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Top JNF Official: War Proves Again Israel Must Rely Only on Itself

Samuel Hayek, outside a destroyed house in Be’eri, January 2023 (Photo: Oria Siman Tov)

The war against Hamas in Gaza and the subsequent wave of antisemitism around the world has demonstrated “very clearly” that Israel must rely only on itself and that Diaspora Jews must start a serious debate about the future of their communities, Samuel Hayek, the Israeli-born British chairman of JNF-UK, told The Algemeiner during a visit to Israel. 

Hayek, who was visiting some of the southern Israeli communities that were massacred on October 7, said that the existence of Jewish life in the diaspora was of “tremendous strategic importance” to Israel. 

But pointing to the UK in particular, Hayek said the Jewish community must begin addressing “hard questions” about its future.

“The most important thing is to create a forum that debates different aspects on Jewish life in the UK,” he said. “We need to ask ourselves, do we want to continue to live in fear?”

“Do we want to live in a place where we need to hide Jewish symbols? Do we want to where people drive through neighborhoods shouting for the destruction of Israel and calling for the rape and murder of Jews with megaphone?” he said, referencing a 2021 antisemitic incident.

Antisemitism in the UK has soared since the Oct. 7 atrocities. Protests occurring most weekends in London have drawn vast crowds, sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands, where people have been arrested for either chanting or displaying antisemitic slogans, or for expressing support for Hamas, proscribed as a terrorist organization in the UK.

“I urge everyone to consider the consequences of what we’ve seen in the streets of London, the magnitude of which took nearly everyone by surprise,” he said. 

“If we don’t want to live this kind of life, and we don’t see prospects getting better, we need to make a decision about what kind of steps to take,” Hayek went on. He underscored that his views were expressed not in his capacity as the leader of JNF-UK, but rather as a “very worried Jew.”

Hayek praised the British government for its “tremendous support” of Israel in the wake of the attacks, but called on it to do more to combat antisemitism at home.

UK authorities “must take further steps to tighten the laws against antisemitism and enforce them – they must amend some of the laws that allow antisemites to have a free rein that calls for the destruction of Israel, and in effect, the destruction of the Jewish people,” he said.  

During his visit to Israel, Hayek also toured Karmei Gat, a newly established neighborhood in the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Gat, where more that 130 apartments have been given to the survivors of Nir Oz, a kibbutz that saw more than a quarter of its members either murdered or taken hostage on Oct. 7.

Thirteen of those apartments were donated by JNF-UK to residents of Nir Oz, including to the family of Sagui Dekel-Chen, who has worked for the JNF-UK for the past decade and who was taken as a hostage to Gaza where he still remains.

In a letter to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on behalf of JNF-UK, Hayek urged the UK to campaign for Dekel-Chen, who he described as a “kind and gentle man,” and take responsibility for the “welfare of a British charity’s employees.”

The UK must pressure all involved entities, Hayek said, including the United Nations and Hamas interlocutors such as the Qatari government, to secure the release of Dekel-Chen and the rest of the 136 hostages held in Gaza. 

Until then, he called on Sunak’s government to pressure the International Committee of the Red Cross and other relevant bodies to convey signs of life of the hostages and to enable them to “communicate with their families and be kept safely away from military conflict zones.”

“Hostages like Sagui Dekel-Chen, who has devoted his life to helping others, are 

not pawns to be used in the machinations of Hamas terrorists but are human 

beings who deserve their life and liberty,” Hayek wrote. 

Dekel-Chen’s wife, Avital, moved into the JNF-UK apartment last week with her three daughters, the youngest of whom was born two months after her father’s abduction. His oldest daughter, Gali, who is 6, was photographed this week sobbing while she called out for her father.

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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.

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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

— 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.”

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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

— 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

— 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.

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