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The News Not Noise Letter: Hostage Hope and Loss
Five hostages are in the news. Plus: antisemitic incidents on the rise, the internet is back in Gaza, and NNN is bringing in experts.
An excerpt from an interview with Ned Lazarus, a conflict resolution and Middle East politics expert with the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University. We will release the full interview to paid subscribers this week.
Many of you are asking important questions that I think are best answered by people who are experts in these topics. The majority of Americans do not know much about the history of the Middle East. And many are dialing into real-time war coverage for the first time ever. It’s next to impossible to have thoughtful conversations about such fraught topics on social media. (Believe me, I’ve tried!) I find that, too often, conversations there are viewed with suspicion not generosity, with folks ready to pounce at a displeasing word, image or phrase. (Or even when I wait to confirm something that feels urgent but needs checking.) So I’ve decided to start doing interviews with subject-matter experts and bringing them here first. Here you can watch in a calm space, without a war-of-words in the comments section or a need to prove a point. I’ll quote portions in the free newsletter, and make the full interviews available to paying subscribers.
Before you jump all over me, let me explain why I need to put some of my most valuable reporting behind a paywall.
News Not Noise is a reader-supported publication. Paid subscribers make our work possible. Please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Reporting costs money. And the overwhelming majority of you read this newsletter for free. I’m proud to offer a free option and wish I could do that and only that. But the work of real journalism – the interviewing and editing behind this newsletter – is expensive. So I’m going to be providing the full depth of my coverage to paying subscribers, both as a thank-you and to encourage more support for this work. I’ll also be rolling out new opportunities to support News Not Noise in the months ahead. Parts of the interviews will also become available to free subscribers over time.
As always – I welcome your input on questions that need addressing and information that bears explaining.
My first interview is with Ned Lazarus. That’s him in the video at the top. I chose him because his expertise is conflict resolution, Middle East politics, and the history of the region. He helped found Seeds of Peace, an organization dedicated to fostering compassionate discussions about conflict resolution and peacebuilding. He is now with the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He recently wrote this article in the Atlantic. This is considered a moderate view in the US.
In the interview he talks about:
Hamas: How Hamas came to power, how it’s governed, its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and its “brand of Palestinian nationalism”
More details about Palestinian public opinion
Differences between Gaza & West Bank
Relations between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza before 10/7
Egypt’s role and possible reasons the Rafah Crossing is closed
Divisions within Israel about the war & hostage release
Is peace possible?
We will release the full interview to paid subscribers this week. I will bring you other voices from other perspectives as well.
In this newsletter we cover developments in the Israel-Hamas war, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and news of antisemitism around the world. We also bring you updates from the US including a look at some of the policy positions of new House Speaker, Mike Johnson.
Now, here are the international headlines:
Hostage Updates: Five Israeli hostages are in the news today.
Ori Megidish Rescued Alive: The IDF announced they located and freed Ori Megidish, an IDF soldier taken hostage on 10/7. Megidish has undergone medical checks and is “doing well.” She has now been reunited with her family. The IDF has not provided details about Megidish’s release other than that it occurred “during IDF ground operations.” Remember, a number of Hamas terrorists were captured after the 10/7 raid and are being interrogated. They could provide information about where Hamas operatives are located in Gaza which could help direct ground operations. Don’t expect to be briefed on exactly how the Megidish was located – absent a firsthand account, we’d have to rely on the Israeli military for that; they’re unlikely to risk giving away sensitive operational details.
Shani Louk Confirmed Dead: The IDF also reported that 23-year old Shani Louk, a German-Israeli woman who attended the music festival in southern Israel on 10/7, has died. They were able to determine this after recovering a skull bone crucial for survival. DNA testing proved the bone belonged to Louk. The rest of Louk’s body is believed to be in Gaza. In a Hamas video from the massacre in Israel, Louk was shown in the back of a Hamas pickup truck, partially undressed and seemingly unconscious, while militants chanted around her. Until now, it was unclear whether Louk was dead or taken hostage.
Hamas Releases Video of Three Hostages: Hamas released a video of three women – Yelena Trupanov, Daniel Aloni and Ramon Kirsht – in captivity. In the video, Aloni says she and her fellow hostages are held in “unbearable conditions.” She also criticizes Israeli PM Netanyahu and demands the Israeli government agree to a prisoner swap, exchanging about 6,000 Hamas militants for 230 Israeli prisoners. Note: I assume most of you know this but just in case — hostage videos are recorded under duress. What hostages say in captivity is determined by their hostage takers. Videos like this can be a valuable source of intelligence for those trying to locate and rescue the hostages. Netanyahu’s office called the video “cruel psychological propaganda.”
Reminder: Hamas still holds 230+ hostages in Gaza.
Ground Operation Updates: Israel is now in phase two of its three-phase war plan: a ground offensive. The IDF says soldiers and tanks entered Gaza this weekend from the northern and eastern border areas and that they intensified their ground operation today. This is verified by reporters and video from the Israel side of the border. The IDF appears to be surrounding Gaza City. CNN reporters on the Israel side of the border say they can see and hear loud machine gun fire, drones, fighter jets, and helicopters. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to launch rockets towards Israel.
Netanyahu Says No Ceasefire: Speaking at a press conference Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that despite increasing international pressure, Israel will not agree to a ceasefire, saying “calls for a cease-fire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas.” Adding, “just as the United States would not agree to a ceasefire after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, or after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.”
Domestic Strife: Inside Israel there are growing calls for Prime Minister Netanyahu to resign. Noam Tibon, a retired General who drove to a kibbutz on 10/7 and fended off Hamas terrorists to rescue many, including his son, compared Netanyahu to Neville Chamberlain. Arguing that the majority of Israelis don’t feel safe under Netanyahu’s leadership and “I don’t think he can lead us to victory,” he called for the Prime Minister to resign or face removal by the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). Asked at a press conference if he will resign, Netanyahu said, “The only thing I intend to have resign is Hamas.” I share this as a reminder that the policies of Israel’s current government – even the way they are executing this war – do not have unanimous support within the country. Rewind: Israel was rocked by internal strife over Netanyahu’s hard-right policies and after the 10/7 attack some of his critics argued those policies made Israel vulnerable to this crisis.
Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza: Internet and phone service are back online in Gaza, allowing a look in at conditions on the ground after communications were down most of the weekend. The Palestine Red Crescent Society said the IDF warned them to evacuate Al Quds Hospital in Gaza City, which has over 500 patients and 12,000 displaced people sheltering there. Meanwhile the US State Department says a total of 150 aid trucks have now entered through the Rafah Crossing since it opened. This is far short of the nearly 500 trucks that entered Gaza daily before the war. The UN warned that “civil order is starting to break down” as increasingly desperate civilians have begun raiding warehouses for crucial supplies like flour and hygiene products. And UNICEF says the shortage of clean water is on the “verge of becoming a catastrophe.”
Tensions Beyond Gaza: On Sunday, an Israeli settler shot and killed a Palestinian farmer in the West Bank. This is the seventh killing of a Palestinian civilian by settlers in the West Bank since October 7. IDF raids, drone strikes, and airstrikes have killed over 100 Palestinians, according to West Bank officials. The IDF says it is targeting terror suspects. This is a reminder that there are flash points outside of Gaza that could erupt into an additional front. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz ran an editorial on October 15 titled “Settlers Are Trying to Drag Israel Into War in the West Bank.”
Dagestan Airport: On Sunday, an antisemitic mob attacked an airport in the Russian republic of Dagestan, breaking through security doors and demanding to find Jewish passengers on a plane arriving on a flight from Tel Aviv. Hundreds stormed the airport, some carrying antisemitic banners. Those on the plane report waiting for hours without law enforcement. Police and rioters clashed and more than 20 people were hurt with two reportedly in critical condition. (The AP reports that Putin claimed that this mob was American and Ukrainian spies. Umm…)
At Cornell: The FBI is investigating online antisemitic death threats targeting Jewish students at Cornell University. According to Cornell’s student newspaper The Cornell Daily Sun, the threats were made on Greekrank, an online discussion board primarily used to discuss fraternities and sororities at universities across the country. Some messages specifically targeted Cornell’s kosher dining hall, and Cornell’s Center for Jewish Living is now under police guard. On Monday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Cornell President Martha E. Pollack met with students at the Center for Jewish Living. Hochul affirmed that “terrorists or people who are threatening [students] will get no refuge here.” This comes amid a spike of antisemitic incidents at colleges and universities nationwide.
Campus Changes: Citing an “alarming rise” in antisemitic incidents on campuses, President Biden announced Monday a plan to combat antisemitism on college campuses. These include changes at Departments of Justice, Education and Homeland Security. Among them: working directly with school officials and local police departments, expediting discrimination claims, and assigning cybersecurity advisers to work with schools to prevent and address threats.
What else? There is a lot more news but not a lot more space. Part of the value of this newsletter is curation. And we have to tell you what’s happening in the US, as well.
Here are your domestic headlines:
Mass Shootings Across the Country: The Gun Violence Archive reported 12 mass shootings between Friday and Sunday, killing 11 and wounding 76. Many of the shootings occurred at Halloween parties. The shootings occurred in Indianapolis, Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; Tampa, Florida; Texarkana and San Antonio, Texas; Dodge City, Kansas; Decatur and Atlanta, Georgia; Cumberland, Maryland; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Mansfield, Ohio.
UAW Strike Ends: UAW and General Motors have reached a tentative deal, bringing the six-week autoworkers’ strike to a close. GM is the last of the three major automakers to reach a deal with UAW after Ford announced a deal Wednesday and Stellantis announced a deal Saturday. All three automakers agreed to a 25% increase in wages over the next four years, cost-of-living adjustments, and significant increases in worker benefits.
Who Is the New Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson?
If you’re not familiar with him, you’re not alone. Maine Senator of 26 years Susan Collins said when Johnson was elected she’d have to “Google him.” Johnson may not have a lot of name recognition, but he’s now second-in-line to the Oval Office.
Johnson is a Louisiana Republican who was first elected to the House in 2016. He’s a constitutional lawyer who played a major role in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He is fiercely anti-abortion — he supports a nationwide abortion ban, and he has an A+ rating from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. He has written that homosexuality is “inherently unnatural,” and before Congress he worked for an organization that seeks to recriminalize gay sex. He does not believe in the separation of church and state, and he says America is a “biblical republic” and not a democracy. In the wake of the horrific Maine mass shooting, Johnson says it’s inappropriate to discuss gun legislation “in the middle of the crisis,” and that “the problem is the human heart, not guns.” And he is seeking to end Ukraine aid.
Now it’s Johnson’s job to try to keep the government running. To that end, he now supports another temporary stopgap measure to maintain government funding while working on a longer-term deal — he opposed the current stopgap measure when former Speaker McCarthy passed it.
The Speaker of the House has the power to determine who gets seats on which committees, as well as which legislation gets advanced. But he still needs a majority of votes to actually pass laws. With the extremely narrow margins in the House, the big unknowns are:
How much will he push the MAGA agenda?
If he does, how much will moderates resist?
Or will Johnson try to find a middle way?
A final note to our paying subscribers: look out for another email from us this week with the full interview with Ned Lazarus.
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