Saturday, January 07, 2023

From Ian:

Seth Frantzman: How can Israel win the Palestinian conflict? Historian explains
Do the Abraham Accords and the focus on Ukraine and China change things? Not really. The Abraham Accords are great, both in of themselves and because they got Netanyahu in 2020 to abandon his plan to annex parts of the West Bank. Ukraine and China reduce the spotlight on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, always a good thing. But Israel’s thriving relations with the UAE and other states barely diminishes the Palestinian campaign of delegitimization. And whenever the Palestinian Authority or Hamas wishes the spotlight to return, it will do so, instantly.

How should Israel handle the international spotlight?
By recognizing it as a fact of life and finding ways to deal with it. When Hamas decides to launch missiles into Israel, it knows it will get clobbered militarily but will gain international political support. Likewise, Israel knows it will get clobbered internationally, so it should take advantage of the crisis to send a very strong message to the Gazan population that it has lost the war. Ultimately, media coverage matters less than winning on the ground.

Practically speaking, how does Israel win?
I prefer to posit Israel victory as a policy goal, without going into detailed strategy and tactics. First, it’s premature to get into specifics. Second, delving into these topics distracts from establishing the policy goal.

That said, Israel has an extraordinary range of levers due to its vastly greater power than the Palestinians – and not just military and economic.

One creative example: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would probably love to add al-Aqsa to his collection of Islamic sanctities, especially at a time when Tehran challenges Saudi control of Mecca and Medina. How about Israel opening negotiations on this topic with Riyadh, offering the jewel in the Palestinian Authority’s crown in return for full diplomatic relations and a change in the status quo on the Temple Mount?

Can Israel defeat Hamas without reoccupying Gaza?
Again, I prefer not to discuss strategy and tactics. But, as you ask, here is one tactic: Israel announces that a single missile attack from Gaza means a one-day border closure: no water, food, medicine, or fuel crosses from it to Gaza. Two missiles means two days, and so forth. I guarantee this would rapidly improve Hamas’s behavior.

But isn’t the delegitimization issue a struggle against those in the West, too? Don’t they have to be defeated? Horrors, no. Plus, that would be impossible. But it is also not necessary, for they are mere followers. Imagine the Palestinians acknowledge their defeat and truly accept the Jewish state; this would pull the rug out from leftist anti-Zionism. Sustaining a more-Catholic-than-the-pope stance is tough to keep up. Israel is lucky that its principal enemy is so small and weak.

Over time, do Palestinians increasingly accept Israel?
Former minister Yuval Steinitz just told me that 75% of Palestinians have come to terms with the State of Israel and live normal lives, but I wonder. A recent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll found that “72% of the public (84% in the Gaza Strip and 65% in the West Bank) say they are in favor of forming armed groups such as the Lions’ Den, which do not take orders from the PA and are not part of the PA security services; 22% are against that.”

Yes, there’s a general calm. In the hotel where we are meeting, the Dan Jerusalem on Mount Scopus, the Palestinian staff goes quietly about its work and is not stabbing anyone. But at a time of crisis, say a Hamas rocket attack, I would avoid this or most other Jerusalem hotels.

Israel’s previous leadership seems to accept Micah Goodman’s idea of “shrinking the conflict.” Do you?
No, I see it as just another in a long line of attempts to finesse the difficult work of attaining victory. Prior ideas included expelling the Palestinians either by force or voluntarily, the Jordan-is-Palestine scheme, erecting more fences, finding a new Palestinian leadership, demanding good governance, implementing the Road Map, funding a Marshall Plan, imposing a trusteeship, establishing joint security forces, splitting the Temple Mount, leasing the land, withdrawing unilaterally, and so on. None worked; none will work. Defeat and victory remain imperative.

What about Iran? The Palestinian terrorist groups, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, get support from Iran. If Iran’s regime falls, will that matter?
Regime change in Iran has vast implications for the Middle East but not so much for the Palestinian war on Israel. The mullahs’ political collapse will not close down the Palestinians’ conviction that rejectionism works, that “revolution until victory” will prevail, that they can eliminate the Jewish state. Israel cannot outsource victory.
Blood libel: Kremlin claims organs harvested by Ukraine end up in Israel
A Russian former senior official argued the war in Ukraine became a very profitable battlefield for "black-market transplantologists," in a report picked up by several Russian media outlets.

In an interview with Russian outlet Moskovskij Komsomolets, retired Major General of Police, and ex-head of the Russian Central Bureau of Interpol Vladimir Ovchinsky claimed the Armed Forces of Ukraine are delivered human organs harvested from the dead and wounded in the war, people who are still alive, such as Russian prisoners of war, and even Ukrainian civilians who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

When asked where the organs are transported to, Ovchinsky said: "The most effective and successful 'workshops' are located in four countries - Turkey, India, Israel and South Korea."

"Israel is also a leader in the field of innovative medical techniques, which are used throughout the world. The clinics of this country successfully perform organ transplant operations."

The former advisor to the interior minister of Russia also added that large amounts of medical equipment, including containers for transporting human organs, were sent to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's invasion.

When asked what they do with the bodies, he replied: "They burn them like in Auschwitz or Dachau, they are after all heirs of Hitler. There is also information about mobile crematoria to burn the remains of people whose organs were removed."
Taxpayer Dollars Could Reach Terrorists Under Biden Admin Aid Changes, McCaul Says
Biden Treasury Department authorizations, announced late last year, rolled back safeguards on U.S. humanitarian aid, a move that is likely to pave the way for millions in taxpayer dollars to reach "designated terrorists, human rights abusers, and violent authoritarian regimes," according to a congressional foreign policy leader.

The authorizations, which will make it easier for aid dollars to be allocated in conflict zones and areas where terrorist activity is taking place are generating concerns in Congress. Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), the incoming chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that in its rush to push aid dollars out the door, the Biden administration is relaxing longstanding safeguards meant to stop taxpayer aid from enriching malign regimes and terrorism supporters.

"By relaxing longstanding basic restrictions on the provision of aid to countries subject to U.S. sanctions, [the] action by the Biden administration increases the likelihood some of our assistance funding will go to designated terrorists, human rights abusers, and violent authoritarian regimes," McCaul said in a statement. "I urge the administration to reverse this decision."

As part of this recalibration, the Treasury Department issued authorizations that will inject U.S. taxpayer dollars into areas that have historically been subject to strict sanctions, including in China, Cuba, Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Iran, and other conflict areas, according to congressional officials who reviewed the new initiative.

The Treasury Department changes, these sources said, remove longstanding restrictions that prevent U.S. aid from being injected into sanctioned areas. To skirt these restrictions, the United States will funnel taxpayer dollars to United Nations organizations working in these conflict zones.

The aid policy also protects U.N. organizations from repercussions should U.S. aid dollars end up in the hands of terrorists or other sanctioned entities, like the Taliban or Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria, according to one congressional official tracking the matter.

Samantha Power, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) administrator, acknowledged in a statement issued late last year that the new aid practices will grant blanket immunity to organizations operating in conflict areas.

Israel to halt PA construction, withhold funds in response to UNGA vote
Israel plans to sanction the Palestinian Authority for its push to seek an advisory opinion against it from the world court by withholding tax frees, freezing building plans in Area C, penalizing Palestinian officials and taking steps against non-government groups it holds is involved in diplomatic warfare against the Jewish state.

The Prime Minister's Office published information regarding the sanctions on Friday afternoon after the security cabinet approved the measures Thursday during a closed-door meeting.

"These and other measures will not discourage our people and our leadership from continuing their struggle and political, diplomatic and legal movement to provide international protection for our people and to put an end to Israel's continued impunity from accountability and punishment."
Palestinian Authority

"The current government will not sit idly by in the face of this war and will respond as necessary," the Prime Minister's Office said. It adopted the measures after the United Nations General Assembly voted on December 30 to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice regarding the illegality of Israel's "occupation" of Palestinian territories.

Israel will transfer NIS 139 million from tax fees it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority to compensate the families of Palestinian terror victims.

It will withhold PA tax fees to offset the monthly stipends the PA provides to the families of terrorists involved in killing Israelis. This will be retroactive to the start of 2022.

Benefits will be denied to Palestinian VIPs "who are leading the political and legal war against Israel, the PMO's office said.

The Security Cabinet said it would also continue to target non-governmental groups in the West Bank involved in terror activity or any hostile activity, "including political and legal action against Israel under the guise of humanitarian work."

Lastly, the security cabinet tackled the issue of illegal Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank, which is under IDF military and civilian rule. The Right has argued that the Palestinian Authority seeks to ensure that Area C will be within the permanent borders of its future state by supporting illegal construction in that area. The Left has noted that there are few permits approved for Palestinian construction and thus the Palestinians have no choice but to build illegally.
Gallant revokes PA officials’ entry permits for visiting freed terror convict
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Saturday said he was revoking the entry permits to Israel of three senior Palestinian Authority officials, after the trio paid a visit to a newly released prisoner who was held for murdering a soldier.

Karim Younis, the longest-serving prisoner jailed for security-related offenses, was freed from prison Thursday after serving 40 years behind bars following his conviction on terrorism charges for murdering an Israeli soldier in 1980.

Since his release, celebrations have been held at his hometown of ‘Ara in northern Israel. Younis is part of Israel’s Arab minority, many of whom identify as Palestinians.

On Saturday, the three members of the PA’s ruling Fatah party — Mahmoud al-Aloul, Azzam al-Ahmad, and Rawhi Fattouh — visited Younis, entering Israel with their valid permits given to senior Palestinian officials. Former Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh, who directs the National Arab Higher Follow-Up Committee, was also spotted at the gathering.

The Defense Ministry said Gallant ordered the head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) — the Defense Ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs — Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, to revoke their permits following the visit.

Gallant’s decision was made following an assessment he held with the Shin Bet security agency and other officials, according to the ministry.
Palestinian officials: Sanctions from Israel won't halt diplomatic, legal campaign
The Security Cabinet’s decision to impose sanctions against the Palestinian Authority in response to the recent Palestinian initiative at the United Nations to have the International Court of Justice prepare a legal opinion on the “occupation” won’t stop the Palestinians from pursuing their diplomatic and legal measures against Israel in the international area, defiant Palestinian officials said over the weekend.

Among the sanctions approved by the Security Cabinet on Friday were withholding tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the PA, freezing Palestinian construction in some parts of the West Bank, and revoking VIP cards of some senior Palestinian officials.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, one of the officials reportedly expected to lose his Israeli-issued VIP card, said the Israeli measures won’t stop him from continuing the legal and diplomatic offensive in the international arena.

The so-called “retaliation” measures by Israel against the sovereign, legitimate and peaceful Palestinian pursuit of justice are absolutely abominable,” said a statement released by the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “States must ensure that Israel ceases its sanctions against the Palestinian people and submit to the rules-based international order or be prepared to receive the treatment owed to pariah states.”

PA presidential spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudaineh said the measures were “rejected and condemned.”

Abu Rudeineh called on the international community, particularly the US administration, to take immediate action “to stop these Israeli threats that are in violation of all resolutions of international legitimacy.”

The sanctions, he said, “confirm that the extremist occupation government seeks to escalate and drag the region to the brink of explosion.”
MEMRI: Fatah Central Committee Member Abbas Zaki: If New Israeli Government Carries Out Its Plans, The Israelis Can Either Depart By Sea Or Wade In A Sea Of Blood
Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki said in a January 2, 2023 address that aired on Palestine TV that the Israelis must choose between leaving Palestine by sea, or wading "into a sea of blood". He praised Palestinian terrorists such as Uday Tamimi, Diaa Hamarsheh, and Raad Hazem for taking the initiative to carry out attacks and for causing Israel to "lose sleep", and he said that the Palestinians have given "everything" for peace. He added that Israel's settler "scum" should "think about leaving".

To view the clip of Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki, click here or below:

The Israelis "Will Have To Choose Between Two Options: Either They Leave By Way Of The Sea Or They Wade In A Sea Of Blood"

Abbas Zaki: "If the [Israelis] want to carry out what they proposed during the elections, then they will have to choose between two options: either they leave by way of the sea, or they wade in a sea of blood.

Our Children "Perform Miracles" By Carrying Out Terrorist Attacks; "We Gave Peace Every Chance"

"Our children perform miracles. We know how old Omar Abu Leila was [when he carried out an attack]. He was 19 years old. [Slain terrorists] Uday Tamimi, Ibrahim Nabulsi, Diaa Hamarsheh, Raad Hazem... So our heroes – by themselves, without even receiving any orders – are making Israel lose sleep.

"We will not be afraid of the settlers. They should think about leaving. We gave peace every chance. The time has come to prepare for all the options that are open."

70% of UN rights council members are non-democracies, says watchdog
The top United Nations human rights body started the year with a majority of its members defined as non-democratic countries and many accused of severe rights violations, drawing ire from the pro-Israel NGO UN Watch.

Only 14 members elected to the 47-member UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, are considered “free” countries by the rights group Freedom House, leaving 70 percent of slots occupied by nations designates as “partly free” or “not free.

“When the world elects regimes like China, Cuba, Pakistan, to its highest human rights body, that’s like naming Al Capone and his gang to fight organized crime. It’s a betrayal,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer in an interview with ILTV on Thursday.

When such states are elected to the panel, “it’s very hard for the world to take it seriously, and it raises the question, how can they even implement mandates that are positive, like the inquiry created on Iran,” Neuer added, referencing a recently formed probe into unrest in the Islamic Republic sparked by the death in custody of 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini.

The Human Rights Council has 47 member states, which are elected to three-year terms by the UN General Assembly through direct and secret ballots.

Neuer noted in a tweet on Sunday that countries with questionable human rights records such as Cuba, Qatar, China, Sudan, Eritrea, Algeria, Somalia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Bangladesh are members of the council.

Israel and the US have frequently criticized the council for its obsessive focus on Israel.

Israel is the only country with a dedicated item on the council, Agenda Item 7, exclusively devoted to discussing alleged Israeli rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

US spoon-feeds the Palestinian Authority a looted artifact
American and Palestinian officials gathered on Thursday at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Bethlehem for what was described as “the historic repatriation of a rare Palestinian cultural object.”

During the ceremony, the Department of Homeland Security’s investigative arm (Homeland Security Investigations) delivered a 2,700-year-old cosmetic spoon to the Palestinian Authority. The ancient tool is carved from ivory and has an etched winged figure into its front side. It was used to ladle incense onto fires and braziers at rites venerating the gods and the dead.

P.A. Minister of Tourism Rula Maayah welcomed the U.S. delegation.

“This artifact is important as it acquires its real scientific and archaeological value in its authentic location,” Maayah said. “The artifact that is being delivered today is a cosmetic tool that was used to pour incense and it dates to the Assyrian civilization 700-800 BC.”

Modern concepts of “Palestine” only began to emerge in the mid-19th century. It would not be until the mid-20th century—two decades after the birth of the State of Israel—that Arabs in the disputed territories would begin to show signs of a distinctive national identity. Subscribe to The JNS Daily Syndicate by email and never miss our top stories

The artifact was seized from Jewish-American billionaire Michael Steinhardt as part of a criminal probe in New York. As part of a deal to avoid prosecution, Steinhardt agreed in late 2021 to turn over $70 million worth of stolen antiquities that authorities claim were illegally acquired in Israel.

Officials say the cosmetic spoon first surfaced on the international art market in January 2003, when Steinhardt bought it from an Israeli antiques dealer who has been accused of dealing in illicit Israeli and Middle Eastern antiquities.

There is no indication as to what makes this object culturally Palestinian. Yet the head of the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs, George Noll, stated that his office “is proud to facilitate the return of this rare antiquity, an example of Palestinian cultural patrimony.”

“This is a historic moment between the American and Palestinian people and a demonstration of our belief in the power of cultural exchanges in building mutual understanding, respect, and partnership,” said Noll.
Negev Forum nations to hold 3-day UAE parley to prep for March summit
A large delegation of officials from Israel and Arab countries are scheduled to meet Sunday in Abu Dhabi for a three-day event to prepare for the Negev Forum summit in Morocco, scheduled for as early as March

That forum has included Israel, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt. Officials from all those countries are expected to convene from Sunday to Tuesday of this week.

The Israeli delegation will be led by Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz, who will be joined by officials from the ministries of agriculture, health tourism, energy, education, intelligence and defense.

The Negev Forum, which is designed to deepen cooperation between Israel and its Arab allies in the region, was first held in March of last year in Sde Boker in the Israeli Negev with Foreign Ministers from all the participating countries. This included US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

A steering committee meeting was held with participating countries in Bahrain in June and a Zoom meeting was held in October.

The three-day UAE meeting will include gatherings of the six working groups, on the topics of clean energy, education and coexistence, food and water security, health, regional security and tourism.

The UAE meeting takes place less than two weeks after the formation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government, which has already created tension with those allies.
Biden Admin Bows to Erdogan, Adopts Turkey’s Name Change
The Biden administration on Thursday said it will now refer to Turkey as "Türkiye," bowing to the Asiatic country's request that the United States use Ankara's preferred spelling.

"We will begin to refer to Türkiye and Republic of Türkiye accordingly in most formal, diplomatic, and bilateral contexts, including in public communications," the State Department said in a statement. "The Turkish embassy requested that the U.S. government use the name ‘Republic of Türkiye' in communications."

The name change comes as the Biden administration hopes to win Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's support for admitting Sweden and Finland into NATO. The move requires unanimous agreement among NATO members, and Turkey is the lone holdout.

Turkish officials have said the name change is intended to eliminate associations with the large North American bird. The change will "increase our country’s brand value," Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

NATO and other international organizations changed the spelling last year. Several U.S. agencies, including the Treasury Department, had also switched previously.

Admitting the two northern European countries to NATO would expand the organization’s border with Russia. Turkey is complicating this goal and could reject the plan altogether, the New York Times reported:

Iran Deepens Its Presence Inside Latin America
"Initially, my colleagues and I thought these were embassy employees, though we noticed their car number plates didn't belong to any embassy. We don't know what they are transferring... Because they won't let us examine closely. We just know that in past weeks, every day there are three to four flights to Venezuela." — Unnamed source at Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport, quoted by Iran International, December 7, 2022.

Latin American countries are opportune places for Iranian covert intelligence operations, especially against the US.

"One confidential intelligence document obtained by CNN links Venezuela's new Vice President Tareck El Aissami to 173 Venezuelan passports and ID's that were issued to individuals from the Middle East, including people connected to the terrorist group Hezbollah." — CNN, February 14, 2017.

"We're concerned that [Venezuelan President] Maduro has extended safe harbor to a number of terrorist groups... [including] supporters and sympathizers of Hezbollah." — Nathan Sales, former coordinator for counterterrorism at the US State Department, Small Wars Journal, January 20, 2020.

While the Biden administration continues to appease the Iranian regime, called by the US Department of State the "world's worst state sponsor of terrorism," the Iranian mullahs are creating their single "umma" (nation) on the doorstep of the US: Latin America. The Iranian regime's takeover of Latin America -- the creation of terror cells, the access to Latin American passports, the rise of Iranian-trained imams and militants in Latin America, the increasing recruitment of radicals -- is a potential existential threat to the United States.
Netherlands Summons Iranian Ambassador Again Over Executions
The Dutch government will summon the Iranian ambassador to the Netherlands for the second time in a month to voice its deep concerns over the execution of demonstrators, Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said on Saturday.

“Appalled by the horrible executions of demonstrators in Iran. I will summon the Iranian ambassador to underline our serious concerns and I call upon EU Member States to do the same,” Hoekstra said in a tweet.

Iran on Saturday hanged two men for allegedly killing a member of the security forces during nationwide protests that followed the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16.

Hoekstra said these actions underlined the need for the European Union to impose stronger sanctions on Iran than are currently being considered.

The Netherlands also summoned the Iranian ambassador in The Hague last month to protest against the execution of demonstrators in the country.
Biden Administration Sanctions Iranians Behind Drone Supply to Russia
The US Treasury department on Friday sanctioned seven executives at Iranian aerospace companies responsible for supplying drones to Russia and overseeing Iran’s ballistic missile program.

The Shahed-31 and Shahed-136 drones have been deployed by Russian forces against civilian infrastructure across Ukraine. Nearly 2,000 drones have been delivered from Iran to Russia since last summer.

Qods Aviation Industries (QAI), which is overseen by Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, is the designer and manufacturer of the Mohajer-6 drone. Ukrainian officials say that thousands of Iranian drones have been transferred to Russia, and that Iran is training Russian drone operators. The Treasury Department sanctioned QAI’s Chairman, managing director, and four members of its board.

“The Kremlin’s reliance on suppliers of last resort like Iran shows their desperation in the face of brave Ukrainian resistance and the success of our global coalition in disrupting Russian military supply chains and denying them the inputs they need to replace weapons lost on the battlefield,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin said in a statement. “The United States will act swiftly against individuals and entities supporting Iran’s UAV and ballistic missile programs and will stand resolutely in support of the people of Ukraine.”

Earlier this week, an independent investigation by two Ukrainian media outlets alleged that four Russian officers had visited Iran last August for training at the Kashan military base near the city of Isfahan, which Israel has called “a key point from which Iranian aerial terrorism is exported to the region.”
EU ‘appalled’ by latest executions of anti-regime protesters in Iran
The European Union said Saturday that it was “appalled” after Iran executed two men for killing a paramilitary force member during the protests sparked by a young woman’s death in custody.

“The EU is appalled by the execution of Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, arrested and sentenced to death in connection with the ongoing protests in Iran,” the spokesperson for EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“This is yet another sign of the Iranian authorities’ violent repression of civilian demonstrations,” he said.

“The European Union calls once again on the Iranian authorities to immediately end the strongly condemnable practice of imposing and carrying out death sentences against protesters.”

Later Saturday, France’s foreign ministry called the executions “revolting,” saying that “the execution of demonstrators cannot stand as an answer to the Iranian people’s legitimate aspirations for freedom.”

In a statement sent to AFP, the ministry said the executions “add to the many other serious and unacceptable violations of fundamental rights and freedoms committed by the Iranian authorities.”

The condemnations came after the executions brought to four the number of people executed in Iran over the nationwide protests, which have escalated since mid-September into calls for an end to Iran’s clerical regime.

Amanpour’s Disgraceful Comparison of Israel to Bashar al-Assad
On January 5, 2023, Christiane Amanpour once again demonstrated her deep-seated prejudice against Israel by implying there is a comparison between the actions of the Jewish state and those of the Syrian regime. The comments came during an interview with Dror Moreh, the Israeli director of “The Corridors of Power,” during which the topics of Ukraine, the Holocaust, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Syria were raised. Toward the end, Amanpour asked Moreh:
You are an Israeli. I don’t know whether you were in Israel at the time, but you said that this red line in the neighboring country of Syria, where all these atrocities were being committed really, really made you angry and upset. Many will want to know, you know, do you feel equally angry about the horrible situation that’s going on in your own country, and the human rights attacks, killings of Palestinians. Obviously, we know Israelis are also attacked, but what is your perspective, as an Israeli given the whole “never again” paradigm in which you place this investigation?

Before delving into the appropriateness of comparing the justifications for the Syrian regime’s attacks on its own citizens versus Israel’s measures to defend against terrorism, let us first put in perspective the scale of the violence.

The United Nations estimates that in ten years of conflict in Syria, over 306,000 civilians (not including combatants) have been killed, or about 30,000 a year.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed in total from December 1987 (the start of the First Intifada) to May 2021 approximately 14,000 Israeli and Palestinian lives, including both civilians and combatants. That’s about 400 per year, which includes particularly deadly periods like the Second Intifada and the various wars and operations against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

Put another way, the Syrian civil war cost more than twice as many lives in a single year – without even counting combatants – as have been killed in 34 years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There simply is no comparison.

But even beyond just the numbers, Amanpour’s comparison is morally obscene and dripping with partisan framing. Syrian regime atrocities are not just atrocities because of the sheer scale of civilian casualties. They are atrocities because the Syrian regime targeted civilians, barrel bombing hospitals and dropping chemical weapons on civilian areas.

'A Woman of Valor': Worthwhile Holocaust fiction - review
Even before page one, I found a lot to dislike about this work of Holocaust fiction. But fortunately, I kept reading. Because despite its faults, A Woman of Valor is a significant and worthwhile book.

My gripes began with what I felt were an unappealing title and cover, compounded by my ambivalence about the genre. While I appreciate that spinning Shoah tales allows deeper exploration of individuals’ motives, feelings and reactions, I fear that Holocaust fiction could fuel Holocaust denial.

Getting past those preliminaries, this monumental family saga is dense with details but skimpy on dialogue. The narrative is written in the style of a storyteller rather than a novelist. Its ponderously long paragraphs are marred occasionally by typos and untranslated phrases in foreign languages.

I had to keep referring to the family trees in the appendix because it’s difficult to keep straight the names and relationships of the dozens of aunts, uncles and cousins populating this 80-year-long story of the Lefkovitzes of Bialystok.

The 80-year-long story of the Lefkovitzes of Bialystok
Fred Skolnik, author of six previous novels (which I have not read), was editor-in-chief of the 22-volume, award-winning second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica. Perhaps that explains this long book’s rather encyclopedic style and content, including (maybe too) much information about every character’s sex life.

And yet, A Woman of Valor grew on me, and I could barely put it down.

Its characters grew on me. Especially Emma, the person to whom the title refers. As a teenager in the 1930s, she’s the one family member who fully grasps the danger of remaining in Poland and the urgency to immigrate to Palestine.

Would Emma survive? Would any Lefkovitz family member be spared the coming horrors?

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