Looking Beyond the Numbers in Gaza

Is Israel targeting civilians in Gaza? It’s more complicated than it may appear

Smoke billows from a building hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on July 17, 2014(THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

The charge of intentionality—that Israel is intentionally targeting Palestinian civilians—has resurfaced in the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas, along with the familiar charge of disproportionality—that omnipresent word that is easier typed than understood.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has provided the most fodder for these charges when it recently declared that 77 percent of the Palestinian casualties since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge have been civilians. From this statistic alone, it is a reasonable conclusion to draw that Israel deliberately targets civilians.

Or is it? As an ignored footnote at the bottom of the OCHA report stated, “Data on fatalities and destruction of property is . . . based on preliminary information, and is subject to change based on further verifications.” (more…)

Israel Orders Ground Operation in Gaza

IDF forces to deal ‘significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure’

Israeli Merkava tanks, a D9 bulldozer and armoured personnel carriers (APC) roll near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on July 17, 2014. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have ordered a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, escalating Operation Protective Edge, which has far the past 10 days been an air campaign, into a full scale military operation.

According to the AP, the IDF said in a statement their objective is to deal a “significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure.” (more…)

Watch Hillary Clinton vs. Jon Stewart on Gaza

The former Secretary of State places blame for conflict squarely on Hamas

(The Daily Show)

This past Monday on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart devoted two-and-a-half minutes to tackling the current conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. The segment was seen as so one-sided in its excoriation of the Jewish state that it went viral among the country’s opponents, and provoked a full rebuttal from David Horovitz, the editor of the Times of Israel. Online columns, however, are no match for viral video—while Horovitz’s column racked up an impressive 10,000 Facebook shares, the clip of Stewart’s segment has been viewed over 700,000 times. But the next night, a guest on Stewart’s own show challenged his assumptions about who is to blame for the current violence: Hillary Clinton.

The widely presumed Democratic presidential frontrunner joined the show for a far-ranging interview about her life and political aspirations. Naturally, the conversation soon turned to the war in Gaza. “Can we at least agree the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is overwhelming,” Stewart asked, “and that the world must do more for the people who are trapped by this conflict?” Clinton agreed with the premise–and then turned it on Hamas. (more…)

U.S. Holocaust Museum Opens Major Archive

U.N. War Crimes Commission now available at the Washington, D.C. museum

(U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)

For the first time, documentation of the offenses of thousands of World War II criminals is being made public. According to the AP, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. has acquired a copy of the U.N. War Crimes Commission archive. For the past 70 years, the digital archive has been held under restricted access at the United Nations. Now, the archive will be available for viewing in the museum’s research room.

The collection includes approximately 500,000 digitized microfilm images with more than 10,000 case files on individuals identified as war criminals. The files, written in a range of languages, not only list the crimes of high-powered Nazi officials, they also document thousands of lesser-known crimes from across Europe and Asia. A central registry of war criminals and suspects lists 37,000 names. (more…)

Suspects Indicted in Palestinian Teen’s Murder

Three Israelis charged with killing 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir

The 29-year-old Israeli prime suspect, who was charged along with two minors with the abduction and murder of the Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, covers his face as he leaves the courtroom on July 17, 2014 at the Jerusalem district court. (GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

Three Israelis were indicted in the murder earlier this month of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir, JTA reports. The three male suspects, who have been identified only as a 29-year-old from the Adam settlement outside Jerusalem and two 16-year-olds from Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem, were charged with the murder and kidnapping of 16-year-old Abu Khdeir and other crimes.

The suspects had already confessed to the grisly murder, in which they abducted and burned Abu Khdeir alive, and described it as an act of revenge for the murders of Israeli teens Gilad Shaar, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16 and Eyal Yifrach, 19. According to the indictment, Khdeir was beaten until he was unconscious and then set on fire. (more…)

Ground Operation in Gaza Looking ‘Likely’

Conflict continues to escalate on Day 10 of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge

Israeli soldiers walk towards a Merkava tank, at an army deployment area near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, on July 17, 2014.(MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

As Operation Protective Edge enters its 10th day, rockets continued to be fired at Israel from Gaza, and Israeli air strikes on Gaza continue. The escalating conflict—which has resulted in more than 200 Palestinian and one Israeli casualty—is not likely to dissipate soon: an Israeli military official tells the New York Times that a ground strike is “likely.”

“Every day that passes makes the possibility more evident,” the military official said of a ground campaign. The official, who has been briefing Israeli ministers responsible for strategic decisions and spoke on the condition of anonymity under military protocol, said that his assessment was based on “the signals I get” and that the likelihood of an invasion was “very high.”

After a temporary humanitarian truce Thursday, Hamas immediately fired 10 rockets and Israel launched two airstrikes Thursday. Egypt, meanwhile, has continued its efforts to broker a permanent ceasefire—Israel agreed to a ceasefire Tuesday, but resumed attacks after Hamas rejected the proposal. (more…)

Hundreds of French Immigrants Arrive in Israel

As tensions rise in Paris, young families make aliyah en masse

El Al airplane. (Lukas Rebec /

When nearly 75 percent of French Jews reported they were considering emigration earlier this spring, they weren’t kidding. More than 400 French Jews arrived in Israel today, a group that included mostly young families from Paris and its suburbs, with almost 200 children making the trip.

The climate in France, particularly in Paris, has been intensifying recently, with attacks on Jewish citizens becoming a frequent occurrence—just this week a Jewish teenage girl was pepper sprayed in the face—and anti-Israel protests becoming increasingly violent. (You can read the first of Tablet’s five-part series on toxic hate in France here.) (more…)

Why We Should Embrace #Freepalestine

The celebrity Twitter hashtag fad is an opportunity to make a vital point

(Twin Design /

Ever since the current conflict in Gaza began, America’s celebrities have joined the fray the only way they know how: in 140 characters or less. Particularly notable were tweets by NBA star Dwight Howard and pop singer Rihanna, both of which consisted of a single hashtag: #freepalestine. Both celebrities promptly deleted their tweets so as not to get needlessly embroiled in a publicity flap. It’s a shame: the #freepalestine hashtag is one we should all embrace.

If you’re serious about desiring a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if you’re acting in good faith and harbor no illogical hatred to one side or another, you realize right away that for both nations to live side by side with dignity, security, and prosperity, Palestine must first be free. (more…)

Swastikas Spray Painted Outside AEPi House

University of Oregon Jewish fraternity house has been vandalized before

(Joshua Rainey Photography /

Swastikas were painted on the mailboxes in front of the house belonging to Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi at the University of Oregon in Eugene, JTA reports. According to the Daily Emerald, the school’s student newspaper, the fraternity filed a report with Eugene Police on Monday night. A police spokeswoman told the Daily Emerald there is no information about possible suspects.

According to Eugene television station KMTR, the mailbox on which the swastika was spray painted is not the fraternity’s mailbox, so it’s not clear whether the graffiti was directly intended for the fraternity. (more…)

Four Boys Killed in Israeli Strike on Gaza

Escalating air strikes targeted homes of senior Hamas leaders

Palestinian women grieve during the funerals of four boys killed during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on July 16, 2014.(MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Four Palestinian boys were killed in Israeli air strikes over a Gaza City beach Wednesday, the AP reports. The airstrikes, which have escalated since yesterday’s short-lived ceasefire, targeted the homes of senior Hamas leaders.

The four boys, who were cousins and ages 9 to 11, were killed while playing on a beach off a coastal road west of Gaza City, said Ashraf Al Kedra, a Palestinian doctor. Seven others — adults and children — were wounded in the strike, which Palestinian human rights activist Khaki Au Shamalla came from an Israeli naval vessel operating offshore.

The IDF is reportedly probing the children’s deaths. (more…)

Student Essays Argue Holocaust Didn’t Happen

Controversial 8th-grade exam prompt prompts disturbing responses


In April, a Rialto, California school asked 2,000 of its 8th-grade students to debate, in an essay, whether the Holocaust happened. Students were given materials from and the History Channel, as well as writings from leading Holocaust deniers, and were tasked with concluding whether or not “this was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth.”

Now, the San Bernadino Sun, which broke the news of the exams, has published images of the students’ essays. The disturbing mini-tracts, riddled with spelling errors that would probably in other circumstances seem charming, fly squarely in the face of the school’s assertions that the assignment was designed to engage critical thinking skills, and that of course none of the students came to the conclusion that the Holocaust didn’t happen. (more…)

‘Amistad’ and Spielberg’s West African Moses

The 1997 film looks back to the biblical Exodus and ahead to Abraham Lincoln

Still of Djimon Hounsou in the 1997 film Amistad. (DreamWorks)

Spielberg movies often come in twos. There are the conventional sequels, of course, but if there’s a subject that really engages him, Spielberg has a habit of circling back around to it with new ideas, new collaborators, and new technological tools.

The late critic Stanley Kauffmann noted that, “in a sense, E.T. begins where Close Encounters ends.” Spielberg himself has called Jurassic Park a kind of “Jaws on land.”

And in Amistad, we see a first reckoning with slavery that Spielberg returned to again in a fuller more final form with Lincoln 15 years later. (more…)

For Young Americans in Tel Aviv, an Uneasy Summer

Sirens, bomb shelters, and the occasional selfie as Gaza conflict escalates

Graffiti of a flying bird being attacked by rockets is seen on a wall in Tel Aviv, Israel on July 12, 2014. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

The start of last week’s Operation Protective Edge and the threat of rocket fire directed toward Tel Aviv have cast a surreal pallor over the young Americans spending their summers in the coastal Israeli city. The mood is complex: alternately tense, frightened, anxious, optimistic, adrenaline-pumped, political, apathetic, homesick, Zionist, militaristic, and pacifist. A few have returned to the States, some are on the fence, others are soothing the worried cries of their Jewish mothers, and still others are embracing Zionism and Israel with newfound fervor.

Gathering with friends after the workday now includes discussing where you were when the sirens sounded, if you heard the boom, and constant praise for the Iron Dome. Our various programs regularly express concern for our safety, explaining (even before this flare-up) where the dorm’s bomb shelters are and how to use them.

Our inboxes are flooded with reassuring emails, and our support staff is a resource for emotional and moral support. They’ve arranged drills from the bus (which included lying face down in garbage by the side of the road) and have taught us to see everything as a possible source of shelter. A few adjustments notwithstanding, life is peculiarly normal. (more…)

Fighting Resumes After Brief Israeli Ceasefire

Netanyahu fires deputy defense minister; first Israeli casualty reported

Smoke from rockets fired from Gaza City are seen after being launched toward Israel, on July 15, 2014. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

An Egypt-mediated cease fire seemed a possibility this morning, with Israel agreeing to the proposal and halting fire for six hours—while Hamas continued to launch nearly 50 rockets from Gaza. According to the New York Times, Hamas’ military wing took responsibility for the rockets in a Twitter post, writing, “We will continue to bombard until our conditions are met.”

Now, the short-lived glimmer of a truce has been shattered, with Israel resuming air strikes and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing retaliation. (more…)

Trauma Lingers for East Jerusalem Family

Uncle of Muhammad Abu Khdeir still reeling from identifying nephew’s body

Walid Abu Khdeir, 51, in a mourning tent in Shuafat, the east Jerusalem neighborhood where his nephew Mohammad was abducted and later murdered. (Photo by the author)

Last month, before Israeli air strikes were pummeling Gaza and before Hamas lobbed rockets across Israel, Israelis and Palestinians were reeling over the brutal murders of four teenagers. First, three Israeli teens were abducted and fatally shot near the Gush Etzion settlements in the West Bank. Then, one Palestinian teen was forced into a car and burned alive in the Jerusalem forest. 

The murders triggered an outpouring of grief and fury across the country, ultimately escalating the long-simmering tensions between Israelis and Palestinians into a full-scale military offensive. I went to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat last week to see how the family of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, was dealing with their tragedy, which was at once deeply personal and collective. (more…)

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