Chosen Links – April 15, 2024

Articles, Threads, Videos and More about Israel and Antisemitism
April 16, 2024

I’ve never considered myself to be a political activist. In fact I pride myself on mostly trying to “stay out of it”. When friends bring up politics, I enjoy the jokes, and it’s great when it’s an interesting discussion, but if it becomes an argument, I try to tune out or change the subject. Some people seem to really thrive on the art of an argument, but count me out, me and my thin skin usually tense up.

After my friend Noah Bleich helped me add 88 trash cans, to a mile-long stretch on Pico Boulevard, when I was asked by several people to consider running for Neighborhood Council, I laughed with, “no way, no politics for me”. But movies? Celebrities? Hollywood? Now THAT was where my excitement landed. And it’s the intersection of politics meeting celebrity, that shaped my first election. In the year 2000 (do you visualize Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter every time you hear that phrase? I sure do), I was finally old enough to vote in my first presidential election.

I went to UCLA as an undergrad, and my oldest friend on earth, Ronnie Rosenberg, asked if I wanted to volunteer at the Gore/Lieberman rally. Not really I replied, but he twisted my arm, and it was walking distance to the event in Westwood Village, so I agreed. The next thing I knew, we had been assigned the best job I could dream up: work the rope-barrier in the celebrity section! I was being rewarded for overcoming my laziness, and that evening, I spent an hour or so taking photos of/with Cher, Ben Affleck, and others. Heck, I even got a friendly “kiss” pose by now-Israel-hater John Cusack.

It gets stranger. At the time, “The West Wing” was a new, hit show, and multiple actors from the cast attended this rally. Who do you think brought Gore to the stage, and walked around shaking hands and kissing babies side-by-side with the real candidate? President Jed Bartlet himself, Martin Sheen. I even got a photo shaking his “presidential” hand, in an art imitating life imitating art, surreal scene.

Gore seemed like a safe, if boring choice (“I put it in a lock box” is ingrained in me, but I think that’s more SNL than the real man). But if you’d have asked a Jew at the time, the real story, for better and worse, was Joseph Lieberman. It was the first time in the history of America, that a Jewish person was on a major presidential ticket. This was a huge point of pride for many of us, myself included. But with it also came neurotic fears, along the lines of, “wouldn’t he need to overcompensate to NOT appear biased in favor of Israel, and thus actually be BAD for Israel?” I held those beliefs. I remember saying, “I’m voting for Gore/Lieberman, but I think it will be a disaster for Israel if Lieberman ever becomes president”.

Obviously Bush/Cheney ensured we could never know for certain what would have happened, but given the track record of the rest of his career, it’s safe to say that making assumptions about the man, was an injustice to his legacy. The man went out of his way to be diplomatic even with those he disagreed with. He looked for common ground, when others would not even try. He even endorsed Republican John McCain for president, and ultimately was one of the biggest names to help the “No Labels” movement try to create a legitimate third option, for the many of us who are disenfranchised by both Democrats and Republicans. I include myself in that categorization, with my fiercely liberal, but protectively pro-Israel identity, always feeling out of place, and at odds with each party.

As Dan Schnur writes, “Days before he passed, Lieberman was drafting a statement in which he was trying to persuade the Biden campaign not to take pro-Israel voters for granted. How ironic that this unfinished statement received more attention after his death than if it had been released when he was still alive.” How sad that so many of us did not have faith in a politician with the rare track record of integrity, to stay true to his beliefs if elected to higher power. It’s because we do not consider “integrity” and “politician” as words that can go together in harmony.

As Ron Kampeas reminded us, “In 1998, he delivered a floor speech excoriating President Bill Clinton for his affair with an intern, Monica Lewinsky. He called his one-time friend “immoral” and said that Clinton had “weakened” the presidency. The speech sent out shockwaves — news networks interrupted broadcasts to go to the Senate floor — but it also staved off calls for Clinton’s removal from office. It was credited with salvaging the presidency when the Senate subsequently rejected the U.S. House of Representatives’ impeachment. Through a Democrat’s excoriation of a Democratic president, Lieberman seemed to have punished Clinton enough.” These days, Clinton is seen as a high ranking member of the laundry list known as #MeToo, even inspiring a solid miniseries where he’s played by Clive Owen. But at the time, Lieberman was a unicorn, for not only calling him out for the behavior, but doing it from within his same Democratic party:

Thank you Mr. Lieberman for your decades of service; thank you for giving me my first experience as a voter, full of celebrity photographs; thank you for standing by the side of our ally Israel; and thank you for never being a slave to your party, a rare things indeed. May your blessing forever be a memory.
I now present my latest “Chosen Links”.


1a. Is it nepotism or just plain narcissism to always include my own work here when it’s published? Either way, I’m not paid for this so I may as well be at peace with standing by my own writing! In this one, technically the opening essay of the prior “Chosen Links”, Boaz Hepn, I mean I told the background of what turned into a magnificent week in Ojai, California’s Camp Ramah campus, where they hosted 120 Nova music festival survivors. My sisters-in-law Karin and Rikki Hepner came up with the idea, and executed it with the help of phenomenal volunteers and support, and it wouldn’t have happened without Karin’s son Adin having a Bar Mitzvah. Read on, help with STILL much-needed donations for their psychological follow-up, and checkout the “Videos” section where I include wonderful footage, as well as a CNN profile by Anderson Cooper!

1b. I would be remiss not to include the website, to refer to and donate if you see fit:

2a. More about me! No, it isn’t by me this time, but an entire article written by a far more accomplished journalist, and it’s ABOUT me! Tabby Refael has one of the most natural writing styles of anyone I know, she has a tremendous passion for many things, not the least of which is Israel and her family’s country of origin, Iran. Plus she’s hilarious. But as there is a need to understand more about Iranian Jews, especially living in Los Angeles with its vibrant Persian population, she fills a necessary gap. But this article is one of many that have nothing to do with Iran, and she honors me by taking the time. I do put a ton of myself into my work, including my time and energy, and it’s not without its sacrifices (just ask my wife Adi). So it feels wonderful to have a marvelous journalist, who took the time to spotlight my efforts. Please read and share the story of my own “Chosen Links by Boaz”:

2b. Tabby explains what many Iranians were feeling recently, confusion, offense, and insult. President Biden gave a statement in honor of Nowruz. Based on the Spring Equinox, Nowruz is not an Arab holiday, it is not a Muslim holiday, it is a cultural, Iranian/Persian holiday. But for some reason, our president felt that it was an appropriate time to bring up the hot topic of Gaza during that greeting. “Was the administration offering an olive branch to American Muslim voters ahead of a critical election in which leaders of those communities have outwardly voiced their dissatisfaction with the president’s handling of the war in Gaza? If so, Biden and his advisors must understand the nuances between American Muslim communities, including Iranian-Americans, as well as those of Iranian religious minorities.” She gives several examples of Iranian voices speaking up angrily at this monkey wrench thrown into their holiday. I’ll personalize this and tell you that it reminds me of my closest friendship that I’ve lost since October 7th.

A close friend and former coworker, who out of common courtesy I will not name, celebrates Christmas. As such, I sent her a message this past Christmas, wishing her a Merry Christmas, and saying that we (Adi and I) missed her. Her totally inappropriate, and what the hell did this have to do with Christmas response? That she hoped for peace, and no more wars made by Israeli lies about rapes and babies being beheaded. I’m paraphrasing, because although I could look up the text on my phone, it would make my blood boil. So forgive my giving you this from memory out of my sanity’s self-preservation.

In Biden’s case it’s the greeting that’s inappropriate, in my case it’s the response that was. The point is, when someone outside of your culture wishes you a greeting for your holiday, don’t muddy the water with something that’s not relevant to the topic, unless your purpose is to intentionally cause a rift:

2c. Yashar Ali is one of several that Tabby mentions taking offense, with his point being quite clear and simple. “Nowruz is not an Arab holiday or a Muslim holiday. And no mention of Afghanistan where the Taliban has canceled Nowruz as a holiday. Who approved this?” Just ridiculous:

3a. The always worthwhile Campus Watch, by Aaron Bandler. Quick hits of things happening on school campuses around the world. April 4th edition:

3b. Campus Watch, April 11th edition:

3c. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.” Per the United States Department of Education, examples of violations of Title VI would include, but not be limited to, “racial harassment, school segregation, and denial of language services to English learners.”
A very important tool in our battle against antisemitism on university campuses, has been filing lawsuits under Title VI. Aaron Bandler reports about a recent case making the news. “The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), StandWithUs and the Louis Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, filed a complaint against Ohio State University (OSU) on April 9 alleging that antisemitism has become “severe and pervasive” on the OSU campus”. Several incidents, and violations were filed in the suit.

“In a statement, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said that “we believe all the evidence shows that despite a pattern of escalating harassment and intimidation, Ohio State University administrators, faculty and staff repeatedly failed in their duty to protect Jewish and Israeli students from such attacks … We urge the U.S. Department of Education to investigate these incidents and compel the university to take immediate action to address the pervasively hostile environment for Jewish and Israelis on OSU’s campus.”
The university gave a statement in response to this, saying the ways they have denounced the antisemitism, and make Jews feel safe on campus. However, there is already an update at the end of the article, with StandWithUs’s Roz Rothstein staying, ““While OSU’s response identifies a number of ways the administration asserts it is working to address the antisemitic climate on its campus, the reality is that between the time of OSU’s response and the filing of this complaint, based on information from students and campus stakeholders, that hostile climate has not improved. As alleged in the complaint, the incidents recounted were reported to various OSU administrators tasked with addressing such issues, yet those reports, on numerous occasions, ultimately received no resolution — certainly none sufficient to remedy the harms incurred or the overall sense of Jewish students that their campus is safe and welcoming for them. To the extent there are factual discrepancies between the complaint’s allegations and OSU’s understanding of these matters, this is one of many reasons OCR intervention is necessary; it is far too common for administrators to misunderstand the realities of contemporary antisemitism — especially when otherwise protected free speech crosses the line into discriminatory harassment — and thus fail to implement appropriate remedial measures.” Incidentally, I’m proud to say that the legal department of StandWithUs is led by my friend Yael Lerman:

4. Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib with another strongly worded rebuke of someone who claims to be in the pro-Palestinian camp, but as happens so often, are really just full of hatred for Jews and defense of Hamas. “What a horrible, immoral, despicable, and truly grotesque take that justifies atrocities and war crimes by Hamas.” He gives a bunch of reasons why Hamas actions have only been a disaster for Palestinians, including how it may have empowered Netanyahu:

5. Pamela Paresky writes a cover story for the Jewish Journal, about the understated term “trauma” not nearly describing what people feel in Israel. What was normal and accepted, is no longer true. We get used to things in life, and accept risks, this is true of America as much as Israel. But everything changed, and now Pamela describes people as feeling “shattered”. “In a tacit contract between Israeli citizens and their government, Israelis have come to tolerate a certain level of antisemitic terrorist violence as the price of Jewish self-determination in the historical, biblical, and continuous homeland of the Jews. In return, Israeli homes — or at least, the mamads — were thought to be as safe as if covered by an iron dome. On Oct. 7, that contract was shattered.” If you think that means they are giving up, that is far from the truth, they are annoyed at the world creating pressure for them to stop fighting back, and that even includes the more left-wing components:

6. Rafael Medoff writes about the disgusting response by the Sociology community. He notes that their reaction to the war has been extremely anti-Israel just days after October 7th, well before Israel began to fight back in Gaza. “Recently, 573 of these anti-Israel sociologists asked the American Sociological Association (ASA) to adopt a virulently anti-Israel resolution. The ASA’s general membership will vote on the text in the weeks to come. The drafters of the resolution were trained in a profession that emphasizes dispassionate, scholarly objectivity. Yet their resolution is a wild anti-Israel screed that does not even pretend to be objective or evenhanded.” Nothing about the response to this war has been even-handed:

7. Thane Rosenbaum cleverly mimics Shakespeare, saying, “Today, however, it’s not Julius Caesar asking, “Et tu, Brute?” but the nation-state of Israel, a large knife lodged in its back, wondering, “Et tu, Bide?” He is feeling the devastated let-down of a people who continue to rely on its allies to have its back, when so few do. Seemingly losing him, makes many feel the sting. Regarding the UN Resolution not-vetoed, “There is no excuse for abstaining when the Resolution left Hamas unscathed, while global antisemitism skyrockets around the world. At such a dire moment, a declaratory statement from the United States defending its regional friend was expected and required. Doing less emboldened Hamas, and gave a shout-out to the Arab Street, which won’t stop shouting. Joe Biden surely knows that.”

This leaves us Zionist Americans in an uncomfortable position, of wondering who, if any, will actually have our backs. “Who actually stands with Israel these days, given the number of people sitting on their hands, passively abstaining? Jewish-Americans, who have historically voted the Democratic ticket like lemmings, must decide whether to reverse course and avoid abetting their political demise. Donald Trump is not the ideal solution, either. Just this past week he criticized Israel’s handling of its war in Gaza. There is lingering doubt whether his administration’s stalwart support for Israel had more to do with his son-in-law, his bankruptcy lawyer, and the chief legal officer of the Trump Organization, who comprised his Middle East brain trust, than his own understanding of the region.”

8. Shmuel Rosner continues his great analysis of Israeli politics. He explains that just as David Elazar resigned as Chief of Staff after the Yom Kippur War, followed a week later by Prime Minister Golda Meir, so too is it time for 4 important Israelis to turn in their walking papers. “The IDF Chief of Staff, Herzi Halevi, the head of the Shin Bet, Ronen Bar, the commander of the Southern Command, Yaron Finkelman, and the head of military intelligence, Aharon Haliva, are Israeli patriots. Precisely because of this, the four of them should resign from their positions – soon.”

At the start of the war, most of the country seemed to want Netanyahu’s head. After October 7th, there was great unity for sake of self-preservation, with the spoken and unspoken knowledge that everyone would unite to protect, but after some stability, the reckoning was coming. For everything before October 7th, but all the more for the security failings of that day. “Those who oppose an imminent resignation of the senior officers cite two main reasons. The first – we are still at war and their skills are needed. The second – the appointment of the next commanders must not be left in the hands of the current government. The first reason was a good reason in the opening months of the war. But after six months, we are no longer in the middle of a steep uphill charge. We gallop up and down hills. The war is not over, but it is definitely less intense. We can now afford to have a gradual change of command… In other words: The first reason has become obsolete. The second reason is not a reason. As fighters and as commanders, Halevi, Bar, Finkelman and Haliva have a substitute. As resigners, they have no substitute.”

9. British-Palestinian peace activist John Aziz, poses a question of what would be the top thing that needs to happen to bring peace in Israel. Eylon Levy chimes in saying that the Palestinian people need to recognize Israel as a country that isn’t going anywhere, and has every right to exist. Aziz replies during this respectful dialogue, asking what Israel could do to create peace there, and Levy answers, “We need to convince the international community to course correct from policies that have aggravated this conflict. Like sustaining UNRWA, which tells Palestinians that they have a right to be resettled in Israel, and until they exercise or relinquish that “right”, the world will give them free healthcare indefinitely. That’s madness. Talk about perverse incentives. We want peace. Unfortunately the conditions don’t exist at present.” It’s kind of answering a question with a question, but the statement does make sense unfortunately:

10a. Two extremely different viewpoints on the UN’s Security Council imposing a ceasefire, that the United States did not veto. First there is Rabbi Pini Dunner, expressing sadness and anger at this decision, demanding a ceasefire while not linking that demand to the need to release the hostages. Not to mention zero condemnation of Hamas. “ Considering the far-reaching implications of having called for a ceasefire without directly addressing the actions of Hamas or the pressing issue of Israeli hostages, the UN Security Council must urgently reevaluate. The United Nations purports to bear the mantle of peace and justice on the global stage – in which case it must immediately issue a new resolution that comprehensively addresses the concerns raised by this latest resolution. The new resolution should explicitly condemn Hamas aggression, demand the immediate release of all the hostages, and outline clear expectations for the cessation of hostilities that ensure the safety and security of all civilians – not just those living in Gaza.” He’s writing, what many of us were feeling when this passed:

10b. On the other hand, Michael Koplow was highly impressed by the UN Resolution, other than it not condemning Hamas, and was upset by Netanyahu’s response, a slight to America. “On Monday, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that checked many important Israeli boxes. It called for a temporary ceasefire for the duration of Ramadan that should then lead to a lasting and sustainable ceasefire, rather than calling for a permanent ceasefire now. In the very same clause as the one calling for a temporary ceasefire, it demanded “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access to address their medical and other humanitarian needs.” It deplored acts of terrorism and reiterated that taking hostages is prohibited under international law. It also called for expanding humanitarian assistance in Gaza—presumably in line with Israel’s statement last week that it will now be flooding Gaza with aid—and for protecting civilians, both of which Israel has said it is doing and will continue to do. The resolution was not perfect; it did not, for instance, condemn Hamas by name, unlike the draft resolution authored by the U.S. last week that was vetoed by China and Russia. As a result, the U.S. abstained from the resolution, allowing it to pass 14-0.” He thinks this checked most necessary boxes, and to take issue with it is one thing, but to start to burn bridges with their number one ally, is unforgivable:

11. Matthew Schultz writes a cover story for the Jewish Journal, and I thought it was going to be the same stories about Jews in colleges, but it was so much more. I should have known better, because Schultz is a consistently compelling writer. We are treated to conversations with several people from various American universities, expressing how awful it is now, worse than its already not-Zionist past. He then brings up Reichman, a university in Herzliya, Israel, and talks to students who chose to go there rather than stay in America. Imagine going to college and being able to wear your Judaism, and show your Zionism with pride. How refreshing!

He plays the devil’s advocate, and brings up an interesting counterpoint. “Perhaps the school was a place where they felt they could engage in respectful but complicated discussions about Israeli history and policy. But when I asked them if they had “hard” or “complicated” conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they seemed confused by the very premise of the question. “We’re like a parochial school,” Davis told me. “There are Catholic schools. There are Jewish schools. And this is a Zionist school.” Which is to say that just as an anti-Zionist orthodoxy stifles debate on American campuses, a Zionist orthodoxy gently quiets it at Reichman.” In other words, Schultz reminds us how important debate is when going to school, and how limiting it is when we remain in our echo chambers.

However, he did see the beauty and safety in it all. “How strange that the peaceful campus is found here, in Israel, in the midst of an existential war while the turbulent campus is found in America, whose borders have never been crossed by invading armies.”

12a. Eitan Goodman writes a wonderful 2-part series, catered for Instagram quick bits and pieces, about antisemitism. He takes you through the crazy idea if people didn’t believe 9/11 on 9/12, and makes you realize that’s exactly what happened to us Jews. “That isn’t just misinformation. That is the instantaneous mass acceptance of a conspiracy theory.” And yes, he also brings up the victims of rape not being believed:

12b. Part 2 is pretty amazingly sharp, with words pointed at those who refuse to believe the facts, and search for any justification to fit their anti-Israel narrative. The ending is pretty killer, as he taunts how the children and grandkids of these modern day Holocaust deniers, will see them for what they were. Liars and antisemites:

13. Jacob Ari Werth-Stoil and John Spencer write a great analysis of why Hamas continues to resist a ceasefire, and it comes down to its belief that international pressure is going to win the day. In particular, Hamas believes that America will get Israel to back down.

“Pressure at home and the suffering of Gazans led the United States to put pressure on Israel to change operations during the fighting in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, by employing a much lighter force package. For the first time, Hamas could see a way forward. If the United States could be made uncomfortable enough with the continuing of the war against Hamas, then it would put more pressure on Israel to wind down operations. Egypt, in part, was inadvertently aiding in Hamas’ strategy when they closed their border to Palestinian civilians. This trapped Gazans in the combat zone and guaranteed that, despite Israel’s and the international community’s efforts with humanitarian aid, there would be little relief to Gazans’ suffering.”

Ultimately, the authors, who are strategic experts, believe that the ones who will convince Hamas of their impending doom, and a need to concede, will come from America, not Israel:

14. Shira Li Bartov recommends a killer cocktail in honor of Easter. Actually, she warns us about this grossly antisemitic one that’s being served in León, Spain. Who wants a “Mata judeos”? Just means “kill the Jews”, no big deal these days when it’s fashionable to be antisemitic, right?

Actually, this has nothing to do with any recent events, and in the minds of the town, it’s not even antisemitic, it’s just a traditional phrase. Let’s get into its history. “The expression of “killing Jews” on Holy Week goes back to an episode in the 15th century…León was economically devastated by war and the Black Death, leaving many Christian noblemen in debt. One such knight, Suero de Quiñones, owed payments to a Jewish merchant. To avoid paying his debt, Quiñones whipped up a religious fervor against León’s Jews on Holy Week in 1449. He organized a group of knights to attack the Jewish quarter, murdering the lender and several others on Good Friday…To celebrate their supposed vengeance for the death of Jesus, Quiñones and his allies went to drink wine in Barrio Húmedo. Thus commenced the ritual of downing limonadas to the refrain of “killing Jews,”.

15. Zvika Klein writes a really interesting article about the Haredi community and the fight against the draft. And it’s not what you think. We’re used to hearing about them being opposed to it, and fighting tooth and nail for the exemption to join the IDF, but recent polling actually makes it appear that the Haredi public is far more open to it than their leadership lets on. “69% of the respondents took pride in being Israeli, with 63% expressing pride in the IDF as well. Some 67% of respondents showed an interest in feeling and reinforcing their connection to the people of Israel and their love for the country, and 61% indicated an interest in protecting the Land and people of Israel. This suggests that the haredi motivation to enlist, provided there is no spiritual risk, is driven by a sense of connection and concern for the people and the Land of Israel.”
In this game of chicken, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi said there would be a “mass departure”, and they would be leaving Israel if this happened. But it appears that is quite unlikely. Klein suggests a new strategy of directly engaging with the community instead of the leadership, it’s quite clever:

16a. Eylon Levy gives a great interview to Times of Israel’s David Horovitz, and it’s fascinating to learn how he came from left field to become their “government spokesman”, and just as quickly seemingly became their “former” government spokesman.
With how it all began, he did interviews as a private citizen, then got called in to assist. “’We’re overwhelmed with all the interview requests. We need backup. I want you to watch a few of my interviews, and from tomorrow you’re on your own’…The following day, I was on TV already, in a suit and tie, and a stripe saying “Israeli government spokesman,” representing the country on international TV and media.” And then with how it ended, it was just as quick and surreal. “We’ve received some sort of complaint from the British about something that you tweeted at David Cameron. I have to suspend you. I said, For how long? He said, I don’t know. For now, no interviews and no press conferences.”

When pressed on if this was the real reason he was suddenly suspended, he answers, “I find it difficult to believe that this is really about the tweet to David Cameron because I tweeted government policy and facts, and it’s a non-issue. I really don’t know what’s been going on behind the scenes since then. I really don’t know.”

16b. Naya Lekht uses a creative writing technique, to explain why so many of us are upset over the dismissal of Eylan Levy. She pretends a historian is looking back, and trying to analyze how we were feeling at this point in time. “And in the halls of countless city council meetings, historian, you will find pro-Hamas groups mobilizing, at times even coming to these meetings with dolls drenched in red paint to signify babies’ blood, urging city council members to pass resolutions demanding a ceasefire. I would hope, dear historian, that you will be able to see this for what it is: blood libel, one of the oldest accusations waged against the Jewish people. For this lie, the Jewish people paid with their lives.…But if you are aware that this age-old hatred is one of the most durable hatred precisely because it has the ability to evolve and mutate, then you will understand that the Jewish people’s insistence on reinstating Eylon Levy is because, in being the spokesperson for the Israeli government during a trying time for the Jewish people, Levy became the spokesperson for us Jews in the Diaspora. In fending off lies and brutal accusations of being baby killers and enacting a genocide on a people who set off the war by breaking into a sovereign country and murdering, raping, and kidnapping innocent civilians, Levy took on the behemoth role of fighting the latest variant of antisemitism: anti-Zionism.” His forced disappearing act is one of the biggest bonehead PR moves Israel has made, and the bar is generally quite low when it comes to Israel + PR:

16c. “I think I’ve been doing a decent job making the case for Israel. I’m needed in the trenches. I want to continue giving interviews and speaking and influencing…If it’s not going to be as an official government spokesman, it’ll be as a former government spokesman and host of a podcast that is going to make quality information about Israel accessible to new audiences around the world.” This is Eylon Levy continuing the aforementioned interview, and his next venture. He wants all of us to step up, and make a difference. “You don’t need to be a spokesperson to speak up for Israel”, he describes it as a “civilian public diplomacy initiative, to keep telling Israel’s story in an increasingly hostile world. Because this is a fight that we can only fight together, as a people”. Hope I get to meet this guy sometime, what a great story he’s become:

16d. Here is the fundraising/crowdsourcing page. “You can support our new initiative, New Israeli Discourse, by making a contribution through the Giving platform, and leaving a comment below on what you would like to see us do next. And it gets better. The Israeli Diaspora Ministry has recognized our important work and agreed to match your donations. So every dollar you donate is doubled.” I’m fascinated, and hope to speak with them, and learn more:

17. Lahav Harkov discusses the “will they or won’t they” of American pressure to get Israel to STOP. Clearly they have changed their tune in the last month or two, with their incessant support. Pressure is likely creating delays in their entry of Rafah. But, ultimately, most signs point towards it being an inevitability. The question will be, how big of a break with the U.S. will that cause?

Harkov does remind us something important though. “But it should also be noted that the US continues to supply weapons to Israel, and the Biden administration has yet to set additional conditions on its military aid, despite unprecedented backing for such a policy from within the Democratic Party. The President has not backed down from his support for the war aims of eliminating the Hamas threat and bringing home the more than 130 hostages remaining in Gaza.”

18. Julie Strauss Levin makes me uncomfortable, in this compelling essay where she alleges that Biden hates Israel. The piece is certainly well written, full of data and facts, but something about it just felt like I was reading political bias being worn on its sleeve. She lost me in the opening paragraph, when saying, “For some American Jews, the months since Oct. 7 have felt like a horror movie, as they watch, with increasing alarm, as our president…seemed to, moment after crucial moment, throw Israel under the bus.”

Are we talking about the same president? The one who gave an incredible speech after October 7th, who publicly embraced Netanyahu while historically visiting Israel during an active war, who refused to change policy for days, weeks, and months into public pressure for standing by Israel, including countless Washington insiders signing a letter objecting to his Israel favoritism? That president?

If she had started off by saying what many of us ARE feeling, about how after months of unwavering support, we fear we have LOST him, and then given all of the same data and reasons she feels Biden actually hates Israel, I would have at least felt like I was reading a reasonable perspective. But by listing literally no support he’s given, I feel like I’m being gaslit, and told to believe he’s been a bad guy all along. Isn’t it enough to worry about the political gamesmanship that have turned the tide against us now, that I don’t also need to have history rewritten?

Sorry, I often share pieces I disagree with in parts, and bring up what I appreciate about it, but I take issue with the foundation of this one, which is a shame considering it reads as a highly compelling piece, until I realized it reads less about how Biden hates Israel, and more how Levin hates Biden:

19a. Wait, you mean we CAN’T trust the numbers given to us by the Hamas…I mean Gaza Ministry of Health? If only someone had told us this. Oh right, they did. Hillel Neuer at UN Watch, Salo Aizenberg and all of Honest Reporting. And countless others who I’ve shared in these pages. And yet for every time I find someone recognizing the flaw in the numbers, about ten bad stories come out quoting them like they are sacred.

Thank you to the FDD, who have provided so much great data over these months, and now have reported a huge update. “The Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said on April 6 that it had “incomplete data” for 11,371 of the 33,091 Palestinian fatalities it claims to have documented. In a statistical report, the ministry notes that it considers an individual record to be incomplete if it is missing any of the following key data points: identity number, full name, date of birth, or date of death. The health ministry also released a report on April 3 that acknowledged the presence of incomplete data but did not define what it meant by “incomplete.” In that earlier report, the ministry acknowledged the incompleteness of 12,263 records. It is unclear why, after just three more days, the number fell to 11,371 — a decrease of more than 900 records.” Nothing suspicious there, not at all, keep walking by people, nothing to see here:

19b. Ariel David Adesnik writes in great detail for the Wall Street Journal on the subject, but that’s a paywall, so I’ll give you a key quote. “Mr. Biden isn’t alone in taking Hamas’s numbers at face value. The United Nations also relies on the Health Ministry’s data. The U.S. news media include the ministry’s latest numbers in its daily updates on the war. In October the Washington Post’s Adam Taylor vouched for Hamas, writing: “Many experts consider figures provided by the ministry reliable, given its access, sources and accuracy in past statements.” Yet in a series of lengthy reports, the ministry admits that the figures the media treat as authoritative rely in part on reporting from . . . the media. The ministry says its casualty counts include two types of fatalities: those recorded by medical facilities and those reported by “reliable media sources.” In its March 31 report, the ministry attributes 15,070 of the dead, or 45.9%, to news reports. From which outlets? The ministry never says.”

So follow the bouncing ball. There is no free press in Gaza. All journalism comes under the umbrella and auspices of Hamas. Any reporting coming from within, comes from almost half/half hospitals, which we know are run by Hamas, and the media, which we know is run by Hamas. And those numbers have never been close to adding up, and now that’s true more than ever. But hey, who cares, right? The UN and even our own politicians in America should just feel free to keep quoting those faulty numbers:

19c. You might say, Boaz, stop being snarky, that report is new, so maybe people couldn’t have known better last month. Let me remind you that this same FDD’s Joe Truzman, published this analysis of Hamas and their many dirty propaganda tactics back in OCTOBER. “Given the propensity of journalists to at times conduct insufficient research when reporting events during war because of the urgency to provide speedy information on social media platforms, Hamas will undoubtedly attempt to continue exploiting these vulnerabilities.” Maybe every detail was not yet known, but to take their word for their own numbers at face value has been ignorant at best, and more aptly negligence:

19d. Still not quite enough damning info for you? Maybe they shouldn’t have trusted the numbers, but they did, so whatever? Okay, how about this FDD report, from November 2nd. Not only do they warn about the dirty tactics, not only do they warn that the numbers cannot be relied upon, but they quote our own White House as saying that THEY know they can’t. “When asked about the number of Palestinian deaths reported by the Gaza Health Ministry, President Joe Biden said, “I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed.” National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby said the White House will not use “numbers put out by an organization that’s run by a terrorist organization.” “Hamas has a clear propaganda incentive to inflate civilian casualties as much as possible,” warned Luke Baker, a former Reuters Jerusalem bureau chief. He added: “Any health official stepping out of line and not giving the death tolls that Hamas wants reported to journalists risks serious consequences.” So, the FDD knew and warned us (among many places and organizations), the White House knew and mocked the idea of accepting those numbers, and yet…that same White House is now using the numbers? What am I missing? Oh right, it’s election season, and Israel is not popular among a large swath of the younger population. Got it. Suddenly the numbers are okay to use:


1. Roi Harel just released this cover of “Stuck in the Middle of You”, by Stealers Wheel. And it is STRONG. The band is smiling and jamming like you’re watching the original, but listen to the lyrics to “Stuck in the Middle East”, and they are DARK. And if you impatiently turn it off before the tail end, you’ll miss him really stick the landing:

2. Jon Sutz created a very well-meaning video a few years ago, in an attempt to not only combat the rampant misinformation online, but using a very positive spin. Here are the reasons to LOVE Israel. He created a website at the time, and used this video as a promo tool, and I appreciate his strategy and efforts, as we need more positivity about Israel in the world:

3a. Gadi Taub shares a thought-provoking clip from a recent webinar. Here, Batya Ungar-Sargon speaks passionately, and clearly, about the cognitive dissonance of anyone with a “woke” ideology, when learning of the sexual violence on October 7th. She explains that if you follow that way of thinking, it’s all about who has the “agency”. And in the case of Israelis and Palestinians, Israel must have agency, and therefore Palestinians have none, and thus they are like children, who can do no wrong. If a Hamas terrorist raped a woman at the peaceful Nova festival, that member of Hamas has no agency, and thus they cannot be doing anything terrible, it’s the woman (or man) being raped who still has that agency, because of who they are. Thus, to paraphrase, she aptly says, this is the liberal version of the conservative attitude, “if she’s wearing that outfit, she’s asking for it”. Really great clip, and makes me really need to watch the entire webinar:

3b. Thus, you had to know what was coming. That’s right, the entire recording.

This is an excellent discussion about more than just sexual crimes against women on October 7th, but a lack of female agency in general around the world. Especially the Muslim world. The The Telos-Paul Piccone Institute hosts 3 impressive women, each with amazing insights. Batya Ungar-Sargon discusses the failings of the Progressive movement, and how Israeli women can’t be victims since their Identity is that of oppressors. Mariam Memarsadeghigives a fantastic perspective from an Iranian woman, who fights tooth and nail for a Democratic Iran, and reminds us how many women were risking their lives to protest their subjugation. And Nina Power shows herself to be an amazing non-Jewish perspective, as she analyzes what she sees happening in England, where lower class women being raped by Muslim immigrants are having it swept under the rug, for fear of being seen as Islamophobic.

Moderated by Gabriel Noah Brahm, each woman takes a turn speaking wonderfully, followed by them talking to each other, and answering questions. Well worth your time:

4a. Etana Hecht shares a portion of an interview between Douglas Murray and South African journalist Jane Dutton. Fun fact about Dutton, she worked for Al Jazeera from 2005 until 2018. No likely bias there, having worked for the organization that is basically Qatar’s way of promoting Hamas. Let me tell you, Murray hits a home run with how he handles her built in biased questions:

4b. Douglas Murray’s entire interview if you want to watch all half an hour of it, which goes beyond the start of Israel, and also discusses Trump, immigration, South Africa and more:

5. Could this have been a bit stronger? Yes, in my opinion one of my all-time heroes Steven Spielberg could have explicitly supported Israel when he referred to the war, and could have honored AND decried the deaths of the innocent Palestinians, by making it clear they are victims of Hamas as much if not more than victims of the IDF, in his fast reference to them. That being said, it was still pretty great to watch this speech recently to his USC Shoah Foundation. He does mention the hostages. And he strongly focuses on worldwide antisemitism, and its link to the past which the Shoah Foundation honors, by recording tens of thousands of testimonials. He remembers learning his numbers from a Holocaust Survivor showing him the numbers tattooed on his arm, and how the 9 becomes a 6 if he flips his arm over. Wow:

6. You likely know that there’s a documentary about the October 7th massacre. It’s called “Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre” but isn’t on streaming services yet. I’ve contacted the people behind the scenes, in particular Producer Danna Stern, and the only way to watch it so far is on Vimeo for 8 dollars. It’s under an hour long, and hopefully they will get it on Amazon Prime, in the meantime, here’s the link. I’ll update with more info as they have it, the website is being redone and I’ll share that when ready:

7. Nusair Yaassin is a true inspiration. He often goes by Nas Daily, and identifies as both Palestinian and Israeli. He therefore gets hatred from both sides, and that’s an understatement. Here he gives an extremely inspirational speech where he exudes energy. This energy is being sent to make the world as better place, to coexist peacefully, and to never give up. It might sound naive on paper, but when you hear him talk it’s heartwarming to know that there are people like him. It gives you hope:

8. Ari Lesser is a poet. I know that he’s a singer, and a damn good one, but when you have two parents who are poets, such as my own, and you hear a song that you know is true poetry, you just know it. This is “Free Palestine From Hamas”, and what you might think is just a simple, good melody with that message, becomes an intelligent history lesson, told in fantastic rhyme. He’s really damn good, and he’s the first person to make it into 3 sections in one column, as this week you’ll also see his talent at work in the “On The Lighter Side”, and “For Your Consideration” sections, all worth checking out:

9a. Wow. I knew CNN had interviewed my inspiring sisters in law, about their Orot retreat, but I didn’t know it would be an Anderson Cooper story! This reminds the viewer of the traumatizing Nova festival, and shows footage of the week-long retreat Karin and Rikki organized in Camp Ramah for 120 of the survivors.

I’m personally extra proud to see them include footage of Rikki speaking to the crowd, and Karin talking to the camera:

9b. Is that inspiring you to see more footage from the retreat? I’ll share this again, as filmed and edited by Michael Mike Canon, who volunteered his time with beautiful results:

9c. Keep those donations coming, I know for certain they still have not recouped what they spent, including the care the 120 survivors are continuing to get back home now:

I’m going to go with my gut here, and say that I’m highly impressed by 2 people on CNN, who have time and time again given their intelligence, and empathy, to the people of Israel. Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper.

Each of them have gone well past the necessary, “thoughts and prayers”. Each one has done more than one throwaway article. Neither one feels like they are ever “both sides”ing it. Neither seem to fear getting in the ring, and arguing with someone who uses slandering buzzwords against Israel. I’m sure you could find fault, but I for one would like to thank each of those individuals on CNN, for creating help rather than harm, at a time when media makes things worse.

Follow Jake Tapper at:

One of countless stories by Jake Tapper, this one interviewing families of hostages:

Follow Anderson Cooper at:

Great podcast about Israel by him:


1. This past Shabbat, my wonderful Rabbi gave a sermon, about how we don’t only sing the praises of those we love, we also rebuke them out of love. Because we want them to be the best version of themselves we know they can be. Every parent has experienced this feeling for their children. Rav Yosef Kanefsky told us that if he wasn’t a Rabbi, he legitimately would have wanted to work with the World Central Kitchen, and all the amazing work they do around the globe.

José Andrés, the founder of WCK, wrote an op-ed for the NY Times, after the devastating and egregious error by the IDF, killing 7 of their aid workers. I will give you his words below, and recommend that we donate to their worthy cause this week, in the memory of those who died.

“From Day 1, we have fed Israelis as well as Palestinians. Across Israel, we have served more than 1.75 million hot meals. We have fed families displaced by Hezbollah rockets in the north. We have fed grieving families from the south. We delivered meals to the hospitals where hostages were reunited with their families. We have called consistently, repeatedly and passionately for the release of all the hostages. All the while, we have communicated extensively with Israeli military and civilian officials.

At the same time, we have worked closely with community leaders in Gaza, as well as Arab nations in the region. That’s how we served more than 43 million meals in Gaza, preparing hot food in 68 community kitchens where Palestinians are feeding Palestinians.

We know Israelis. Israelis, in their heart of hearts, know that food is not a weapon of war. Israel is better than the way this war is being waged. It is better than blocking food and medicine to civilians. It is better than killing aid workers who had coordinated their movements with the Israel Defense Forces.

The Israeli government needs to open more land routes for food and medicine today. It needs to stop killing civilians and aid workers today. It needs to start the long journey to peace today.

In the worst conditions, after the worst terrorist attack in its history, it’s time for the best of Israel to show up.

It is not a sign of weakness to feed strangers; it is a sign of strength. The people of Israel need to remember, at this darkest hour, what strength truly looks like.”

Do I agree with every word he says? No, Israel has made impressive attempts to get food through, and criticizing a war for the death of civilians is like criticizing the ocean for bad weather. You can try to navigate as carefully as possible, but sometimes it’s a tragic inevitability. HOWEVER… It doesn’t mean there isn’t more we can do. It doesn’t mean there isn’t better Israel can do. It doesn’t mean they didn’t pull the trigger and target the wrong vehicle, with the most tragic of consequences. We love Israel, and that’s why sometimes we need to also rebuke those we love. This is a time they needed to do better.

A. Please consider a donation to WCK:

B. OR you can donate directly to the families of Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, Damian Soból, Jacob Flickinger, John Chapman, James (Jim) Henderson, and James Kirby, in this Go Fund Me:

2. Ari Lesser is either intentionally or just negligently being victim blamed by Facebook. This talented singer, has a song from a few years ago about Hamas, which given recent events he shared again. It went viral, and got him tons of horrible trolling from the anti-Israel community. What happened next is completely upside-down. “Sadly, a large number of these comments were extremely antisemitic, incredibly offensive, and downright scary. I took a screen shot of one of these horrible comments and shared it, with the caption:

“If you don’t believe hashtag#antisemitism is a serious issue, just take a look at the comments on my FB posts. I’ve dealt with plenty of haters in the past but I’ve never seen so many people openly praising H!tl@r and calling for genocide…”

3 months later, without my knowledge, someone flagged this old post, and FB not only removed it, but also accused ME of breaking their “rules on dangerous individuals and organizations.” Now this pro-Israel musician, as of April 17th, is likely to have his hit song removed from the platform.

“You think they want peace, that’s a bunch of crap, they just want to wipe Israel off the map”. Keep singing the truth, Ari, here’s the music video itself:


1. “I don’t eat animals, not my style, been that way for quite some while, but if there came a time where I change my mind, I would still only dine on the kosher kind!” Ari Lesser with a recent song that’s a really fun way to describe the kosher animals. Timed to coincide with the Shabbat portion on the topic. Love it:

2a. The Daily Brine got in on the NY Earthquake humor, and made it topical in the best way:

2b. Second verse, same as the first:

2c. You mean their care for the Palestinians might have been, gasp, disingenuous? Shocker:

2d. Seriously confusing negotiation tactics:

3. Shawn Eni puts out such wickedly great content, whether it’s posing as Gaza Ministry of Health, or the Mossad’s parody account. Here’s a sarcastic “We Shall Overcome” message, after Iran’s missile moved some dirt around:


1a. David Klepper writes about election season bringing on a fresh wave of disinformation and tampering from Russia. Fake articles created by AI is just one link in the chain of manipulations. “Soon after the war started, Russia mounted a disinformation campaign designed to cut into support for Ukraine. Claims included wild stories about secret U.S. germ warfare labs or Nazi conspiracies or that Ukrainian refugees were committing crimes and taking jobs from people who had welcomed them.

That effort continues, but Russia also has shifted its attention to issues with no obvious tie to Moscow that are more likely to create cracks in the unity of its adversaries — for example immigration, or inflation, high-profile topics in the U.S. and Europe.” In other words, you might think that reading about domestic issues will be a Russia-free topic, but it just isn’t so:

1b. “We’re out of the age of “fake news” and entering the era of fake reality.” This is a great example that Hank Stephenson writes, to show how easy the art of AI or Deepfakes can be. They use a Deepfake of Kari Lake as an example to pivot to, and the article as well as Deepfake Kari Lake explains how easily it’s done, and some ways to spot this easy disinformation tactic:

1c. David Puente reveals another dangerous source of disinformation on the world wide web. “The Boston Times” comes out of Russia, and is a completely fake newspaper, based on false evidence, utilizing people who don’t even exist. Helpful post:

1d. While on the topic of disinformation, I will share my own article from late December that was on this topic, including the Russian involvement. I maintain this is a really helpful essay for anyone looking to navigate the internet better prepared:

2. This is gross. Someone kept ripping down the hostage posters that are allowed to be put up at Harvard. So, a man waited with his camera to see who was doing it, and it turned out to be employees of the campus. Even worse, the person doing so was emboldened enough to scream back hatefully while being filmed. Shared by Harvard Chabad:

3. Merav Michaeli is a member of Israel’s Knesset, and the leader of the Labor Party. She decries an absolutely reprehensible speech given by the head of Shirat Moshe Hesder Yeshiva in Yaffa. In it, he called for the death of every man, woman and child in Gaza. For better or worse, this has mostly been covered in anti-Israel press, but I’m glad someone major spoke up about it in Israel, because it’s simply not okay by any stretch of the imagination. She tweets in Hebrew, demanding he be fired, and explains how damaging this is to everyone including Israel. “(The speech) directly harms the security of the State of Israel and like other distorted statements in the name of “Halacha” will be used by our enemy in the fight in the international arena.”


Being eclipsed by my parents. And that’s not merely a play on words!

Linda Hepner doesn’t just happen to share my last name, she’s my mother! And what a talented one at that, after decades of teaching French to high school students from London to New York to Los Angeles, she retired and wrote a new story about Goldilocks, called “The Adventures of Goldilocks and Baby Bear: What Happened Next”. What’s the relevance of my mentioning this now? The solar eclipse! There’s a cool part about it in the book, illustrated by artist Barbara Mendes. Buy it here on Amazon, it’s a truly whimsical children’s book:

Think only one of my parents is creative? Then you haven’t met my father Gershon Hepner, who has written tens of thousands of poems! Here is the one he wrote as inspired by the eclipse in my mother’s story, where you can see the artwork:

Westwood Village, setting up for the Gore/Lieberman rally
Shaking the hand of Martin Sheen, while taking an awkward “selfie”, circa the year 2000
Ben Affleck kindly posing with me
My oldest friend Ronnie Rosenberg and I, excited to meet the very friendly Gedde Watanabe, best known as Long Duk Dong in “Sixteen Candles”

Boaz Hepner works as a Registered Nurse in Saint John’s Health Center. He moonlights as a columnist, where his focuses are on health, and Israel, including his Chosen Links section of the Journal. He is a Pico/Robertson native, and lives here with his wife Adi, and children Natalia and Liam. He can be found with his family enjoying his passions: his multitude of friends, movies, poker and traveling.

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