Hamas, Hostages, and Heroes. Plus. . .

When a journalist is a terrorist. A fiery FP debate on crime. Europe swings right. And much more.

On today’s Front Page from The Free Press: a dispatch from our live event in San Francisco, Charlottesville-level Jew-hatred outside the White House, the populist moment marches on, and more. 

But first, two stories on Israel’s very dramatic weekend. At midday on Saturday, euphoria swept the country as Israelis learned of the rescue by the IDF of four hostages in a daring daylight operation in central Gaza. 

Noa Argamani, 26; Almog Meir Jan, 22; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 41, were liberated eight months after being kidnapped from the Nova music festival on October 7. If the footage of Argamani being kidnapped on the back of a motorcycle on October 7 became a darkly iconic representation of that day’s horror, the footage of her reunion with her father represented will be remembered as an all too rare showing of hope. 

By Sunday, euphoria had given way to mourning, as Israel paused to pay its respects to Arnon Zamora, the officer in an elite counterterrorism unit who was killed in the raid. His wife eulogized him: “I asked to speak last because the commanders were talking about how much of a hero you are,” she said. “More than everything, though, you were a sweet man, full of laughter, sensitivity, and compassion. You have been my spouse for the last twelve years. For the last eight years, you have also been the perfect father.”

The entire operation was renamed Operation Arnon in Zamora’s honor.

Then, mere hours after the funeral was over, mourning gave way to politics, as Benny Gantz resigned from Israel’s three-man war cabinet on Sunday evening. Explaining his decision, Gantz, who is seen as a centrist force in the wartime government, declared that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “preventing us from achieving true victory.” Gantz called for early elections. Bibi took to Twitter and urged him to stay.  

While it doesn’t mean the collapse of Netanyahu’s government, which still has a majority in the Knesset, it marks the end of a formal display of cross-party unity that has been in place since October. Also Sunday, the IDF’s Gaza division head announced his resignation. “I failed in my life’s mission,” said Brigadier General Avi Rosenfeld. He is only the second senior IDF official to resign over the security failings that allowed October 7 to happen. 

Oh, and did I mention that Israel’s unofficial war with Hezbollah in the north continues to heat up? 

What was all of this like for Israelis on the ground? Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs answers that question in her dispatch for The Free Press. She was with her family on the beach in Tel Aviv when the news of the hostages’ rescue broke. 

“The cheers were immediate and ecstatic,” writes Jessica. “People threw their children into the air. Strangers hugged strangers. Many openly wept. The clapping and singing and dancing spread all the way down the beach.” 

Read Jessica’s full account of what happens “When Hostages Come Home.”   

The raid to free the hostages was swiftly followed by a familiar argument about Palestinian casualties. The IDF said that casualties were “less than 100” while the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health said that 274 had been killed. Asked about the casualties on Sunday, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said: “It will take some time for us to make any kind of determination. And we may never be able to definitively determine [the death toll].” 

Not that outlets in the West saw much reason to pause before accepting Hamas’s version of events. “More Than 200 Killed in Israeli Hostage Raid in Gaza,” read The Washington Post’s headline, for example. Free Press readers will by now be familiar with the many problems with the statistics out of Gaza and their unquestioning acceptance by much of the press. 

One of the confirmed casualties was Abdalla al-Jamal. Al-Jamal was killed in the raid that liberated three hostages. He was a Palestinian journalist. Or so it seemed. He had been a correspondent for The Palestine Chronicle. Except it seems al-Jamal was also, well, a terrorist. Or whatever word you might call someone who keeps civilian hostages captive in his house. As Eli Lake explains in our second piece today, the jaw-dropping case of the journalist with a side hustle as a hostage guard—and what light it can shed on the problem of how so many mainstream outlets report on Gaza. 

Here’s Eli on “Why We Shouldn’t Trust ‘the Facts’ Coming out of Gaza.”

Ten Stories We’re Reading 

  1. Joe Biden insists he has no involvement in his family’s business dealings. But how plausible is that claim given all the work his aides have done for his relatives? Ben Schreckinger investigates. (Politico)

  2. Is Virginia in play this cycle? For years, Old Dominion has been trending blue, but the latest poll shows Biden and Trump in a dead heat in the state. (Fox News)

  3. In North Africa, migrants heading for Europe are detained and then dropped off in the middle of the desert. And EU authorities know more about the practice than they want you to think. (Spiegel International

  4. The next time Wikipedia asks you for money, ignore it, writes Andrew Orlowski. A fraction of the Wikipedia Foundation’s funds are spent on the site’s running costs. The rest are lost to the nonprofit industrial complex. (UnHerd)

  5. The campaign of Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson spent more than $30,000 on hair and makeup in a single year. “Appearances matter,” said his spokesperson, sounding a lot like a spouse defending a credit card statement. (Chicago Sun Times)

  6. BREAKING: Joe Biden is old. Okay, not exactly news. But Mark Leibovich delivers a ruthless assessment of the president’s decision to run again at 81: “The unwillingness or inability of Democrats to stop him. . . remains an existentially risky, potentially disastrous, proposition. . . . If Biden loses in November, that’s all anyone will remember him for.” (The Atlantic)

  7. Was the return of the meme stock nothing more than a fleeting cameo? Shares in GameStop crashed by 40 percent Friday after “Roaring Kitty” said nothing particularly interesting in a highly anticipated live stream. Maybe everyone hasn’t lost their minds? (CNBC)

  8. David Boaz, one of the most important figures in the American libertarian movement, died last week after a long battle with cancer. Nick Gillespie pays tribute to someone who “expanded how we think about freedom.” (The Compleat Nick Gillespie

  9. In elite circles, pessimism is cooler than optimism. The former suggests sagacity, the latter naivete. But the latter is underrated, argues Ian Leslie. He makes the case for “a new ethic of responsible optimism.” What’s on your list of reasons to be cheerful? (The Ruffian)

  10. An important update to all Free Pressers who read my Saturday piece on cricket and are hungry for an update on Sunday’s big game between India and Pakistan (fear not). I managed to sneak in a bit of cricket watching while preparing this newsletter and can report it was a hard-fought, low-scoring affair—and India, the favorite going into the game, edged out their fierce rivals. All questions about the rules of the game to (ESPNcricinfo

“I’m a black woman and a lesbian who happens to be the president of the police union. I thought it was really important to hear what both sides have to say.” 

Crime is a top issue for voters this upcoming election cycle. And San Francisco—where items like shampoo and gum are under lock and key at Walgreens and cars bear signs pleading, “Please do not break into this car. No valuables here”—was the ideal place to debate the question: Has criminal justice reform made our cities unsafe? 

Arguing yes was San Fransicko author (and fellow Twitter Files reporter) Michael Shellenberger and Oakland community organizer Seneca Scott (who readers may remember from a Free Press profile last October). With Bari in the moderator’s chair, they faced off against San Francisco School of Law professor and former public defender Lara Bazelon and Fifth Column podcast host Kmele Foster. 

On Thursday night, over 400 people packed into the Cowell Theater to hear them. One of them was Lieutenant Tracy McCray, 67, the president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, who said she bought her ticket as soon as she heard about the debate. “I’m a black woman and a lesbian who happens to be the president of this union,” she told The Free Press. “We’ve been right in the eye of the storm of reforms like Prop 47, and I thought it was really important to come and hear what both sides have to say.” 

Clint Curry, 48, is the elected district attorney in Yuba County, California. “I was especially moved by Seneca Scott’s frank yet eloquent plea for the return of the rule of law to Oakland,” he told me. “He is living the consequences of California’s experiment with our public safety.”

Seventh-grader Phoebe Rogers drove down with her family from Sacramento. “There were some words I didn’t understand. But I was really impressed with both arguments,” she said. Rogers and her family played a “drinking game” with M&Ms during the debate—she popped one in her mouth every time someone onstage uttered the word “homelessness.” 

We are honored to have partnered with FIRE to present this second installment of The America Debates, a series on the issues that matter most to voters this upcoming election cycle. (Our last debate, held in Dallas in April, was about immigration. Watch it here.) 

For those of you who weren’t able to join us in San Francisco, fear not! The full video of the event will be available soon to paid subscribers of The Free Press. So if you’re not already a paid subscriber, become one today

We’ve got another debate coming soon. Stay tuned for more info!

→ Our neverending populist “moment”: Elections to the European Parliament delivered just what everyone expected as the vote tallies came in Sunday night: a big swing to the right. 

Nowhere was that trend clearer than in France, where the far-right National Rally—the party of Marine Le Pen, which is now led by her protégé, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella—romped to victory. At the time of writing, National Rally was projected to win 31.5 percent of the vote, double the vote share for Emmanuel Macron’s party. The French president reacted to the result by dissolving the National Assembly and calling for new elections to be held at the end of the month.  

In Germany, the mainstream conservative CDU-CSU came out on top, but the Alternative for Germany (AfD)—which has evolved from bookish Euroskepticism to something more radical in recent years—came second, with German chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats earning their worst result in a nationwide election in their history. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) won seven seats, up from the one seat they won at the last European election in 2019. His rise has been fueled by frustration at mass migration, the failures of assimilation, and more. 

When 2016 brought along Brexit and Trump and a whole motley crew of loosely related movements, we were said to be living in a populist moment. The elections to the relatively toothless European Parliament are the latest reminder that the moment is yet to pass. The causes of today’s populism are fiercely debated. Some say it’s mostly frustration at high levels of immigration. (For a sharp version of that argument, read Andrew Sullivan’s latest.) Others subscribe to a broader account of elite failure, one that includes the financial crisis, Covid, and more. (Martin Gurri layed out something like this argument recently in The Free Press.) And then there are those who stick their head in the sand by blaming it all on disinformation and the Russians. But whatever the cause, with the far-right on the march in Europe, and Trump in a strong position to recapture the White House, this populist “moment” is lasting an awfully long time.   

→ Protesters chant “Kill another Zionist now” outside the White House: Remember, folx, what’s most important is not whether someone threatens to kill Jews. What matters is who is issuing the threats. 

If there’s a lesson from the orgy of hatred that we witnessed outside the White House this weekend—“Hezbollah, Hezbollah, kill another Zionist now!” the masked, keffiyeh-wearing activists shouted—it is that.

Recall August 2017, when several hundred alt-right chumps, in their pleated khakis and white polo shirts, descended on Charlottesville with tiki torches, vowing, “Jews will not replace us.”

The Reverend William J. Barber II called the Unite the Right rally, in which a white supremacist drove into a crowd, killing a woman and wounding thirty-five others, “a symptom of a greater moral malady.”

Michael Hayden, the retired four-star general who had been the director of the CIA and National Security Agency, condemned Donald Trump, saying his response “put the concept of nation as ‘blood and soil’ back into play for the first time since Appomattox.”

As far as right-thinking Americans were concerned, there was an obvious through line connecting Trump and the blood in Charlottesville. “President Trump lit every one of those torches in Charlottesville,” The Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak wrote.

Corporate America was also quick to weigh in. Airbnb removed people who were staying at their units and taking part in the rally, Apple donated $1 million to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, the Detroit Red Wings condemned alt-right protesters brandishing modified versions of the team’s logo, and so on.

And Joe Biden, who had previously vowed he wouldn’t seek the White House, reversed course because. . . Charlottesville.

“That’s when we heard the words of the president of the United States that stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation,” Biden said in his April 25, 2019, video announcing his presidential bid. “ ‘Very fine people on both sides’? In those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in my lifetime.”

Apparently, that outrage does not extend to all Jew-haters.

Over the weekend, thousands—not hundreds—of protesters encircled the White House waving Palestinian flags and accusing Israel of “genocide” and calling for the death of “Zionists,” which is what Jew-haters have taken to calling Jews to veil their hatred. “Stand with Hamas,” read one poster. 

These are the people who dressed up as jihadists and defaced statues and screamed “Piggy! Piggy!” and “Fuck you, fascist” at the park rangers and held up a fake bloodied mask of Genocide Joe Biden. The New York Times, like CNN and The Washington Post and most every major outlet, made a big point of how the demonstrators really, really just want a ceasefire. There was no mention of Jews or antisemitism.

The Biden administration, to its credit, put out a statement saying it was against antisemitism. But that did not stop Biden campaign spokeswoman Adrienne Elrod from saying that Biden “supports the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression” and that the protesters “have a right to speak their mind.” (I could not agree more. Where were these champions of First Amendment rights at Charlottesville?)

Most everyone else stressed that the only people who detected any antisemitism were the Jews, and that that wasn’t the point, and that the anti-Zionists, the people screaming at the park rangers and defacing statues and LARPing around like wannabe terrorists—who specialize in murdering and raping Jews—don’t hate anyone. Except Israelis.

“Many protesters chanted slogans that some Jewish groups have said incite violence against Jews,” the Times explained. “That some Jewish groups have said.”

Because—remember!—it’s never, ever about whoever dies. On the contrary, it is always about who can be blamed for that death. That is how one furthers the agenda. —Peter Savodnik 

Reader Recommendations 

Continuing our cookbook theme, Mark recommends The Union Square Cafe Cookbook (1984): Try everything, but stay for the Pumpkin Risotto.

And for something to watch after you’ve enjoyed that risotto, Sharon recommends The Outfit on Netflix, starring Mark Rylance: One set, five characters, a riveting and unpredictable crime story.

Help your fellow Free Pressers out. What do you recommend? Let us know:

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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