Story that is Not Yet Decisive? Edited by Abraham A. van Kempen.




               “Would you want to load up all of Israel’s Palestinians on flatbed trucks; those who are documented as Israeli citizens and those who are undocumented and ghettoized as stateless captives, subsisting in the occupied territories, not going anywhere; and haul them away, with barely clothes on their backs, blistering under the burning desert sun, to perhaps an Israeli secret processing plant, to be gassed until death; and, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) grabbing the loot to be divided among all the winners of the war, like the kibbutzim, Israel’s spacious farming communities, ‘built on the ruins of hundreds of Palestinian villages, ethnically cleansed; an occupation that has crushed the rights of Palestinians and caged them into ever-smaller holding pens (*‘Christian Zionism ... Enraptured Around a Golden CalfKindle Locations 2303-23080)?’”

               Of course not!


Equal rights is the lesson I draw from Judaism, from two thousand years of Jewish history and the Holocaust,” says Robert A. H. Cohen.



Despite Israel’s lethal arsenal, it goes against Israel’s collective conscience to sentence the Palestinians to a Final Solution. There is also good in the Israeli character. For many, certainly for my mother, the concentration camp has been a breeding ground for compassion and tolerance.

For too long, militant and self-centered ‘sacred’ collective egotism has replaced the principles of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. Radical nationalism, characterized by superior race, cultural supremacy, blood dominance, obsessive possession of land rights, manifest destiny, chosen people, redemption, and power, together with arrogance stemming from ignorance, focuses on disdain and condescension against the other. (*‘Christian Zionism ... Enraptured Around a Golden Calf’ Kindle Locations 2067-2069)



God shows Abraham the stars to illustrate his innumerable descendants. By German painter Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld



By Abraham A. van Kempen
22 December 2023


” God cares as much about how people relate to Him as how people relate with each other and the other. Abraham, “the father of a multitude of nations,” is the father of “righteousness and justice.” The House of Israel is to be a prototype of “righteousness and justice” (Genesis 12:3).


For I have chosen him – God called Abraham “out of” his country, his family, and his father’s house (Genesis 12:1) – that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:19, ESV).


Abraham is called to spearhead God’s passion for justice!


And from Abraham’s seed comes the people of Israel. God calls Israel into existence to become a “light among nations,” finding ultimate embodiment and expression in Jesus Christ among Jews and Gentiles.


The Apostle Peter: “You are the heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all the peoples on earth will be blessed’”(Acts 3:25, NIV).


Those original words, “In you all nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3), are passed down from generation to generation to remind us of our purpose as God’s people.


It means embracing biblical justice that acknowledges—not merely in theory but in practice—that people are created in God’s image and are infinitely valuable.


Isn’t Modern Israel, like all Gentiles, accountable to the Original Covenant, the Covenant of Righteousness and Justice?


Reluctance and rejection of “the Word of the Lord” started with the dance around the golden calf. It is still going on. Israel today is even more corrupt than the Israel of 2,000 years ago. Many Christians, myopically entranced in their dogmas, are dancing with pagans around a golden calf, unwittingly aiding and abetting the Neo-Party of the Pharisees.


Love Israel-Palestine! We’re brothers and sisters.


Christian Zionism ... Enraptured Around a Golden Calf’ challenges Evangelicals to follow Jesus, walk His way, talk His truth, and live His Life (John 14: 6)—2nd Edition by Abraham A. van Kempen.






By Abraham A. van Kempen
Excerpted from ‘Christian Zionism ... Enraptured Around a Golden Calf
September 2018

"You know what's so strange?" responded Shimone. "Throughout history, Jews and Muslims have lived and worked together. Our respective histories have intertwined. Much of our literature is written in Arabic. Our respective religions, Judaism and Islam, are so similar. Whereas Christianity and Judaism are worlds apart, always have been, and now the Evangelicals are kissing up to the prophecies of Jews only as their own. Explain!"


Yusuf added, "I don't get it either. I don't understand why Christians want to be like Jews. You know the Jews have skipped the Good News altogether. They have refuted the Gospel, and they have rebuffed Jesus. Whereas all of Islam believe, I guess it is similar to how the early Christians witnessed the resurrection in the virgin birth of Jesus and that God has taken Him up. I can honestly say all Muslims believe in Jesus Christ, and all Jews, except the Jews for Jesus and the Messianic [Christian eds.] Jews, deny Jesus.


Abraham: Wow Shimone! I love conversing with you. You always bring thoughts to ponder to the table.


"What's your take on this, Ariel? What about you, Yusuf?"


"Ready for a mouthful?" counters Ariel. "In Israel, the Christians [Evangelicals eds.] are the butt of almost every joke. Reportedly, they added $500 million to the Israeli economy through tourism and direct donations. All of Israel is laughing at the bank, with the religious settlers heading to the next settlement. Thank you, Evangelicals. And, because of their numbers and political influence in Washington DC – 50 to 70 million Evangelicals in the United States with 600 million followers worldwide – the United States government aids and abets Israel's brutality and cruelty with $6 million a week. They're the gift that keeps on giving."


Ariel continues: "These Christians [Evangelicals] are a bunch of 'freiers' [Yiddish for suckers eds.]. We're the generation who are to usher in the Second Coming. We'll dispose of the Palestinians on their behalf, if not their orders."


Yusuf: Israel must expand its lebensraum for Jews' uber alles,' a pure race, before Jesus comes down to Jerusalem.


Shimone: Jesus has a pure race theory?


Yusuf: Let me continue. In other words, they want Israel to annex the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean – Samaria (the West Bank), Gaza, the Golan Heights, parts of Jordan, parts of Egypt, parts of Jordan, and parts of Saudi Arabia – without the indigenous inhabitants [the Palestinians] living there. Take the land without the people? How? Madness! And Jews are not even a pure race?"


"Like I said," adds Shimone, "these Christians [Evangelicals eds.] have no idea what's going on here. They expect all Jews to accept their Messiah as soon as He comes down from heaven. This next time, they believe, the Messiah will come into Jerusalem with such a big bang that none of us will have any excuse but to accept Him, and I certainly will if that is truly Him."


"Let me quickly interject," says Yusuf enthusiastically, "All Muslims, all people everywhere, will instantly join the Christian Savior if he comes with all the fanfare; if they could see Him believe Him; but I read that two-thirds of Jewry will be slain … I don't understand Christian end-times logic."


"Good point, really a great point," says Shimone and added, "but why must Israel clear out and remove all Palestinians? Why can't we liberate ourselves from our ghetto mentality? Why must Israel be an exclusive supra-national state, as you coin it, Abraham, a state for Jews only? Are the Secular [Heathen eds.] Zionists sucking up to the Religious Ultra-Nationalists who still believe in our exclusive chosenness? No self-respecting Israeli believes in that 'holier-than-thou' gobbledygook. You think an Evangelical could stomach the nightlife in Tel Aviv?"


"OK, Shimone, as usual, a point well made. Ariel and Yusuf, jump in any time…"


Shimone: Most Israelis know better. They want leadership to steer them out of a national movement [Heathen-Zionism eds.] into authentic statehood, with a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, and nationality, all of which still do not exist and are on the back burner because they are obsessed for possession -- the occupation and illegal settlements.


Ariel: For sure, Israel does not anymore need to charade as a de-facto supra-national state solely for Jews; does not need to charade as a state with undefined borders; does not need to charade viewing itself as a pariah state still in exile.


Yusuf: Israel is an amalgamation of people, a 'state' with a divided soul searching for itself. Its citizens, 4/5th Jews and1/5th 'other,' are not yet living in one nation. There is no such thing as an Israeli nationality. The country, [if you could call a state without a Constitution and a Bill of Rights, a country eds.] is defined by its many contradictions, and these very contradictions may bust its structural seams and could tear the same fabric of its national [if there is one] soul apart. It is a 'country' with uncertain borders flaunting itself as the 'only democracy in the Middle East' with an elected government that ignores its laws when responsible democratic choices must be weighed against paradoxes of 'the end justifies the means,' 'what is mine is mine, what is yours is mine also.'"


Shimone: To survive, to become a thriving democracy, to become a light among nations, a heaven on earth instead of the present hell on earth, the people of Israel must 1) end illegal settlements, 2) end the grotesque occupation, and 3) partition the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, constructively and peacefully, or become one democratic nation for all.


Yusuf: Yes, but in 1967, Israel shot itself in both feet. It's become Israel's Achilles heel. Soon, there may not be any feet left. The 'Six Day War' only took six hours, but who is counting? The point is the Six-Day War is a self-infliction of a slow suicide. Time is running out. Can the wounds heal?


Shimone: Boy oh boy, do I remember that 6-hour War with all the hallelujahs and Hosannas, all the Messianic-types – Christians and Jews – in praise and worship, thanking God Almighty for the miracle that wasn't a miracle at all … and we all know that now.


Abraham: What do you mean?


Shimone: The 6-hour War was a repeat of 1956. Remember 1956, October 29, 1956, to be exact?


Abraham: Tell us!


Shimone: We did the same thing. Except we captured the Suez Canal. But Eisenhower whistled us back to the 1948 border and said: "There can be no peace without law, and there can be no law if we invoke one code of international conduct for those who oppose us, and another for our friends.… We judge no man by his name or inheritance but by what he does and for what he stands, and so likewise, we judge other nations." 13


Ariel: Think of it, a Goy (Eisenhower) appealing to an old Bible-quoting Jew [Ben Gurion] to abide by law and justice and not resort to force.


Shimone: Eisenhower said, "Should a nation that attacks and occupies a foreign territory in the face of the United Nations' disapproval be allowed to impose conditions on its withdrawal?" The guy got what it takes.


Abraham: Do you have one of those photographic memories … you seem to be Wikipedia personified.


Shimone: I'm Googling this as we speak.


Abraham: Got it!


Ariel: It is time that the majority of Israelis who want peace must vote out corrupt ultra-nationalism and corrupt Judaism [the Party of the Pharisees eds.] from the government. And the 'Good' people of Israel must reconcile with the 'Good' people of Palestine.


Yusuf: And restitution precedes reconciliation. Europe must finance restitution … in the hundreds of billions of euros.


Abraham: Why Europe, why not the United States?


Shimone: I can answer that in two sentences. Europe has got capital. The US is broke. It is a debtor nation.


Yusuf: But above all, Europe created this quagmire in the first place. It's time they own up to their responsibilities and do what's right.


Ariel: This Second Coming thing makes no sense to me. It makes no sense to everyone I know. Does it make sense to the Evangelicals?


"I guess," Yusuf reacts, "Christians and Jews need a common enemy … Muslims are the perfect scapegoats."


Shimone: Christians don't want to know what the Talmud says about Jesus. I'm Googling it now: "The Talmud teaches that Jesus Christ was illegitimate, the son of a Roman, and was conceived during menstruation; that he had the soul of Esau; that he was a fool, a conjurer, a seducer; that he was crucified, buried in hell and set up as an idol ever since by his followers."14


Ariel: Yes, and check out what the Talmud says about Christians: They say that "they are idolaters, the worst kind of people, much worse than the Turks; murderers, fornicators, impure animals, like dirt; unworthy to be called men; beasts in human form, worthy of the name of beasts, cows, asses, pigs, dogs, worse than dogs; that they propagate after the manner of beasts, that they have diabolic origin, that their souls come from the devil and return to the devil in hell after death; and that even the body of a dead Christian is nothing different from that of an animal." 15


Shimone: If you Google what Jews think about Goyim (Gentiles), it'll raise your eyebrows.16


Abraham: OK, Shimone, go ahead and quote a few, and let's get going … I think only a tiny percentage of Jews today, maybe 20 percent, believe that way."


Shimone: Here is a selection:


"Jehovah created the non-Jew in human form so that the Jew would not have to be served by beasts. The non-Jew is consequently an animal in human form and condemned to serve the Jew day and night (Zohar, Shemoth, Toldoth Noah, Lekh-Lekha)."


"If someone comes to kill you, rise and kill him first (Sanhedrin, Portion 72, Verse 1 of the Babylonian Talmud)."


"To communicate anything to a Goy about our religious relations would be equal to killing all Jews, for if the Goyim knew what we teach about them, they would kill us openly (Sanhedrin 59a)."


"When the Messiah comes, every Jew will have 2800 slaves (Zohar, Toldoth Noah 63b)."


"That the Jewish nation is the only nation selected by God, while all the remaining ones are contemptible and hateful. All other nations' property belongs to the Jewish nation, which consequently is entitled to seize upon it without any scruples.


An orthodox Jew is not bound to observe principles of morality towards people of other tribes. He may act contrary to morality if profitable to himself or Jews in general.


A Jew may rob a Goy. He may cheat him over a bill, which he should repudiate. Otherwise, the name of God would become dishonored (Zohar, Vayshlah 177b)."


"The same has been taught as follows: If the ox of an Israelite gores an ox of a Canaanite [non-Jew], there is no liability, but if an ox of a Canaanite gores an ox of an Israelite... the payment is to be in full … (Shabbath 89a)."


"A Jew may violate but not marry a non-Jewish girl (Hadarine, 20, B; Schulchan Aruch, Choszen Hamiszpat 348)."


"A 'prayer' or 'benediction' to be said by a Jewish man every day: "Thank God for NOT making me a Gentile, a woman or a slave (Menachoth 43b-44a)."


"And he who desires that none of his vows made during the year shall be valid, let him stand at the beginning of the year and declare, 'Every vow which I may make in the future shall be null (Schulchan Aruch, Johre Deah, 122)."




Abraham: "OK, OK, Shimone. Enough! Let's leave the Sacred Texts in the Talmud alone for now. Be careful! We might unknowingly be taking things out of context, not fully appreciating nor understanding the total meaning and application of each saying. The Sacred Texts live. All holy books reflect life: the good, bad, and ugly.


Shimone: Agreed, Abraham, but shouldn't Evangelicals get a glimpse of how some Jews, to this day, think about Christians, Jesus, and Christianity? By the way, Jesus is not a Jew. The term 'Jew' does not exist in His times. Jesus is a Judean. During His lifetime, Jesus is known as a 'Judean' and not as a 'Jew,' Jesus has referred to Himself as a Judean. Inscribed upon the Cross when Jesus was Crucified were the Latin words' Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum,' literally translated into English from the Latin' Jesus of Nazarene Ruler of the Judeans.'


Abraham: Shimone, are you still on Google? Anyway, Jews vs. Judeans … most people don't know the difference … Not all Jews descend from Judeans, though Jew and Judean sound so similar. We'll cross that bridge later. But, Yusuf, Islam does not view Jesus as God in the flesh; Islam, like Judaism, rejects His deity."


Yusuf: But whenever Christians share Jesus with Muslims, most have open ears and minds. You can't say that about any orthodox, ultra-orthodox, far-right religious, ultra-nationalist Jew. They're not allowed to read or listen to any religion other than their own.


Abraham: Now that you mention that, I notice in Ohrid, Macedonia, an Alpine-like community studded with Orthodox churches … Israelis coming in droves on weekly summer junkets from Tel Aviv … they do not enter any churches. The people in Ohrid don't understand. They feel hurt. It's the conversation in every sidewalk café. Ohrid is known as the 'Jerusalem of the Balkans' and, unlike Israelis, most people living there, like 85 percent, are religious. Sorry for the digression … please continue, Jusuf.


Abraham: Wait! Before we continue … Yusuf, you're Muslim, aren't you? I mean, you're Palestinian. I'm assuming you're Muslim ... you look Muslim.


Jusuf: No, Abraham, I’m Christian. We've been Christians from the days when Jesus roamed our Land.


Abraham: My goodness, it just shows you … one shouldn't presume.


Abraham: Yusuf, I'm curious. You are a Christian living among Muslims. How do you deal with that?


Yusuf: Abraham, I don't proselytize. I don't try to convert any Muslim to Christianity. It's considered uncouth and disrespectful. But most will listen if you share Christ as you explained the Trinity. Most Christians cannot fathom that a Muslim can be a Christian and still be a Muslim and, frankly, vice-versa.


Abraham: Vice-versa? A Christian can become a Muslim?


Yusuf: Let me explain it this way: I believe in everything Muhammad has preached if Jesus has said it too. Jesus said most of what Muhammad said. So, how can I, as a Christian, invalidate the sayings of Jesus told by Muhammad? And, yes, there are things that Jesus has said that Muhammad hasn't, and vice-versa. I file them in my mental pending file called 'Mysteries.'


"Profound, Yusuf, profound! Let's get together soon—blessings to you, my dear friend Shimone. Thanks for calling in. God be with you, Ariel. Thank you for your thoughts. And, Yusuf, God has a special calling for you. Keep in touch!"






Yotam Haim, left, and his mother, Iris Haim. Yotam was taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 to Gaza. (Courtesy)

Iris Haim records a message for the battalion involved in the killing of three (3) escaped hostages, insisting her family doesn’t blame them for what happened and that they want to meet them.






The beat goes on. The Israelis relentlessly pursue their 1,000 eyes for ONE eye reprisals. They’re one-fifth on their way toward their goal of 100,000 Palestinian dead.


Israeli settlers occupy a hill overlooking the village of Umm al Khair in the West Bank. Photo: Eid


By Carolien Roelants, Middle East Correspondent
NRC The Netherlands
20 December 2023


The situation in the West Bank has been in the newspapers a few times recently, primarily because of the growing aggression by Israeli settlers. Still, the reporting pales into insignificance compared to the attention paid to the war in the Gaza Strip.


Compare the numbers of deaths –20,000 Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip compared to 291 in the West Bank.


Or the destruction!


According to American figures, Israel dropped 29,000 bombs on the Gaza Strip, half of which were unguided. The images from the ground, indeed, show unguided destruction. On the West Bank, houses, schools, and olive groves are being demolished in a very targeted manner. But it is just as much a war in the West Bank as in the Gaza Strip.


Just as the Egyptian government fears that the Gazan population will sooner or later be dumped across the border - on behalf of the radical settler movement, project developer Golden Hills (no joke) is already advertising new settlements in an empty Gaza Strip, "a house on the beach is not a dream!" – Jordan fears ethnic cleansing of the West Bank.


The international community may have started dreaming of a two-state solution, but Israel's increasingly Political Right is certainly not. ): “The Nation of Israel has a natural right to the Land of Israel,” according to Prime Minister Netanyahu's Far-right Nationalist Coalition Agreement (December 2022), including Judea and Samaria. The tool is the Colonial Policy initiated after the Six-Day War, which resulted in today 700,000 colonists in 278 colonies and outposts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with the express intent to dispossess and displace more than 3 million Palestinians.


Israeli and international aid and human rights organizations keep close track of how radical colonists try to capitalize on their claim to the Land of Israel, often with the help of the military and, of course, with the knowledge of support from their own ministers.


For them, October 7 was a disaster and an opportunity: “Unprecedented colonist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank,” headlined the Association for Civil Rights in Israel in mid-November.


The UN agency OCHA reported at least 347 colonist attacks on Palestinians between October 7 and December 18, murdered eight, and displaced 1,257 people, including 582 children, from their homes or land. In response, Palestinian violence has also increased, leading to significantly tougher action by the army: twelve Palestinian deaths between December 12 and 16.


What I now find curious is that while America and allies such as the Netherlands are twisting and turning not to want a ceasefire in the bloody Gaza war, they have suddenly all announced or are planning to impose sanctions against violent colonists, including imposing entry bans and such.


Sanctions against Israel?


This has to do with the fact that the Israeli government allows its brothers in arms to do their thing, and the US and others fear a Gaza on the West Bank, see above. But then, who should be on the list of prohibited colonists?





Violence by Israeli settlers is complicating Israel’s war in Gaza


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in Tel Aviv on Thursday. / Photo by Israeli Government Press Office/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images.


By Seymour Hersh
15 December 2023

Thousands of Hamas fighters are now facing a deadly shootout with the Israeli army as the disastrous war their leaders triggered is in its tenth week. Now, out of their tunnels, those men are trying to cope with the increasing winter chill and heavy rains. There is a little shelter for them, or the bedraggled surviving citizens of Gaza, from the elements and Israeli bullets and bombs.

War is hell, too, for Israeli troops, who are on the hunt, now engaged in house-to-house and rubble-to-rubble searches for Hamas fighters, who will be far more willing to engage in one-on-one shootouts in the south of Gaza than in the earlier days of mass bombing in Gaza City. Future historians will make their judgment on the stunning ratio of dead Palestinians in Gaza to the Israeli combat dead. Israel’s military leaders now assess that the majority of Hamas fighters will be dead, will be captured, or will have deserted by the end of January. But then what? If the religious zealots who now dominate the government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have a day-after plan, it is not known. What does the end of fighting mean for the surviving citizens of Gaza?

The only sure thing is that the astonishing number of innocent civilians in Gaza killed or maimed by Israeli bombs has left a stain on Israel’s international reputation that cannot be ignored. The disparity, as a former Israeli military officer told me this week, “is something that Israelis will have to think about. I support the war,” the official added, “but the balance is not right.”

I have learned more about the current scenario in a series of interviews this week. The biggest surprise has been the number of Hamas fighters in the south who have chosen to surrender to Israeli troops. An American official with access to sensitive information said as many as seven hundred Hamas soldiers, all thought to be motivated by religious fanaticism as well as anti-colonial resistance, chose to surrender instead of being shot in the past week or so. “This was not expected,” the official said. “Israel expected Hamas to fight to the end, just as America thought the Japanese would do in World War II.”

That total included a senior aide to Yahya Sinjar, known to be one of the masterminds of Hamas’s October 7 cross-border raid into Israel that led to the death of 1200 Israeli citizens and soldiers, as well as the capture of 240 hostages, many of them on active duty in the Israeli Defense Force. Sinjar’s aide, whose name I could not learn, was said to be in charge of communications for Hamas.

Sinjar, who spent more than two decades in an Israeli prison, is believed to be hiding somewhere in the south of Gaza and is among several high-value Israeli targets there. The official told me that there is sensitive intelligence indicating that officials in Iran and Hezbollah, the militia group in Lebanon, have accused Sinjar of “going too far” in the October 7 attack. Rather than grabbing a few Israeli soldiers to be used as bargaining chips in future prisoner releases, the official said, “Sinjar ordered an all-out attack” that was far more successful, both in its violence and the number of hostages captured, than anticipated. Neither Iran nor Hezbollah has made any overt moves to directly support Hamas since the war began.

Another surprise in the past week was renewed contact between Israel and the Hamas political leadership in exile about a possible exchange of Israeli hostages in return for the release of Palestinians now held in Israeli jails in the West Bank. At this point, I was told there were 137 Israelis in Hamas custody and still thought to be alive. All were taken hostage on October 7, and as many as thirty-six of them are believed to be active IDF members, men, and women between the ages of eighteen and thirty-one. Eight civilian women and two children are still considered to be in custody.

The official said that Hamas had expressed interest in “the exchange of ten hostages in return for the release of as many as forty prisoners now in Israeli custody and a 48-hour ceasefire in the war. Those to be released could include captured men” from the age of 22 and up. I had previously been told that in the earlier hostage release talks, Hamas insisted that the captured Israeli males between the ages of eighteen and fifty were either in the IDF or in the active reserves and would not be released.

The Israeli intelligence community, the official said, “knows much more about the hostages than it lets the public know. A few older men and women who were grabbed and taken to Gaza without their medications died in captivity because of a lack of medical treatment. An elderly woman who spent forty-four days in captivity without her heart medication is now dying in an Israeli hospital because her condition became terminal while being held, untreated by Hamas.”

There will be payback. The official said: “The minute the last hostage is on Israeli soil, the entire [Hamas] leadership—political, religious, and military—will be killed in the countries where they live. Mossad is already tracking them, but killing them before the hostages are out is risky.”

He said that “the big problem” today between the Biden administration and the Netanyahu government is not the war against Hamas but Netanyahu’s clash with the Palestinian Authority, the much-weakened agency still nominally in charge of the West Bank. Steadily increasing violence committed there against the Palestinian population by Israeli settlers, who are openly supported by the IDF and the extremists that now dominate Israeli politics, has triggered alarms in Washington. The official told me that “Bibi’s continuing campaign” in the West Bank “is complicating Israel’s efforts to create favorable arrangements in Gaza after the war ends,” and the violence has become a “huge obstacle” for the Biden administration.

The most direct sign of Washington’s alarm came Tuesday during Biden’s remarks to a routine campaign reception for Jewish contributors. The president defended Netanyahu’s decision to go to war with Hamas. “There’s no question about that,” Biden said. “None. Zero. They have every right.” But he went on to attack the hardliners that now dominate the Israeli government, explicitly citing Itamar Ben Gvir, the Israeli minister of national security, whom Netanyahu has given expanded authority over Israeli police and the security forces in the West Bank. Ben Gvir’s support in the Israeli Knesset helped Netanyahu win a fifth term as prime minister at a time when he was facing serious corruption charges—charges that are still pending.

Ben Gvir is a fanatic who has been arrested dozens of times and convicted at least eight times on charges of incitement to racism against Arabs and supporting a terrorist organization. Earlier this year, when asked about increased violence committed by settlers in the West Bank, he told a Washington Post reporter that American reporters needed “to stop getting things in the wrong order. There are individual cases of violence from Jewish residents against Arabs, and I am aware of them, but there are thousands of cases of Arabs engaging in violence against Jews.”

Biden was uncharacteristically caustic about Gvir. “This is a different group,” he told his Jewish supporters. “They don’t want anything remotely approaching a two-state solution. . . . They don’t want . . . anything having to do with the Palestinians. . . . We have to make sure that Bibi understands that he’s got to make some moves to strengthen the PA. You cannot say there’s no Palestinian state at all in the future.”

The president pointedly added that he and Netanyahu “talk a lot. I’ve known him for fifty years. . . . He’s a good friend, but he has to change. . . . This government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move.”

The American official told me that the Israelis running the government today “are pissed at Biden and think he should have said that we’re with you all the way. ‘You got to do [in the West Bank] what you got to do.’”

The crucial question now facing the American intelligence analysts, he said, “is whether there is going to be a regional war” in the Middle East if the Netanyahu government continues to ignore the growing crisis in the West Bank. That question, given the prime minister’s ongoing legal predicament and the support he needs from Ben Gvir and his clique, “is up in the air.”

“There is a lot of behind-the-scenes back-and-forth,” he added, on the future of the two-state solution in the Middle East.




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