Monday, October 30, 2023

Don't make the same mistake with Hamas yet again

Don't make the same mistake with Hamas yet again


A version of this op-ed was published in the Waterbury Republican-American on October 29, 2023.

There's plenty of blame to go around for the mistakes that enabled the Simchat Torah massacre by Hamas on Oct. 7. They were made by the United Nations, the European Union, a succession of American administrations, several Israeli governments, the Israeli military and Israeli intelligence.

One would think those entities - except for the United Nations - would be busy trying to learn from their mistakes in order to prevent a repetition, but many, including European countries and the Biden administration, appear unwilling to reflect on how they contributed to the worst attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust while rushing to double down on the fatal mistake of repeatedly rescuing Hamas and sending "humanitarian assistance" unsurprisingly used by Hamas to prepare for their next brutal terror war.

Since Israel vacated Gaza in 2005, ending anything that could, justifiably or not, be called an "occupation," it has been bombarded by rockets and targeted by countless terror attacks, including mortar fire, cross-border incursions, cross-border terror tunnels planned to terminate under schools, and explosive-laden kites, balloons and condoms designed to be carried into Israel by the prevailing winds.

In 2006, 2008-9, 2012, 2014, 2021 and 2022, the terror attacks from Gaza caused so much death and destruction Israel was forced to take significant action.

Each time, Israel quickly came under heavy pressure from the international community to prematurely agree to a ceasefire before it could do to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad the sort of damage America worked to inflict on Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Each time, the United States was among those pressuring Israel into agreeing to measures supposedly designed to help innocent people in Gaza, the same people who elected Hamas.

Israel was always given assurance of ironclad safeguards to make sure the aid got to the people rather than Hamas, only to have an estimated 90% of the cement sent to Gaza for rebuilding homes, schools and hospitals taken by Hamas to build tunnels and murder schoolchildren. When Israel developed technology to discover the cross-border tunnels and destroy them, Hamas used the cement to build tunnels to protect its "fighters" within Gaza; undoubtedly, many of the hostages it took have been taken to those tunnels as human shields.

Pipes sent to rebuild the water and sewer systems were instead cut up and used in the construction of rockets and rocket launchers.

Israel allowed the entry of thousands of Palestinian workers so they could earn money to feed their families, strengthen the economy in Gaza, and improve the lives of the people there, but many took advantage of their work permits and instead murdered Israeli civilians.

Hamas even attacked the crossings where goods were transferred into Gaza, killing the very workers bringing humanitarian assistance to Gaza!

Israeli leaders share blame primarily for repeatedly giving in. Had they not succumbed to the pressure, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad would have been far weaker and incapable of successfully carrying out the Simchat Torah Massacre. It is ironic that while Israel is so often criticized for being hard-line right wing, its most serious mistakes have been in being too soft and too willing to agree to dangerous "confidence building measures" in hopes the Palestinian Arabs would reciprocate.

There are many other ways in which Western democracies have unwittingly strengthened Hamas and other terror groups. At the top of the list is the way they have appeased and strengthened the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Much of the many billions of dollars released to the Iranian regime, against the advice of Israel, has gone to Iran's terror proxies and assisted Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Our naïve errors have not only gotten Israelis killed, but also gotten Ukrainians killed. Repeating those mistakes would reinvigorate Hamas.

The only real leverage we have over Hamas is the ability to prevent the transfer of food, fuel, water and electricity to Gaza so Hamas won't be able to continue to build and launch rockets. Hamas doesn't care about the welfare of the people they use as human shields, but they do care about (a) murdering others, especially Israeli Jews and (b) their personal bank accounts and welfare.

I have little confidence that if Hamas was forced to decide between (a) releasing all the hostages without further harm in return for receiving humanitarian assistance or (b) not releasing the hostages and letting everyone in Gaza suffer, they would choose (a), but giving them that choice is the only realistic possibility for saving the lives of the hostages.

Presently, most governments, including our own, are trying hard to avoid forcing Hamas to make that choice. During his solidarity visit to Israel, President Biden announced $100 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza. Since then, at least one of the UNRWA warehouses storing "humanitarian assistance" slated to be distributed to "civilians" in Gaza was stormed and looted. Can anyone doubt a significant portion of those supplies aren't now in the tunnels under Gaza helping to sustain and strengthen Hamas terrorists?

For the sake of the hostages, and for our own long term safety, we need to insist there will be no pause and no goods of any kind will be transferred to Gaza until all the hostages are released without further harm. Everyone needs to stand firmly with Israel and help it destroy Hamas, after which Gaza will have to be "de-Hamasified," the way the allies de-Nazified Germany after World War II, and prepare for the even more crucial battles with Hezbollah and the head of the snake in Tehran.

May God provide our leaders with the wisdom needed to get us out of the situation which they helped create.

Alan Stein, Ph.D., was formerly a long time resident of Waterbury. He and his wife Marsha currently split their time between Netanya in Israel and Natick, Massachusetts. He is President Emeritus of PRIMERConnecticut (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting) and the founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Hamas' attack brings a moment of clarity

Hamas' attack brings a moment of clarity


A version was published in the Waterbury Republican-American (Connecticut) on October 15, 2023.

We have just experienced a watershed moment, a day when it became crystal clear to everyone who understands the difference between good and evil that Israel is in an unavoidable fight against forces of evil.

Since my retirement from the University of Connecticut after teaching there for 37 years, my wife and I have been living in Israel each winter.

This year, we had plane reservations to leave for Israel on Sunday, Oct. 8, the day of Simchat Torah, when Jews finish our annual reading of the Torah and start over again with Genesis, one of the most joyous days of the year.

In Israel, Simchat Torah is celebrated a day earlier, simultaneously with Shmini Atzeret. This year that fell on Shabbat, so it was a triple Holy Day and expected to be triply joyous.

Except. Palestinian Arabs traditionally plan terror attacks designed to ruin Jewish holidays.

This year, they outdid themselves with a massive terror attack instantly compared to 9/11. I remember exactly where I was when I heard about 9/11, driving home from the tennis courts at Chase Park in Waterbury, Connecticut. I remember exactly where I was when I heard President Kennedy was shot, browsing in the Paperbound Book Store on 164th Street in Flushing, Queens before immediately riding my bike back home. And I'll always remember where I was when I heard about Hamas' 10/7 attack, waking up in our condo in Natick, Massachusetts and realizing I wasn't going to be able to fly to Israel the next day.

As more details have emerged, and more bodies are found - as I write this the total passed 1,300 - the horror has only increased. The current fatality count, on an absolute basis, is not quite half of that inflicted on us by Al Qaeda on 9/11. But our population in the United States is roughly 37 times that of tiny Israel. Hamas also fired roughly 3,500 rockets at Israeli cities and towns and took an estimated 150 hostages, dragging them into Gaza where they have been tortured, raped and even paraded around the streets naked while the "ordinary" people in Gaza celebrated. These hostages are almost all ordinary civilians, including babies, children, and elderly women, even an ill 97-year-old woman with dementia who doesn't realize she's a hostage. Some are Americans, as are at least 25 of those murdered. Now many have been moved to the bases used by terrorists, being used as human shields.

To visualize the effect on Israeli society, imagine that on 9/11 Al Qaeda had murdered over 48,000 people, launched more than 125,000 rockets at American cities and towns, and taken more than 3,500 Americans hostage and brought them to Afghanistan. All in one day.

Imagine how much more traumatic 9/11 would have been for us if it had been on that scale!

Just as there were many heroes responding to 9/11, there have been many heroes in Israel. One of them happens to be a relative of mine. I'll call him Chaim. (Not his real name, to avoid possible security repercussions. Chaim is appropriate, since Chaim means life and he saved many lives.) I never knew about Chaim until being sent the following story about him by another, close cousin of mine living in southern Israel.

Chaim lives on a kibbutz in what's called the "Gaza envelope" and he is part of a 15-man "standby class." Early morning last Saturday, 30 terrorists attempted to infiltrate. Miraculously, despite the terrorists having attacked with the element of surprise and being twice the number of the standby squad, those heroes fought for five hours and managed to "neutralize" 10 of the terrorists before the rest fled and army finally arrived, saving the lives of every single member of the kibbutz. Three members of the squad were injured, with Chaim taking two bullets in his leg after about two hours but continuing to fight until the end. Tragically, the terrorists managed to murder 16 foreign workers, wounding 4 more and as I write this 4 more are missing, most likely being held hostage in Gaza.

No such miracle occurred at a nearby kibbutz, where Hamas terrorists slaughtered more than 100 of their 1000 members!

My cousin's story was accompanied by a picture of his wife - once a child refugee forced to flee Tunisia - smiling together with Chaim in the hospital he was brought to be treated for his wounds, the very hospital where she worked as a physical therapist for decades and helped many other terror victims recover from injuries!

A moment of clarity. As a citizen of both, I am proud that America and Israel share more of the same values than any other countries in the world. They also share the same enemies.

As Israelis were shocked by 9/11, shared America's pain and even built the only 9/11 memorial outside the United States, Americans are sharing Israel's pain from the Simchat Torah massacre. As Palestinian Arabs danced on the roofs of Ramallah in celebration of 9/11. their children have been dancing in Ramallah in celebration of the Simchat Torah massacre.

Ronald Reagan provided clarity when he referred to the Soviet Union as the "evil empire."

After the fall of the Soviet Union, George Bush provided clarity when he dubbed Iran, Iraq and North Korea the "axis of evil."

This week, Hamas provided clarity by showing that it and Iran's other terror proxies are part of the axis of evil.

Ronald Reagan provided another moment of clarity when he revealed his strategy for the Cold War: "We win, they lose."

Our strategy today must again be "We win, they lose."

Israel is on the front line in this battle and we must stand strongly together as it battles to make sure good wins and evil loses.

In Hebrew, "Am Yisrael Chai" means the Israeli people live.

Together with Israel, we must make sure "Am Artzot HaBrit Chai," the American people live.

May God bless Israel and may God bless the United States of America.

Alan Stein, Ph.D., was formerly a long time resident of Waterbury. He and his wife Marsha currently split their time between Netanya in Israel and Natick, Massachusetts. He is President Emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting) and the founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Hamas Massacre

The Hamas Massacre

By Roger B. Baskin

On Saturday October 7, 2023, the terrorist group Hamas engaged in one of the most sadistic atrocities in world history.  The atrocities included: murdering babies and decapitating their heads; burning elderly people alive, raping women and parading them naked in the street with their crotch bleeding from the rape, raping and killing women and placing their bodies on the street celebrating their murder,  beheading soldiers,  killing parents in front of their children, killing children in front of their parents; taking babies and the elderly as hostages.

One would think that the barbarism of Hamas would be met with universal condemnation.  Sadly that was not the case.  MSNBC in their coverage became the voice of terrorism. MSNBC referred to Hamas as fighters and refused to call them terrorists.   MSNBC made every attempt to justify the actions of  Hamas.  Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL was so outraged, he went on MSNBC two days later and decried the MSNBC coverage and asked whether the MSNBC script had been written by Hamas.  The New York Post accused MSNBC of running “interference for Hamas”. The MSNBC coverage was so egregious that MSNBC lost 33% of its prime time audience during and after the massacre.  At the same time the CNN and Fox News audiences surged. 

MSNBC was not the only bad actor in the United States.  Student groups at Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU and other elite universities released statements blaming Israel for the barbaric attacks by Hamas.  The reaction to these students was swift.  Alumni demanded that the universities denounce these statements and reveal the names of the students who signed the public letters supporting the Hamas massacre.  What  employers would want to hire people with those values? A prominent law firm rescinded a job offer to Ryna Workman, a law student at Columbia  who wrote “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life”.   Other employers followed rescinding job offers to those who support wanton brutality.  

The tactics of MSNBC and the students who defended Hamas are well known to students of anti-Semitism.  The tactics of dehumanization and blaming the Jews for extreme acts of anti-Semitism goes back to the ancient days in Greece and Rome.  Extreme elements of the left and the right agree on only one thing:  their hatred of Jews.  The left wing Communists of the Soviet Union engaged in pogroms against Jews, which is exactly what the Hamas attack was. The right wing Nazis sent Jews to concentration camps.  

The Hamas charter is not of peaceful co-existence with Israel. The Hamas charter is to destroy Israel and kill all Jews on earth.  The Hamas massacre had nothing to do with bringing peace to the Middle East.  Hamas has opposed all peace efforts between Israel and Arab states.  One motivation of this attack might be to stop a peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.  Anti-Semitism is often thought to be an extreme right wing phenomena.  However extreme left wing anti-Semitism is just as pernicious as right wing anti-Semitism. Extreme left wing anti-Semitism was on full display on MSNBC and college campuses.