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Israeli President Blasts ‘Blood Libel’ at Hague, Says Court ‘Twisted’ Words to Contend Genocidal Intent

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog delivers a speech during a tribute ceremony at the Halle aux Grains in Toulouse, southern France, on March 20, 2022. Photo: Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

Israeli President Isaac Herzog blasted the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for its handling of the genocide allegations against Israel on Monday, describing it as a “blood libel” and accusing it of “twisting” his words to make the claim that Israel sees all Gazans as legitimate military targets. 

“There is something shocking about seeing how the ‘post-truth’ phenomenon permeates even the most important institutions,” Herzog said during an event for fallen IDF soldiers at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. 

Herzog accused the court of misrepresenting his statements following the October 7 Hamas massacre, suggesting that he viewed all Gazan civilians as legitimate military targets. 

“I was disgusted by the way they twisted my words, using very, very partial and fragmented quotes, with the intention of supporting an unfounded legal contention,” he said.

He went on to emphasize that Israel abides by international law and is committed to the protection of civilians in Gaza.

The Court on Friday ruled that Israel could “plausibly” be committing acts of genocide but stopped short of calling for a ceasefire in a 15-2 decision. 

Herzog’s comments from an October 12 briefing were included in South Africa’s submission along with a litany of remarks by Israelis that Pretoria said showed “genocidal intent”, including by notable Israelis outside the halls of power, including celebrities. 

“They were not simply quoting people from the chain of command who are obviously relevant, they were quoting people from anywhere they could find, including TV personalities, singers, and goodness knows what,” Israeli diplomat and international lawyer Daniel Taub told journalists in a phone call on Sunday. 

Herzog’s alleged inflammatory remarks were presented by the ICJ as a single statement when in fact it was several sentences cobbled together and taken out of context. 

“It is not true this rhetoric about civilians not being aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up. They could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’etat,” Herzog said five days after the attack. 

Asked to clarify by a reporter whether that meant that they were, “by implication, legitimate targets,” the Israeli president said, “No, I didn’t say that.”

“We are operating militarily according to the rules of international rules. Period. Unequivocally,” he said. 

On Sunday, he said: “I was here – in this very hall – a few days after the terrible massacre, when I was asked by the world’s media about the situation in Gaza, I replied that the widespread civilian support in Gaza for the crimes and atrocities of October 7 could not be ignored, and that Hamas operates from the heart of the civilian population everywhere, from children’s bedrooms in homes, from schools, from mosques, and hospitals.

“But I added and emphasized, that for the State of Israel – and of course for me personally – innocent civilians are not considered targets in any way whatsoever.

“There are also innocent Palestinians in Gaza. I am deeply sorry for the tragedy they are going through. From the first day of the war right until today, I call and am working for humanitarian aid for them, and only for them. This is part of our values as a country,” he added. 

“But the reality cannot be ignored, a reality which we all saw with our own eyes as published by Hamas on that cursed day: and that was the involvement of many residents of Gaza in the slaughter, in the looting, and in the riots of October 7. How the crowds in Gaza cheered at the sight of Israelis being slaughtered and their bodies mutilated. At the sight of hostages – God knows what they did to them – wounded and bleeding being dragged through the streets. In view of such terrible crimes, it is appropriate that the honorable court investigates them in depth, and not casually in passing,” Herzog said.

He added that Hamas was also “responsible for the suffering of their own people.”

The fact that the ICJ hearing to judge whether the “democratic, moral and responsible State of Israel, which rose from the ashes of the Holocaust,” took place on the eve of the International Holocaust Memorial Day, “undermined the very values on which this court was established,” he said. 

Israel has been requested to submit a report to the Hague in one month’s time regarding the steps it is taking to protect civilian lives in Gaza. “In practice that shouldn’t be difficult because there’s nothing in the order that Israel isn’t committed to anyway. But [there are] political implications of continuing to cooperate with the court,” Taub said.

Taub went on to say that the ICJ case was not only putting Israel on trial, but western democracies at large. 

“The question is does international law give law-abiding countries tools with which they can lawfully confront terrorist groups that are adopting these kinds of cynical tactics?” 

If the court would have found Israel guilty of genocide and ordered it to call a ceasefire, then democracies around the world would have had “enormous frustrations”, Taub said, in upholding international law themselves. They would see the ruling as a “suicide pact” particularly in light of the fact that Israel’s military goes to greater lengths than some of them in avoiding civilian deaths, he said.

South Africa’s 84-page submission contained footnotes from an “incestuous circle of UN bodies that are all quoting each other,” he said, with “facts and figures that have very little independent verification.” 

Journalist Yair Rosenberg has pointed to several statements allegedly made by senior Israeli officials that purportedly point to genocidal intent as either grossly misrepresented or not said at all. One is a quote attributed to Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, which reads: “Gaza won’t return to what it was before. We will eliminate everything.” As Rosenberg notes in The Atlantic, the quote, in its truncated version, was cited by The New York Times, (twice) NPR, the BBC, The Washington Post, and in The Guardian. Gallant actually said: “Gaza won’t return to what it was before. There will be no Hamas. We will eliminate it all.” 

“This mistaken rendering of Gallant’s words was publicly invoked last week by South Africa’s legal team in the International Court of Justice as evidence of Israel’s genocidal intent; it served as one of their only citations sourced to someone in Israel’s war cabinet,” Rosenberg wrote in The Atlantic

Rosenberg also said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s quote from the Bible about Amalek, which was used by the Court and several media outlets to point to the targeting of civilians as policy, was actually misunderstood. Whereas Netanyahu was quoting Deuteronomy, the South African lawyer Tembeka Ngcukaitobi argued in the Hague that he was quoting from the book of Samuel, written hundreds of years later and containing a directive to kill all Amalekites including “women, children and infants, cattle and sheep.”

“These omissions and misinterpretations are not merely cosmetic: They misled readers, judges, and politicians. None of them should have happened,” Rosenberg writes. 

No one should be “cavalierly accusing people or countries of committing genocide based on thirdhand mistranslations or truncated quotations,” he concluded.

The post Israeli President Blasts ‘Blood Libel’ at Hague, Says Court ‘Twisted’ Words to Contend Genocidal Intent first appeared on

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Feds charge Massachusetts man for calls threatening Jews with ‘genocide’

(JTA) — Federal agents arrested a man who allegedly called Jewish institutions in Massachusetts and threatened them with “genocide” because he believed they were supporting genocide of the Palestinians.

“Guess what? We are going to use your logic — if you can kill the Palestinians, we can kill you,” was one of a number of statements John Reardon, 59, allegedly left on a voicemail for Congregation Agudas Achim in Attleboro, Massachusetts on Jan. 25.

“If you can bomb their f**king places of worship we can bomb yours, if you can kill their children we can kill yours,” Reardon, of Millis, Massachusetts, allegedly said.

The allegations were detailed in a release posted Monday by the office of Joshua Levy, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts. Levy tied the alleged calls to reports of a massive spike in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.

“The allegations here about the series of threats Mr. Reardon made against the Jewish community are deeply disturbing and reflect the increasing torrent of antisemitism across our country and right here in Massachusetts,” Levy said in the release posted Monday, the same day Reardon appeared in court in Boston. “The numbers do not lie — incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia are spiking.”

Reardon allegedly promised to retaliate against Jews with genocide and to bomb places of worship.

“You do realize that by supporting genocide that means it’s ok for people to commit genocide against you,” was another of his alleged statements.

Reardon allegedly called one other synagogue and a Jewish-affiliated institution before he was arrested on Thursday. He was charged with “[u]sing a facility of interstate commerce to threaten a person or place with harm via an explosive.”

“No one should have to fear becoming the victim of physical violence at the hands of an angry stranger,” Jodi Cohen, and FBI agent, said in the release. “While the FBI does not and will not police ideology, we take all threats to life seriously, and so should anyone thinking about making one.””

The post Feds charge Massachusetts man for calls threatening Jews with ‘genocide’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Tovah Feldshuh, Debra Messing and more Jewish stars perform at first-ever ‘Shabbat on Broadway’ show

(New York Jewish Week) — Nine a.m. on a Saturday morning might be one of the few times during the week that Times Square isn’t brimming with tourists, theater-goers and commuters. But when you bring in a few dozen Jewish Broadway stars and ask them to perform a Shabbat service inside a Broadway theater, the crowds will come.

This past Saturday, the St. James Theater, which most days is home to the Monty Pythn musical “Spamalot,” hosted “Shabbat on Broadway,” described by producer Henry Tisch as a “a non-denominational Shabbat service with a real Broadway twist.”

Led by two cantors, and featuring songs and prayers sung by Julie Benko, Adam Pascal, Tovah Feldshuh, Shoshana Bean and others, the service drew a near-capacity crowd to the 1,700-seat theater.  

“We had this feeling that, in this very dark time in the world and in the Jewish world, we wanted to put together something that really had light to it and would be this beacon and a place to celebrate and to gather together in community,” said Tisch, who produced the Shabbat on Broadway service alongside Amanda Lipitz, who also directed. 

The service felt “inevitable,” Tisch said. “Of course, there should be a Shabbat on Broadway. Certainly, there have been other gatherings of Jews in the theater world, but as far as we know, this is the first Shabbat service in a Broadway theater.”

Tisch and Lipitz began putting together the show just five weeks ago, and the tickets for the service — which were free and open to the public — ran out in just a day, they said. 

The Shabbat they chose, Jan. 27, happened to be the perfect day for such an occasion. The Torah portion read on the day, Parshah Beshalach, includes the Song of the Sea, which the Israelites sang as they crossed the Red Sea from Egypt, and is known as “Shabbat Shirah” or “Shabbat of Song.” Jan. 27 also happens to be International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

Underneath a giant, golden Star of David that hung over the stage — a set piece normally used in the “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” scene in “Spamalot” — celebrants interspersed traditional Shabbat prayers and straight musical numbers. Some prayers were sung to the tune of Broadway songs; the service opened with a pre-recorded video of a dozen New York City cantors singing “Hinei Matov” to the tune of “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,’” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma.” It closed with a group of children singing “Adon Olam” to the tune of “You’ll Be Back,” from “Hamilton.” 

Both prayers were arranged by Cantor Azi Schwartz from Park Avenue Synagogue, who is known for setting Shabbat prayers to modern tunes. 

However, most of the prayers were sung with traditional melodies. Feldshuh, who most recently played Rosie Brice in “Funny Girl,” sang “Mi Sheberach.”

“I’ve spent over 50 years with you,” Feldshuh said on stage, addressing the crowd. “This is my life,” she added, calling the event an “extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime event.” 

Among other performances, Shoshana Bean, who most recently starred in “Mr. Saturday Night,” sang “Etz Chaim;” Talia Suskauer, who played Elphaba in “Wicked,” sang the Shema; Jackie Hoffman, recently seen in the anthology series “Feud,” read the Amidah, the core prayer of every Jewish worship service and Debra Messing read a “Prayer for Our Country.” 

The 90-minute service was led by cantors Jenna Pearsall from Central Synagogue and Mo Glazman from Temple Emanu-El, two of the city’s most prominent Reform synagogues. It also included a sermon by Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR Synagogue in Los Angeles, from her new book “The Amen Effect: Ancient Wisdom to Mend Our Broken Hearts and World,” which was read by actress Camryn Manheim. 

“Broadway, growing up, for me was spiritual. It was a huge part of my life. So to mesh my career with a Broadway stage was a full circle moment for me. It was incredible,” Pearsall told the New York Jewish Week after the show. “It’s hard to get clergy involved on a Saturday, but I would love to do something like this again. There seems to be a huge demand for it.”

Indeed, a plethora of other prominent New York City clergy, including Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove from Park Avenue Synagogue, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl from Central Synagogue and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum from Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, had their own Shabbat services to lead, but appeared in pre-recorded video segments throughout the service.

“The theater is a holy place,” Kleinbaum said in her recording. 

That idea — that the Broadway stage is a temple, and one influenced largely by Jews — was a throughline in the service both implicitly and explicitly.

“There are such current ties and historic ties between the theater community and the Jewish community. The history of the American musical theater is so tied to the contributions of so many Jews, so it felt really important to acknowledge that,” Tisch said. “Also given just how Jewish the theater community is today, it felt important to really provide this space and the sanctuary and celebration.”

“What a convergence of temples,” said Broadway singer Adam Kantor (“Rent,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Band’s Visit”), before he sang a mashup of “Oseh Shalom” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which he said he arranged in the days following Oct. 7. 

“For a lot of people in this room, a Broadway theater might also have given maybe an escape from certain religious institutions where they were supposed to experience a certain spiritual catharsis but might have instead experienced a certain feeling that they weren’t invited into that space,” he added. “Today you are all invited.”

Audience members were pleasantly surprised by how the show balanced the Broadway values of humor and showmanship with the Shabbat values of community and rest.

“It was incredible how they were able to balance it. I was wondering going in, ‘Is it going to be Broadway tunes? Is it going to be a service? What is that gonna look like?’” said Nadine, who declined to share her last name. “I felt like I got a little bit of both, which was incredible.”

Another attendee, Donna, said she often attends synagogue and also loves Broadway shows. “The convergence of all this as part of what it means to be Jewish in this city was really very beautiful,” she said.

Julie Benko, who is currently starring in Barry Manilow’s “Harmony” on Broadway, performed “Tomorrow” from Annie. 

“This event today was so special,” she told the New York Jewish Week. “I feel like I’ve never been in a space like this where I just felt like our whole community came together in this way, where I felt totally safe and connected, celebrating our community and just being together in a way that wasn’t related to ‘showbiz’ — and yet it still celebrated everything that we love in showbiz.”

“It was my favorite Shabbat service I’ve been to,” she added.

The post Tovah Feldshuh, Debra Messing and more Jewish stars perform at first-ever ‘Shabbat on Broadway’ show appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Canada suspends funding to UNRWA after reports that employees participated in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel

Canada has joined other Western nations, including the United States, and temporarily suspended its funding to the United Nations agency charged with aiding Palestinians after reports that employees were involved in the terrorist attacks against Israel on Oct. 7. Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s minister of international affairs, made the announcement late Friday afternoon. “Today, I spoke […]

The post Canada suspends funding to UNRWA after reports that employees participated in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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