WASHINGTON (JTA) — As American Jewish organizations responded to Sunday’s settler riot in the West Bank, most began with statements of condemnation.
One began with a question: “How can such a thing happen?”
“How could it come to this, that Jewish young men should ransack and burn homes and cars?” continued the statement from Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, who added that “we cannot understand or accept this.”
He concluded with a note of desperation: “What happened yesterday must never, ever happen again.”
Hauer’s anguish was all the more notable because it came from a group whose constituency, American Orthodox Jews, has historically sympathized with the movement to create Jewish settlements in the West Bank. And Hauer’s statement did something else that many other groups did not: It appeared to question the leadership of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Attacking a village does not deserve to be called ‘taking the law into your own hands,’” Hauer’s statement said. “This is not the law; this is undisciplined and random fury. Actions like these demonstrate the critical need for clear and strong leadership.”
While Hauer didn’t mention Netanyahu by name (and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment) the implication was clear: On Sunday, in response to the riot in the town of Huwara, Netanyahu said, “I ask – even when the blood is boiling – not to take the law into one’s hands.”
The Orthodox Union has for years criticized U.S. pressure on Israel to accept a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians or to share Jerusalem. In 2007 it stood out among Jewish groups leading criticism of the then Israeli government for contemplating a Palestinian role in Jerusalem.
Beyond the O.U, Jewish groups decried the actions of the settlers but mostly avoided mentioning the Israeli government or its leader. Instead, some looked to Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, whose role is largely ceremonial but who has sought to broker compromise amid the current contentious government. He had issued a “forceful condemnation” of the rioting on Sunday, saying that security forces, not civilians “committing violence against innocents,” should respond to terrorism.
Affirming and quoting the Israeli prime minister was once a reflex for legacy groups when commenting on crises in Israel. But times have changed. Israel’s government includes far-right parties and ministers who are themselves settlers and have long advocated harsher measures in response to Palestinian terror.
One official, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, was once convicted of incitement to violence. And some coalition members have sympathized with the rioters in the wake of the rampage. Against that backdrop, Netanyahu did not feature in many American Jewish organizations’ statements. Others condemned the prime minister for his links to the far right or what they saw as his government’s tepid response.
“Though some Israeli leaders, including the prime minister, called for restraint, the government failed to prevent or quickly curtail this unacceptable violence,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in an emailed statement. “Those responsible must be held accountable and safety and security for Jews and Palestinians alike must prevail.”
The Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee both cited Herzog’s statement, and declared, respectively, their “outrage” and condemnation of “this violence in the strongest terms.”
The AJC declined further comment, and the ADL, asked to elaborate on its statement, condemned lawmakers who incite violence, while avoiding mentioning the fact that they are members of Israel’s governing coalition.
“There is also no excuse for the incitement to violence we heard from a few political leaders, including some Israeli Knesset Members,” a spokesman said in an email. “We join Israeli President Herzog’s call for a de-escalation of violence, and urge Israeli law enforcement to ensure that those involved in the Huwara violence are held accountable.”
Asked for a statement, William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, did not mention the government or Netanyahu. “I condemn without reservation the riots and violence in Hawara,” he said in an interview. “There is no excuse for lawless vigilantism.”
In a statement later, Daroff suggested that if Israeli politicians fail to condemn the settler violence, there could be consequences for the relationship with Jews overseas.
“These criminal acts of violence and vandalism harm Jewish sovereignty and Israel’s relationship with the global Jewish diaspora,” he said. “We urge Knesset members to speak out against these attacks while pursuing a peaceful resolution.”
The Jewish organizations approached for this story did not reply when asked what they planned to do if Netanyahu fails to take action. A number of regional Jewish organizations and rabbis have previously called for boycotts of far-right coalition members if and when they tour the United States.
Israeli authorities arrested a number of the rioters, and then let them go. No plans for prosecution have been reported yet.
The Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly stood out for extending its condolences to both Jewish and Arab victims of violence on Sunday — an equivalence that is extremely rare in Jewish groups’ statements. The group’s message, written in English and Hebrew, mentions both the family of the two Israelis who were shot while driving through Huwara, and the family of the Palestinian who reportedly was shot dead while pleading with settlers to leave his village alone.
“We are in pain and join the condolences to the families of those killed, among them the Yaniv family and the Al-Aqtash family and wish a speedy and full recovery to all who were injured,” the group said, referring to the Israeli and Palestinian victims, respectively. “We expect our government, the IDF, and the police, to act to prevent harm to people and to property, and to try any person who has chosen to harm another person.”
Americans for Peace Now and J Street both called on the Biden administration to use its leverage to get Netanyahu to take action.
“Netanyahu’s extremist coalition is demonstrating that it will not be stopped by polite protestations or vague agreements,” J Street said. “Only by setting clear redlines and tangible consequences can the US hope to deter this government.”
Americans for Peace Now similarly called on Biden to “hold the government of Israel accountable for both its unrestrained settlement activity and its enabling of settler violence,” while the liberal rabbinic human rights group T’ruah said the Israeli government “has fueled the incitement that led to this attack.”
The Israel Policy Forum, a group that backs a two-state outcome, decried the lack of accountability for the rioters for the attacks on the Hawara residents. “Their only crimes were being Palestinians living in proximity to a spot where a different Palestinian committed a terrorist attack, and the settlers who rampaged through their homes and streets unimpeded, without any real consequences, represent the daily injustice that Palestinians face as non-citizens on their land with no recourse to any responsible higher authority,” it said in a statement.
Some organizations praised Netanyahu’s government for speaking out against the riot. The Jewish Federations of North America commended “the Government of Israel for speaking out quickly to lower tensions.” And the American Israel Public Affairs Committee appeared to tie the settlers’ vigilantism to Palestinian terrorism.
“As Israel’s Prime Minister and President clearly indicated, vigilante action cannot be tolerated,” its spokesman said. “Terrorism will not decline as long as the Palestinian leadership continues incitement, rewards terrorism with payments to terrorists and their families, and encourages the public celebration of Israeli fatalities.”
At least one organizational leader echoed the sentiments of Israeli officials who sympathized with the rioters. Morton Klein, CEO of the Zionist Organization of America, said in an interview that he condemned the rioters, but also understood what drove them.
“I don’t believe that civilians should be taking the law into their own hands,” he said. “I oppose civilians taking on their own hands, that’s for sure, but you know, after constant murder of people, you know, people lose control.”
Klein said Israel needed to “put enormous pressure in every way you can” on Palestinians in order to quell violence in the West Bank. Asked whether Israel also deserved pressure to bring the settler rioters to justice, Klein said that was not a concern of his.
“Arabs care more about Arabs than they do about non-Arabs and Jews care more about Jews than they do about non-Jews,” said Klein, who met in person with Ben-Gvir last week in Israel. “It’s a natural human trait.”
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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