Special Focus on Antisemitism – March 2024

By Ken Greenberg, National Executive Director

This page serves as the third addition in a series focusing on JWV’s work combating antisemitism. JWV opposes all forms of discrimination and bigotry, but is especially outspoken on antisemitism. JWV will continue to be a strong voice to combat antisemitism wherever and whenever it occurs.

As instances of antisemitism increase, especially following the terrorist attacks of October 7, JWV monitors, reports, and responds on instances of antisemitism. Some of these instances, and JWV updates regarding them, is provided in the information below.

JWV asks all Americans to be vigilant, learn, and educate our fellow citizens.

NC and NED Meet with VA Secretary McDonough Regarding General Counsel Employee
January 29, 2024
National Commander Barry Lischinsky and National Executive Director Ken Greenberg met with VA Secretary McDonough to discuss the incident regarding a VA General Counsel employee’s antisemitic remarks and antisemitism. Secretary McDonough confirmed the employee’s duties do not involve matters of eligibility for VA benefits and that the employee’s work products would be reviewed to ensure there was no bias. Additionally, in the coming weeks, VA will launch a new antisemitism training for its employees.

NC and NED Meet with HVAC Chairman Bost and SVAC Staff
January 29, 2024
NC Lischinsky and NED Greenberg also met with HVAC Chairman Mike Bost to discuss antisemitism and the incident. Chairman Bost expressed concern about VA’s response and stated the Committee will continue to hold VA accountable. The Chairman acknowledged there is no place for hatred, bigotry, and antisemitism at any government entity and reaffirmed to continue to work with JWV to combat antisemitism.

A similar meeting was held with Ranking Member Moran’s SVAC staff to exchange information on the incident and discuss antisemitism. Staff Director Shearman, Deputy Director Gonzalez, and General Counsel VanderPlas noted that Senators Moran and Manchin sent a letter to the Secretary expressing concern on VA’s decision. They agreed to continue to work with JWV on combating antisemitism.

JWV Participates in An Evening of Solidarity at the Israeli Embassy
February 6, 2024
NED Greenberg attended An Evening of Solidarity hosted by Ambassador Michael Herzog at the Israeli Embassy. The event marked four months since the October 7 attacks. Other participants included Speaker of the Knesset, Amir Ohana, as well as members of Knesset from both sides, members of Congress, and representatives of the families of the hostages. Greenberg thanked Representative Dan Goldman (NY) for his discussion on Emergency Aid for Israel and support for veterans. JWV was honored to be included in the event and continues to advocate for the safe return of all hostages and a secure Israel.

NC Lischinsky and PNC Blum Attend ADL’s Conference “Never is Now”
March 6 – 7, 2024
NC Barry Lischsinky and PNC Jerry Blum participated in ADL Conference’s “Never is Now.” According to ADL, this conference is the world’s largest summit on antisemitism and hate with more than 3000 guests and more than 100 experts. It featured programming on moderating social media, local implementations of ‘National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism’ and combating antisemitism in the workplace.

The following article was initially published in The Hill on March 8, 2024.

Hamas Weaponized Sexual Assault to Deliver a Message to its Enemies
By Paul Becker & Joel Poznansky

The world was shocked on Oct. 7 not just by the scale of the Hamas attack on Israel but by its brutality and the sexual atrocities committed against women. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the sexual violence as “beyond anything that I’ve seen.”

His comment, and others like it, lead to three critical questions: Were the terrorist actions, including the sexual atrocities, indeed unprecedented? If so, were they planned? And, if premeditated, what was the motivation for these new Hamas tactics?

Initial Israeli investigations of the Oct. 7 attack have focused on establishing details of the atrocities, gathering more than 1,500 testimonies from witnesses and medics. The investigation may take some time, given the few survivors and the need for forensic evidence, since so many of the rape victims were killed and many victims’ bodies were burned.

What is clear is that Hamas crossed the Israeli border for what was designed to be a speedy, horrific, one-day incursion. The attack reportedly was planned in detail and rehearsed for two years, including the deployment of standard Hamas tactics of hostage-taking, the killing of civilians and the destruction of property. The narrative promulgated by supporters of Hamas and some others is that the sexual atrocities, the burning of bodies and the social media distribution of real-time video images of the enthusiastic perpetration of this butchery were the spontaneous actions of individual terrorists carried away in the disorienting mayhem and inspired by their hatred of Israel.

But was that the case? A second stage of the Israeli inquiry has just begun and is being further developed. Unpleasant as it seems, it is important to differentiate between the “standard” terrorist actions of Hamas and these additional heinous actions. We propose that the tactics involving extreme sexual violence and barbarous acts meted out against Israeli women, children and babies were new and deliberate.

While atrocities such as rape are among the well-known horrific aspects war, they are not a standard aspect of the first wave of an intense day-long battle. Hamas terrorists may have been surprised by the freedom of action they experienced, and it is possible that some of the terrorists were untrained, undisciplined, and exhilarated by the killing, and thus became carried away by hatred. But it is much more likely that these terrorists, intensively trained and rehearsed, had been purposefully instructed to perform outrageous acts of sexual violence and to publish them on social media.

It absolutely does matter whether the sexual atrocities and social media dissemination committed by Hamas were unprecedented in this military context and planned rather than spontaneous. Terrorism by its very nature is a political language; when it changes, we need to understand the message.

A question then follows: What did Hamas commanders believe they might achieve strategically with that increased, outrageous and broadly transmitted level of sexual violence and brutality meted out against Israeli civilians?

There are several possible explanations.

Hamas leaders may have believed that these outrages, if publicized graphically, would cause debilitating fear and traumatize all Israelis. Hamas leaders may have believed that the Israeli public had grown accustomed to rockets, civilian death and hostage-taking and that this new level of horror would persuade a significant segment of the Israeli population to feel defeated and, in some cases, to leave their country.

We believe it is more likely that Hamas leaders gambled that without the outrage caused by their brutality, they would not succeed in luring Israel into what they believed would be an unwinnable urban war in Gaza, similar to the one that occurred in Lebanon in 2006. A variation on this is the possibility that Hamas believed these excessively violent tactics might even be necessary to achieve a sufficiently aggressive Israeli reaction, so that the world’s attention would continue to be on Gaza and the humanitarian crisis that followed as Israel retaliated. There is precedent for this type of anticipation of overreaction, most recently from al-Qaida actions masterminded by Osama bin Laden, in which the overreaction ultimately drowned out the horrors that incited it.

Finally, an important possibility is that, with these additional violations, Hamas planners were simply telegraphing explicit articles of their 1988 Hamas Covenant and Hamas Principles and Policies of May 2017, which express no interest in any negotiated settlement or two-state solution, but only in total victory over Israel or death. The atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists have effectively prevented any way back for either side to a peace negotiation. This certainly is a message that would serve Hamas’s Iranian backers and the mission of Hamas’s political manifesto.

For Hamas’s own troops and active members, such a tactic serves Sun Tzu’s maxim: “Throw your forces into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight.” For Hamas terrorists and leaders who actively planned or participated in the Oct. 7 attack — as with Germany’s Einsatzgruppen troops during World War II — their actions have placed them in a legal position where there can be no way back for them individually, no negotiated peace and no surrender.

In time, and with the various investigations currently underway, it should be possible to determine for certain whether the new Hamas tactics were intentional. It will take longer to fully confirm the purpose behind them, although it is likely that, even now, Hamas leaders are claiming credit for the evil innovation and incorporating this into their terrorist playbook.

For us in the West to misinterpret the extreme sexual violence, butchery and real-time social media sharing committed by Hamas terrorists as abhorrent but merely unplanned and mindless war crimes committed by individual terrorists, rather than as new tactics adopted by Hamas leaders with an underlying rationale, is to underestimate and misunderstand the enemy. To paraphrase Sun Tzu again, that would be a losing strategy.

Rear Adm. Paul Becker, USN (Ret) is a former director for intelligence of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Joel Poznansky served as a captain in the British Army. He is currently Chairman of CBIS, a Washington publisher. Both are active with the Jewish War Veterans of America.

Volume 78. Number 1. 2024