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Rishi Sunak visits synagogue as London is split by pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests

LONDON (JTA) — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that his government’s support for Israel was “unequivocal” in an address at a synagogue on Monday night, as Britain’s Jewish community counted its dead and missing from Hamas’ attacks on Israel and protesters clashed at a pro-Palestinian rally in London.

British leaders from across the political spectrum issued an almost unanimous declaration of support for Israel on Monday, capped by Sunak’s attendance at a service at the Finchley United Synagogue in North London.

“I am unequivocal,” Sunak told a packed audience. “There are not two sides to these events. There is no question of balance. I stand with Israel. We stand with Israel. The United Kingdom stands with Israel.”

There are believed to be more than 10 British Jews dead or missing from the Hamas raids on towns near the Gaza Strip, including 20-year-old Nathanel Young, who was killed while serving with the Israeli military on Saturday.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the United Kingdom’s equivalent of a foreign affairs ministry, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that it was “in contact with – and assisting – the families of several individuals in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.” There are thought to be between 50,000-60,000 Britons and dual nationals living in Israel and Gaza.

Sunak had earlier told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that London was prepared to provide Israel with “diplomatic, intelligence, or security support” to meet the challenge posted by Hamas.

Also among those thought to have been killed are photographer Danny Darlington, who went into hiding in a bunker in Nir Oz, a kibbutz near to the frontier with Gaza. “Our community has been destroyed,” his sister said in a tribute.

Another British-Jewish man, Jack Marlowe, had been providing security at the music festival near Kibbutz Re’im that came under attack from Hamas. He has not been heard from since.

The Palace of Westminster, home to the British parliament, was lit up in Israeli colors on Monday night, along with the building that houses the FCDO. The prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street had had an Israeli flag beamed onto its walls on Sunday evening.

A protester holds a flare at a pro-Palestinian rally in London, Oct. 9, 2023. (Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Thousands gathered for two dueling demonstrations in London starting on Monday afternoon. Around 5,000 people attended a vigil in memory of those killed in the attacks near 10 Downing Street. Thousands of Israelis and British Jews were joined by senior politicians from Britain’s three main political parties. Many were draped in Israeli flags and told JTA that they were attending as a show of support for family and friends in Israel.

Jacob Ziff, 26, who attended the vigil, said that “this horrible time has brought Jews closer together.”

U.K. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who addressed the gathering, said that the “message of the Jews of the Diaspora” was that “your fate is our fate, your destiny is our destiny.”

Rabbi Mirvis was followed by senior Conservative politicians, including Tom Tugendhat, Robert Jenrick and Iain Duncan Smith, as well as the leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey and Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy of the Labour Party.

Lammy said there could be “no mincing of words with terror” and invoked Moses as he demanded that Hamas release the British and Israeli hostages that it was holding. “Someone once said: set my people free! Release them now!”

Lammy, who returned to London from his party’s annual conference in Liverpool, has called for a policing “surge” to protect local Jews.  He wrote in Monday’s Jewish Chronicle that “Security is the meaning of solidarity.”

There was a reinforced police presence around Westminster as the vigil took place, although there were a small number of interruptions by individual protestors as the Mirvis spoke.

In West London, outside the Israeli embassy, thousands attended a demonstration condemning Israel. Protesters blocked the main road that runs alongside Hyde Park as demonstrators let off fireworks and flares amid a thicket of placards and Palestinian flags.

“Israel is a terror state,” demonstrators chanted as the street became cloaked in smoke. “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.”

Some protesters clashed with a number of pro-Israel counter-demonstraters at the entrance to the nearby High Street Kensington underground train station before they were separated by police.

The Community Security Trust, an organization that provides security to Britain’s Jewish community, said that it was already “seeing incidents of racist antisemitism against Jewish people and property” following the attacks in Israel.

The Metropolitan Police said that they would be increasing patrols across “key areas of London” to “reassure and protect.” There had been reports of abuse and celebratory music being blasted from cars in various parts of London after the news of the attacks from Israel broke.

In Golders Green, a heavily Jewish area of North London, a railway bridge that bisects a main road was tagged with graffiti reading “Free Palestine.”

A nearby kosher restaurant, Pita, had its doors smashed early on Monday morning, although authorities have not yet concluded whether it was an antisemitic attack. The Metropolitan Police said that they had received CCTV footage from the restaurant and that the incident was not being treated as a hate crime “at this stage.”

Mike Freer, the area’s member of parliament, told The Telegraph that he believed that the attack was “more than coincidental and that it couldn’t be anything other than antisemitic.”

The Palace of Westminster, the home of the U.K. houses of parliament in London, is lit up in the colors of Israel’s flag for victims and hostages of Hamas attacks, Oct. 9, 2023. (Lucy North/PA Images via Getty Images)

“I hope I’m proved wrong but I think the timing is too coincidental for it to be anything other than an antisemitic attack,” he said.

As concerns about potential antisemitic attacks rose, the Jewish Free School, one of London’s more prominent Jewish schools, told parents that it was making wearing blazers “optional for the next week.”

“The most important thing is ensure the safe passage of students between home and school and to make sure that this school is set up to care for our children during the school day,” the email read, adding that there would be no detention so that all students could access school buses.

Addressing concerns from within the Jewish community about antisemitism and violence towards the community, Sunak told those gathered in north London: “We have already seen vile words on our streets and efforts to stir up community tensions. I say: not here. Not in Britain.”

“My first duty is to protect you. We will not tolerate this hate,” he said. “We will not tolerate this antisemitism. I promise you: I will stop at nothing to keep you safe.”


The post Rishi Sunak visits synagogue as London is split by pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Hezbollah’s Deadly Rocket Attacks Raise Questions About New Tactics

A general view shows the town of Majdal Shams near the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights March 25, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

JNS.orgIn the past seven days, two rocket attacks by Hezbollah targeting moving Israeli vehicles—one military and one civilian—in the Golan Heights have prompted a review within the Israel Defense Forces.

The attacks, which resulted in the deaths of a civilian couple on Wednesday and an IDF major on July 4, have raised serious questions about the operational capabilities of Hezbollah and local Israeli air defenses.

The first incident occurred on July 3, when a rocket struck a vehicle at a military camp, killing Maj. (res.) Itai Galea, 38, a deputy company commander in a reserve armored brigade.

The attack was launched by Hezbollah in response to an Israeli targeted killing of senior Hezbollah commander Muhammad Nimah Nasser, head of the territorial Hezbollah Aziz Unit. Nasser was killed in an airstrike on his vehicle in the Tyre region of Southern Lebanon. Hezbollah fired more than 200 rockets and 20 drones at locations in the Galilee and the Golan Heights, with one rocket striking Galea’s vehicle.

On Tuesday, reports emerged that an airstrike in Syria on the Damascus-Beirut highway killed Hezbollah operative and former Hassan Nasrallah bodyguard Yasser Qarnabsh, with I24 News reporting that a second casualty of that attack was an officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Saudi state-owned Al Arabiya news channel reported on Wednesday that Qarnabash was responsible for transporting personnel and weapons to Syria.

Following that attack, Hezbollah unleashed a barrage of rockets targeting the Golan Heights on Tuesday, killing Israeli couple Noa and Nir Barnes, from Kibbutz Ortal in the northern Golan Heights. The attack left three children orphans.

Military investigations are underway to determine whether Hezbollah used any line-of-sight or drone-assisted targeting for these strikes.

The IDF’s initial findings suggest that these were not precision-guided munitions but rather parts of larger salvoes aimed at Israeli targets in the area.

But that doesn’t rule out the possibility that Hezbollah used lookouts or drones to help guide its barrages against moving vehicles.

The twin incidents have led to outrage and frustration among residents and local officials in the Golan Heights.

Living under threat

Katzrin Mayor Yehuda Doa expressed anger at the government’s lack of a clear strategy to deal with the persistent threat from Hezbollah. He emphasized the daily reality of living under the threat of rocket fire, which has become a grim routine for the north’s inhabitants.

The IDF’s air defense system has also come under scrutiny. The road where the Barnes couple was killed, near the Nafah Junction, was classified as an open area by the Israeli Air Force’s air defense network.

This designation could mean the rockets fired into the area were not intercepted because they were expected to strike uninhabited terrain. However, the road in question, Route 91, is a major road in the Golan Heights, frequently used by residents, raising concerns about the criteria used to classify areas for rocket interception.

Air defense policy generally avoids intercepting rockets aimed at open areas to conserve interceptor missiles.

The IDF has confirmed it is performing a thorough review of recent attacks to ensure improved protection.

Another layer of complexity is added by the GPS disruptions common in the Golan Heights, Army Radio noted. These disruptions can prevent the IDF Home Front Command’s alert app from functioning correctly, making it difficult for residents to receive timely warnings of rocket attacks. This technical issue may have played a role in the failure to alert residents in the targeted area about the danger they faced.

While the Home Front Command has recommended marking areas of interest on its official application for better alert coverage, this advice would not be relevant if the area in question is designated as “open.”

Ultimately, as Israel continues with its targeted killings of senior Hezbollah terrorists, the Lebanese organization has proved its ability to exact painful prices, leading to wider strategic questions about Hezbollah’s ability to absorb the deaths without losing most of its core terrorist–military capabilities.

The post Hezbollah’s Deadly Rocket Attacks Raise Questions About New Tactics first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Jews in Europe ‘More Frightened Than Ever Before’ Amid Surging Antisemitism, New Survey Finds

Sign reading “+1000% of Antisemitic Acts: These Are Not Just Numbers” during a march against antisemitism, in Lyon, France, June 25, 2024. Photo: Romain Costaseca / Hans Lucas via Reuters Connect

A striking 96 percent of Jews in Europe had encountered antisemitism in their daily lives even before the historic surge in anti-Jewish hate crimes that followed the outbreak of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, according to the European Union’s rights watchdog.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on Thursday released an extensive survey of nearly 8,000 self-identified Jews from 13 European countries that found shocking levels of antisemitism across the continent. The largest participant countries in the survey were France, Germany, and Hungary.

“Jews are more frightened than ever before,” FRA director Sirpa Rautio said in the survey’s foreword. “We need to do more to ensure the safety and security of our Jewish communities. The EU and Member States must remain firm in their commitment to stem the rising tide of antisemitism. They must ready themselves to respond to heightened intensity and threats.”

According to the results, 80 percent of Jews surveyed said they feel antisemitism has worsened in recent years, while 76 percent of respondents reported hiding their Jewish identity “at least occasionally.” Meanwhile, 34 percent said they avoid Jewish events or sites “because they do not feel safe.”

About 60 percent said they were not satisfied with their national government’s efforts to combat antisemitism. The same number expressed concern about their family’s safety and security.

While nearly all Jews in the survey — 96 percent — said they had encountered antisemitism in the 12 months before the survey, 64 percent reported encountering it “all the time.” The most common occurrence was experiencing negative stereotypes about Jews, such as “holding power and control over finance, media, politics, or economy.” Some 37 percent of respondents said they were harassed over the past year, and 4 percent said they had experienced antisemitic physical attacks in the same period.

Because of antisemitism, 45 percent of European Jews reported that they had considered emigrating from Europe, mostly to Israel.

The survey of European Jewry was conducted from January through June of last year, before the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7 and the start of the war in Gaza. Several European countries have experienced record spikes in antisemitic incidents since the atrocities of Oct. 7.

Of note, the shocking report — which includes some information on antisemitism collected from Jewish organizations this year — employed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Beyond classic antisemitic behavior associated with the likes of the medieval period and Nazi Germany, the IHRA definition includes denial of the Holocaust and newer forms of antisemitism targeting Israel such as demonizing the Jewish state, denying its right to exist, and holding it to standards not expected of any other democratic state.

In the past few weeks, leaders of European Jewry have echoed the sentiment found in the FRA’s report.

“It seems France has no future for Jews,” Rabbi Moshe Sebbag of Paris’ Grand Synagogue told the Times of Israel following France’s recent parliamentary elections. “We fear for the future of our children.”

Meanwhile, Belgium’s only Jewish member of parliament, Michael Frielich, sounded the alarm to Mishpacha Magazine. “The situation is so awful [in Belgium] that at a meeting I attended at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, I told those present, ‘The whole well here is poisoned,’” he said. “People drink the anti-Israel claims in the media all day. And even if we try to explain things, however gently — they are hardly accepted.”

A top European Rabbi recently called on Israel to “develop a practical contingency plan for the absorption of European Jewry in Israel,” as antisemitism spreads across the continent.

“We are in a battle for the continuation of Jewish life in Europe,” European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin said last month. “Jews in traditional dress or those with mezuzahs on their doors are experiencing relentless harassment. Jewish students face threats to their lives and are excluded from university courses, while hate slogans are freely scrawled on Jewish homes, synagogues, and cemeteries.”

The FRA’s report included a section incorporating data compiled after Oct. 7. Each European nation that was featured in the survey reported a shocking increase in antisemitic incidents in the wake of Hamas’ atrocities in Israel — in some cases by over 1,000 percent.

The post Jews in Europe ‘More Frightened Than Ever Before’ Amid Surging Antisemitism, New Survey Finds first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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‘The Neck and the Sword’ is Rashid Khalidi’s Distortion of History

Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi. Photo: Thomas Good / NLN via Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org“The Neck and the Sword” is the title of an extensive interview with the prominent Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi in the latest issue of New Left Review, a London-based Marxist journal that, despite its name, is deep in the throes of middle age.

The interview’s title stems from one of the points made by Khalidi’s interlocutor, Tariq Ali, an aging New Leftist who used their discussion as an excuse to revisit his late 1960s heyday as a political activist.

Ali recalled that on a trip to the Middle East following the 1967 Six-Day War, he asked the Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani whether a negotiated settlement was possible with these “bastards”—his term for the Israeli people. “Tariq, explain to me how the neck negotiates with the sword,” Kanafani apparently replied.

Ali was, of course, thrilled with this answer, because it reinforced through a poetic metaphor one of the key elements of the Palestinian self-image: We are powerless; we are always and everywhere the victims of others, especially the Zionists; and we resist whenever we can garner the strength.

As romantic as that notion seems to the Western leftists who have adopted Palestine as the core element of their political identity, it is more properly understood as a license for Palestinian terrorist groups to carry out the sorts of monstrosities we witnessed on Oct. 7—articulated by the adulation of their outside admirers—instead of admitting and accepting moral culpability.

Aided by Ali’s fawning line of questioning, Khalidi uncomplicatedly pushes this notion of perpetual victimhood throughout the interview. In my view, it is the clearest expression of an essentially secular Palestinian nationalist standpoint to have appeared in the last nine months, which is why it’s worth reading.

A Columbia University professor who is arguably the most erudite exponent of the Palestinian cause today, Khalidi certainly sounds more nuanced and historically literate when compared to the imbecilic, expletive-laden sloganeering disseminated by violently antisemitic groups like Within Our Lifetime and Students for Justice in Palestine.

For example, rather than denying the rapes, decapitations, hostage-taking and mass murder on Oct. 7—as these vile organizations do whenever they are not celebrating them—Khalidi acknowledges that these took place. Rather than denying or denigrating the Holocaust, he concedes that the Nazi genocide “produced a kind of understandable uniformity in support of Zionism” among the Jews who survived.

But does this cursory nod to the humanity and historical experience of the Jews meaningfully alter Khalidi’s perspective? The answer to that is negative. Khalidi’s softer touch on these questions actually makes the rest of his interview all the more disturbing. He has a historian’s knack for remembering dates, names, locations and quotes, and he marshals this information into a narrative that, for those who don’t know any better, is highly compelling. But for those who do know better, what stands out are the multitude of omissions and distortions in his account.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in his claim that Palestinians were also victims of the antisemitism that culminated in the Holocaust, albeit “indirect” victims.

“Palestinians are paying for the entire history of European Jew-hatred, going back to medieval times,” he says. “Edward I expelling the Jews from England in 1290, the French expulsions in the following century, the Spanish and Portuguese edicts in the 1490s, the Russian pogroms from the 1880s, and finally, the Nazi genocide. Historically, a quintessentially European Christian phenomenon.”

This is an old and discredited line. I can remember interviewing a PLO official on the eve of the Gulf War in 1991 who told me, while wearing an obsequious smile, that “we Palestinians are the victims of the victims”—a neat formula with no historical basis.

The term “antisemitism” may have been coined in Europe by a 19th-century German pamphleteer who chose the term “antisemitismus” to distinguish his “scientific” understanding from the religiously inflected Jew hatred of medieval times—but raging hatred of the Jews is also rooted in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

As Bernard Lewis once argued, the Jews of the Middle East may not have had it as bad as their brethren in Europe, but they never had it as good either. For centuries, Jews, along with other minorities, were subjected to humiliating legal codes across the region, rendering them at best second-class citizens.

During the 20th century, there were numerous episodes of mass violence—what the Ashkenazim called “pogroms”—in Mandatory Palestine and neighboring countries. Among the worst was the June 1941 Farhud (“violent dispossession”) in Iraq, in which hundreds of Jews in Baghdad were murdered amid untold numbers of rapes and other cruelties.

These and similar episodes go entirely unmentioned by Khalidi, as does the fact that within a decade or so following Israel’s emergence as a sovereign state, nearly one million Jews across the region had been dispossessed and expelled.

To recognize that antisemitism was and remains a hard-wired feature of the region, and to perceive the legacy of the Farhud in the atrocities of Oct. 7, is altogether inconvenient for Khalidi, who clearly believes that his audience won’t do any independent research on the history he covers. To admit to its presence would upend his analysis, forcing him to confront the reality that Oct. 7 wasn’t just an explosion of anger by a colonized people who engaged in some regrettable excesses, but another milestone in the long history of Arab violence towards the Jews in their midst.

If a scholar like Khalidi can’t summon the honesty and humility to address this history, one can hardly expect keffiyeh-draped protestors to do so. Yet this isn’t simply a question of intellectual integrity: The Palestinian and broader Arab refusal to reckon with the persecution of their Jewish communities has for nearly a century been an immovable obstacle in the quest for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

As the historian Martin Kramer noted in an excellent piece on another aspect of this problem—the legacy of the pro-Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini—Palestinians continue to ignore the skeletons in their closet. The mufti, Kramer writes, “personified the refusal to see Israel as it is and an unwillingness to imagine a compromise. Until Palestinians exorcise his ghost, it will continue to haunt them.”

Khalidi’s interview with Tariq Ali demonstrates that other, no less significant ghosts need to be exorcised as well. Until that happens, if it ever happens, Ali’s “bastards”—the government and people of Israel, along with the vast majority of Diaspora Jews who support them—have no choice but to remain on a war footing. The alternative is a sword on our necks.

The post ‘The Neck and the Sword’ is Rashid Khalidi’s Distortion of History first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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