“We raise our voices to stand with Israel,” was a refrain heard over and over in an emotional rally that brought an estimated 15,000 to the United Nations July 28 to show collective support for Israel during what is perceived as an existential crisis.
By the busloads they came, filling Dag Hammarskjold Plaza from one end to the other. They came from New York City, from Monroe NY, Passaic NJ; from Long Island. About 200 came from Great Neck, Long Island, alone.
There is a sense of a turning point - of standing up and standing firm and blowing up the double standard that has routinely been applied to Israel.
There is a sense that for too long, Israel has been forced to accept the unacceptable for the barest fig leaf of peace.
"We all weep for loss... but we cannot have any ceasefire before Hamas gets rid of weapons, tunnels, rockets," Senator Charles Schumer declared. "Hamas is a terrorist organization that believes it has moral right to start war..... If Hamas still has rockets, tunnels, any ceasefire is temporary.
"If Israel can dismantle the weapons, then Hamas will lose trump card and may be able to get different government in Gaza that cares for the Palestinian people."
Schumer railed against the double-standard that is applied to Israel, saying "what would France do if Paris were bombed? or what would England do if London were bombed? If terrorists built a tunnel from Mexico, would they talk? They would destroy the tunnels.
"Every government has right to protect its people. - we reject the double standard. We know peace won't come until Hamas weapons are gone."
Congressman Elliot Engel, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, "The media is not fair or accurate. What is Israel to do? Would we tolerate terrorists in Canada lobbing missiles at New York? Terrorists from Mexico lobbing missiles at Texas?... Israel left Gaza in 2005, but instead of peace, got terrorism. ...Disarming of Hamas, destruction of tunnels is necessary before ceasefire."
Engel is sponsoring the Emergency Iron Dome Replacement Act - to replenish the money for Iron Dome (The United States has already spent almost $900 million on Israel's Iron Dome.)
Congressman Steve Israel, standing with four other Congressmembers, said that he is sending a letter to the United Nations signed by 106 House members stating, "if you are thinking of investigating Israel for war crimes, give that up; investigate Hamas, which uses human shields and kidnappings.
"In 2005, the last Jew left Gaza - the Gazans could have built a country; instead, what they built is rockets and tunnels. That's the war crime."
"Peace will be possible when Palestinians teach their children to put their hands together to build things and not blow things up."
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-Brooklyn), noted, "The New York delegation is the most diverse. We recognize the right of Israel to defend itself. It saddens me to see death. But I also recognize you can't negotiate with terrorists...
"Israel has legitimate security reasons to maintain a presence on the ground aftera ceasefire," she declared.
"Hamas is terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the establishment of Islamic state in all of Palestine.. Israel should not have to sacrifice its citizens' safety. We need the leaders in the world, and US to do everything possible to bring about lasting peace. Now is the time for political courage on both sides.
"We stand with Israel," Congressman Hakkim Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) declared and offered three "simple" principles: "#1 Israel has right to exist as a democratic Jewish state. No one can ever take that away. #2 Israel has a right to defend itself against aggression, particularly when directed at civilian population, and #3 Israel is here to stay - forever.
"Israel lives in a tough neighborhood," he said, "but when you live in a tough neighborhood, Israel shouldn't be made to apologize for its strength."
Congresswoman Grace Meng said, "We must show our solidarity with Israel during these harrowing times." Recalling a visit to Israel, she related the shock of realizing how bomb shelters were an everyday part of life.
"It's why I will fight for funding for the Iron Dome."
The basic responsibility of government, she said, is to protect its people. "Hamas is not a government - it's a terrorist organization. "Every death is tragic but it is horrifying that Hamas has such blatant disregard."
But, she added, the Israel-Gaza conflict has spread beyond the borders, pointing to assaults on Jews internationally. These "must be addressed and condemned by governments and the United Nations," she said.
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer told the crowd, "You're being here today has never been more important. Around the world, they are rallying, saying 'Death to Jews.' Some defend Hamas sending missiles into Israel.
"We say, 'Enough is enough.' We have to fight back. It is up to us in New York City to make the case for Israel. Missiles, tunnels being built by terrorists. We must mobilize our people and all freedom-loving people to back up Israel. There is no excuse to be silent. What's at stake is the survival of Israel. It has never been more dangerous.. Let's fight back. We are in the right."
Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, "We express gratitude for all Israel - we are facing an uncompromising enemy that seeks our destruction. Today is a celebration of Israel's resilience and perseverance."
Ron Prosor, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, said, "Israel wants peace but can't have peace if Hamas keeps building terror tunnels into kibbutz, if keep sending missiles into civilian population. .... We reach out for peace but hold the Shield of David close to our chest - only a strong Israel can achieve peace. Thank you for standing united for Israel before the United Nations.
The rally was led by UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC). Co-sponsoring organizations included the New York Board of Rabbis; Conference of Presidents; Orthodox Union; Union for Reform Judaism; The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; and National Council Young Israel. Local activists and politicians showed their support including New York State Assemblymembers from Long Island Charles Lavine and Philip Goldfeder, New York City Councilmember Mark Weprin.
Asked if this is a turning point in what seems an endless series of conflicts that Israel has endured, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, President of Israel Independence Fund which supports Zionist oriented projects, said, "This is the most existential conflict since 1973, 1987, when you have situation with terrorist group had tunnels into Israel including one into dining hall of a kibbutz, [with an intention to carry out slaughter over high holy days.]. This must be an example for the world in how to deal with terrorism. With Hamas, Israel is not the end of the story, only the beginning."
Rabbi Jay H. Rosenbaum, President North American Board of Rabbis, "We must show America, show the world that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers in Israel - not simply Jews, but Americans, dedicated to principle of democracy and right of every nation to defend itself against tyranny.
"What this tragic chapter shows is the need for Israel to be strong, resolute in its mission, committed to the cause of peace with security. Not since the first Gulf War have rockets fallen on Israel's main cities. Shows the world while in past Jewish life was cheap, today it is dear and those who lay hand on Jewish children will have to pay dear price."
Bruce Blakeman, the Republican candidate for Carolyn McCarthy's seat in Congress, said his district is , "one of the most populace Jewish districts. As Jewish Americans, it is important to stand with Israel, let Israel finish the job, destroy Hamas' ability to fire rockets."
The concerns expressed were realized even as the rally was underway. People checking their smart phones learned that "mortar rounds fired from Gaza killed four Israeli soldiers at a staging area on the Israeli side of the border, and Palestinian gunmen emerged from a tunnel running beneath the border and clashed with Israeli soldiers. The military said the gunmen had intended to attack civilians in a nearby Israeli border community. One militant was killed in the clash," the New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, "an explosion at Gaza’s Shati refugee camp killed 10 Palestinians, mostly children playing outdoors, and another blast damaged an outside wall of Gaza’s main hospital compound.
"Hamas blamed Israel for both strikes but the Israeli military insisted it had not carried out any attacks in those areas and said the blasts were caused by misfired Hamas rockets meant to hit Israel."
“We will not complete the operation without neutralizing the tunnels,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said in a televised address. “This is the clear and unequivocal objective of the state of Israel and the need for it has been apparent again today.”
Rochelle Maisbach, who came by bus from Monroe NY, said, "It's very important to be here, important for us to be here."
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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