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July 23, 2014 0

More Reflections from Israelis:  Mourning two American-Israeli soldiers 

 

Overflow at the July 23, 2014 funeral of Sgt. Max Steinberg

Over­flow at the funeral of Sgt. Max Steinberg

16 Days into Pro­tec­tive Edge oper­a­tion, the list of fallen sol­diers grows longer and longer. In the last 48 hours, two names of so-called “lone sol­diers” whose fam­i­lies live out­side of Israel were added to the list: two young Amer­i­cans who moved to Israel and served in the IDF – Sgt. Sean Carmeli, who grew up in South Padre, Texas, and Sgt. Max Stein­berg, from Los Angeles.

On Mon­day after­noon, when the funeral of Sgt. Sean Carmeli was announced, there was fear that not that many peo­ple would attend as he does not have imme­di­ate fam­ily Israel.  The Mac­cabi Haifa soc­cer team, of which Sgt. Carmeli was a fan, called on the pub­lic to pay their respects to the lone sol­dier.    Par­tic­i­pa­tion went far beyond all expec­ta­tions: around 20,000 peo­ple from all over Israel came together to pay their respects.

And, today, the peo­ple of Israel embraced the fam­ily of the lone sol­dier from L.A, Sgt. Max Stein­berg. As a Jewish-American orga­ni­za­tion, ADL Israel staff felt the need to attend the funeral and pay our respects to this young American-Jew who came to Israel and fought in his com­bat unit shoul­der to shoul­der with his Israeli friends.   On an extremely hot day, tens of thou­sands flocked to the ceme­tery  – esti­mates runs between 30,000–40,000 peo­ple – the vast major­ity of whom did not know Sgt. Steinberg.

The funeral started with the almost sur­real announce­ment by the Home Front Com­mand instruct­ing atten­dees what to do in case a siren went off dur­ing the funeral. Even dur­ing this emo­tional and tragic moment, this reminder served to rein­force the frag­ile nature of the cur­rent Israeli reality.

The eulo­gies deliv­ered at the funeral brought to life Max’s char­ac­ter and the strong con­nec­tion he felt for the State of Israel and the IDF. His insis­tence on serv­ing in the Golani com­bat unit, and doing so with excel­lence in the var­i­ous courses dur­ing the train­ing process, reflect his spe­cial com­mit­ment and strength.

As Israelis, we felt that join­ing the impres­sive atten­dance at the funeral was our way of express­ing our sor­row at the loss and our deep­est grat­i­tude for an indi­vid­ual who was will­ing to sac­ri­fice his life in a just war, in order to pro­tect our lives. Many brought Israeli flags and waved them proudly. Max’s emo­tional father ended his remarks with a prayer for peace, and a stir­ring: ” Am Israel Chai” – the peo­ple of Israel live.

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July 23, 2014 0

New EU “Conclusions” on Israel and Gaza

The Euro­pean Union’s For­eign Affairs Coun­cil, com­prised of the 28 EU for­eign min­is­ters, reg­u­larly issues “con­clu­sions” on a vari­ety of inter­na­tional issues.  Yesterday’s “Coun­cil con­clu­sions on the Mid­dle East Peace Process” show greater EU under­stand­ing for Israeli posi­tions and an end to the EU’s patience with Hamas in Gaza.

The most sig­nif­i­cant change from the pre­vi­ous Con­clu­sions of Decem­ber 2013 is the demand that “all ter­ror­ist groups in Gaza must dis­arm” and the call for “the Pales­tin­ian gov­ern­ment to take charge of the Gaza Strip.”  The EU wants Pres­i­dent Abbas’s so-called “unity” gov­ern­ment to replace Hamas and main­tain a monop­oly on the use of force.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, the EU con­demned Hamas for call­ing “on the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion of Gaza to pro­vide them­selves as human shields.”  Israel has been high­light­ing this war crime by Hamas and now the EU has endorsed Israel’s position. EU Flag

The EU noted that Israeli mil­i­tary oper­a­tions “must be pro­por­tion­ate and in line with inter­na­tional human­i­tar­ian law.”  How­ever, the con­clu­sions do not assert that Israel has acted dis­pro­por­tion­ately or con­trary to inter­na­tional human­i­tar­ian law.

For the first time, the EU included a para­graph about “events in the wider Mid­dle East [which] pose seri­ous threats to the EU” and war­rant a re-statement of the EU’s “fun­da­men­tal com­mit­ment to the secu­rity of Israel.”  For too long and in too many Euro­pean cap­i­tals, diplo­mats pro­moted the fal­lacy of Israeli-Palestinian peace as the key to peace through­out the Mid­dle East.  Per­haps the inclu­sion of regional threats in “con­clu­sions on the Mid­dle East Peace Process” demon­strates a new EU con­sen­sus that the Iran­ian nuclear pro­gram, the civil war in Syria, and the grow­ing threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) hin­der Israeli-Palestinian peace and not the mis­guided reverse.

The EU’s “peace para­me­ters” changed with respect to refugees.  The word “real­is­tic” was added and now states that the EU expects “A just, fair, agreed and real­is­tic solu­tion to the refugee ques­tion.”  The change seems to be a nod towards Israel and an expres­sion of frus­tra­tion with the Pales­tin­ian Authority’s nego­ti­at­ing posi­tion on refugees.

Do the new EU con­clu­sions rep­re­sent a sea change? No. But the tide may be turning.

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July 23, 2014 17

Anti-Israel Protests in South America

Over the past ten days, there have been sev­eral anti-Israel demon­stra­tions through­out Latin Amer­ica protest­ing Israel’s mil­i­tary action in Gaza, known as Oper­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge, some with mes­sag­ing that crossed the line into anti-Semitism. At protests, signs com­par­ing Israel to the Nazis were seen, par­tic­i­pants spoke about Israel com­mit­ting geno­cide and eth­nic cleans­ing against Pales­tini­ans in Gaza, and calls were issued on gov­ern­ments to break rela­tions with Israel.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Argen­tin­ian Com­mit­tee of Sol­i­dar­ity with Pales­tine orga­nized a protest out­side the Israeli Embassy where dozens of social, polit­i­cal, human rights and stu­dent groups par­tic­i­pated. Tilda Rabi, Pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­a­tion of Argentine-Palestinian Enti­ties, requested that the Argen­tin­ian gov­ern­ment break rela­tions with the Israeli gov­ern­ment, remove Israel from the Free Trade Agree­ment with MERCOSUR, and stated that Argentina can­not be an accom­plice to Israel’s “war crimes”.

In La Paz, Bolivia, a demon­stra­tion took place on July 11, where Israeli flags were burned and pro­tes­tors were over­heard say­ing “Enough with the geno­cide, Zion­ist State of Israel, for your polit­i­cal inter­ests. They killed thou­sands of inno­cent people…”

In San­ti­ago, Chile, a “We Are Pales­tine” protest took place on Sat­ur­day, July 19th where a num­ber of groups protested in front of the Israeli and United States embassies. Omar Salame, Pres­i­dent of the Union of Pales­tin­ian Stu­dents in Chile, said “Pales­tin­ian peo­ple are a vic­tim of geno­cide,” and Chafik Lasen, Pres­i­dent of the group “Pales­tine For All” said “Pales­tini­ans, we are suf­fer­ing from geno­cide by the ter­ror­ist state of Israel, the largest ter­ror­ist state in the world.” Signs read­ing “Sion­ismo (Zion­ism) = Nazism” were dis­played at the demon­stra­tion. Mem­bers of the Chilean Jew­ish com­mu­nity report expe­ri­enc­ing harassment.

In Arau­ca­nia, Chile, Romina Tuma, the daugh­ter of Sen­a­tor Euge­nio Tuma, led an anti-Israel protest where around 200 peo­ple par­tic­i­pated. The protest used the slo­gan “End the Mas­sacre Against the Pales­tin­ian Peo­ple,” and Tuma said that Israelis “are geno­ci­dal.” Israeli flags with a swastika and signs say­ing “Zion­ism = Nazism” were vis­i­ble at the protest. In addi­tion, pro­tes­tors put red paint on an Israeli flag and later burned it.

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