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Never Again: A Call for Courageous Leadership Against Antisemitism

The bodies of people, some of them elderly, lie on a street after they were killed during a mass-infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip, in Sderot, southern Israel, Oct. 7, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

My great-grandmother’s grave was desecrated last week. Her name was Gitale Bernhold. She was a Holocaust survivor from Charleroi, Belgium, and her headstone was one of 85 in the Jewish section of a Marcinelle cemetery that had their Stars of David wrenched off and thrown in the trash.

I didn’t have the chance to know her, but I will share her story. She came to Belgium from Poland in the early 1920s to escape the pogroms — violent antisemitic riots to which the authorities turned a blind eye.

Once she arrived, she considered Belgium her home country. She was proud to learn French and integrate into her new nation’s culture. She was grateful to Belgium for providing refuge from the dangers she faced in Poland.

Her life could begin again; others were not so lucky. The Nazis arrested two of my great-grandfathers in Charleroi and sent them to Auschwitz-Birkenau. They never returned.

My grandmother survived the Holocaust thanks to a family that hid her, putting their own lives at risk to do the right thing. In 1995, they were honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

My grandfather was saved by an entire village, along with his brother and their mother, whose grave was also desecrated last week. He often speaks about how — even though everyone in his village knew he was Jewish — he was not afraid when the Nazis came, because he knew no one would reveal him. And across three years of occupation, no one did.

These stories reinforce my belief that local leaders are key to fighting antisemitism, especially in terms of building resilience against hatred over the long term. These stories also show the importance of being on the right side of history; the people who saved my family chose to be Upstanders rather than Bystanders, and we remember their names.

Two months after the October 7 massacre, with antisemitism rising and Hamas still holding approximately 130 Israelis hostage, we all — individuals, organizations, and elected leaders — find ourselves asking questions: Where did we fail? What is our responsibility? What have we missed?

We have the duty to pause and review our strategy, adapt to this new reality, and ensure that “never again” really is now. That’s only possible if we put our differences aside and protect our democracies from hatred and bigotry — after all, persecution that starts by targeting Jews inevitably targets others.

Along with many other Jews, I hoped that antisemitic atrocities like those perpetrated by Hamas belonged to the past. If we can’t vow to prevent such brutality in the future, we have forgotten the lessons of the past, and failed as a society.

We cannot afford to fail, and that requires us to confront uncomfortable realities.

When Hitler shared his vision for the Jews, the world didn’t listen. When Hamas shared its vision, we didn’t listen. We hoped slogans like “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” were just campaign rhetoric, not declarations of intent. Many thought the Hamas charter was so cartoonishly hateful that no one could really support it. We were wrong.

My children — Ari, 4, and Daniella, 2 — live between the river and the sea. What do you think Hamas has planned for them?

Ari and Daniella spent the past eight weeks running to our bomb shelter every day, several times a day. Each grabs their favorite toy and runs to the bomb shelter. That’s what it is to be a Jewish child these days.

From now on, we will listen — and act.

Jewish businesses, schools, synagogues, and institutions are under threat. My Holocaust survivor grandfather, who is my personal hero, had to witness the events of October 7 and accompanying antisemitic demonstrations in the streets of Europe and America.

By not preventing it, I feel that I failed him personally, and it tears me apart. Never again.

Our world has failed Jews on many occasions, yet the righteous have always won out in the end. We can build a world of respect and acceptance by fighting antisemitism and extremism. This demands leadership, not just nationally but locally, driven by leaders who have a daily connection to their constituents.

If you are a local leader, don’t underestimate your power. If you are a national leader, choose to use it for good. If you are a person who is willing to stand up for your Jewish neighbors, you belong in our movement.

History will remember. Please join us in this fight.

Sacha Roytman Dratwa is Chief Executive Director of the Combat Antisemitism Movement.

The post Never Again: A Call for Courageous Leadership Against Antisemitism first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia has extended invitations to various Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, for discussions on the Israel-Hamas conflict and broader issues in the Middle East.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced the initiative on Friday, highlighting Moscow’s desire to engage with all major players in the region amid heightened tensions.

The invitation included a dozen Palestinian groups and is slated for “inter-Palestinian” talks scheduled to commence on February 29.

Bogdanov, serving as President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East, emphasized the inclusivity of the invitation, stating, “We invited all Palestinian representatives — all political forces that have their positions in different countries, including Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the region.”

Among the invitees are Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, alongside representatives of Fatah and the broader Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The invitation comes at a critical juncture as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate, drawing international attention and concern. Russia’s proactive stance in convening discussions reflects its growing criticism of Israel and its Western allies, underscoring Moscow’s efforts to assert its influence in the region.

The post Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo: ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS

i24 NewsHamas drops its “delusional” demands, productive hostage talks could begin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, stressing Israel would not agree to the terror group’s current demands.

WATCH: PM Netanyahu delivers a statement after Hamas suspended negotiations pic.twitter.com/nxISPb4JUm

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 17, 2024

“I insist that Hamas should abandon its delusional demands – and when it does, we will be able to move forward,” Netanyahu said in a statement live on TV.

“Those who want us to desist from the Rafah operation,” the leader said in an apparent reference to the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden, “are telling us we should lose. We won’t be dictated to.”

The post Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry

Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani speaks at a press conference during the unveiling of a new surface-to-surface 4th generation Khorramshahr ballistic missile. Photo: Reuters/West Asia News Agency

i24 NewsIran demonstrated new weaponry on Saturday, including what it said was the locally made Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, said the official IRNA news agency. Saturday’s unveiling ceremony of the two vehicle-mounted systems was held in the presence of Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.

“With the entry of new systems into the country’s defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” said IRNA.

Video of the new Azarakhsh SHORAD engaging a target drone

It’s radar has a detection range of 50km, with 25km for it’s EO/IR suite https://t.co/cZSCk4AmZj pic.twitter.com/7gEnZh0uef

— Iran Defense|نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران (@IranDefense) February 17, 2024

The Arman missile system is said to be able to “simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km,” while the Azarakhsh missile system “can identify and destroy targets up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles.”

The announcement comes amid tensions across the Middle East, with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacking vessels linked to the United States, UK and Israel in the Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Gaza Strip.

Iran unveils domestically-manufactured Arman anti-ballistic missile and Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system https://t.co/69YBsGqT0F pic.twitter.com/PVWlw0sIuj

— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2024

The U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are concerned with Iran’s growing role at the international global arms market, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. The transformation of the industry, boosted by Russia’s “purchase of thousands of drones that altered the battlefield in Ukraine, has helped Tehran scale up its support of militia allies in Middle East conflicts,” read the report.

The post Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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