Netanyahu: Denying Israel’s right to exist is the ‘ultimate’ anti-Semitism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Netanyahu: Denying Israel’s right to exist is the ‘ultimate’ anti-Semitism

Reacting to poll on hatred of Jews in Europe, PM refrains from criticizing right-wing governments accused of employing anti-Semitic tropes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the official state ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem marking Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 11, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the official state ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem marking Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 11, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that denial of Israel’s right to exist is the “ultimate” form of anti-Semitism.

Asked in an interview with the CNN to react to a poll from the network indicating over 20 percent of Europeans believe Jews have “too much influence” across the world, Netanyahu accused the extreme left and radical Islam of perpetuating the world’s oldest hatred, while refraining from criticizing right-wing leaders accused of using anti-Semitic tropes.

“I’m concerned because I think anti-Semitism is an ancient disease that rears its ugly head. It first attacks the Jews, but it never stops with them. It then sweeps entire societies,” he said.

Despite this concern, Netanyahu commended “most of the European countries’ governments” for working to combat anti-Semitism, specifically naming German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Netanyahu focused much of his criticism of European anti-Semitism from what he dubbed “new anti-Semitism,” which he differentiated from the “old anti-Semitism in Europe that came from the extreme right.”

Protesters on the Place du Chatelet in Paris demonstrating against Israel, April 1, 2017. (Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

“There’s also new anti-Semitism that comes from the extreme left and also the radical Islamic pockets in Europe that spew forth these slanders and lies about Israel, the only democracy in this entire region, the only one that has the courts, human rights, rights for all religions, gays, everything, I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” he said.

Asked about Hungary and Poland, whose right-wing leaders have been accused of employing anti-Semitic imagery, Netanyahu said he did not believe the two countries’ governments were doing so and said the real problem is calls for Israel’s destruction.

“I don’t think they do and I think that ultimately the real issue is can we tolerate the idea that people say that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist, which I think is the ultimate anti-Semitic statement,” he said.

“Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, anti-Israeli policies, the idea that the Jewish people don’t have the right to a state, that’s the ultimate anti-Semitism of today,” Netanyahu added.

Netanyahu’s focus on denial of Israel’s right to exist was notable in comparison to other reactions to the CNN survey, which focused on the historical persistence of anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism is one of the oldest diseases – racism being another such disease – for which there is no vaccine,” Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog said in statement. “This disease must be fought before it spreads, and becomes a pandemic. History teaches that if anti-Semitism isn’t dealt with at an early stage, it will threaten people’s lives, as we saw in Pittsburgh.”

“The teaching of the most horrific mass murder in history — the Holocaust of the Jews in Europe during the Second World War — must be taught as part of any curriculum in schools throughout Europe. Especially its lessons and conclusions.”

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust remembrance center, said in statement it was “troubled by the lack of Holocaust awareness and the state of anti-Semitism in Europe” revealed in the CNN survey.

Thousands of protesters attend a rally against anti-Semitism near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Sunday, September 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, Pool)

“The survey highlights the troubling fact that many entrenched hateful anti-Semitic tropes persist in European civilization, 75 years after the end of the Holocaust,” Yad Vashem said in a statement. “While anti-Semitism does not necessarily lead to genocide, anti-Semitism was central to the Nazis’ worldview and the basis for their ‘Final Solution’ to eradicate all Jews and their culture from the face of the earth.”

Yad Vashem said the survey shows the need to “intensify broad-based efforts in the area of Holocaust education and awareness, which is essential to any effort to contend with anti-Semitism.”

Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told CNN that “there will always be people who have anti-Semitic feelings and I don’t know if the number has grown, but this new situation today is they feel that it’s more acceptable socially that they can express these opinions out loud.

“The feeling beforehand was, ‘This is what I believe but don’t tell anyone,’” he added. “It was not perfect but at least there was a social taboo against anti-Semitism.”

Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is also minister for Diaspora Affairs, struck a similar note to Netanyahu.

“We have always known that for many, being anti-Israel is a natural extension of their anti-Semitic beliefs. This has an impact both on their attitudes to history and to the present,” he said.

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Israel holds major drill to practice fighting Hamas and Hezbollah simultaneously

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel holds major drill to practice fighting Hamas and Hezbollah simultaneously

Ongoing 10-day exercise by Commando Brigade tackles battling Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in north at the same time, a prospect military fears is liable to occur

  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade simulate fighting the Hezbollah terror group  in northern Israel in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade simulate fighting the Hezbollah terror group in northern Israel in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade take part in a large-scale training exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli military’s Commando Brigade launched a large-scale exercise this week to practice fighting the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip and the Hezbollah terrorist militia in Lebanon simultaneously, the army said Saturday. The drill is continuing into this week.

In the past, Israeli defense analysts have speculated that concerns over the prospect of a two-front war prevented the military from launching a major campaign in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the coastal enclave.

The exercise, and the Israel Defense Forces’ publicity of it, appeared to serve as a message to the two terrorist groups that Israel was prepared for such an eventuality.

According to the military, the commando exercise began earlier this week and was expected to last 10 days. Soldiers from the Maglan, Egoz, and Duvdevan units took part in the drill.

It included significant cooperation with the Israeli Air Force, which both transported the commandos and carried out airstrikes alongside them.

“During the exercise, the brigade practiced fighting between different landscapes and arenas, combat in open fields and urban combat,” the army said.

The military said the purpose of the exercise was to improve the commando brigade’s preparedness for war. It was the unit’s sixth brigade-wide exercise since it was created in December 2015.

Soldiers from the IDF Commando Brigade simulate fighting the Hezbollah terror group in northern Israel in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot observed the exercise earlier this week.

During his visit, the head of the Commando Brigade Col. Kobi Heller told Eisenkot that his unit was “ready and prepared for any scenario in which it is needed and will stand up to any enemy in any arena.”

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, center, and other senior officers visit an IDF Commando Brigade exercise in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, which calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, is believed to possess an arsenal of some 10,000 rockets and mortar shells. Israel has fought three wars with the terror group in the past decade, and has repeatedly been on the verge of a fourth over the past eight months as Hamas has led a campaign of border violence and occasional rocket and mortar fire at southern Israel.

Members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing attend the funeral of six of its fighters at a cemetery in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on May 6, 2018. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Earlier this month, the terror group, partnering with the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, launched some 500 rockets and mortar shells at Israel, killing one person and injuring dozens more.

In response, the Israeli military launched strikes against some 160 targets in the Gaza Strip connected to the two terror groups, killing seven people, most of whom were later identified as members of terrorist organizations, including some who were in the process of launching projectiles at Israel at the time they were killed.

The battle ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which has largely held since November 13, but with considerable criticism within Israel, including by former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, who resigned in protest of it, calling it “capitulation to terror.”

However, the IDF does not see Hamas as a serious military threat. Rather, the terror group is effectively allowed to remain in power as the Israeli government fears an even more extremist organization could take its place were it to be defeated.

The Iran-backed, Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist army, however, is considered by the military to be a significant strategic threat. With over 100,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal, Hezbollah is seen by some defense analysts as more powerful than some Western militaries.

Fighters from the Hezbollah terror group are seen at a rally marking the 11th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, in the village of Khiam in southern Lebanon on August 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Zayyat)

Israel fought a 34-day war with the terror group in Lebanon in 2006. Since then, the Lebanese border has been quieter than in the years preceding the conflict. However, Hezbollah has used the time to build up its arsenals considerably, with more precise and dangerous munitions, and has gained considerable experience and training by fighting alongside the Russian and Syrian militaries in the Syrian civil war in support of dictator Bashar Assad.

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Hindus, Jews celebrate joint festival of lights At Chicago Synagog

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Two holidays, one theme: Hindus, Jews celebrate joint festival of lights

Bringing together two diverse communities and highlighting strong Israel-India relations, over 400 people gather in Chicago to simultaneously honor Diwali and Hanukkah

  • Candle lighting with Rabbi Sidney Helbraun & Acharya Rohit Joshi at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    Candle lighting with Rabbi Sidney Helbraun & Acharya Rohit Joshi at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
  • The crowd enjoying the program at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    The crowd enjoying the program at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
  • Learning how to do a Hindu dance at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    Learning how to do a Hindu dance at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
  • Standup comedian Samson 'Mahatma Moses; Koletar performs at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    Standup comedian Samson ‘Mahatma Moses; Koletar performs at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
  • The crowd enjoying the program at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    The crowd enjoying the program at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
  • Jewish dance lessons at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    Jewish dance lessons at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
  • A Diwali diya and Hanukkah menorah shine side by side at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)
    A Diwali diya and Hanukkah menorah shine side by side at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)

CHICAGO — A joint Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights drew over 400 people to a suburban Chicago synagogue on Sunday, as together they honored the similarly-themed holidays of Hanukkah and Diwali.

The evening, which featured speakers, candle lighting, food from both cultures, dance lessons, and the world’s only Indian-Jewish stand up comedian, was hosted by Temple Beth-El in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Illinois.

The Chicago event has inspired similar gatherings nationwide — from a December 8 celebration in San Francisco, to events being planned in New York, Atlanta and Florida. The Chicago organizers also look forward to organizing a collective celebration of Purim and Holi, the Hindu spring festival, in 2019.

“I think we connect over a shared sense of pain and overcoming adversities,” Sunil Krishnan told The Times of Israel as people mingled before the program. Krishnan, who is Hindu, made the nearly two-hour drive from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to attend the event.

“I don’t know much about the Hindu religion, but I’m fascinated by it,” said Margaret Geber, a Jewish woman who came with two friends. “I love the feeling of hope and the energy of the room as people are getting to know each other.”

The crowd enjoying the program at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)

Highlights from Sunday’s program included speeches by human rights activist Dr. Richard Benkin; Indian Consul Head of Chancery D.B. Bhati; and Aviv Ezra, the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest.

Bhati drew parallels between Diwali’s festival of lights and the lights of Hanukkah, while Ezra highlighted the 26 years of diplomacy between Israel and India. That relationship has “grown in even more profound ways” since India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited each other’s respective countries last year, Ezra said.

Candle lighting with Rabbi Sidney Helbraun & Acharya Rohit Joshi at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)

The idea for the joint festival began five years ago when Peggy Shapiro, Midwest executive director of StandWithUs, invited leaders of the Indian community to her house for dinner to celebrate the 65th anniversaries of Indian and Israeli independence.

“The problem is, what food do you serve?” joked Shapiro.

“When we got together that night at my dining room table, we found such commonalities in our communities,” Shapiro said.

“I learned a bit more about India and the Jewish community there — India is one of the only places in the world that has never had anti-Semitism,” she said (presumably attributing the horrific 2008 attacks on the Mumbai Chabad House to Islamic terrorism, rather than specific hatred against Jews).

Snacks are served at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)

Prasad Yalamanchi of the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation also spoke about India’s support for Israel and stressed the shared experiences between Hindus and Jews, including the staggering losses that both communities faced due to persecution.

“We need to get together, Hindus and Jews, to protect our heritage and civilization for future of generations,” he said to roaring applause.

Shapiro then introduced “someone that nobody has ever heard of, but appeals to everybody — the world’s only Indian-Jewish stand-up comedian, Samson Koletar, aka Mahatma Moses.”

Koletar poked fun at Jewish and Indian stereotypes to the delight of a mixed crowd that apparently had a common appreciation for self-deprecating humor. And like any good comedian, Koletar didn’t spare himself, laughing about people’s confused reactions to his mixed Indian-Jewish heritage.

Standup comedian Samson ‘Mahatma Moses; Koletar performs at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)

Rounding out the speeches, Dr. Souptik Mukherjee — a researcher who has long been an advocate for Hindu-Jewish relations, and who has contributed to Israeli media — spoke about the 2,500 year history of Hindu-Jewish relationships.

“[Our] two communities today unite to celebrate values dear to us all, of coexistence, tolerance, gender equality, mutual respect and respect for each other’s culture and faith,” Mukherjee said.

The festival concluded with traditional Hanukkah and Diwali desserts, followed by dance lessons from each culture.

Dr. Souptik Mukherjee speaks at the Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, Illinois, Sunday, November 18, 2018. (Ronit Bezalel/ Times of Israel)

“It’s really wonderful to have this event in our synagogue, and see new faces in here,” noted Mandy Herlich, the director of lifelong learning at Temple Beth-El.

Chicago’s Festival of Lights was sponsored by the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation, Param Shakti Peeth of America, Sewa Interational, Shir Hadash, StandwithUs, Temple Beth-El, TV Asia, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America.

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Israel: Liberman: Government has given ‘immunity’ to terrorist leaders in Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Liberman: Government has given ‘immunity’ to terrorist leaders in Gaza

In final volley, outgoing defense minister rails against security cabinet, says Hamas will become like Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah terrorist army

Outgoing Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman addresses soldiers during a farewell tour of the Gaza border region, November 16, 2018 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Outgoing Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman addresses soldiers during a farewell tour of the Gaza border region, November 16, 2018 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

In a final shot as defense minister, Avigdor Liberman on Friday lambasted his former colleagues in the security cabinet, saying they’d “effectively” given the leaders of the Hamas terror group “immunity” during this week’s intensive round of violence.

“It simply makes no sense that after Hamas launches some 500 rockets at Israeli communities outside Gaza, at the south of the country, the heads of Hamas effectively get immunity from the Israeli security cabinet,” he said during a farewell visit to the south.

Liberman, who tendered his resignation on Wednesday, also warned that Israel’s policies toward Gaza were threatening to allow the Hamas terror group — considered by the Israel Defense Forces to be a comparatively minor strategic threat in terms of raw military power — to become akin to Lebanon’s mighty Hezbollah terrorist army, which is seen as the Jewish state’s main rival in the region with an arsenal of over 100,000 mortar shells, rockets and missiles.

“We are currently feeding a monster, which if we don’t stop its rearmament and force-building — in a year we will get a twin to Hezbollah — with all that entails,” he said.

Officials assess the damage to a house after it was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Liberman made his remarks on Friday afternoon, hours before his tenure as defense minister came to an end, following meetings with officers and soldiers from the IDF’s Gaza Division and with civilian security officials from the communities near the Gaza Strip.

On Wednesday Liberman announced he was resigning as defense minister— a position he’s held since May 2016 — specifically citing the government’s policies toward Gaza and its rulers Hamas as the main reasons why.

The defense minister’s resignation came a day after a de facto ceasefire went into effect, ending a 25-hour flare up that saw the largest-ever barrage of rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel, killing one and injuring scores more.

Outgoing defense minister Avigdor Liberman addresses soldiers during a farewell tour of the Gaza border region, November 16, 2018 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

“For the past two and a half years, I have bit my tongue. I tried to change things from within, but the last two decisions — on the transfer of $90 million to Hamas over the next six months and the decision on the ceasefire — these were two decisions that went too far,” he said.

Liberman was referring to a decision to allow Qatar to send funds into Gaza, which was meant to pay salaries of Palestinian civil servants in the Strip — after the Palestinian Authority decided to withhold those funds in a bid to punish its rival Hamas.

Earlier this month, the first batch of Qatari funds — $15 million — was brought into Gaza, which was seen as embarrassing for the Israeli government when pictures of the cash in suitcases were released to the media.

On Friday Liberman said “the moment the money crosses the border with the Strip, there is no oversight of it.”

He added, “It is purely $15 million of terror funding.”

Gal Berger גל ברגר

@galberger

Exclusive: 3 suitcases w 15 million dollars in cash entered Gaza today w the Qatari envoy through Israel (Erez crossing point). The money goes to Hamas, to pay salaries of civil employees. Exclusive pic:

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The outgoing defense minister noted that the first people to receive payments from the Qatari funds were families of Palestinians killed during clashes with Israeli troops on the Gaza border, not civil servants.

In the months prior to the flare up, Liberman had repeatedly and publicly called for a military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, claiming it was the only way to return calm to the communities in southern Israel, which have periodically been pummeled by fusillade of rockets and mortar shells.

The defense minister reiterated this position on Friday, saying Israel should have launched a military campaign against Hamas this summer, with the end of the school-year.

Palestinians inspect a crater caused by an Israeli airstrike earlier this week during fighting with Palestinian terror groups, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 14, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

“It’s not a secret, I thought that right after the tests, right after the school exams in July, we needed to deal a strong blow [to Hamas] — and we didn’t do that,” he said.

In Friday’s press conference Liberman also responded to a question about a claim he made prior to becoming defense minister, that he would give Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh 48 hours to return two Israeli civilians and the remains of two IDF soldiers currently in the terrorist group’s custody in Gaza and assassinate him if he didn’t.

Asked if he’d brought up the plan during security cabinet meetings, the defense minister coyly responded that he “didn’t remember.”

Without mentioning him by name, Liberman also appeared to attack one of his main political rivals, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is now vying to take over as defense minister.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during a Jewish Home party faction meeting at the Knesset, on November 5, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“The same people who would torpedo every decision [in the security cabinet], every tough choice in the cabinet’s discussions in the evening, would appear the next morning on talk shows and ask, ‘What about the 48 hours? What about Haniyeh?’” Liberman said.

In his resignation, the defense minister decried the decision to accept a ceasefire from Hamas on Tuesday, rather than launch a larger counter strike, saying it was a “capitulation to terror.”

He brushed off the arguments made by some defense analysts that the government refrained from conducting a campaign against Hamas in Gaza because it preferred to focus the military’s intentions on threats in Iran, Syria and Lebanon.

“It’s all excuses,” he said.

The defense minister reiterated his position that his issue was with the cabinet’s decisions, not with the military’s actions or abilities.

“The blame cannot be rolled onto the IDF. The responsibility is on the political leadership. The IDF is subordinate to the political leadership’s decisions,” he said.

According to the military, over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over on Monday and Tuesday — more than twice the rate at which they were launched during the 2014 war.

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens and causing significant property damage.

Fire and smoke billow following Israeli air strikes targeting Hamas infrastructure in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, near the border with Egypt, on November 12, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

In response, the Israeli military said it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”

The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which was announced by Hamas on Tuesday evening but not officially confirmed by Israel, appeared to largely be holding as of Friday morning. However, the Israeli military kept reinforcements in place and ordered troops to remain on high alert out of concerns that border violence may again break out.

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Israel: Defense Minister Liberman resigns over disagreements with Prime Minister

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Defense Minister Liberman resigns, says Israel ‘capitulated to terror’ in Gaza

Yisrael Beytenu leader slams ‘drastically inadequate’ response to massive rocket fire on south, calls for elections as soon as possible; Netanyahu to take over defense portfolio

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman announced Wednesday that he would be resigning as defense minister and called for the government to be dismantled and for new elections to be set.

“I am here to announce my resignation from the government,” he said at a hastily organized press conference at the Knesset after a Yisrael Beytenu party meeting, during which he told MKs of his decision.

Liberman said his decision came in light of the ceasefire reportedly agreed on Tuesday between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza following an unprecedentedly fierce two-day barrage of over 400 rockets fired by Hamas and other terror groups toward Israel.

A day earlier, Liberman and other ministers severely criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the decision.

“What happened yesterday, the ceasefire, together with the deal with Hamas, is a capitulation to terror. There is no other way of explaining it,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“What we are doing right now is buying quiet for a heavy price with no long-term plan to reduce violence toward us,” he said of the deal, which wasn’t officially confirmed by Israeli officials. He also slammed the military’s response to the rocket fire. “To put it lightly, our response was drastically lacking to the 500 rockets fired at us,” he said.

Fire and smoke billow following Israeli air strikes targeting Hamas infrastructure in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, near the border with Egypt, on November 12, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Liberman also directly criticized Netanyahu, saying he “fundamentally disagreed with him” on a number of key issues, including the government’s allowing $15 million to be transferred in cash from the Qatari government to Hamas on Friday.

“I opposed it. The prime minister needed to write an executive order for it to go above my head,” Liberman claimed, saying that the money went first to the families of Hamas members killed on the Gaza border in clashes with the IDF and then to funding for rockets to fire at Israel.

He said that he made his decision because “I could not remain [in office] and still be able to look residents of the south in the eyes.”

Liberman concluded his prepared statement by calling for elections to be held “at the soonest possible date.” During a subsequent question-and-answer session he predicted that right-wing voters would “see through the other parties’ hypocrisy” and reward his Yisrael Beytenu party with 20 Knesset seats.

A Likud source said in response that there was “no need to go to elections at this time of sensitive security,” despite the coalition losing five seats with Yisrael Beytenu’s expected exit.

After Yisrael Beytenu’s pull out, the coalition will hold a paper-thin majority in the 120-seat Knesset. New elections must be held by within the coming 12 months.

“The government can complete its term,” the Likud source said in a statement. “In any case, in the meantime, the defense portfolio will go to Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

The Jewish Home party, however, is expected to demand the position of defense minister for its leader, Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Liberman has clashed frequently with Bennett, whose religious-nationalist party will compete with Liberman’s secular right-wing Yisrael Beytenu over the votes of many hawkish Israelis in the upcoming Knesset elections.

The two men have traded barbs repeatedly in recent weeks, with Bennett accusing Liberman of being soft on Gaza and Liberman replying in kind, while also asserting that policy decisions regarding the ongoing violence emanating from the Strip were made by the ministers in the high-level security cabinet rather than his office.

Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu defended his decision to accept a ceasefire with terror groups in Gaza after the worst escalation in violence in the Strip since 2014.

“In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he said at a ceremony in honor of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion.

“Our enemies begged for a ceasefire and they knew very well why,” he added.

The deal has provoked criticism from within Netanyahu’s government as well as from Israelis who live near the Gaza Strip and want further action against Hamas, the terror group that rules the enclave.

Sources close to the defense minister told Haaretz that he was “incensed” by a briefing in which Netanyahu appeared to indicate that Liberman supported the reported ceasefire.

The security cabinet reportedly agreed to the ceasefire with Hamas on Tuesday afternoon, in a decision that several cabinet ministers later said they opposed. The decision was slammed by some opposition leaders, who called it a capitulation to terror after a deadly two-day conflagration that saw over 400 rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (C) leads discussions at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, November 12, 2018 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Channel 10 reported that at least four senior ministers who attended the cabinet meeting opposed the decision, which was made by Netanyahu without a vote. But Housing Minister Yoav Gallant, who was at the meeting, said the ministers all accepted the decision.

The ceasefire was hailed by Hamas as a victory ostensibly imposed on Israel on Hamas’s terms. Rocket fire at Israel came to a halt on Tuesday afternoon, after two days of incessant attacks.

Liberman, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett proposed an alternative response, but it was rejected by the other ministers at the meeting, according to Channel 10.

An unnamed minister who attended the seven-hour meeting Tuesday told the outlet that no vote had been held to determine the next steps. A source with direct knowledge of the discussions confirmed to The Times of Israel that no vote took place.

The source said there were several disagreements between cabinet members, some of which were the focus of debate for “a number of hours.” The source would not, however, comment on the content of the disagreements.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the security cabinet merely released a statement that read: “The security cabinet discussed the events in the south. The cabinet received briefings from the IDF and defense officials on the [IDF] strikes and widespread operations against terror targets in Gaza. The cabinet instructed the IDF to continue its strikes as needed.”

Missiles from Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system in the south of Israel destroy incoming missiles fired at Israel from the Palestinian enclave of Gaza above Ashkelon on November 13, 2018. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

According to the military, over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over the course of 25 hours on Monday and Tuesday. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens more, and causing significant property damage.

In response to the rocket and mortar attacks, the Israeli military said it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”

As news of a ceasefire broke, Liberman’s office put out a statement saying that any claim that he had backed ending Israel’s offensive was “fake news. The defense minister’s position is consistent and has not changed.”

Similarly, Bennett’s office said any reports that he had supported a halt to strikes were “an absolute lie” and that the minister had “presented his resolute position to the cabinet that he has expressed in recent months and his plan for Gaza.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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Pittsburg: Hundreds at funeral for 97-year-old Synagogue victim

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Wounded daughter joins hundreds at funeral for 97-year-old synagogue victim

Rose Mallinger, the oldest person killed in worst anti-Semitic attack in US history, is the last of the 11 victims to be laid to rest

This undated family photo provided by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) shows Rose Mallinger, 97, who was one of the people killed on when a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Her daughter, Andrea Wedner, was among the wounded. (Courtesy of the Mallinger family/UPMC via AP)

This undated family photo provided by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) shows Rose Mallinger, 97, who was one of the people killed on when a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Her daughter, Andrea Wedner, was among the wounded. (Courtesy of the Mallinger family/UPMC via AP)

Pittsburgh bid farewell Friday to 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, the oldest person killed in America’s worst anti-Semitic attack in history and the last of the 11 victims to be laid to rest.

Mallinger was shot dead by a gunman who reportedly yelled “All Jews must die” after bursting into the Tree of Life synagogue during Shabbat services last Friday. Her daughter, Andrea Wedner, 61, was shot and wounded.

Wedner attended Friday’s funeral with a nurse, said Rabbi Aaron Bisno. She has  been hospitalized since the massacre Saturday.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald were among the many hundreds who attended Mallinger’s funeral.

Rose Mallinger, right, was 97 when she was killed in the Tree of Life synagogue attack on Oct. 27, 2018. Her daughter Andrea Wedner, left, was wounded. (Katie Couric/Facebook via JTA)

“I’ve known Rose a long time, and it was always going to be that she was so vibrant and bright and sharp-witted that she would live past 100,” said Michelle Organist, who also knows Wedner. “You knew something was going to take her eventually, but it wasn’t going to be gun violence.”

Born in 1921, Mallinger may have been just three years shy of 100, but for the former school secretary, “age was truly just a number,” her family said.

The final resting place of Rose Mallinger, 97, lays ready for her casket in the Tree of Life Memorial Park on October 31, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mallinger, a mother of 3, grandmother to 5, and great-grandmother of 1, was among the 11 victims killed in the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue on October 27, 2018. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images/AFP)

“She retained her sharp wit, humor and intelligence until the very last day,” they said in a statement. “No matter what obstacles she faced, she never complained. She did everything she wanted to do in her life.”

She was a devoted member of Tree of Life in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, a center of Jewish life in Pittsburgh and home to a thriving, liberal and diverse community.

“Her involvement with the synagogue went beyond the Jewish religion… It was her place to be social, to be active and to meet family and friends,” said her family.

A mother of three, Mallinger had five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. “She loved us and knew us better than we knew ourselves,” the family added.

Pittsburgh has been holding funerals since Tuesday for those killed in the attack. A 46-year-old gunman, who was injured in a shootout with police, has been charged with crimes that could see him sentenced to death.

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania visited Tree of Life to pay their respects to the victims.

Visitors walk past the hearse as they gather for the funeral of Rose Mallinger, 97, at Congregation Rodef Shalom on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in Pittsburgh. Mallinger was one of the eleven victims killed in the deadly shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood last Saturday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Around 1,500 people took to the streets to protest against the visit, holding Trump at least partly responsibility for the shooting through his inflammatory language and demanding that he renounce white nationalism.

AP contributed to this report

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Human Race: We Say We Want Peace Yet Refuse To Stop Our Own Personal Violence

Human Race: We Say We Want Peace Yet Refuse To Stop Our Own Personal Violence

In general terms, is the human race incapable of being truthful to our own selves? What gave me the idea for this article today was my reading the Times Of Israel article about the people they have lost to violent acts of terror against them since Israel re-became a Nation. The count was over 23,000 people taken away from their families by acts of hate. The article said that in this past year that 68 IDF soldiers and police officers had died in the line of duty and 32 Israeli civilians. Folks that is an even 100 Israeli people whom hate killed, these people would most likely all be alive today if not for the ignorance of hate. Yet when we through our hate carry it to “extreme prejudice” by on purpose killing another person we have lowered ourselves into the Devils playpen. As I hope you did notice, I did not include the people of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank who died from Israelis committing violence on them. Then there is the issue of how many people in those two conclaves have been killed by their own government officials. By the accounts that I have noticed it seems that on a loose average about 10-15 of the Palestinian population die for every Israeli that dies.

 

There is a line of thought that I would like us all to follow for a moment. If you personally were the leader of either Palestinian conclave and you really hated all the Israeli people to the point that you wanted them all to die, please ask yourself this question. How much is the lives and quality of life of the citizens under your flag valued at to you personally? Are they worth nothing to you? How about 15 for 1 person in Israel? Why would any sane human being be willing to trade even 10 for 1? If you are the commander of a unit and you know that you are going to lose at least 10 of your soldiers for every one you kill of theirs if you go through with your next attack, do you still go through with it? Folks, if you would still sacrifice your people like that, you are a cold-hearted piece of the Devils shit, literally!

 

The point I am trying to get to is if you really actually want peace with Israel and you want your own families to live longer healthier and happier lives then stop 100% of all violence toward everyone, and I do mean everyone.  If the Nation of Israel actually wants peace and you are not committing any acts of violence toward them, let them prove that to you, your people, and the people of the world that they want peace with you right now and forever. When you attack, Israel counter attacks and you lose far more than they do, always. So, the point is, quit all violence, everyone, then we will see who is telling the truth about wanting peace. Yet if your own personal charter states that you will not ever accept peace, why should anyone including the people and the government of Israel believe anything you have to say about anything? The only way for there to be peace anywhere in the world is if every human refuses to harm another human. Don’t be fooled, I know that peace will never happen because the human race prefers to act like Demonic fools. This is why at the Second Advent of Christ the Nations of the world will fight against Jesus and His Angels and human blood will flow to the horses reins. In other words, folks we condemn our own selves with the ignorance we refuse to let go of, the ignorance of hate, and of violence.

Should Donald Trump Apologize For Telling The Truth About Islamic Relations?

Should Donald Trump Apologize For Telling The Truth About Islamic Relations?
(THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON MARCH 11th OF 2016)
Israel & the Region   (This information is from the Times of Israel and from the Associated Press)

Muslim group to Trump: Apologize for saying ‘Islam hates us’

Civil rights organization says candidate’s rhetoric ‘reflects a bigoted mindset that only serves to divide our nation and the world’

March 11, 2016, 1:54 am 30

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Fayetteville, NC, on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. (AP/Gerry Broome)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Fayetteville, NC, on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. (AP/Gerry Broome)

FAYETTEVILLE, NC — A leading Muslim civil rights group is calling on GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump to apologize for his claim that “Islam hates us.”

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper that aired Wednesday night, Trump was asked whether he thinks Islam is at war with the West.

“I think Islam hates us,” Trump responded. “There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There is an unbelievable hatred of us.”

The statement drew swift condemnation from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which called on Trump to apologize for the comment, as it has in response to other comments Trump has made.

 

“Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric does not reflect leadership, but instead reflects a bigoted mindset that only serves to divide our nation and the world,” Nihad Awad, the group’s national executive director said in a statement. The group suggested Trump could do so at Thursday evening’s GOP debate.

Executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad. (screen capture: YouTube)

Executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad (screen capture: YouTube)

Trump’s statement also became an issue for Florida’s Republican Governor, Rick Scott, who repeatedly sidestepped questions in an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Scott, who says he will not endorse in the primary but is friends with Trump, was asked whether he thinks “Muslims in the state of Florida hate America.”

Scott instead shifted his answer to more general themes, calling Florida “the best melting pot in the world” and saying: “We love everybody coming to our state.” The avoidance prompted host Mika Brzezinski to suggest ending the interview early.

 

The questions come as Trump continues to dominate the Republican presidential contest, locking up delegates, despite a series of controversial statements.

Trump has called for a temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the US and has advocated “going after” the wives and children of suspected Islamic jihadists in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. Critics have argued that Trump’s plans would only exacerbate problems by alienating more moderate Muslims.

Trump and other Republicans have criticized President Barack Obama and the Democratic candidates for failing to use the term “radical Islamic” when referring to Muslim jihadists or attacks by them.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton once explained she avoids the term because it “sounds like we are declaring war against a religion.”

Asked by CNN’s Cooper whether he thought there was a “war between the West and radical Islam” or “war between the West and Islam itself,”Trump replied: “It’s radical, but it’s very hard to define. It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.”

Trump was also pressed on his vow to work to “broaden” laws restricting waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques if he’s elected president in order to level the playing field between militants and the US.

Trump ruled out the US beheading Islamic State militants, but again did not provide additional specifics when pressed on what he’s envisioning when he says, “we have to play with a tougher set of rules.”

CAIR claims that the rhetoric of Trump and other Republican officials is at least partially to blame for a spike in anti-Muslim incidents across this country in recent months.

 

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World Judo Must Honor Its Own Ethics Code—(Or Disband Themselves)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

OP-EDAN ISRAELI GOLD MEDALIST SHOWS UP INEXCUSABLE INTOLERANCE

World judo must honor its own ethics code, stop UAE’s anti-Israel discrimination

The emirate trampled all over the sport’s governing principles in preventing Israel’s team from competing under its own name and symbols

Israeli gold-medalist judoka Tal Flicker singing the Israeli national anthem despite local officials' refusal to play it at the Judo Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi, where local judo authorities banned all Israeli symbols, October 26, 2017. (YouTube screen capture)

Israeli gold-medalist judoka Tal Flicker singing the Israeli national anthem despite local officials’ refusal to play it at the Judo Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi, where local judo authorities banned all Israeli symbols, October 26, 2017. (YouTube screen capture)

Israel’s Tal Flicker is the current world No. 1 in judo’s U66 kg division, an established star who has won several world championship events this year.

On Thursday, Flicker, 25, added to his gold collection, defeating Nijat Shikhalizada of Azerbaijan in the Grand Slam Abu Dhabi. Accordingly, he took his place on the winner’s podium, gratefully accepted his gold medal, and stood straight for the playing of Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah.”

Except that, as Flicker knew would be the case, the organizers of this world tournament in the United Arab Emirates refused to play “Hatikvah.” Instead, Flicker and the rest of those in the hall and watching elsewhere heard the anthem of the International Judo Federation. Neither was the Israeli flag raised in pride of place. Rather, again, it was the IJF symbol that the organizers installed. (Likewise, there was no Israeli flag displayed for bronze medalists Gili Cohen, shortly before Flicker’s win on Thursday, and Tohar Butbul, on Friday.

IJF Code of Ethics (clause 2): ‘There shall be no discrimination between the participants on the basis of race, gender, ethnic origin, religion… or other grounds’

Flicker handled the snub with considerable aplomb. Shutting out what he would later describe as the “background noise” of the IJF anthem, he sung his own “Hatikvah.”

WATCH-DISGRACEFUL.
ISRAELI Tal Flicker presented with his gold medal at  without Israeli anthem or flag. Nice to see Tal singing something and I’m guessing it’s the @Ostrov_A

Speaking to Israeli TV from his hotel room afterwards, he said he’d made up his mind from the start that he’d sing “Hatikvah,” and dismissed the organizing nation’s insult. “The whole world knows that we’re from Israel, knows who we represent,” he said. “The fact that they hid our flag, it’s just a…” He paused, searching for the word. “It’s just a patch on our flag,” he said.

A day later, Tohar Butbul handled an Arab rival’s contempt with similar equanimity. Evidently undeterred that his defeated UAE opponent Rashad Almashjari refused to shake his proffered hand, Butbul, 23, progressed on through the tournament to wind up with the bronze in his category by defeating Italy’s Olympic champion Fabio Basile.

Adding insult to insult, the IJF has been partially complicit in this anti-Israeli discrimination. Its own website’s reporting on Flicker’s gold medal success described him (and still does in this article) as representing not Israel but, risibly, the IJF. “The IJF are in second place with one gold and one bronze medal,” it reported, ridiculously, on Thursday night. (By Friday evening, its medals table for the tournament was at least accurately showing Israel’s gold and two bronzes to have indeed been won by “Israel.”

Some might argue that Israel should not have participated in a tournament whose UAE hosts messed the team around regarding visas and informed the sport’s international administration in advance that Israelis would only be tolerated if they exhibited no sign whatsoever of being Israeli. But the Israeli thinking was that its excellent judokas emphatically should participate, and that they would hopefully strike a contrast, through sporting excellence and good grace, to the rudeness of the UAE organizers. And so it has proved.

But that emphatically should not be the end of the matter. When the UAE Judo Federation made plain ahead of the tournament that the Israeli team would not be allowed to compete under the Israeli flag, the IJF wrote to the hosts to demand that “all delegations, including the Israeli delegation, shall be treated absolutely equally in all aspects, without any exception.”

The UAE Judo Federation paid it absolutely no heed. Why would it? It had imposed the same discrimination against Israel’s judokas two years ago; Israel won two bronze medals in the 2015 tournament — which meant far fewer headlines than the unignorable gold-medal success of Tal Flicker.

The very word ‘judo’ means ‘gentle way’

Rather than Israelis facing the dilemma of whether to compete as unwanted intruders in events such as this, it now falls to the IJF to ensure that there is no discrimination at future tournaments, and that hosts who cannot abide by its requirement that all delegations be treated “absolutely equally” not be permitted to hold events. (Incidentally, “Palestine,” as an International Olympic Committee member, is one of the IJF’s 198 “member countries.” We can all argue long and hard over the differences or similarities, but if Israel wanted to host an IJF event, it would be required to treat Palestinian participants equally.)

A martial art with a 135-year history, judo is governed by etiquette designed to underline the importance of respect.  The very word “judo” means “gentle way.” There should be no place in the sport for those who do not embrace its spirit.

As the IJF’s own Code of Ethics (clause 2) states unequivocally, “There shall be no discrimination between the participants on the basis of race, gender, ethnic origin, religion, philosophical or political opinion, marital status or other grounds.”

The UAE trampled all over those principles this week. It should not permitted to do so again.

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225,000 Hungarian Holocaust Victims Identified

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Yad Vashem identifies 225,000 Hungarian Holocaust victims

The Holocaust museum’s specially trained team pored over pages of records, mapping forgotten victims no one cared to document on the way to their deaths

Hungarian Jews were marched down Wesselenyi Street in the heart of Budapest's Jewish Quarter, on their way to be deported to Auschwitz. (Bundesarchiv Bild)

Hungarian Jews were marched down Wesselenyi Street in the heart of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter, on their way to be deported to Auschwitz. (Bundesarchiv Bild)

Born in Budapest in 1937, Chayim Herzl remembers being taken by his mother Eugenia to visit his father Reuven Salgo at a labor camp outside the city in 1943.

“My hand was small, and I was able to pass some food to him through the fence. That was the last time I saw him,” said Herzl.

He lost his mother in early 1945 when men from Hungary’s Arrow Cross took her  from their safe house outside the ghetto, organized by diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, while he hid under the bed.

Having lost his father at age six and mother at eight, Herzl has only fleeting memories of his parents. Now, thanks to a comprehensive decade-long project to collect names of Hungarian Holocaust victims, completed in a collaboration between Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum Yad Vashem and funded by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, Herzl has regained something he calls, “indescribably priceless” — information.

Through the project, Herzl learned that his father died just days before the end of the war in a POW death march, after having been forced into a labor corps in the Hungarian army fighting on the Eastern front. Beyond that, he now has a document with his father’s signature. The signature, his father’s orthographic fingerprint, is the only piece of his father’s writing Herzl owns.

“Through the efforts of Yad Vashem’s Names Collection project in Hungary, I was finally able to find a sense of closure in knowing what happened to my father. Finding a document containing his signature is evidence to the world that my father lived and a testimony to the tragic fate that befell him and so many Hungarian Jews,” said Herzl.

“The job is not yet complete: My mother, from the day she was taken from me, has vanished from the face of the earth and remains among the undocumented. I know that Yad Vashem is committed to leaving no stone unturned in the effort to identify as many Holocaust victims as possible,” Herzl told The Times of Israel.

Chayim Herzl (Salgo) was born in 1937 in Budapest, Hungary, the only child of Reuven (Rudolf) and Eugenia (Geni) Salgo, née Herzl. (courtesy Yad Vashem)

Ten years ago, approximately 40 percent of Hungarian victims were identified after the advances made by Holocaust historian and Holocaust survivor Serge Klarsfeld. Klarsfeld in the 1980s launched the Nevek Project, gathering names from lists of prisoners of forced labor and concentration camps during WWII. Due to funding and bureaucratic issues, he abandoned his project.

Building on Klarsfeld’s Nevek Project, Yad Vashem-trained historians have added some 225,000 victims’ names over the past 10 years of intensive research. This major project was funded by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah and supported by the late French politician and Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, who served as its first president. On Thursday, Yad Vashem hosted an event that included a special tribute to Veil.

“Simone Veil saw special importance in the collection of names of Hungarian Jews. She witnessed firsthand the arrival and extermination of Hungary’s Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was important to her that their identities be memorialized and therefore decided to support this important initiative,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev.

But the scope of Yad Vashem’s Names Collection project goes well beyond identifying Jewish Hungarian victims. It is, to date, the largest project Yad Vashem has undertaken and represents a holistic approach to collecting information and documents that far surpasses previous efforts.

“This is the most successful project that Yad Vashem’s Archives has undertaken. The holistic approach of the project has become a model for other endeavors we are currently promoting in the name-gathering process, in particular the Polish Names Project, and we hope that with the continued support of the French Foundation we will achieve similar results to those we obtained in collecting names of Jewish victims from Hungary,” said Shalev.

In addition to Poland, which has signed a cooperation agreement with the institution, Yad Vashem is implementing the information-gathering model it founded in Hungary to its names recovery efforts in the territories of the former Soviet Union and the Balkan States.

In conversation with The Times of Israel Thursday, Dr. Alexander Avram, director of the Hall of Names and the Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names, explained the project’s procedures and resonance.

Eugenia (Geni) Salgo, née Herzl, mother of Chayim Herzl (Salgo). (Courtesy Yad Vashem)

Unlike the initial goals of the Nevek Project of attaching a name to every victim, the Yad Vashem project “has revealed part of their individual stories, and in some cases, for the first time was able to connect a rare photograph with the name of the faceless murdered,” said Avram.

The intensive work began in 2007 and was conducted under the leadership of three Yad Vashem historians who trained a staff of some 20 researchers who were on-the-ground in Greater Hungary: Hungary, Slovakia, parts of Romania, Serbia, and Transylvania. Through special diplomatic agreements forged with the Hungarian government in 2005 and 2006, said Avram, the researchers were granted full access to all state archives for this specific project.

“It is not easy in these countries to find documentation about the Holocaust and Jews,” said Avram. “They are no key words for catalogues; there is no archive in Europe that has a topic ‘Holocaust’ and catalogues for this or for Jews.”

The team pored over archive material from all sorts of offices — including the Ministries of the Interior, Defense and Agriculture — “page by page, to map those documents important to Jews and the Holocaust,” he said. The important pages were scanned and sent to Yad Vashem, which is in the process of uploading the pages into its database.

The team, trained by Yad Vashem, must be fluent in Hungarian, and have skills in German, Romanian, Serbian and other languages of the region to decipher the handwriting of the pre-World War II documents.

In December, the intensive research collection is finishing, but the team will continue to decipher documents to add more names and stories into the database.

“In our database we have 4,700,000 names of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. That means that more than 1 million who are not identified,” said Avram. Whereas in central and western Europe some 95% of the victims documented as Jews were arrested, sent to transit camps, and then on to death camps, in eastern Europe there is less of a paper trail.

A Hungarian Jewish woman and young children walk towards the gas chambers in Auschwitz. (Budesarchiv Bild)

Although he said the teams of researchers at Yad Vashem will continue to document victims, it is important to note, said Avram, that the teams have “exhausted most of the easy sources, and now look for names scattered in less unexplored sources where they will sometimes read a book of 500 pages to reach four or five names.”

“We are focusing our efforts in the countries where we have a more significant gap in names of victims,” said Avram. In Hungary, for example, although there were organized transports, “nobody cared to register the names of the Jews on the transports,” he said.

Like the case for Herzl, who discovered his father’s fate through the Yad Vashem project, Avram hopes to find more than mere monikers for the remainder of the victims.

“We can sometimes build a personal story. Previous attempts were to document names of victims; in this project we are trying to go further than that,” he said, and transform the name into a person.

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