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How Tuesday’s rally in DC is trying to pitch a broad pro-Israel tent

WASHINGTON (JTA) — When it sends a contingent to the mass pro-Israel rally in Washington, D.C. next week, Americans for Peace Now will be standing alongside a group led by someone it accused of racist tweets

That group, the Zionist Organization of America, has accused Americans for Peace Now of supporting antisemitism. 

Leaders of both groups said they would still protest together on Nov. 14. 

“It is nearly certain that some speakers at the rally will say things that we disagree with, and they will certainly not say everything that we believe needs to be said,” said an alert from APN, a left-wing pro-Israel group. “But we will not cede this ground to those with whom we disagree. We will stand together as a community alongside other Jewish organizations in our Peace Bloc and yes, alongside those who do not share our views.”

Morton Klein, the president of the right-wing ZOA, sounded the same note: “The Hamas Jew-hater types are after all of us, no matter our political views, so I’m proud to stand together with my fellow Jews who understand this is a flight to protect all Jews, no matter their political position or religious beliefs,” he said. 

Securing the presence of those two groups along with others that are firmly on the right and left was one of the goals of the rally, which was called last week and aims to attract tens of thousands to demonstrate for Israel, on behalf of the hostages held by Hamas, and against antisemitism.

The rally’s goal is to shore up support for Israel’s war effort more than a month after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel sparked an Israeli invasion of Gaza aimed at deposing the terror group. That invasion has sparked growing criticism of a mounting civilian death toll along with calls for a ceasefire. But the rally also aims to show that even as American Jews have become increasingly polarized, a broad spectrum of Jewish organizations and their supporters can still unite behind an overarching message of backing Israel and opposing antisemitism. 

“It’s just indicative of the clarity that comes from October 7,” said William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which is organizing the rally along with the Jewish Federations of North America. “We must stand together as one, and we can put aside our differences, big differences and small differences, and focus on the commonality of our connectivity to Israel and our connectivity to each other as Jews here and around the world.”

To that end, organizers have curated the rally to feature speakers and branding that attract a broad consensus. By the same token, they are eschewing steps that could alienate segments of the Jewish organizational world.

The rally has no official cosponsors, and leaders of organizations will not be delivering any major speeches from the stage. The emphasis from the podium, Daroff said, will be on the tragedy of Oct. 7 and the need to free hostages, as well as the danger of antisemitism on campus and elsewhere. 

“We are talking to families of hostages and survivors and evacuees and others who were affected by Oct. 7 In Israel,” he said, referring to possible speakers. A program for the rally has not been issued 

“We’re also talking to students who have experienced hate on our campuses,” he said. And invitations have already gone out to top congressional leaders and to top Biden administration officials, he said, “as well as the top-flight entertainers and people from the entertainment industry.”

The rally is being promoted by major Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Orthodox groups. Along with APN, the pro-Israel left will be represented by the liberal lobby J Street. APN’s president, Hadar Susskind, said the lack of cosponsors made it easier to join. He didn’t have to worry about APN’s logo showing up alongside those of groups it opposes.

“The concept that no one is co-sponsoring this, I think, is very smart,” he said. “Because, frankly, had I been asked to co sponsor it. I’m not sure that I would have. Co-sponsoring, to me, is a different level than just ‘we’re going to it.’” 

A poll released by the Jewish Federations on Thursday showed that large majorities of American Jews fear rising antisemitism and back military aid to Israel. 

The entirety of the Jewish left will not be represented on Tuesday, though they may organize their own demonstration: Jewish organizations that have accused Israel of genocide and advocated in protests for an immediate ceasefire, Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, did not respond to requests for comment on whether they would counterprotest.

Rally organizers hope to have the same impact as mass Jewish-led National Mall rallies in 2002, when the Second Intifada was raging in Israel, and in 1987 on behalf of Soviet Jewry. Those rallies topped 100,000 attendees. But judging by this rally’s permit request, its attendance will be lower. Organizers have asked the National Park Service for space to accommodate 60,000 people. 

But Daroff still believes the showing will be significant. 

“We hear of just thousands and thousands of people coming to Washington — schools that are closing and bringing their whole student bodies and universities doing the same,  federations that are chartering planes, people coming from the West Coast. Huge numbers of people coming from South Florida,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if all of Boca Raton’s synagogues convened on the National Mall on Tuesday.”

That doesn’t mean there won’t be political tensions. At the time of the announcement on Monday night, the Biden administration and Israel were more or less in lockstep in terms of rejecting pressure from the left for a ceasefire. Biden officials are reportedly now pressing for a three-day pause in fighting to deliver humanitarian relief; if Israel resists, those political statements could play out among the speakers from the podium. On Thursday, Israel agreed to pauses of several hours per day for humanitarian relief. 

Daroff said security would be tight — another overarching concern of American Jews. “The very first call that I made, as we were considering having this event, was to Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas at the Department of Homeland Security,” he said. National security agencies will also be providing security for the event. 

“We will have literally hundreds of security officials who will be around as well, including our own private security,” he said. “There will be metal detectors, magnetometers and I’m confident that on November 14, at one o’clock, among the safest places on the planet will be our little piece of the National Mall.”


The post How Tuesday’s rally in DC is trying to pitch a broad pro-Israel tent appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Biden Administration Urges Israel to Tone Down Response to Hezbollah Aggression in Bid to Avert Wider Conflict

Mourners carry a coffin during the funeral of Wissam Tawil, a commander of Hezbollah’s elite Radwan forces who according to Lebanese security sources was killed during an Israeli strike on south Lebanon, in Khirbet Selm, Lebanon, Jan. 9, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Aziz Taher

The Biden administration has been pushing the Israeli government to de-escalate hostilities with Hezbollah to prevent a full-scale war from breaking out along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where the powerful Iran-backed terrorist group wields significant political and military influence.

In Israel’s north, Hezbollah terrorists have been firing rockets at Israel daily from southern Lebanon since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre, leading Israeli forces to strike back. Tensions have been escalating between both sides, fueling concerns that the conflict in Gaza — the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas, another Iran-backed Islamist terrorist group, to Israel’s south — could escalate into a regional conflict.

More than 80,000 Israelis evacuated Israel’s north in October and have since been unable to return to their homes. The majority of those spent the past eight months residing in hotels in safer areas of the country. The mass displacement has ramped up pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to find a swift resolution to the situation.

The ongoing conflict between both sides escalated on Tuesday when senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah was killed in an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah responded by launching over 200 missiles into northern Israel. 

During Abdullah’s funeral, senior Hezbollah official Hachem Saffieddine vowed that the terrorist group would intensify its strikes on Israel. 

“Our response after the martyrdom of Abu Taleb will be to intensify our operations in severity, strength, quantity and quality,” Saffieddine said. “Let the enemy wait for us in the battlefield.”

In Israel, meanwhile, officials have said they prefer a diplomatic solution to the current crisis but are prepared to escalate military action to push Hezbollah back from the border in order to allow internally displaced Israelis to return home. Polling has shown that the majority of the Israeli public wants the military to engage in expanded actions against the Lebanese terrorist group, which is committed to Israel’s destruction.

The Biden administration has been advising Netanyahu against pursuing the idea of a “limited war” against Hezbollah, arguing that it could spark a regional war throughout the Middle East. According to multiple reports, US officials have warned Israel that Iran could dispatch militants from Syria, Iraq, and Yemen into Lebanon to bolster Hezbollah’s effort.

The White House has also expressed concern  that Israeli officials do not have a clear strategy on how to keep the war contained to solely Lebanon. Fear of a broader regional war has intensified the Biden administration’s urgency to finalize a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas, which launched the ongoing war in Gaza by slaughtering over 1,200 people throughout southern Israel and kidnapping more than 250 others on Oct. 7.

“We are concerned about an increase in activity in the north. We don’t want this to escalate to a broad regional conflict and we urge de-escalation,” a Pentagon spokesperson told reporters this week.

The Pentagon also released a statement saying that Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and his US counterpart Lloyd Austin discussed efforts to “de-escalate tensions along the Israel-Lebanon border in the wake of Lebanese Hezbollah’s increased aggression.”

According to multiple reports, Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to US President Joe Biden for energy and investment, will head to Israel on Monday in an effort to temper tensions between the Jewish state and Hezbollah. Hochstein will meet with Netanyahu and Gallant with the goal of swaying them against green-lighting a “limited ground invasion” in Lebanon. Hochstein will reportedly also journey to Beirut to conduct discussions with Lebanese officials.

“There was a lot of work, diplomatic work done behind the scenes by several folks in the US administration, working with regional powers and our allies to try and tamp this down,” Hochstein has said regarding the prospect of a regional war erupting in the Middle East.

Hochstein argued that preventing a large-scale war between Israel and Lebanon requires “active engagement” with both parties and for the public of both countries to “understand the risks” of further escalation. He added that “despite the bravado talk” coming from government officials, Lebanese people do not to go to war with Israel.

“The bottom line is a lot of civilians will die,” Hochstein said.

Despite chest-thumping by Hezbollah leaders, experts believe that the elimination of Abdullah might cause Hezbollah to exercise caution in engaging further with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). 

The powerful elimination worries Hezbollah members. They now understand that the IDF knows much more about them than we do,” Professor Amatzia Baram told The Jerusalem Post. “Additionally, the operation indicates that Hezbollah’s field security is not airtight and that the organization’s intelligence system has been penetrated to such an extent that we were able to eliminate such an important sector commander. The IDF managed to infiltrate their networks and systems and identify the right people for elimination.”

The post Biden Administration Urges Israel to Tone Down Response to Hezbollah Aggression in Bid to Avert Wider Conflict first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Iranian Court Sentences Woman to 18 Years in Prison for Supporting Israel

Iranian protesters carry a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a Yemeni flag as they burn an Israeli flag during an anti-US and anti-British protest in front of the British embassy in downtown Tehran, Iran, Jan. 12, 2024. Photo: Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Reuters Connect

Fatemeh Sepehri, a prominent Iranian dissident and political prisoner, has been sentenced to an additional 18 and a half years in prison after she publicly expressed support for Israel.

The harsh prison sentence appeared to be at least partly in response to a video clip released on Oct. 16 from Ghaem Hospital in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad in which Sepehri, who suffers from a heart ailment, condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. Hamas is backed by the Iranian regime, which provides the Palestinian terror group in Gaza with funding, weapons, and training.

“I emphatically declare that the Iranian nation stands in solidarity with the people of Israel,” she said. “I hope [Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks] closes the Islamic Republic’s chapter in history.”

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For 45 years, Iranian women have tirelessly battled for their rights, freedom, and advancement. Among them, Fatemeh Sepehri has boldly challenged the ideals of the Islamic Republic. NUFDI proudly awards her the 2024 Humanitarian Award.
pic.twitter.com/ccSnhXVQ9e

— سه خط طلا (@misanthropgirl) March 19, 2024

Although Fatimeh’s court records are unavailable to the public, her brother Asghar Sepehri tweeted details about the sentence. According to her sibling, Fatimeh was sentenced earlier this month by a judge of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Mashhad to seven years for supporting Israel, another seven years for conspiring against internal security, three years for insulting Iran’s so-called “supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and one year and six months for propaganda against the Islamist regime.

Iran’s rulers regularly call for the destruction of Israel, often referring to the Jewish state as a “cancerous tumor” or “the Zionist entity.”

Sepehri was originally arrested in Sept. 2022 following the killing of Mahsa Amini, a young woman whose death at the hands of Iran’s morality police sparked nationwide protests against the ruling Islamist regime on an unprecedented scale.

Sepehri’s pro-Israel video was posted after she was temporary released from prison to undergo open-heart surgery. According to her family, Sepehri has been subjected to intense “psychological torture” while in prison. Her brothers, Mohammad-Hossein and Hossein, have also received severe sentences for similar charges: eight years and two years and 11 months, respectively.

In the past, Sepehri has been an outspoken critic of Khamenei and the Islamic Republic more broadly. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported in 2021 that Sepehri said on video that she hoped to see the day when Khamenei would be dragged through the streets and killed like Libya’s late ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Days after Sepehri received her sentence, Iran released political prisoner Louis Arnaud, a French citizen, on Thursday. Arnaud was arrested in Sept. 2022 as anti-government protests were erupting across Iran. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted shortly after Arnaud’s release, “Louis Arnaud is free. Tomorrow he will be in France after a long incarceration in Iran.”

Louis Arnaut is greeted by Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné at Paris’ Le Bourget Airport following his release from Iran. Photo: Screenshot

Three French nationals remain imprisoned in Iran as political prisoners. French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné posted on social media that securing their release remains a top priority.

The post Iranian Court Sentences Woman to 18 Years in Prison for Supporting Israel first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Former ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Star Patricia Heaton: Every Human Being Should Be Against Antisemitism

One of the billboards erected in partnership between JewBelong and O7C. Photo: Instagram

Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton said this week that following the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, it should be a “natural” reaction among all humans to want to combat antisemitism, as well as support the Jewish people and Israel’s right to exist.

The “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Middle” star, who is a devout Catholic, made the comments during her guest appearance on the NewsNation show “CUOMO,” where she also advocated for Christians to voice solidarity with Jews and Israel after Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 people and took 250 hostages during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Heaton began by telling host Chris Cuomo that after the Oct. 7 atrocities, she was “confused by the lack of outcry from the churches.”

“I even posted on Instagram, ‘Did you ever have that thought that if you were in Germany during World War II, you hoped that you would be that good German that helped to hide your Jewish neighbors? Well, today you have that opportunity,’” she added.

Following the Oct. 7 attacks, Heaton founded a nonprofit called the Oct. 7 Coalition (O7C) to urge Christians to be visibly outspoken against antisemitism, and in support of Jews and Israel’s right to exist. Heaton’s O7C has since teamed up with the nonprofit JewBelong to launch a nationwide billboard campaign to raise awareness about antisemitism in the US.

Talking about why she wanted to get involved in rallying support for Israel and Jewish communities facing a rise in antisemitism in the US since the Oct. 7 attacks, Heaton said, “I think if you’re a human being, that should be your natural response to what we saw.” When asked about how people in the entertainment industry have reacted to her avid pro-Israel stance, she said Jewish friends in the business have called her “brave and courageous.”

“[But] I just think this is just a normal human reaction,” she said. “I have heard ‘We have projects we have to promote. We don’t want to bring politics into it.’ I guess if someone spent 50 or 100 million on a movie, they don’t want to introduce this subject matter and I guess you can understand that. But generally speaking I think Hollywood could do more to support our Jewish community.”

The post Former ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Star Patricia Heaton: Every Human Being Should Be Against Antisemitism first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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