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Israel must act swiftly to end Al Jazeera’s broadcasts from Israel and the territories.

Israel must act swiftly to end the network’s broadcasts from Israel and the territories.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, February 16, 2024; and Israel Hayom, February 18, 2024. Print-friendly copy

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera television network is an evil empire. It glorifies Hamas, including its “heroic” massacres of October 7 and ongoing “resistance” against Israel, and all forms of Iranian proxy terrorism against Israel. It aids Hamas by reporting on IDF troop movements in Gaza and on IDF forces concentrated along the Gaza border. It is actively drumming-up Ramadan terrorism against Israelis too.

There are ways of blocking Al Jazeera’s broadcasts from Israel and the territories and its reception in Israel and the territories, but Israel needs to gum-up the gumption to do so despite Qatar’s protected status as a mediator between Israel and Hamas in the hostage matter.

Cutting Al Jazeera down to size on the international scene is long overdue too. The network hosts the most virile antisemitic, radical Islamic preachers who poison the minds of millions against Israel and the West.

CLOSING DOWN Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel by stripping its reporters of their press credentials has been on the agenda ever since then-Communications Minister Ayoob Kara raised the matter in 2017, after Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE took steps to shutter Al Jazeera offices and block its websites.

(These countries are targets for Al Jazeera’s poisons because they are not in the pro-Iranian or radical Islamic camps. Al Jazeera supported Osama Bin Laden’s calls to overthrow the monarchy in Saudi Arabia, the Moslem Brotherhood overthrow of President Mubak in Egypt, the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra’s campaign against President Assad in Syria, and more.)

The current Communications Minister Shlomo Karchi has made ending Al Jazeera’s incitement to terrorism a key goal from his first day in office. He worked hard to get Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, the General Security Services, the Mossad, and the ministries of justice and defense to sign on.

This week, the full Israeli cabinet actually voted in favor of regulations that would ban the “operations of a foreign broadcasting operation that harms the security of the state,” and certainly for the duration of the current war (– in which, again, Al Jazeera has broadcast sensitive information about IDF operations to Israel’s enemies, alongside its usual fare of agitation to violence).

The ban could and should be extended also to the Qatari-owned Al-Araby station and the Hezbollah-operated Al-Mayadeen outlet too.

But the security cabinet and inner war cabinet have not yet decided to carry-out the shutdown of Al Jazeera, even though all necessary security and legal consultations have been properly completed and the government voted in favor. Upsetting the key backer of Hamas, and the owner and funder of Al Jazeera – Sheikh Tamim ibn Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar – is apparently “problematic” when Israel is (mistakenly in my view) relying on the emir to deliver a hostage release deal.

YIGAL CARMON, the former counter-terrorism advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), long has warned that Al Jazeera and Al-Araby are “Goebbels-like channels that function as megaphones for Iran’s and Hamas’s military, operational, and propaganda messages. Their impact on both the ideological and operational levels is enormous.”

In 2020, Carmon’s research center published an unassailable, massive study (with an index of over 700 video clips) that proves Al Jazeera’s evils over two decades of reporting on so many levels, showing it to be a strategic threat to the stability of the Middle East and in particular to Western interests. Al Jazeera was shown to be a platform for global jihad, for antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and for naked support of anti-Israel terrorism.

MEMRI also has tracked and exposed the reporting of Al Jazeera from both sides of the Gaza border in the current conflict, reporting which both endangers IDF forces and celebrates Hamas’ mega-terror attack.

On October 7, the day of the Hamas massacre, the Al Jazeera presenter Tamer Almisshal celebrated the events, writing: “Gaza manufactures victory and honor for its homeland and nation.” Al Jazeera anchor Ahmad Mansour circulated a video showing Hamas terrorists dragging two Israeli soldiers on the ground, and stated: “This historic picture is worth as much as the hundreds of billions of dollars that the world’s Zionists have invested in Israel in the last decades.”

In post in response to President Joe Biden’s comment that Hamas “does not represent the aspirations of the Palestinian people,” Al Jazeera presenter Ghada Oueiss wrote: “Seriously? Has brother [Biden] polled our opinion on this?”

Last month, the IDF revealed that two Al Jazeera “journalists” killed by the IDF in Gaza were members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This week, Al Jazeera reporter Ismail Abu Omar who was wounded in an Israeli airstrike near Rafah, also was exposed as a Hamas commander – a deputy company commander in Hamas’s East Khan Younis Battalion. He even infiltrated into Israel from Gaza on October 7 and filmed from inside Kibbutz Nir Oz during Hamas’s onslaught. Another reporter named Muhammed Wishah was discovered to be, according to the IDF, “an Al Jazeera journalist by day, and a Hamas terrorist (in an anti-tank unit) by night.”

WHICH BRINGS us back to Israeli policy. Action against Al Jazeera is urgent because of the approaching Ramadan, which always serves as an excuse/opportunity for ramped-up terrorist activity against Israeli Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and central Israel. Hamas is openly calling upon Palestinians in these areas to join its “Al Aqsa Flood” assault on Israel through terrorism, and Al Jazeera is echoing and amplifying this message.

Proponents of “free speech” and shills for the Palestinians argue that barring Al Jazeera journalists from operating in Israel is a slippery slope towards dictatorship (as if dictatorship in Gaza or Qatar ever bothered them), and that anyway such a move will be ineffective since Al Jazeera will continue to broadcast freely from Gaza.

Which is exactly why Israel should go further, by blocking internet access in Gaza, and hacking into and taking down Al Jazeera websites everywhere it can – at least freezing access to Al Jazeera Arabic sites in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.

Yes, I know that Al Jazeera broadcasts its news programs into Palestinian homes over satellite and not only the internet, but I have to believe that the “Start-Up Nation,” super-hi-tech wizard Israel, knows how to jam satellite reception of Al Jazeera as well.

A determined Israeli takedown of Al Jazeera also should serve as a clarion call to leaders in Washington and elsewhere to finally act decisively in their domiciles against the dangerous network. If anti-terrorist and police forces in the US, Canada, and Europe were to look closely, I bet they would find that Al Jazeera is fanning flames of the hateful, aggressive anti-Israel and anti-Western demonstrations that are mushrooming in their major cities.

And all those in Israel and the West who dream of a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority forming a peaceful state alongside Israel one day into the distant future, surely must understand that acting now to curb the insidious influence of Al Jazeera, which genocidal towards Israel and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority alike, is imperative.

A meaningful project memorializes fallen Israeli soldiers with personalized barrels and bottles of wine.

A meaningful project memorializes fallen Israeli soldiers with personalized barrels and bottles of wine.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, February 9, 2024; and Israel Hayom, February 11, 2024. Print-friendly copy

The “Wine & Friends” series of wines that commemorate fallen IDF soldiers. (Courtesy: David Peri, wineandfriends.co.il)

Yehonatan Samo, a commander in the paratroopers, was in the final months of his IDF service when he and his soldiers were sent into Gaza. He took a bullet in the head on November 8, 2023 and was declared brain dead two days later. He had signed an Adi donor card testifying to his willingness to donate his organs after death. Yehonatan’s heart, two kidneys, two lungs, and a lobe of his liver gave renewed life to six organ recipients.

Everyone who knew Yehonatan from Elazar and Carmei Zur in Gush Etzion where grew up, from the pluralistic Aderet pre-army gap year mechina program he attended, and from his army unit, remembers him as a motivated, enthusiastic, and happy young man.

“This is why we wanted to memorialize Yehonatan with something that brings joy and happiness in life – like wine,” says his father, Moshe Semo. “Yehonatan fought for the Land of Israel. The good land G-d gave the Jewish People bestows bountiful fruit, especially magnificent grapes. Grapes become wine, and wine brings joy.”

Moshe’ childhood friend David (Dudi) Peri of “Wine & Friends” (https://wineandfriends.co.il) had just the right commemoration formula: A quality red wine blend crafted personally with the Semo family, bottled and labeled with Yehonatan’s name, life story, and photo.

The front label of “Yehonatan” wine made from six varietals from the 2021 harvest also carries the catch phrase: “My brother, they will never be able to diminish your joy” – a line from Ravid Plotnik’s iconic 2013 song “HaSimcha.”

“David Peri’s website sells the wine, and we give bottles to our friends and family to help celebrate every occasion,” says Moshe Semo. “We toast LeChaim to Yehonatan’s memory and to the continuation of life. In fact, for the upcoming Purim and Passover holidays, when we say and sing over a glass of wine ‘In every generation, G-d saves the Jewish People from its enemies,’ we are producing more of Yehonatan’s wine for the broader public.”

Peri’s project for honoring the memory of fallen IDF soldiers through specialty lines of wine began five years ago when he undertook to toast Cpt. Daniel Gomez, a helicopter pilot killed in the Second Lebanon War. The Rhone Valley blend he crafted with the Gomez family at the Gush Etzion Winery was well received and has been reproduced many times.

This was followed by wines named for Karen Tendler, the IAF’s first female Sikorsky helicopter combat mechanic, who fell alongside Gomez; famous undercover commando Lt. Col. Emmanuel Moreno; venerated war hero Cpt. Roi Klein, who fell on a grenade in Bint Jbeil to save other soldiers in his unit; Cpt. Yohai Klangel, a Givati Brigade soldier who was awarded the President of Israel’s award for excellence on Yom Haatzmaut and killed by a Hezbollah attack on Har Dov in 2015; lone Golani soldier Sean Carmeli (killed in Gaza in 2014); a wine celebrating the life of Ari Weiss of Raanana, a Nachal Brigade commando who fell in battle in Nablus in 2022, and more.

In each case, at least one barrel of wine (which makes for about 300 bottles) is produced for each soldier.

The desire and demand for such personalized, commemorative lines of wine has skyrocketed as a result of the war that Israel is currently fighting with Hamas.

Working with the Gush Etzion and Munitz wineries, “Wine & Friends” has crafted wines for the families of fallen soldiers Cpt. Eitan Neeman, who served a combat doctor in the 669 airborne rescue commando unit after training at Soroka Hospital and Yale University, and who fell fighting in Sderot; and two wines for First Sgt. Ofek Arbiv who saved the lives of two young women from the Nova festival before being gunned down by Hamas marauders.

Just released is a wine named for Laurie Vardi, who was killed at the Nova. Soon to be released are wines named for Gil and Inbar Buyum (father and son), members of the rapid response squad in Kibbutz Beeri who fought bravely against the hordes of “Nuhkba” terrorists who invaded on October 7; Moshe and Eliad Ohayon (father and son) who fought against Hamas invaders in Ofakim; Golani soldier Sgt. Barak Ben David of Dimona; Cpt. Nitai Omer of Kibbutz Alumim; and Hadar Cohen, one of the IDF tazpitaniot (surveillance officers) killed on the Nir Oz base.

The bereaved families bear none of the costs for crafting these wines, and the wines are sold at cost. David Peri profits from other sides of his business: wine bars for special events, private labels for the corporate world, and personal wine concierge services.

Elie Wurtman, founder and owner of Bat Shlomo Winery, has released a similar commemorative wine named for Aviv Baram, who fought Hamas as part of the Kfar Azza rapid response squad on “Black Shabbat,” Simchat Torah 5784. Baram was stage manager for pop singer Ivri Lider, and loved sharing Bat Shlomo’s Sauvignon Blanc with everyone in Lider’s troop.

Lider has written a song in memory of his friend and colleague Aviv Baram, and the words are printed on the wine label. (Unlike the wine, the song has not yet been released.)

Like Peri, Wurman emphasizes that the commemorative effort is completely altruistic. “It fills me with hope and pride to help bereaved family and colleagues remember their beloved friend in this way. In the right context, wine of the Land of Israel indeed can be a force for coming together and a source of consolation.”

Wurtman is precise. People turn to myriad sources for consolation and commemoration, from music and poetry to philanthropy and community activism. In Jewish sources, wine too can be an expression of humanity and belief in a better future.

After all, the Bible tells that once upon a time “Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan to Beersheba” (Kings I 5:5), and Ezekiel prophesized that the nation of Israel will once again merit such oenological bliss.

King Solomon wrote that the wine banqueting house was a symbol of G-d’s love for the Jewish People (with the wine hall also a metaphor for the gifts of Sinai, meaning Torah; see the Song of Songs 2:2).

Rabbi Abba taught in the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) that “There is no greater revealed sign of redemption than the agricultural re-blooming of the Land of Israel.” And Rabbi Yoel Sirkis (Bach on Tur Orach Chaim 208) taught that the Shechina, the Divine Presence, enters the Jewish soul through the consumption of fruits grown in the Land of Israel; with grapes made into wine being the highest expression of this spiritual bounty.

Moreover, Jewish life is meant to be lived through beauty, bounty, and joy. This is what Rabbi Yehuda Halevi explained to the mythological Khazar king in his famous 12th century theological treatise, HaKuzari. Judaism is not ascetic, he wrote. If delight is channeled through the right spiritual principles, this can lead to true cleavage with the Almighty.

As such, tributes to our fallen soldiers and other heroes through wine making and wine partaking can be an elevated form of sharing sympathy and expressing community solidarity, and can propel us to great national heights. LeChaim, to life! And yehi zichram baruch, may the memory of Israel’s fallen heroes be blessed.

The writer studied oenology through the London-based International Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and leads kosher wine tastings and tours. Al-Jazeera has lauded/accused him of being “drunk on Zion” and “wine-washing the occupation.” In his spare time, he is senior managing fellow at the Jerusalem-based Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy.

UNRWA is not a neutral, efficient, indispensable, or moderating force, nor can it simply be fixed by better oversight. It must be replaced for the sake of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

It is not a neutral, efficient, indispensable, or moderating force, nor can it simply be fixed by better oversight. It must be replaced for the sake of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

By Adi Schwartz and David M. Weinberg

Published in The Jerusalem Post, February 2, 2024; and Israel Hayom, February 4, 2024. Print-friendly copy

This week’s revelation about the complicity of personnel working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the Hamas October 7 attack on Israel is not surprising. Not to anybody who has tracked the nefariousness of this organization over recent decades.

Nor is it a surprise that over the past three months IDF troops have found Hamas weaponry in, and terror attack tunnels beneath, nearly every UNRWA institution in Gaza – schools, clinics, hospitals, and more.

No, there is no surprise here. UNRWA is rotten to its core. It validates and perpetuates the Palestinian war against Israel instead of helping to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is an obstacle to peace.

Despite this, Western leaders almost certainly will restore and even increase their funding of UNRWA soon enough – because they mistakenly view the organization as an irreplaceable, indispensable humanitarian tool.

Alas, nothing could be farther from the truth! Here are ten myths about UNRWA that must be busted.

Myth 1: UNRWA is a UN organization. 

Well, technically it is, but in fact UNRWA is a Palestinian outfit with Palestinian employees and Palestinian objectives. Ninety-nine percent of its 13,000 employees in Gaza are Palestinian, alongside a tiny number of international employees who cover for Palestinian corruption and Islamic radicalism. It is a Palestinian boondoggle.

Since most Palestinians in Gaza support Hamas, it stands to reason that many if not the majority of UNRWA employees are Hamas supporters too. According to Israeli intelligence a full ten percent of UNRWA Gaza staff are identifiable Hamas or Islamic Jihad activists; hundreds of others openly celebrated the October 7 rapes and murders; and 190 UNRWA employees are “hardened militants” – fighters and killers with unmistakable terrorist records.

This is far more than “a few bad apples in the basket,” as some champions for UNRWA said this week.

Myth 2: UNRWA is a relief organization for Palestinians.

This has not been true for many years. UNRWA provides little food or humanitarian aid. The vast majority of its budget is devoted to Palestinian schools and hospitals, which is an anomaly without precedent anywhere else in the world.

There is no other UN organization that covers health and education costs for almost an entire population – in place of its local government. UNRWA runs the relevant institutions and pays the bills throughout Gaza, instead of Hamas having to provide health, education, and welfare for its own constituents. Hamas relies on UNRWA and its Western donors to operate core provinces of Gazan government, leaving Hamas scot-free to build terror attack tunnels and camp-out in underground military bunkers for war against Israel.

Myth 3: UNRWA is a neutral organization.

No, it is not. UNRWA is a political outfit that shapes the story of Palestinian victimhood, preserves and prolongs Palestinian refugeehood, and educates towards perpetual war with Israel including Palestinian dreams of destroying Israel through refugee “return.” UNRWA is the most deleterious driver of a narrative of Israeli criminality, for 75 years now and running.

In particular, UNRWA keeps conflict with Israel alive by granting fictitious refugee status to an ever-inflating number of Palestinians – 20 times beyond the scope of real refugeehood! – while refusing to permanently resettle even one single refugee.

Myth 4: UNRWA is a moderating and calming force.

Even though international wags (and even parts of the Israeli defense establishment) have made this claim for years, it simply holds no water. UNRWA is deeply impregnated and dominated by Hamas, and it certainly was of no taming or tempering effect before, after, or on October 7. Everybody can do without the make-believe soothing brainwaves of UNRWA.

Watchdog organizations tirelessly have documented the hate taught in UNRWA classrooms. Palestinian children learn that Jews are liars and fraudsters, and that Jews spread corruption which will lead to their annihilation. Terrorists are glorified as a role models. Lessons which incite to violence are taught across all grades and subjects, including in math and science class. Inevitably, the systematic teaching of hatred and violence within the UNRWA school system is Palestinian terror against Israel.

Myth 5: Palestinians in Gaza truly need global funding for their most basic needs.

From what the IDF has discovered in Gaza over the past three months it does not seem that Gazans are exceptionally needy or helpless.

The Hamas government in Gaza appears to be perfectly capable of undertaking big, sophisticated, and expensive projects ranging from underground tunnel and bunker networks that rival London’s underground subway system, to industrial weapons factories built to the best engineering standards, to well-organized commando units with top-notch intelligence capabilities and crafty attack planning skills.

Palestinians in Gaza do not suffer from underfunding, sub-par education, or a deprivation of skilled labor, but from self-inflicted wounds that stem from a distortion of priorities. For decades they have prioritized warfare against Israel over building their own society in a healthy way. They need Western guidance (pressure) in re-ordering their priorities, not necessarily more cash or other aid.

Myth 6: Palestinians in Gaza need UNRWA to keep them alive. 

This is not true according to Palestinians themselves. Even as some Western funders of UNRWA have suspended donations to UNRWA in recent days, the main concern expressed by Palestinians relates to a possible denouement in global recognition of their cause. They are much more distressed about the political blow to their status as privileged victims than they are about the money.

There are hundreds of social media posts and other testimonies indicating this; that Gazans see UNRWA far less as a critical provider of social services and emergency aid and much more as the vital validator of Palestinian identity in their never-ending war with Israel.

Myth 7: Without an immediate restoration of full UNRWA funding, Palestinians in Gaza will starve.

There is no “dire crisis” in access to food and water in Gaza. Nobody there is on the “verge of starvation.” Hundreds of trucks with goods and fuels enter Gaza every day despite the war, based on donations from Arab and (still) Western countries. Hamas demonstrably confiscates millions of dollars’ worth of such supplies for its army and favored elites, about which UNRWA has done nothing. But a steady flow of goods into Gaza continues, even if UNRWA’s pockets are a bit less padded.

Myth 8: UNRWA is the most efficient way to deliver assistance to Palestinians.

No, it certainly is not, and not just because UNRWA lets Hamas run-off with lots of goods. There are far more efficient, less corrupt, and less grossly political aid agencies, some of which already are present in Gaza (and the West Bank), that can be mobilized to replace UNRWA. This includes USAID, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme. They could all do the work without succumbing to Palestinian legerdemain.

Myth 9: UNRWA can be fixed.

UNRWA needs more than an “urgent audit,” as the EU reluctantly mumbled this week, and much more than “enhanced due diligence and other oversight mechanisms,” as one unfriendly-to-Israel congressman grudgingly called-for.

UNRWA needs to be abolished so that Gaza’s transition away from aid and toward economic development, and away from genocidal fantasies and toward peacebuilding, can begin quickly. It is certainly true that the current division of labor – UNRWA services above ground, Hamas terror operations below ground and from within UNRWA facilities – cannot continue.

This requires different international actors that can develop productive industry and jobs in Gaza, and that can lead the construction and operation of civilian services. International funding may still be necessary, but it should be administered by foreign governments directly and by different organizations that are subject to continuous oversight and rigorous accountability.

Myth 10: Wartime is not the right time to shutter UNRWA.

Now is the perfect time to do so. As Israel liberates Gaza from Hamas, the international community can unshackle Palestinians from UNRWA. And at the same time Israel can unchain itself from destructive dependency on UNRWA and its problematic Israeli counterpart, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories – COGAT.

Then the rebuilding of Gaza can advance, free from rank corruption, destructive indoctrination, the coddling of terrorism, and overall moral rot that for too long has contaminated international aid politics for Palestinians.

Dr. Adi Schwartz and David M. Weinberg are senior fellows at the Jerusalem-based Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy (www.misgavins.org).

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David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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