New Details of Abduction and Murder of Israeli Teens; Chief Suspect Indicted

(Photo: ASHERNET/GPO)

(Photo: ASHERNET/GPO)

The kidnapping of three Israeli teens – Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel – horrified Israel and its worldwide supporters. While the two terrorists who carried out the act are still at large, the mastermind behind the plot was indicted today and new details about the abduction and murder have surfaced:

[Hussam Hassan] Kawasmeh confessed his role in the kidnapping under Shin Bet interrogation, and implicated a number of other accomplices to the crime.

The manhunt for Kawasmeh – whose extended family figures prominently within the Hamas movement and its stronghold of Hevron – began as soon as the bodies were discovered. Realizing he would be a suspect, he prepared to flee to Jordan with the help of a fake passport and the support of several relatives in Hevron – Hashem Kawasmeh, Jameel Kawasmeh and Hassan Kawasmeh.

But his plans to escape were foiled after intelligence services got wind of them, and Kawasmeh was arrested in the Shuafat neighborhood of Jerusalem. He had apparently shaved his beard off as part of efforts to conceal his identity, in preparation for his escape across the border.

Kawasmeh had previous spent time in an Israeli prison for links to another terror cell which carried out several bombing attacks. A significant number of his family members have also spent time behind bars or even been killed in clashes with security forces, including his brother Hussein Kawasmeh, who is currently serving a life sentence for a 2011 bombing attack in central Jerusalem which killed a British tourist and wounded dozens of others.

Another family member, the brother of kidnapper Marwan Kawasmeh, was Abdullah al-Qawasmeh. Abdullah was the leader of the Hevron branch of Hamas’s “military wing”, the Ezzadine al-Qassam Brigades. He was killed in a shootout with elite Israeli counter-terrorism police in 2003, who were hunting him for his involvement in several deadly terrorist attacks.

Hussam’s interrogation, as well as those of a number of other arrested suspects, revealed that he had played a fundamental part in the kidnapping, and served as its mastermind and…

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Thursday, September 4th, 2014 at 10:39 AM  | Stand for Israel

Israel’s Getting Stronger, Not Weaker

(Photo: wikicommons/ SuperJew)

(Photo: wikicommons/ SuperJew)

Hamas claims victory after the end of Operation Protective Edge – even though it was soundly defeated by the IDF. Israel’s enemies and opponents – and much of the media – continue to fault the Jewish state for defending itself and its people. One would think Israel was on the ropes. Not so, writes Jonathan Tobin, who says that yesterday’s Israeli pact with Jordan is just one more piece of evidence that Israel is getting stronger:

An Israel that is forced to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism will never be popular in Europe or accepted in the Muslim world. But growing Israeli economic power can ameliorate some of that hostility. The BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanction) campaign is gaining support especially in Europe. But as is the case with oil exporters, boycotts of natural gas aren’t as easy or cost-free to promote as those of Israeli academics or fruit and vegetables.

That economic ties with Jordan should be growing at the same time as Israel finds itself in a strange bedfellows alliance with Egypt and Saudi Arabia against Hamas and Iran is no surprise. Pragmatic Arab nations know that Israel won’t be destroyed and that Islamist terrorists are as much if not a greater threat to themselves than to the Jews.

The larger point here is that rather than getting weaker as its opponents and critics have consistently predicted, Israel is getting stronger, both economically and militarily. Anyone who thinks the two factors are not linked should remember the decisive role technology in the form of the Iron Dome missile defense system played in determining the outcome of the fighting with Hamas.

This doesn’t entirely cancel out the disadvantage that Israel faces from the ongoing campaign against Israel from pro-Palestinian activists and outright anti-Semites. But when you hear both American officials and left-wing pundits talk about an “unsustainable” status quo that will drag Israel down if it does not make more dangerous concessions to Palestinians who still seek its destruction, remember that this is…

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Thursday, September 4th, 2014 at 8:40 AM  | Stand for Israel

Hamas and Human Sacrifice

(Photo: IDF blog)

(Photo: IDF blog)

Throughout Operation Protective Edge, Stand for Israel reported on Hamas’ use of human shields. Taking a closer look at this inhumane tactic now that the war is over, Calev Myers wonders if the terrorists’ strategy isn’t one of human shields, but of human sacrifice:

So what is really happening here? Why do they continue to fire so many rockets at us? What do they hope to achieve? Either this is the least successful military campaign in the history of mankind, or the human casualty count on the Israeli side is not the primary goal of Hamas’ rocket strategy.

Today it is clear to the world that Hamas fires rockets from densely populated civilian areas in order to draw Israeli fire upon Palestinian elderly, women and children. Hamas has learned that systematically feeding disturbing photographs of bloody babies to the international press is the most effective weapon in the pursuit of its goals.

Hamas sees Israel as a strong enemy. It is trying to delegitimize us in order to arouse the fury of entities larger and stronger than us, even if they have to pay a very heavy price in human suffering to do so. Although the comparison is far from perfect, chapter 19 in the book of Judges tells us about a man from the tribe of Levi, whose concubine was raped and murdered by men from the tribe of Benjamin in the city of Gibeah. He cut her body into 12 pieces, sent them throughout all the land of Israel, and the rest is history. The response of all of the other tribes nearly blotted out the tribe of Benjamin from the annals of history.

The threat of Hamas’ blood-photo strategy should not be taken lightly. It has already caused an escalation of anti-Semitic incidents and attacks on Jewish communities around the world. The only way to fight this threat is by systematic and tactical advocacy, not merely in the defensive sense,…

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Thursday, September 4th, 2014 at 8:29 AM  | Stand for Israel

A Decade of Blood for Iraq’s Christians

(Photo: IFCJ)

(Photo: IFCJ)

Stand for Israel has been reporting on the spread of the terror group Islamic State (IS or ISIS), as well as the atrocities they have committed along the way. The San Diego Union-Tribune gives us this story on Iraq’s dwindling Christian community and the terror they’ve faced for too long:

The day the statue of Saddam Hussein was torn down in Baghdad’s Firdos Square in April 2003 — a day that was the basis for some of the most iconic and debated images of the war in Iraq — Sam, an Iraqi Christian who had a job at a barber shop just down the street from all of the action, skipped work.

“I saw everything with my eyes. I was there,” he said.

Like many Iraqis, he saw promise in the falling statue, and initially things were more or less OK. Even with the church bombings, the ransom kidnappings, the faith-based killings, the sectarian fighting between Shiite and Sunni militias, and the random atrocities that marked everyday life in occupied Iraq, Sam and his family were getting by.

That started to change in 2006, when militias made life unbearable even for those trying to keep a low profile. In late 2009, he fled to Jordan. That was after a group of women threatened his wife because she was Christian, and soon after a Shiite militia tried to recruit him. He eventually moved his family to San Diego …

Even now, halfway around the world, he fears persecution because of his religion. He has a lingering regret: “We should have come before.”

But he knows he’s among the lucky. “Some people, they suffered more than us,” he said.

ISIS, the shorthand name for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a militant group that wants to create a fundamentalist caliphate, recently claimed much of northern Iraq and has been persecuting Shiite Muslims, Kurds, Christians and other minorities …

For Iraqi Christians, the past decade has been one disaster after another: first the emergence of…

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Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 at 3:56 PM  | Stand for Israel

American Journalist Steven Sotloff Executed

(Photo: facebook)

(Photo: facebook)

Yesterday we brought you the now-confirmed news that a second American journalist has been executed by the Islamic State. The always well-spoken Michael J. Totten writes about Steven Sotloff, a man he knew though they had never met in person, and a man he greatly respected:

He and I corresponded by email and planned to meet in Libya last year, though it didn’t work out. He had to leave and I had to cancel my trip and re-route myself to Lebanon, so we never actually met. But I did introduce him to the publisher of this magazine and he wrote a few articles for us before he was kidnapped in Syria.

I sort of knew him, though not in the flesh, so I can’t tell you much about him personally, but I can tell you this: he was a hell of a lot braver than I am. I have not for even a second considered going to Syria during this conflict, and I doubt I’d be willing to go there even a couple of years from now if the conflict were to miraculously end later today.

When he lived in Benghazi and everyone was heading for the exits, he told me—and I believed him—that Benghazi was the same old Benghazi, by which he meant mostly fine aside from some unfortunate incidents. Dangerous places are often, though not always, less dangerous than they appear in the media. At least they appear that way …

Steven was brave and unlucky, but he was not stupid. He knew how risky going to Syria was and, according to Ben Taub, he planned to take a hiatus from this nasty business after one final trip and possibly apply to graduate school in Florida.

The Islamic State took that from him, and they took him from us.

I didn’t actually meet him, but I miss him anyway. Sincerest condolences to his friends and family.

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Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 at 8:19 AM  | Stand for Israel

Rabbi Eckstein Recommends: Rebbe, by Joseph Telushkin

rebbeIn this book review, Rabbi Eckstein enthusiastically recommends Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s Rebbe, the biography of one of modern history’s most important and influential spiritual leaders, the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

In this enlightening book, one of the rare works on religion to become a New York Times’ bestseller, Telushkin offers a captivating portrait of the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a towering Rabbi who turned the Hassidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement into one of the most important, cutting-edge organizations in the religious world. Through stories and teachings of the Rebbe, Telushkin gives us insight into a man who might well have been the most influential rabbi in modern history.

The release of this biography, timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Rebbe’s death, finally makes his incredible life accessible to Jewish and Christian readers alike.

Telushkin explains how at a time when most religious groups have seen declining numbers of faithful adherents, Chabad, under the Rebbe’s inspiration, has built thriving outposts in forty-nine American states, and in eighty countries throughout the world. Perhaps more importantly, the Rebbe’s teachings went well beyond the confines of his own community to deeply affect the lives of countless Jews and non-Jews across the world, and continues to do so today, perhaps even more than before …

Now, with the Gaza war hopefully behind us, Telushkin’s chapter about the Rebbe’s strong positions about the security of the Holy Land is perhaps more poignant than ever. That section alone makes this book a must-read for anyone who holds Israel dear. Rebbe also describes Rabbi Schneerson’s clandestine operations to rescue and sustain Jews in the Soviet Union and how he became in effect an ambassador for Jews, Judaism, and religious freedom globally …

For all his immense achievements, the Rebbe’s power ultimately came from a simple message that all can appreciate. As Rabbi Telushkin puts it: “Love your fellow, and not just those who agree with you.” You can understand now why I recommend this book for Christians as much as for Jews.

Epic, intimate, and masterfully told, and with dozens and dozens of…

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Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 at 8:11 AM  | Stand for Israel

Teen Girls Arrested in French Synagogue Bomb Plot

(Photo: wikicommons/FLLL)

(Photo: wikicommons/FLLL)

The recent rise in anti-Semitic hatred and violence in Europe – and elsewhere – has been alarming, especially as it has accelerated during Israel’s recent war with Hamas. We were especially alarmed to read this report from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) of the arrest of two French girls who had plotted to bomb the Great Synagogue of Lyon:

Two teenage Muslim girls were arrested for planning a suicide bomb attack on a synagogue in France.

The teens, aged 15 and 17, were arrested last week after the plot to blow up the Great Synagogue of Lyon was discovered, the French language JSS News website reported, citing an unnamed source from the Central Directorate of Homeland Intelligence.

The girls never met, communicating only via social media, according to the source.

They were indicted on Aug. 22  for conspiracy to commit terrorism.

“These girls were part of a network of young Islamists who were being monitored by security services … “

We thank God that this plot was discovered before it was carried out, and pray for His protection against any and all who would be targeted with such hatred.

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Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 at 2:06 PM  | Stand for Israel

Breaking News: Islamic State Reportedly Executes American Journalist

(Photo: facebook)

(Photo: facebook)

We earlier brought you the story of American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by terror group, the Islamic State (IS). Now The New York Times reports that a new video claims to show IS executing another American journalist:

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has beheaded Steven Joel Sotloff, the second American executed by the Islamic militant group, and posted a video of it on the Internet, the SITE Intelligence Group, a research organization that tracks jihadist web postings, said Tuesday.

The execution of Mr. Sotloff, 31, came despite pleas from his mother aimed directly at ISIS’s top leader seeking mercy for her son, a freelance journalist who was captured in northern Syria a year ago.

Word of Mr. Sotloff’s beheading came two weeks after James Foley, 45, another American journalist, was beheaded by ISIS, which warned that Mr. Sotloff would be the next to die.

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Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 at 12:55 PM  | Stand for Israel

Displaced Jews in Ukraine Once Again in Harm’s Way

(Photo: flickr/ Atlantic Council)

(Photo: flickr/ Atlantic Council)

As The Fellowship and its supporters continue to provide shelter and safety for the Jewish communities in Ukraine during their nation’s war against Russian separatists, we have continued to bring you news of the situation on the ground. Many Jews from the devastated city of Donetsk were relocated to Mariupol, which is now also in harm’s way:

Ukrainian Jews who fled to Mariupol to escape their country’s brutal civil war may have to uproot themselves again as the Ukrainian Army prepares to defend the southeastern coastal city, community leaders there told The Jerusalem Post.

More than 100 families from Donetsk, one of the primary centers of the Moscow- backed insurgency, have arrived in Mariupol in recent weeks, according to Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski.

The leader of Donetsk’s Jewish community, Vishedski had vowed to stay in the city as long as any of his constituents remained, but was forced to leave when the water supply was cut and electricity became intermittent …

Most families with children have been evacuated, he said, adding that anyone still looking to leave Donetsk can contact the community’s hotline to receive money and resources necessary to flee.

Describing the situation that prompted the exodus, he recalled daily shelling and rocket strikes that endangered the lives of the city’s remaining residents. Up to three quarters of the city’s one million citizens have fled, either to Russia or to western Ukraine …

As the rebels advance towards Mariupol, residents have begun emptying supermarkets, withdrawing their savings from local banks and hoarding gasoline, said city rabbi Mendel Cohen.

While large numbers of people have left the city of almost half a million residents, many members of the Jewish community remain, although almost all of them have packed their suitcases in preparation for their own flight, he said.

Cohen said his community has worked to provide food and lodging for their brethren from Donetsk and that anyone looking to leave Mariupol will be provided with transport to the Zhitomir camp and subsequent financial help to secure…

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Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 at 8:49 AM  | Stand for Israel

Which Side Is UNRWA On?

UNRWA-logo-724x1024As Operation Protective Edge brought Israel back into Gaza, it also brought the United Nations’ UNRWA agency back into the news. Much of this attention was due to the fact that terrorist rockets were found in UNRWA-run schools, while many more rockets were launched from such locations. Former national security adviser Elliott Abrams writes that while UNRWA has always been bad, now they seem to be even worse:

So now there are two compelling reasons to end UNRWA. Its cooperation with Hamas, and the way in which it has been permeated by Hamas, constitute one reason. The second is that UNRWA is engaged in the perpetuation and expansion of the “Palestinian refugee problem” rather than its solution …

In the decades of its existence, it has not solved or even diminished the Palesinian refugee problem; instead it has presided over a massive increase in its size, for all the descendants of Palestinian refugees are considered to be refugees as well. Once there were 750,000; now there are five million people considered by UNRWA to be “Palestinian refugees … ”

Which side is UNRWA on? Its supporters would say “on the side of Palestinian refugees,” but instead the agency appears to be on two other sides: its own, always expanding its own empire and responsibilities, and on the side of Hamas …

The Gaza war has illuminated once again the ways in which Hamas has been acting as a parasite feeding on this UN agency–to which the United States is the largest donor. Time for a change.

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Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 at 8:34 AM  | Stand for Israel

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State of Israel"

Rabbi's Commentary
Remembering the Terror of 9/11, Confronting the Terror of Today

The attacks on 9/11 were a wake-up call to the dangers of Islamist terrorism, and the swift growth of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State should wake us up to a current threat that demands not just our vigilance, but also our unity.


Read Rabbi Eckstein's message »

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