Dear chaverot, dear friends,
I would like to update you on two topics that are of great concern to Jewry in Israel and in the Diaspora – ”
1) Actions being taken in Germany and Greece to combat Anti-Semitism and the role played by the World Jewish Congress,
2) Evidence has come to light proving that Hamas deliberately used civilians as human shields while launching rockets at Israeli civilians, and that its officials embraced the tactic.
Thousands of Germans, many wrapped in Israeli flags, gathered at Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate on Sunday for a rally against anti-Semitism, which has flared up in Europe following Israel’s invasion of Gaza.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany organized the rally in response to the anti-Semitism seen in cities like Berlin, as well as Paris and London. Protesters chanting ”death to Israel” and ”gas the Jews” at pro-Palestinian demonstrations over the summer deeply unsettled many here.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with President Joachim Gauck and leaders of both of the country’s main Christian churches, attended the rally and pledged to fight a resurgence of the hatred that underpinned efforts to wipe out Jewish life in Germany under the Nazis.
“Judaism is an integral part of Germany’s identity, Jewish life belongs among us. It is a part of our identity,” Merkel said, adding that the anti-Semitic abuse earlier this year had been appalling.
The rally was organized amid shock in Germany at crude anti-Semitic slogans shouted during summer protests against Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Here is the address by Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress.
“Jews have prospered as Germany has prospered. Jews have become part of German society again.
We are your neighbors and your friends. We all share the same values, we hold the same beliefs.
Part of my family originally came from Mainz, over 600 years ago.
I remember as a young boy in the early 1960s, going to the synagogue to lay flowers on the front door in memory of the Jewish people who died in the Holocaust.
I remember also seeing non-Jewish Germans coming there to do the same thing… to lay flowers as a way to say they also remember, as a way to say this should never happen again.
Since 1945, Germany has been one of the most responsible countries on earth. The world looks to Germany for political, for economic and for moral leadership.
But something has changed. This summer, all of the progress of the last 70 years has been darkened by a rising tide of anti-Semitism. There are some places I might expect to see this – but not here in Germany.
There are places where Jews cannot live openly as Jews – but not here in Germany.There are places where governments actually promote the hatred of Jews – but that is definitely not here in Germany. Since the end of the war, Germany has strongly supported a Jewish rebirth, and since Konrad Adenauer, Germany has been Israel’s ally and friend. So why has all this good work been darkened by the medieval stain of anti-Semitism?
I believe there are three reasons:
First, when the economy declines, people become fearful and often they look for a scapegoat. Throughout history, that scapegoat has been the Jews.
Second, we have seen some of the vilest anti-Jewish propaganda coming out of the Middle East and it has spread across the Internet and it is now coming into mainstream thought.
And third, there are political agitators determined to spread misinformation and lies for the sole purpose of instilling anti-Semitism. Let us not allow this group of agitators to tear down 70 years of good work.
We all know too well that a group that instills fear and hatred may start small but can grow into a large and dangerous tidal wave.
In the end, these people don’t want to just hurt Jews – they intend to hurt every free, democratic country in the world.
Let us all stand together. Let us stand strong and united. Let us make it very clear that this intolerance has no place in Germany, or anywhere else.
The very fact that you, President Gauck, Chancellor Merkel, Mayor Wowereit and the heads of the churches are here today, tells the world that we stand together as one.
And this is our message: We will never accept anti-Semitism, here in Germany, or anywhere else.
We will never allow our children to live in fear because of their religion.
Let this be the story that comes from this day: That all of us, Jews and non-Jews, stand together as one people.
We stand together and say no to intolerance, no to bigotry and no to anti-Semitism.
Thank you all for coming here today!
A new law approved by the Greek parliament sets prison sentences of up to three years — up from two years — and fines of up to US$26,000 for “inciting acts of discrimination, hatred or violence” over race, religion or disability. Similar punishment is meted to those denying or praising the Holocaust, genocide and war crimes against humanity.
It took more than a year of debate for Greece to update the legislation, previously dating from 1979, on the repeated urging of the European Commission, the local Jewish community, and the World Jewish Congress. In September 2013, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said Greece’s democratic forces “have a moral obligation to unite against Golden Dawn leaders”, especially those who “publicly incite to crimes, preach hate against minorities, deny and belittle the Holocaust, or viciously assault people based on the color of their skin, their ethnic background, or their political views.”
The Associated Press reported on Friday 11/9 that evidence disclosed since the end of this summer’s war between Israel and Hamas indicated that the Palestinian terror group had deliberately used civilians as human shields while launching rockets at Israeli civilians, and that even Hamas officials now admitted they had embraced the tactic.
The wire bluntly noted that “discussion is not about whether the Hamas rockets were fired from civilian areas, but exactly how close they were to the actual buildings.” Hamas officials cited by the AP defended their use of human shields by asserting that the population density of the Gaza Strip gave them little choice except to operate around civilians, a practiced codified as a war crime by the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Geneva Conventions.
Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad was specifically quoted declaring that “Gaza, from Beit Hanoun in the north to Rafah in the south, is one uninterrupted urban chain.” The claim is false. A short study by Alan Dershowitz titled “The empty spaces in Gaza,” published last month by the Gatestone Institute, noted that “there are dense parts of Gaza, especially Gaza City, Beit Hanoun and Khan Younis, but there are far less dense areas in Gaza between these cities.”
Dershowitz pointed to population density maps to emphasize that Hamas had embraced a “strategy of using human shields to maximize civilian casualties,” and questioned why there had not been more media coverage of the “areas from which Hamas could be firing rockets and building tunnels but has chosen not to.” Hamas’s admission that it utilized civilian infrastructure for military purposes may prove awkward for journalists, analysts, and advocates who during the war denied that the Palestinian group was using human shields. For instance BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen published in July that, though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that civilian casualties were the result of Hamas’s decision to put them in the line of fire, he personally had seen “no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.”
My dear chaverot and friends, I hope that this positive shift in the trend will reach your countries too.
Mahatma Gandhi said “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
5775 years of Jewish history reflect this. Let us pray that the New Jewish Year will see common sense and tolerance triumphing over bigotry, radicalism, and ignorance.
Please share this information with your nearest, dearest and mailing lists.
A very happy, healthy and peaceful New Year/