Tag Archives: operation protective edge

The Necessity of Collaboration: The IDF and the US Army

For every military ally of the US, America strives to help.

The US continues to work with nations that either provide direct collaboration with the American military or that work to ensure safety in their region, which in turn, promotes overall global security and American security. In any ally partnership, the US must take into consideration the factors of supporting another nation, which include direct military costs, costs of wars waged against these allies, and potential risks involved for the safety of the American people.

America, a long-time ally of Israel, values Israel as a liberal democracy in the Middle East and supports the Israel Defense Forces against terror. Recently, the US military extended appreciation to the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot for his contributions to the US military.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford presents IDF Chief of Staff Gadi. Source: Times of Israel

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford presents IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. Source: Times of Israel

IDF Chief of Staff Eisenkot was awarded the second-highest degree of the Legion of Merit award by American Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. The American military’s Legion of Merit is one of the highest awards given to foreign citizens and was presented to IDF Chief of Staff Eisenkot in particular for his work to strengthen the strategic cooperation between America and Israel.

Since the day he entered his role, Chief of Staff Eisenkot has been working tirelessly to further prepare the IDF for the dangers of ISIS and all other threats. Accounting for lessons learned in past operations Cast Lead (2008), Pillar of Defense (2012), and Protective Edge (2014), Eisenkot has implemented the Gideon Plan, a multi-year plan to optimize the IDF’s budget as well as capabilities, this past year.

Influenced by the organization of the American military, the Gideon Plan restructures the IDF Special Forces units, which were formerly separated among multiple Ground Forces brigades, into one commando brigade.

In addition to preparing for the spread of ISIS, the plan is aimed to prepare for the threat of Iran’s nuclear developments. According to an analysis by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy written shortly after the Gideon Plan was presented to the public, expert Michael Herzog suggested that the plan would potentially serve as a basis for U.S.-Israel security dialogue on the Iran nuclear deal.

A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mahmood Hosseini/TIMA

A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mahmood Hosseini/TIMA

Unfortunately, the threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons still looms. President Obama claimed just last week that the Iran nuclear deal is working and even suggested that Israel agrees. However, as an ally of America, Israel’s Defense Ministry immediately disagreed and warned that Iran truly remains a threat despite negotiation efforts. While the use of nuclear weapons is an existential threat to Israel, Iran’s growing power and nuclear capabilities is of great concern to Americans. A recent article in Business Insider claims the threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons even exceeds the dangers of ISIS and Al-Qaeda for the US.

Source: Israel Today

Source: Israel Today

Negotiating with Iran is a tricky business. However, regardless of the progress of the Iran deal and the challenge of enforcing it, the Israel Defense Forces continue to prepare for the worst. While negotiations are critical for stabilizing security, IDF Chief of Staff Eisenkot and the American military continue to collaborate in order to strategize against threats to Israel and America.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Remembering Operation Protective Edge and the Miracle of the IDF

Two years ago this week, Operation Protective Edge had just ended. Operation Protective Edge was a war in Gaza instigated by constant rockets fired into Israel and the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli boys. IDF troops were sent into Gaza to close up terror tunnels infiltrating into Israel and detonate rocket launching sites set up throughout the Gaza Strip.

operation protective edge

By August 4th, 2014, IDF soldiers came home from Gaza, some unfortunately carried over the shoulders of their brothers in arms. Operation Protective is one among many wars that Israel has endured since the Jews have returned to this land.

Such is the history of Israel—since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the Israel Defense Forces had struggled to preserve the country and protect her people.

Israeli Independence War. Source: Jewish Virtual Library

Israeli Independence War. Source: Jewish Virtual Library

Today, the IDF is seen as an incredible military, esteemed by other armies as one of the most efficient, capable, and moral in the world.

However, in 1948, no one could have predicted that the IDF would ever amount to such a great defense force for the Israeli people. Threatened by five surrounding nations, small militant groups in Israel were put together to make the Israel Defense Forces. The combined forces of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon were ready to take down Israel with their manpower as well as military capabilities.

At the time, aside from an insufficient amount of troops to withstand the enemy armies, the IDF did not have a single plane or any form of an air force. While the tragedy of war should not be glazed over with unnecessary romanticism, the miracle of Israel’s make-do first Israeli Air Force is uncanny and, as Producer Nancy Spielberg and Director Roberta Grossman present in their film, Above and Beyond, played a critical role in the establishment of the State of Israel.

American volunteers together with Israeli pilot in front of an Avia S-199, flew the first combat mission in the Israel War of Independence. Source: Jewish Journal

American volunteers together with Israeli pilot in front of an Avia S-199, flew the first combat mission in the Israel War of Independence. Source: Jewish Journal

The documentary film, Above and Beyond, presents the back story of the birth of the Israeli Air Force. With such an exciting sequence of events throughout this incredible true story, the film borders the sensation of an action movie.

In May, 1948, as Israelis were mustering forces, a few American Jews recognized the needs of their people far away in the land of Israel. After serving in the US Air Force in WWII, two Jewish American pilots recognized Israel’s dire need for airplanes. After pressing other Jewish American pilots to join them overseas, these two pilots flew 11 hours until they reached Israel and landed the first two planes of the new Israeli Air Force onto Israeli territory.

As the film reveals, little did these American pilots know that the establishment of the modern state of Israel would depend so heavily on their contribution. Other American veterans followed the lead of these two pilots and with the help of these volunteer soldiers, food and supplies were provided throughout the country and Israeli soldiers were able to successfully complete their missions along all of Israel’s borders.

As shown in Above and Beyond, overseas care from American Jewry is a well-established tradition. As mentioned in the film, Italian American singer Frank Sinatra did what he could as well to show support for Israel by contributing basic supplies to troops back in 1948.

This tradition continued throughout Operation Protective Edge in 2014—Americans and American Jewry made greats efforts to send food and moral support to IDF soldiers going in and out of Gaza. Likewise, many celebrities have shown support for the IDF through FIDF fund raising events.

Aside from presenting the admirable story of how Israel’s Air Force came to be, the film touches upon Jewish identity as well. Just as throughout Operation Protective Edge, Jews outside of Israel supported IDF troops and Israelis banded together to protect the country, Israelis and volunteer soldiers from abroad worked together to establish the State of Israel in 1948. American Jews who knew no Hebrew and maybe ate gefilte fish on holidays, the volunteer soldiers explained during the film how they became proud Jews while serving with the IDF in Israel’s War of Independence.

Just as the world was mesmerized by the establishment of the state of Israel and often is still amazed today by its flourishing progress despite continuous threats and constant terror, the volunteer soldiers recognized the miracle of 1948. In one veteran’s words, when asked if he thought Israel would survive throughout all these years, his response was “Israel is an article of faith.”

The film Above and Beyond reminds viewers of the blood and sacrifice on which Israel was build. Looking back at the heroes of 1948 and remembering the heroes of Operation Protective Edges from two years ago, the Jewish people continue to protect Israel and preserve the legacy of the incredible homeland as a just, democratic society in the Middle East.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Ultra-Orthodox Jews: Gil Cohen Magen Snaps the Story

Israel is a country full of minorities. Bedouins, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and more live in this much-coveted land, creating a diverse society with many kinds of people. Among Jews in Israel, there is variety as well—including the ultra-Orthodox community.

Bedouins in Israel, photo taken by Gil Cohen Magen. Source: Haaretz

Bedouin children in Israel, photo taken by Gil Cohen Magen. Source: Haaretz

Gil Cohen Magen, an Israeli photojournalist and CAMERA speaker, explores the ultra-Orthodox world through his photography. In the past he has also spoken for CAMERA-supported Israel groups at Cal State University, Binghamton University, University of Albany, Stanford University, and King’s College in London, where students have learnt about other photography capturing other facets of Israeli society, including Operation Protective Edge.

Ultra-Orthodox or ‘Haredi’ Jews now make up over 10% of Israeli society yet remain quite a mystery to most of the country. As discussed in the news, Haredi Jews have faced many cultural clashes. While the majority fundamentally objects to drafting into the Israel Defense Forces, many Israelis are now pushing for Haredi Jews to serve in the military. Similarly, regarding education, many ultra-Orthodox Jews are fighting to remain secluded from the secular world but the Israeli government is pushing them to teach basic social studies in their schools.

In an increasingly technological world, many ultra-Orthodox Jews find themselves more exposed to the secular world than in the past. Consequently, many Haredi Jews have become interested in the secular world and its intellectual and cultural freedoms. Many young Haredi Jews are leaving their communities, which can be liberating but also extremely challenging; ultra-Orthodox Jews have been in the headlines recently for many tragic suicides.

From Cohen-Magen's Ultra-Orthodox series

From Gil Cohen-Magen’s Ultra-Orthodox series

As the ultra-Orthodox and secular worlds increasingly collide on social and political levels, Israel should not overlook the importance of understanding the mysterious Haredi world. As a democracy that allows all minorities to live according to their traditions, Israeli society could benefit from a better understanding of the ultra-Orthodox community.

Gil Cohen-Magen speaking at Cal State University Long Beach

Gil Cohen-Magen speaking at Cal State University Long Beach

This past May, Haaretz featured Gil Cohen Magen’s work. He presented the Haredi ritual of making ‘shmura,’ or ‘protected,’ matzah. While most Jews eat matzah on Passover, ultra-Orthodox Jews only eat matzah that was highly supervised from the moment that the wheat was harvested in the fields.

An ultra-Orthodox man harvests wheat for shmura matza; a Gil Cohen Magen photograph. Source: Haaretz

A young ultra-Orthodox man harvests wheat for shmura matza; a Gil Cohen Magen photograph. Source: Haaretz

In addition, he has captured many candid moments of the Haredi world during holidays or weddings. More of Gil Cohen Magen’s work can be found on his website.

From his Cohen-Magen's "Shooting Under Fire" series

From his Cohen-Magen’s “Shooting Under Fire” series

Overall, Gil Cohen Magen’s photography portrays the beautiful interactions of all kinds of people in one small country. While Israel suffers from international threats and internal tensions, it has made great efforts to integrate minorities, which should not be taken for granted.

Gil Cohen Magen has photographed weddings in the haredi community as well in the Israeli LGBTQ community. Source: Haaretz

Gil Cohen Magen has photographed weddings in the Haredi community as well in the Israeli LGBTQ community. Source: Haaretz

Gil Cohen Magen’s work will continue to remind viewers that Israel holds more than just headlines. Israel is a country of individuals and communities that strive to progress technologically, socially, and politically – but preserve their many traditions as well.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Unfair Criticism Confronted: Israel at the UN

UN Watch, an organization that monitors the United Nations and promotes human rights for all reports on instances where Israel is unfairly criticized at the UN.

Following Operation Protective Edge, Israel was accused of war crimes at the United Nations. In response, Richard Kemp, a highly-respected colonel in the British Forces and CAMERA speaker, testified on Israel’s behalf. Colonel Kemp addressed the UN’s false and misleading accusation:

“While the IDF made efforts, unprecedented in any other army, and exceeding the requirements of the laws of war, to save Palestinian civilian lives, including warning them to leave target zones, Hamas forced them to remain in those areas.”

Hamas’s cornerstone strategy was, as he explained, to “cause large numbers of casualties among their own people in order to bring international condemnation against Israel, especially from the United Nations.” According to Kemp, the UN not only unjustly condemns Israel but also faithfully reiterates Hamas’s own false narrative in doing so.

Col. Richard Kemp Speaks at the UN. Source: UN Watch

Col. Richard Kemp Speaks at the UN. Source: UN Watch

More recently, this past May, UN Watch reported that, “the UK, France, Germany and other EU states voted…for a UN resolution, co-sponsored by the Arab group of states and the Palestinian delegation, that singled out Israel at the annual assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) as the only violator of ‘mental, physical and environmental health.’”

Swedish delegate joins UK, France, Germany and other EU states today in singling out Israel at the 2016 WHO world assembly. Source: UN Watch

Swedish delegate joins UK, France, Germany and other EU states today in singling out Israel at the 2016 WHO world assembly. Source: UN Watch

Ironically, however, the UN Assembly did not address Syria and Russia for bombing Syrian hospitals, or criticize Saudi-led groups for bombing millions of Yemenis and blockading their access to food and water. In fact, the UN did not even pass any other resolution on any other country in the world.

This resolution against Israel, Item No. 19, serves as an example of what Hillel Neurer, Executive Director of UN Watch deems absurd.  As he explains, this “resolution…accuses Israel of violating the health rights of Syrians in the Golan, even as in reality Israeli hospitals continue their life-saving treatment for Syrians fleeing to the Golan from the Assad regime’s barbaric attacks.”

This past April, the NY Daily News reported that the “United Nations [singled] out Israel for anti-women bias in the middle east.” In reality, women in Israel have full rights as citizens. The integration of women in the IDF serves as a great example for foreign militaries.

Source: United with Jerusalem Facebook page.

Source: United with Jerusalem Facebook page.

However, twenty countries in the UN voted to condemn Israel as women’s victimizer, and somehow decided to specifically only condemn Israel.

The criticism of Israel aside, more troubling is how the UN chose not to confront other countries regarding women’s rights.

Other countries cry for reform yet were not criticized at all by the UN.

In Saudi Arabia, women are denied the right to drive, walk around without a chaperone, or do other basic day-to-day activities. And even more tragically, in Sudan especially, women are subjected to genital mutilation. The UN fails to fully advocate for women when they choose to not condemn such horrific standards.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, activist against female genital mutilation. Source: quotesgram.com

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, activist against female genital mutilation. Source: quotesgram.com

While Israel was exclusively blamed for victimizing women, a recent UN report exposing the genocide of Yazidis in Syria and Iraq did, however, finally include criticism of ISIS for ongoing mass rapes.

One must wonder—in disgust and astonishment—how this could possibly be.

Even more recently, UN Watch exposed the unfair reporting of the Tel Aviv terror attack by Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan. UN watch reported that he “noticeably refused to call Wednesday’s Palestinian shooting of Israelis in Tel Aviv a terrorist attack…and he refused to mention that the attackers were Palestininan. Moreover, [he] declined to call out Hamas leaders for celebrating the murder.”

In a recent report republished by the Washington Post, the Associated Press finally exposed the mistreatment of Israel at the United Nations. While Israel has been an active part of the UN since 1949, as the AP article explains, Israel is unfairly criticized in many UN committees, while fellow member states get away with horrific atrocities.

Until now, unfair criticism of Israel at the UN has not been confronted by the media. The succinct AP report has allowed mainstream media to cover the issue, and will hopefully raise awareness and outrage.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Colonel Richard Kemp Testifies for the IDF at NYU

Morality in the war on terror is a controversial and constant point of discussion for Israel. The question is: How can an army be optimally moral in preventing casualties, while successfully stopping terrorism?

This is a dilemma the IDF struggles with as it is repeatedly cornered into war in order to protect Israel.  Despite the many tactics developed by the IDF which help to avoid civilian casualties, Israel’s military operations are intensely scrutinized throughout the world. Often, these critics are simply ill-informed and cannot begin to understand the reality of defending a country against terrorism. Such critics falsely accuse the IDF of war crimes, despite Israel’s exceptional efforts to steer clear of killing civilians.

Colonel Richard Kemp speaks at NYU.

Colonel Richard Kemp speaks at NYU.

Considering the often disproportionate level of criticism directed at Israel, Realize Israel was honored to host Colonel Richard Kemp at NYU this past April. Colonel Kemp, a long-standing officer in the British forces, has led troops in Afghanistan and around the world. Having planned and led many counter-terrorism operations, he has an exceptional understanding of morality in times of war.

Today, Kemp makes great efforts to be an informative, dispassionate voice against war crimes. He is not biased towards Israel. Rather, he simply recognizes the IDF’s high moral standards and values that its significant commitment to maintaining a high code of morality during wartime. Colonel Kemp has spoken in the UN numerous times on behalf of Israel.  At the UN, he has defended Israel’s strategies to safeguard civilians, highlighting the IDF’s exceptional efforts to protect innocent lives, more so than any other army in the history of warfare.

At NYU, the room was packed – many were standing. The attentive audience was privileged to listen to Kemp’s speech, which was a testament to the significant role his work plays in promoting the truth about Israel.

Colonel Kemp opened up by describing Israel’s efforts to prevent civilian casualties during Operation Protective Edge. He then gave an overview of his own experiences during wartime, and shed light on Hamas’ strategies in contrast to Israel’s. While the IDF strives for morality, Hamas continually forces its own people into terror, using women and children as suicide bombers. The conflict is complicated. As with every army around the world, the IDF occasionally makes mistakes. However Colonel Kemp firmly argues that these mistakes do not amount to war crimes.

June 2015 - Colonel Kemp testifies at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

June 2015 – Colonel Kemp testifies at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Colonel Kemp also touched upon Israel’s need for support in the US media. While the IDF can defend itself in battle, the war against the media, with its medley of false accusations, is a threat. While the reality is very discouraging, the event left the audience inspired to take action. Students took home strong facts about Israel’s moral strategies as well as a greater understanding of how Israel should be defended by people around the world.

Shooting Under Fire: Gil Cohen-Magen at Cal State Long Beach

Gil Cohen-Magen speaking at Cal State University Long Beach

Gil Cohen-Magen speaking at Cal State University Long Beach

On November 12th, the Emet for Israel group at Cal State University Long Beach, 49ers for Israel, hosted Gil Cohen-Magen, a prominent Israeli photojournalist. His works have appeared in The New York Times, as well as other leading newspapers and magazines. The event drew a large crowd to his Thursday night lecture and was well received by a variety of CSULB students.

49ers for Israel aimed to raise awareness of the Arab-Israeli conflict in general, engage the student body, supply unbiased information, and leave a lasting impression in everyone’s mind with the hope that they would share with others.

12249750_772118529560527_699965340018128572_n

Gil primarily focused on his photographs taken during Operation Protective Edge, but also showed the students his impressive portfolio, which ranged from horrific war scenes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to the secretive world of ultra-orthodox Haradeim. Gil enlightened the students with details of the Israeli side, their struggle, and the impact of war on all groups involved. The humanity demonstrated by IDF soldiers who picked up tiny remains of suicide bomber’s bodies to give back to their family members especially stood out to the audience. Many students openly wept and turned away in horror at the sight of both Israeli soldier and civilian funerals, as well as gruesome murder scenes he captured. At the end of the evening, students were eager to approach and thank Gil for all the work he has done to inform outsiders and humanize this ongoing and tragic conflict.

12227116_772118492893864_6127125171045132479_n

BBC Blur, a Stirring Reality

First thing in the morning, we, the participants on CAMERA’s Annual Leadership and Advocacy Training Mission to Israel departed our hotel to Kfar Haruv, a kibbutz located in the southern Golan Heights to meet Hadar Sela, the managing director of BBC Watch. Before hearing from Sela, we were entranced by the ambiance of the charming village and the majestic view of the Sea of Galilee.

10451007_10153235774152530_4335503753700062619_n

Students visiting Hadar Sela’s kibbutz during the CAMERA trip.

Engaged in Sela’s talk on western media distortions, we couldn’t help but think about all the times we have been unknowingly led astray by the media. Prior to Sela’s talk, we would have thought that it would be fair to assume such a renowned and profound international broadcaster, established by a Royal Charter, would be a valid and credible source of information and news, but after Sela’s talk we changed our minds.

According to Sela, the BBC is guilty of using incorrect and unrelated photographs, misleading headlines and excluding vital parts to a story, and much more in order to distort public opinion.

Hadar_Israel_Trip_2015

Hadar Sela showing the students the view from her kibbutz

Immediately after returning to London, Sela’s voice echoed into my head. On the 8th of July the BBC broadcasted a documentary on the Children of the Gaza War, portraying the lives of Israeli and Gazan children during and after Operation Protective Edge last year. Mirroring the BBC’s normal fashion, the audience was given incorrect information. For example, the seemingly peaceful beach filled with children in Gaza, which was a regular rocket target, was actually a well-known Hamas-inhabited territory. The BBC is infamous for using statistics given by Hamas, an EU-designated terrorist organization, as a reliable and credible source for data, information and statistics.

This time however, something else was striking. There was a deliberate mistranslation in the subtitles. A Gazan child in the program says that the “yahud are massacring the Palestinians.” The word yahud  is the Arabic word for “Jew.” The BBC made the conscious decision to replace the translation in the subtitles; with the word “Israelis” for “yahud,” making the sentence read “the Israelis are massacring the Palestinians.”

After complaints of this mistranslation, the BBC then defended its decision, claiming that the children meant to say “Israelis” and that they were given advice by the translators to make it read that way as well. In changing this word the BBC clearly ignored the difference between the words “Jew” and “Israeli.” The assumed interchangeability of the words “Jew” and “Israeli” is a major problem that needs to be highlighted. By the BBC’s standards, if Jew and Israeli can be interchanged, could the words anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism be interchanged? I hope not.

What the boy was saying versus what the BBC interpreted brings up the question of how we associate the two words and why we do so. Anti-Zioinism is the hostility toward the Jewish state, whereas, Anti-Semitism is the hostility toward Jewish people, which are very different. Anti-Zionism is  seen as politically correct versus anti-Semitism, which is deemed socially unacceptable, especially in the West. Is one simply widely accepted disguise of the other, or are they two different doctrines that need to be distinguished?

Giving the BBC the benefit of the doubt, this boy was expressing his hatred for Israel and not the Jews, but because of the blurred lines between these two words nowadays,the hatred of Israel could give rise to the hatred of Jews and vice-versa.

Clearly, we are faced with a rise in anti-Semitism acreoss Europe, not to mention an increase in anti-Zionist sentiment, the latter masked by glamorous titles such as BDS or pro-Palestine. The world was shocked by the Chrile Hebdo shootins in January, followed by violent shootings by the Hyper Kacher supermarket in Paris’s porte de Vincennes-home to one of France’s more prominent Jewish communities. A legal neo-Nazi rally was carried our in Richmond Terrace, London only weeks ago; a city that boasts and accepting, multi-cultural environment suddenly shocked by individuals campaigning against the “Jewification of Britain.”

Interestingly, what is denominated “far-right” in the political spectrum was very obviously disclaimed by the presence of a Palestinian flag in the protest.

Should we not be making up our minds? Are we anti-Semitic or pro-Palestine?

 

This was contributed by King’s College London CAMERA Fellow, Joelle Reid.

SJP Speaker Josh Reubner

Contibuted by CAMERA Fellow David Enav.

226caffOn October 16th, Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Houston brought in a speaker, Josh Ruebner, who spoke about why he thinks Israel and the United States have failed to establish peace and a Palestinian state. Although Ruebner spoke of his hopes of two states for two peoples, his rhetoric was filled with false accusations and fictitious claims about Israel and last summer’s escalation in Gaza. Ruebner spoke about peace, but his blaming of Israel for the violence that occurred ignores what truly occurred. His unwillingness to condemn the terrorist group, Hamas, makes his rhetoric counterproductive to peace. Ruebner failed to explain that the reason violence erupted this summer, and the reason peace between Israel and the Palestinians looks so bleak, is because of Hamas.

Hamas is the political faction that rose to power in Gaza in 2006. It is a fanatical Islamist organization that is designated by the European Union and USA, and among other countries such as Canada and Australia, as a terrorist organization. Hamas’s charter openly calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and the annihilation of the Jewish people. One article explicitly states that “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”

Let that one sink in.

Over the summer, Hamas operatives kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teens. After Israeli troops went into the West Bank to find the boys, Hamas launched massive amounts of rocket fire onto Israeli cities. For 50 days, Hamas launched more than sixty rockets a day onto Israel’s cities, leaving many Israelis as few as fifteen seconds to run for shelter. Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in response. Israel retaliated at first with airstrikes, but then entered Gaza in order to destroy the terror tunnels being dug under the Gaza-Israel border. The purpose of these tunnels was not to sneak in supplies and aid, but to kidnap Israeli civilians and soldiers and hold them for ransom. Israeli Intelligence even discovered a Hamas plot to invade Israel through the terror tunnels dressed as Israeli soldiers. They planned on doing this on one of the holiest Jewish days, Rosh Hashanah.

Ruebner’s biggest mistake was not acknowledging Hamas’s use of Palestinians civilians as human shields. Hamas inhumanely utilized this strategy when they repeatedly fired rockets toward Israel from highly-populated civilian areas. Hamas stored and fired rockets near schools, mosques, hospitals, and civilian homes. Rockets were found twice in United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) schools. Hamas deliberately launched attacks onto Israel from civilian centers because they knew that Israel would be condemned if they reacted. This put Israel in a difficult position, because they were fighting an enemy who did not care if their civilians were in harm’s way. By using human shields, Hamas displayed to the world its utter disregard for human life. Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Gaza’s Al-Aqsa TV that that the Palestinians “defend their rights and their homes with their bare chests and their blood.” Many are misled to believe that Hamas fights for the rights of Palestinians. But in reality, they are a fanatical organization that has turned Gaza into a base of terrorism.

Ruebner’s claims that this was not a war against Hamas are absolutely ludicrous. Israel took unprecedented steps to minimize civilian casualties; however, Hamas did everything to maximize Israeli and Palestinian casualties. Israel set up field hospitals in Gaza during the conflict. While Israeli civilians were bombarded with rockets, their medical staff was treating the wounded on the other side. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) dropped leaflets, made TV broadcasts, made phone calls, and sent text messages (all in Arabic) to enable Palestinian citizens to evacuate targeted areas. No other country and no other army in history have gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemy. Unfortunately, Hamas officials urged their citizens to ignore these warnings, and sometimes encouraged citizens to purposely congregate at the tops of these buildings. No sane government would purposely put their citizens in danger like Hamas has done.

If Hamas truly cared about the Palestinians and their desire for statehood, they would seek out peaceful relations with their neighbor, Israel. When Israel’s security is threatened, when hundreds of rockets are fired daily onto Israeli cities, a resolution will never be attained. Hamas started this violence, and they passed up many opportunities to cease their fire. Egypt brokered a cease-fire that has been in effect since late August. Ruebner’s ideal two-state solution cannot happen when the people who run the other state seek Israel’s destruction. It will not happen as long as a terrorist group like Hamas is in power.

Sergeant Benjamin Anthony Comes to UConn

Contributed CAMERA Fellow Ali Jabick

ali headshot

CAMERA Fellow Ali Jabick

Last month, on April 1st, Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, founder of non-for-profit non-governmental organization Our Soldier Speaks, came to speak at the University of Connecticut.  He began his presentation by sharing a traumatic experience from his childhood. One day, while walking to his Jewish school, Sergeant Anthony and his siblings were approached by a gang of adult men. These men brutally assaulted his brother until near death. In shock, Sergeant Anthony sprung his body over his brother’s to offer protection and he was severely beaten as well. This story helped the audience understand his decision to later move to Israel and join the Israel Defense Forces.

Due to Operation Protective Edge this past summer, Israel and the IDF were frequently the center of attention in media outlets all over the world. Some of the headlines regarding the IDF were very controversial and often misleading.

The IDF was accused of numerous war crimes, such as murdering young civilians and even of committing genocide. Through his personal experiences, Sergeant Benjamin Anthony was able to provide insight on the truths of the IDF and its soldiers. One of the stories that I found most powerful was one that he shared about what the men in his unit would do after a battle. He explained that they would not cheer or celebrate, but instead they all took out anything they could find to write on and began to write their wills. As a twenty-year-old college student, it was hard to fathom that men and women younger than I am are faced with such difficult decisions and situations that they are already writing their wills.

Later on, Sergeant Anthony began talking about the land of Israel and why he feels so passionate about fighting for the Jewish state. He explained that many say the Jewish people deserve Israel because of the Holocaust, which he believes to be morally unjust. At first, I did not recognize anything wrong with that statement. However, after further explanation, I too agree that the Jewish people do not deserve the land of Israel because of the Holocaust. The Jewish people have had a connection and right to the land of Israel dating back to the Bible. During the Holocaust, one in three Jews were killed. Is that what it should take for people to deserve their own land?

Throughout history, Jews have been exiled, dispersed, and persecuted against. Now, with the land of Israel, Jews no longer have to run or escape. It is a place where Jewish people from all over the world are always welcomed. Sergeant Anthony explained that this is why it is so important to defend Israel. The thing that stuck with me the most during the presentation was when Sergeant Anthony said, “a time of no war in Israel should not be confused with a time of peace.”  Israel is constantly on the defensive. For instance, this past summer, Israel initiated Operation Protective Edge in response to the persistent rockets being fired upon civilian populations in Israel. From the beginning of the operation in July through August, over 4,382 rockets were fired at Israel by Hamas (a terrorist organization) and other terrorist groups in Gaza. This is just one of the many operations and wars Israel has fought in order to protect its existence.

The United States is one of Israel’s greatest allies; however, as Sergeant Anthony said, “that alliance is fading…on U.S. college campuses.” It is our job as college students to educate ourselves and not just accept what people tell us. When we hear something in the news or from a peer about Israel or the conflict in the Middle East, it is important to take a few minutes and research. We must distinguish between media over-exaggerations and biases, and reality. In an interview with CNN reporter Matt Friedman he stated that there was a “disproportionate focus” on Israel in the media. He further stated that the “treatment of this conflict is an obsession that skews the way we see the world.”

There are often misleading headlines and captions that tell a different story. Fact-checking articles and news sources helps ensure that you are getting accurate information and are not being misinformed. Men and women our age are risking their lives defending Israel’s borders every day. By staying informed and getting the facts straight, we, too, can play an integral part in defending Israel.

Read more about the Benjamin Anthony event at the University of Connecticut.

Witnesses of History: Naor

This piece was contributed as part of our Witnesses of History campaign by Naor Amir, a 2014 CAMERA Israel Trip participant, and a 2014-2015 CAMERA Fellow at the University of Florida.
For young Israelis growing up in Southern Israel, the sound of sirens have long been inscribed into the psyche. The female voice of the Code Red recording serves as a grim reminder that while young Israelis have become increasingly similar to their Western counterparts, they share starkly different realities. Unfortunately, I distinctly remember that voice from the many occasions it sent me sprinting to shelter with friends and family. Born to an Israeli family who immigrated from Southern Israel, where nearly all our family remains, the Israeli experience is all too familiar to me.
A most surreal upbringing has been accepted by many young Israelis in Southern Israel as a simple cold fact, another inconvenient part of life one must grow accustom to like death or natural disasters. This is perhaps the scariest notion of all when discussing the nearly one decade long barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip. On the one hand, it stands as a testimony to the strength and resilience of Israelis. On the other, it represents a dangerous adoption of an unacceptable situation. When the vast majority of children in battered towns such as Sderot show symptoms of PTSD, you must not take such a situation lightly.
The author at CAMERA's 2014 student conference

The author at CAMERA’s 2014 student conference

In stark contrast to the United States, where children are free to run the streets and play in parks, landing in Israel as a child quickly immersed me into daily Israeli life. Coming from a place where missile attacks on civilian populations would never be tolerated, I had a unique outlook compared to my Israeli friends. When one grows up with daily attacks, it doesn’t seem all too strange to see a bomb shelter at every bus stop or in every park. However, for me, there was nothing natural about the first tour of a neighbors home including a stop to the shelter room. And thus, in this fashion, daily missile attacks became tolerated. People continued on with their daily lives. The unfortunate family who’s home was hit by the last barrage became a part of the daily gossip. The sirens became to the South, what the calls of prayers are to Jerusalem.
What I knew as an American was simple. No one would allow their families to live under rocket threat for years and years. What I knew as an Israeli said otherwise. It said,”En ma la’asot!” (“there’s nothing we can do!). Well I always have, and will continue to reject this notion. The Israeli government has an obligation the residents of Southern Israel to change their realities. To my dismay, this summer as I traveled to Israel with CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting) I relived the same old experiences as I watched a rocket hit a Sderot factory; and the inferno that ensued. These attacks have continued for too long, the status-quo is no longer acceptable.
It is time Israelis demand what Americans, Europeans, or anyone else would demand if their homes were being bombed day after day. It is time Southern Israel stop being treated as a landing pad for rockets and mortars. My friends and family in the South are not second class citizens of Israel, and we demand they have their peace returned to them. Too many bomb-shelter-centric Israeli children have been denied the right to a normal childhood. The new generation must be one that remembers the voices of their favorite TV characters, and not one that remembers the cold alarming voice of the Color Red alert system. They deserve as much.
Please check our page for more posts from our Witnesses of History. If you have an experience you want to share, please contact CAMERA on Campus and submit your story!