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An opportunity to learn from those who know best: Summer internship at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism in Israel

Benji AzizaBy BENJI AZIZA
Instead of taking summer courses at the University of Manitoba this summer, I decided to apply for an internship at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel.

After living in Israel for almost six years and missing the country terribly (especially the food), I was searching for an excuse to spend an extended period of time in the country.
The International Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT) is an open source think tank, specializing in analysis of terror events, national security, homeland security, national defense, security strategies and more.
It is one of the leading academic institutions for counter-terrorism in the world, facilitating international cooperation in the global struggle against terrorism.
As a student in the Political Studies department at the University of Manitoba, terrorism is a common theme brought up in many of my lectures and most of my term papers have been based on either Middle Eastern security challenges or Canadian counter terrorism efforts. Having served in the IDF during several of its military operations, I gained an appreciation for the people who dedicate their time and effort to better understand why terror events occur and how they might be prevented.
As counter terrorism is a field I would like to pursue professionally, I figured that the ICT would expose me up-close to the world of counter terrorism in a country that has had to, via necessity, become expert in the field.

After being accepted into the program, I was not entirely sure what to expect from the experience. I essentially showed up at the campus where the ICT is housed not fully knowing what I would be doing for the next three months or whom I would be working with. However, after having just completed my first month of the internship I can say that this experience has exceeded my expectations and has been incredibly rewarding.
I sit at a desk in an office with ex-high ranking officers from the top intelligence units in the IDF, along with a former head of the Mossad, and the director of the program, someone who essentially revolutionized the way the world analyzes and bases their counter-terror efforts: Dr. Boaz Ganor.

Every week we have guest speakers,  including a representative of the FBI stationed in Israel and a former head of the Israeli Prison Service. In addition to attending lectures, interns are given a personal project which could be described as a thesis paper. With guidance from my advisor, I began researching and writing my paper,  focusing on the recruitment and radicalization of Somali and other youth in Minnesota and their association to both al-Shabaab (al-Qaida in Somalia) as well as the Islamic State.

Outside of my time spent in the internship program, I have made a concerted effort to acquire a better understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After having lived in the region for almost a third of my life and having taken numerous Middle Eastern political science courses at the University of Manitoba, I continue to expand my understanding of the difficulty in grasping the full complexity of the Israel-Palestinian situation.
In my attempt to appreciate more fully the Palestinian narrative, I have spent time over the last month in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The opportunity to meet and hear stories directly from  Palestinians I met has provided me with a perspective that was lacking in my long held views of the conflict.
As a frequent visitor to Israel and then, as an Israeli citizen, it was far easier for me to avoid going to Palestinian populated areas of the country and to live daily life as if severe problems did not surround me.
However, although challenging, it has now become vitally important for me to hear all sides of the story, whether I agree or not. Perhaps when an attempt is made to gain a holistic picture of the situation, along with the needs, goals and challenges faced by both sides of the conflict, maybe just maybe, peace in Israel can seem possible.

By the time my internship finishes at the end of August, I hope to have my thesis finished with the possibility of being published. As the Institute for Counter Terrorism only publishes only a third of interns’ completed works, this will not be easy to achieve, but I feel that the research that I am doing is fairly innovative and relatively unexplored. It could possibly shed light as to why Minnesota has the highest number of  jihadist fighters who travel to foreign nations to fight in the name of their religion.

I feel extremely lucky to have the opportunity to experience Israel through the lens of this internship in counter terrorism. It has expanded my knowledge base, my perspective and has further enhanced my appreciation for the complexities and challenges that are today not just facing Israel, but the entire world as well.
For information on ICT’s annual counter terrorism conference (September 2016) that features international representation of leading experts in the field or if you have questions about the ICT or would like to acquire their publications please visit the ICT website at www.ict.org.il

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Israel

Hamas murdered their friend. Now, they help Israeli soldiers to keep his memory alive

David Newman (right): David died helping to save the lives of others who were at the music festival on October 7 when Hamas massacred hundreds of attendees

By VIRGINIA ALLEN (The Daily Signal) David Newman sent a text to a friend the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7. Something terrible had happened. Word quickly spread among Newman’s group of friends, who had known each other since high school.
Newman, 25, had traveled the night before to the music festival in southern Israel, close to the border with the Gaza Strip. It was supposed to be a fun weekend with his girlfriend “celebrating life,” something Newman, who served with the Israel Defense Forces, was good at and loved to do, friend Gidon Hazony recalls.
When Hazony learned that Newman, his longtime friend, was in danger, he and another friend decided they were “going to go down and try and save him.” Trained as a medic and armed with a handgun and bulletproof vest, Hazony started driving south from Jerusalem.
Hazony and his friend ended up joining with other medical personnel and “treated probably around 50 soldiers and civilians in total that day,” Hazony recalls, but they kept trying to make it south to rescue Newman.

But the two “never made it down to the party, and that’s probably for the best,” Hazony says, “because that area was completely taken over by terrorists. And if we had gone down there, I think we would’ve been killed.”
Hazony later learned that Hamas terrorists had murdered Newman on Oct. 7, but not before Newman had saved nearly 300 lives, including the life of his girlfriend.
When the terrorists began their attack on the music festival, many attendees began running to their cars. But Newman and his girlfriend encountered a police officer who warned them to run the opposite direction because the terrorists were near the vehicles, says David Gani, another friend of Newman’s.
Newman “ran in the opposite direction with his girlfriend and whoever else he could kind of corral with him,” Gani explains during an interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
“They saw two industrial garbage cans, big containers, and so David told everyone, ‘Hide, hide in those containers,’” Gani says. “And so what he did over the course of the next few hours is, he would take people and … he was this big guy, and he would just chuck them in that container. And then he would go in, wait, wait till the coast is clear, and then he’d go back out, find more people, put them in there.”
Newman’s actions that day, and the atrocities Hazony and so many others in Israel witnessed Oct. 7, led Hazony, Gani, and several friends to quit their jobs and set up a nonprofit called Soldiers Save Lives. The organization is working to collect tactical and humanitarian aid for the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF.
According to the group’s website, Soldiers Save Lives has supplied over 20 IDF units and civilian response teams “with protective and self-defense gear.”
Gani, board chairman, chief financial officer, and chief technology officer of Soldiers Save Lives, and Hazony, president of the organization, recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to raise support and awareness for their mission to provide IDF troops with needed supplies.
If you would like to find out more about Soldiers Save Lives or donate to them, go to https://www.soldierssavelives.org/
Reprinted with permission.

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Israel

Our New Jewish Reality

Indigo bookstore in Toronto defaced

By HENRY SREBRNIK Since Oct. 7, we Jews have been witnessing an ongoing political and psychological pogrom. True, there have been no deaths (so far), but we’ve seen the very real threat of mobs advocating violence and extensive property damage of Jewish-owned businesses, and all this with little forceful reaction from the authorities.
The very day after the carnage, Canadians awoke to the news that the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust had inspired sustained celebrations in its major cities. And they have continued ever since. I’d go so far as to say the Trudeau government has, objectively, been more interested in preventing harm to Gazans than caring about the atrocities against Israelis and their state.
For diaspora Jews, the attacks of Oct. 7 were not distant overseas events and in this country since then they have inspired anti-Semitism, pure and simple, which any Jew can recognize. Even though it happened in Israel, it brought back the centuries-old memories of defenseless Jews being slaughtered in a vicious pogrom by wild anti-Semites.
I think this has shocked, deeply, most Jews, even those completely “secular” and not all that interested in Judaism, Israel or “Zionism.” Jewish parents, especially, now fear for their children in schools and universities. The statements universities are making to Jewish students across the country could not be clearer: We will not protect you, they all but scream. You’re on your own.
But all this has happened before, as we know from Jewish history. Long before Alfred Dreyfus and Theodor Herzl, the 1881 pogroms in tsarist Russia led to an awakening of proto-Zionist activity there, with an emphasis on the land of Israel. There were soon new Jewish settlements in Palestine.
The average Jew in Canada now knows that his or her friend at a university, his co-worker in an office, and the people he or she socializes with, may in fact approve, or at least not disapprove, of what happened that day in Israel. Acquaintances or even close friends may care far more about Israel killing Palestinians in Gaza. Such people may even believe what we may call “Hamas pogrom denial,” already being spread. Many people have now gone so far in accepting the demonization of Israel and Jews that they see no penalty attached to public expressions of Jew-hatred. Indeed, many academics scream their hatred of Israel and Jews as loud as possible.
One example: On Nov. 10, Toronto officers responded to a call at an Indigo bookstore located in the downtown. It had been defaced with red paint splashed on its windows and the sidewalk, and posters plastered to its windows.
The eleven suspects later arrested claimed that Indigo founder Heather Reisman (who is Jewish) was “funding genocide” because of her financial support of the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides scholarships to foreign nationals who study in Israel after serving in the Israeli armed forces. By this logic, then, most Jewish properties and organizations could be targeted, since the vast majority of Jews are solidly on Israel’s side.
Were these vandals right-wing thugs or people recently arrived from the Middle East? No, those charged were mostly white middle-class professionals. Among them are figures from academia, the legal community, and the public education sector. Four are academics connected to York University (one of them a former chair of the Sociology Department) and a fifth at the University of Toronto; two are elementary school teachers; another a paralegal at a law firm.
Were their students and colleagues dismayed by this behaviour? On the contrary. Some faculty members, staff and students at the university staged a rally in their support. These revelations have triggered discussions about the role and responsibilities of educators, given their influential positions in society.
You’ve heard the term “quiet quitting.” I think many Jews will withdraw from various clubs and organizations and we will begin to see, in a sense like in the 1930s, a reversal of assimilation, at least in the social sphere. (Of course none of this applies to Orthodox Jews, who already live this way.)
Women in various feminist organizations may form their own groups or join already existing Jewish women’s groups. There may be an increase in attendance in K-12 Jewish schools. In universities, “progressive” Jewish students will have to opt out of organizations whose members, including people they considered friends, have been marching to the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and similar eliminationist rhetoric, while waving Palestinian flags.
This will mostly affect Jews on the left, who may be supporters of organizations which have become carriers of anti-Semitism, though ostensibly dealing with “human rights,” “social justice,” and even “climate change.”
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg took part in a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm on Oct. 22 in which she chanted “crush Zionism” along with hundreds of other anti-Israel protesters. Israel is now unthinkingly condemned as a genocidal apartheid settler-colonialist state, indeed, the single most malevolent country in the world and the root of all evil.
New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens expressed it well in his Nov. 7 article. “Knowing who our friends aren’t isn’t pleasant, particularly after so many Jews have sought to be personal friends and political allies to people and movements that, as we grieved, turned their backs on us. But it’s also clarifying.”
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.

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Israel

Former Winnipegger Vivian Silver, at first thought to have been taken hostage, has now been confirmed dead

Jewish Post & News file photo

Former Winnipegger and well-known Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver has now been confirmed as having been killed during the massacre of Israelis and foreign nationals perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7. Vivian, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri was originally thought to be among the more than 1200 individuals who were taken hostage by Hamas.

To read the full story on the CBC website, go to https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/israel-gaza-vivian-silver-1.7027333

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