David Singer: Israel – Clinton And Trump Must Honour Bush-Congress Commitments
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have yet to signal their readiness to honour the commitments made by President Bush in his letter dated 14 April 2004 to Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Bush’s letter – overwhelmingly endorsed by the House of Representatives 407:9 on 23 June 2004 and the Senate 95:3 the next day – supported Israel’s proposed unilateral disengagement from Gaza and four settlements in the West Bank.
Bush further reassured Israel that in final status negotiations with the Palestinian Authority America would support Israel:
- not returning to the 1949 armistice lines
- demanding recognition as the Jewish state
- refusing Palestinian Arab refugees being resettled in Israel
Bush’s assurances were absolutely crucial to Israel resuming negotiations with the Palestinian Authority – Israel’s then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert telling world leaders gathered with Bush at Annapolis on 27 November 2007:
“The negotiations will be based on previous agreements between us, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Roadmap and the April 14th 2004 letter of President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel.”
Fred Maroun: Arabs Must Turn a New Page with Israel
We must look at Israel not as foreign presence, which it is not, but as a unique and remarkable component of the Middle East that enriches the region.
The creation of such a Palestinian state under today’s conditions is likely to result in a Hamas-dominated state that is violently hostile towards Israel. The Palestinian Authority must be transitioned into a peaceful and stable entity before it can be expected to run a state.
Binyamin Netanyahu recently suggested an approach to make the peace initiative work, but Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi rejected it out of hand. This is not how harmonious relationships between nations are built.
“We must all rise above all forms of fanaticism, self-deception and obsolete theories of superiority.” — Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat, 1977.
The Chakrabarti Report was a missed opportunity, the importance of which extends far beyond the parlous state of the Labour Party or the wider British Left. Across Europe, Islamist assassins and vandals are targeting Jewish schools, businesses, museums, synagogues, cemeteries, and kosher food establishments. It has become a cliché that a wave of anti-Semitism is washing over Europe.
Some on the Left have taken notice. Four days after the murder of four Jewish hostages during the siege of the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris, France’s Socialist Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, described “the intolerable rise in acts of anti-Semitism in France” as a “symptom of a crisis of democracy [and] the French Republic.” But such urgent and necessary diagnoses from the political Left have been notable for their scarcity.
For the most part, the Left has remained stubbornly indifferent, retreating into denial and moral cowardice or, worse, advancing boldly into outright complicity. In the name of anti-racism, anxieties about Muslim immigration and intolerance are routinely denounced as xenophobic bigotry. In the name of Palestinian solidarity, responsibility for lethal anti-Semitism is routinely laid at the feet of an Israeli government held to be insufficiently dedicated to the pursuit of peace. And in the radical Leftist circles in which Jeremy Corbyn moves, Islamists are routinely embraced by politicians and human rights activists who insist on mistaking a politics of hatred and supremacism for a principled opposition to Western Imperialism and Israeli policy in disputed territory.
The Chakrabarti Report is a paradigmatic example of this political and moral failure. As I have argued in a previous essay for The Tower, hostility to Israel and Zionism has roots in Left-wing ideologies and axioms that stretch back decades, and it is this history that ought to have been the focus of Chakrabarti’s inquiry. But its evasions and obfuscations are a product of those ideologies and axioms, a symptom of the very problem it purports to explore. It was, in short, an inquiry that was always intended to go precisely nowhere.
The Jerusalem light rail has only one line, and services 150,000 people each day as it snakes from Mount Herzl to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev, traversing some the world’s most disputed real estate.
Perhaps as a result, it was dogged by controversy from its inception. International NGOs attacked the transportation project, painting a highly negative image of the project that managed to make it on to such media outlets as the BBC. How did this happen? The answer matters because it suggests a model for how the Jewish state’s opponents succeed in spinning Israeli behavior, however benign, into the bad publicity that feeds delegimization campaigns in the West.
In 1996, the newly-elected Likud government authorized the most ambitious public works project in Israel’s history, appropriating $300 million to develop Jerusalem’s transportation network. The pièce de résistance of the program was the Jerusalem light rail, an 8.6-mile-long track enabling fast transit through the city center and between pre- and post-1967 Jerusalem. The Israeli government commissioned the Seattle-based firm CityPass to design and construct the light rail, offering the company a 30-year concession as compensation. Clocking in at a cost of 3.8 billion NIS (around $1 billion), work on the light rail began in 2002 and finished at the end of 2012.
The results have been both fascinating and surprising. The left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a report in 2012 titled “A Surprising Process of Israelization is Taking Place Among Palestinians in East Jerusalem.” Nir Hasson noted the light rail’s contribution to social cohesion and integration between the city’s Jewish and Arab residents. “There is the pronounced presence of Palestinians in the center of West Jerusalem,” he wrote, “in malls, on the light-rail train and in the open shopping area in Mamilla, adjacent to the Old City’s Jaffa Gate. …The huge light-rail project, which cuts across the city and greatly facilitates access from the eastern neighborhoods to the city center, is also contributing to the transformation.”
One of the biggest barriers to Arab-Israeli reconciliation is the unresolved issue of compensation for Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries in the 1940s and ’50s. A new study explores how the compensation demand arose, then fell into obscurity.
The mass exodus of Jewish refugees from the Arab world remains one of the great untold stories of the 20th century. Indeed, it has been so overshadowed by the flight of Palestinian Arab refugees that even devoted commentators remain ignorant of one momentous chapter in this story: The early attempts by the State of Israel to use the exodus to gain diplomatic leverage over the Arab states. Contrary to popular belief, Israel did not ignore the exodus. It tried to incorporate it into its foreign policy in order to neutralize pressure brought to bear on the issue of the Arab refugees.
For my master’s thesis at the University of Cambridge, I explored the unexamined history of this policy. Delving into Israel’s state archives, I connected the dots between previously unpublished documents and brief references in history books, discovering how Israel addressed the absorption of hundreds of thousands of refugees from belligerent powers. This is the forgotten history of a forgotten exodus.
In July, BDS took center stage at the US presidential conventions. But important differences between the Republican and Democratic platforms regarding Israel reflect changes in the parties and US politics. BDS in British politics also suffered a blow with Brexit and the rise of Theresa May and Boris Johnson to office, but BDS-inspired harassment of Israelis continued in Britain, as well as at British and American universities. Active political leadership against BDS is vital, but is no substitute for accountability in institutions such as police and universities.
BDS continued to be an issue in US Presidential politics. The Republican Party adopted a platform that explicitly condemned BDS and reaffirmed US support for Israel. Somewhat controversially, the platform did not mention support for a Palestinian state. Overall the support for Israel was the result of a long-term effort to harness support from grassroots and evangelical sources.
In contrast, the Democratic platform remained along its traditional lines — supporting a two-state solution. Platform committee members connected to Hillary Clinton pushed back another attempt by Bernie Sanders-appointed members to insert BDS movement language condemning the “occupation.”
Inside the convention, Sanders activists inside waved Palestinian flags, while protesters outside burned Israeli flags and chanted “intifada.” The Clinton campaign condemned the flag burning, but awareness of these issues may have helped prompt the repeated mentions of Israel in former President Bill Clinton’s convention speech.
Jewish Community Relations Council: Boston Jewish Community Relations Council Rejects Black Lives Matter Platform on Israel
On August 1, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement released a platform, created collectively by organizations representing a range of BLM groups around the country.
We are deeply dismayed by elements of this platform, specifically the co-opting and manipulation of a movement addressing concerns about racial disparities in criminal justice in the United States in order to advance a biased and false narrative about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. To conflate the experiences of African-Americans and Palestinians oversimplifies complex matters and advances false equivalencies that diminish the unique nature of each.
JCRC cannot and will not align ourselves with organizations that falsely and maliciously assert that Israel is committing “genocide.” We denounce an agenda to wage economic and cultural warfare against Israelis, including efforts to mobilize against state and local efforts that reject the “BDS” movement. We reject participation in any coalition that seeks to isolate and demonize Israel singularly amongst the nations of the world.
Palestinians and other opportunists have been attempting to co-opt the African American struggle for years.
We saw it with Trayon Martin.
We saw it with Oscar Grant.
We saw it with Ferguson.
And we see it again with the current incarnation of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Having failed to co-opt the movement to his satisfaction, anti-Israel activist Bassem Masri has been documented threatening and trying to blackmail prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson.
From @AmericanZionist. h/t IsraellyCool
StandWithUs High School Program
Jewish students are being “failed” by the NUS, the group’s vice-president has admitted. In an interview with Jewish News, Rob Young, deputy to race row Malia Bouattia, blasts her for blocking Jewish students from having a say on who represents them:
“It seems the that the National Executive Council of NUS want to ensure that we are not working with UJS as closely as have in the past – and this is something I stand totally against. I will keep fighting to ensure that UJS are present at the table when we are working on the ARAF campaign… By making our spaces unwelcoming for Jewish students, we are not only failing to focus on these challenges, we are failing as a movement that represents all students.”
The organisation has come under near constant fire over anti-Semitic incidents and has seen a string of successful disaffiliation campaigns since April. If this is what their own VP thinks…
Wolfe’s stylistic flourishes–the elipses, the capitalized words, etc.–haven’t changed a whit since “Radical Chic” days–and maybe they should have, since by now they seem rather old-fashioned, a relic of the last century’s “New Journalism.”
Despite that, however, his lengthy essay, the centerpiece of this month’s Harper’s, is a brilliant ramble and the best thing I’ve read in a magazine all year.
By the end of the piece, not much remains of Chomsky’s unscientific theories–or his reputation.
PreOccupiedTerritory: New Qatari Comedy Show Imagines BDS Caring About Arab Slavery (satire)
Producers of a new series slated for the Al-Jazeera network hope to make audiences laugh with the absurd premise that the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement might target countries other than Israel with its righteous outrage.
Al-Jazeera picked up the contract to air a pilot and at least three episodes of “BDS,” which takes place in an alternative reality where the activists who work so hard to demonize Israel for real or imagined violations of Palestinian rights show some consistency and employ similar strategies to pressure the far more egregious human rights offenses of Arab states.
Producers Dissis Absourd and Fatt Chanss, both of Egypt, pitched the series to the network this past spring, and aim to explore the outrageous notion of Social Justice Warriors who care about human rights when a Western democracy is not involved, and when the cause does not lend itself to antisemitism hiding unconvincingly behind opposition to Israeli policies.
“We were sitting together one day last September and brainstorming, and Dissis said to me, ‘What would happen if people actually cared about the values they claimed to care about?’” recalled Chanss. “First we discussed nuclear disarmament, the environment, and Russian imperialism, but none of those topics had the emotional resonance we were looking for. Then I threw out the idea of human rights activists showing actual courage to go as far in combating Arab countries’ flagrant crimes – just as a joke; it was too absurd, you know? – and then boom. We knew we had something.”
The Olympic Committee of Israel (OCI), sent an urgent letter to Facebook last night (Wednesday), urging the mammoth social media company to add Israel and its flag to a list on the site of countries competing in the upcoming Rio Olympics, Ynet reported today.
Pending a response from Facebook, it is yet unclear whether the is a coincidental oversight or an intentional slight or statement.
The omission was reportedly first noticed in the evening hours last night, with the OCI Facebook page receiving messages from users complaining that Israel is conspicuously absent from the list of participating countries. The list showed only the flag of the OCI.
The Olympic Committee confirmed they had been alerted to the problem, and told Ynet: “Already yesterday the Olympic Committee sent an urgent request to Facebook to add Israel and its flag to the list of participating countries. The public is invited to visit the OCI page to express support for the members of the Israeli delegation.”
Ynet noted that Israel was the only country that had only the flag of its Olympic Committee listed, without the national flag. While countries like the US, Britain and Canada are listed with the word “Team” in front of the name of the country, their national flag appears.
In 2014 the BBC described the terrorists responsible for the murders of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games as “militants”.
In 2015 the same terrorists were rebranded as “Palestinian extremists” and a “Palestinian extremist group”.
In a filmed report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 2nd 2016, the terrorists are described as “militants”.
The same euphemistic term is used in a written report by Jonathan Josephs which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page the following day.
Once again the ‘values’ behind the BBC’s supposed avoidance of “value judgements” are on display.
There was horror and consternation in Jerusalem as news emerged that the Israelis were the second national team banned from the upcoming Rio Olympics. With Russia banned a few weeks ago for widespread doping, the Israeli team were kicked out for testing positive for another energy-boosting substance – Cofix’s five shekel ice coffee.
“Well, it just goes to show that the Zionists will not stop at nothing to steal coffee beans from Palestinian bean growers, whose livelihoods have been wrecked by a Government agenda to deny them breakfast and keep them comatose.” noted UK Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn as he got ready to meet Anjem Choudary for tea.
“I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my whole life!” complained Minister of Sport Miri Regev. “Right now Tel Aviv is hotter than the surface of Jupiter. Of course my team are going to try to keep cool. But no ice coffee?! I have heard it all.” Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu quickly blamed the rise in Islamic fundamentalism for Israelis’ growing coffee addiction. “People are drinking it like there’s no tomorrow. And Ice Coffee at five shekels is a luxury that just about everyone can afford.” he said while sipping a mojito from a balcony on the Sheraton in the Maldives.
Hurdlers, basketball players, mountain bikers, one Krav Maga enthusiast and a team of volleyball arsim were all immediately disbarred after their caffeine levels were discovered to be off the charts. Another hopeful track star Moshe Polansky, a 100 meter sprinter from Ashkelon, protested his innocence: “I didn’t know the coffee would still be in my system, my brain froze, if anything, I am less able to function after that.” he cried, as he finished his trial 100m race in under an hour, after stopping to talk to five people at the side of the track and call his mother. He crossed the finish line as they turned the floodlights off. Mother-of-three Rivka Goldberg from Jerusalem also learned of her ban during curling practice, with her tongue pressed to the ice as temperatures hit 102 Degrees in the Old City. In an unrelated test, a pair of professional Matkot (beach paddle ball) players were also kicked out of the tournament because of the headache that their game caused anyone within two kilometers.
First is the resounding success of Israel Hayom, the best-selling Israeli newspaper owned by the American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, also a financer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Then is Netanyahu’s interim term as Minister of Communications.
Another one is the reform of Israel Broadcasting Authority.
Now the New York Times, which never misses an opportunity to demonize the Israeli prime minister, lies about Israel’s free press. Netanyahu as Erdogan. It is a reality fabricated by a conformist press. Freedom of speech is “crushed” by Bibi, while in actuality, a vibrant, free Israeli press continues to attack him without fear and hesitation every day? Ridiculous.
The press in Israel is totally free and it is also fierce, delves into the life of the Prime Minister (and his wife Sara) looking for a few shekels spent for traveling abroad, deposits on bottles not given to the treasury, puts the army under investigation and spurs debates about the democratic nature of the country. Israel has far more newspapers per capita than most Western democracies.
To understand this incredible audacity, just open Haaretz’s weekend edition, that newspaper of the losers of the Jewish diaspora: “Israel is an evil state”. Why don’t they try to publish this kind of editorial in any state which borders Israel?
What the media will never forgive Netanyahu is his having outclassed their progressive darlings at the polls for three times.
A top operative of Hamas and news media favorite named Ghazi Hamad has recommended “small stabs to all parts of Israel” as a strategy against the Jewish state. Hamad is currently the deputy foreign minister of Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a non-profit organization that translates Arab and Persian media, Hamad suggested a war of attrition against Israel in an Op-Ed he wrote for the Alwatanvoice.com, an online Palestinian news outlet based in the Gaza Strip.
Hamad—a former spokesperson for Hamas—has frequently been treated as a credible source by many media outlets. A Lexis-Nexis search showed that The New York Times alone quoted Hamad—often uncritically—no less than 18 times between 2006 and 2016. Despite, or perhaps because of the frequency with which he has been quoted, some U.S. news outlets seemingly have been taken in by the Hamas operative.
In a Sept. 12, 2006 story, The New York Times uncritically quoted Hamad’s false claim that “the charter of Israel’s conservative Likud Party calls for an Israel on both banks of the Jordan River.” The Times offered a correction eight days later (“Don’t Bank on Hamad’s Word,” CAMERA, Sept. 20, 2006).
Wilson later added that the German chancellor “also faces elections next year and it wouldn’t take much more I think for her to be in big trouble.”
Asked by Dymond if the terror attacks “lead to a more introspective Europe”, Wilson remarked that “Europe’s leaders are consumed with the internal problems […] they are absolutely absorbed with these crises” and noted that European Council president Donald Tusk “has said publicly he thinks Western civilisation is being threatened by everything that’s going on”.
As readers no doubt recall the BBC long since made it clear that it believes that terror attacks against Israelis are “very different” from – and not comparable to – those perpetrated against citizens of other nations. Apparently it is also of the opinion that the concerns of Israeli civilians can be portrayed differently from those of citizens of EU countries. While the BBC refuses to acknowledge that the double standard it promotes is a “significant issue of general importance”, we remain convinced that it compromises the BBC’s claim to impartial reporting.
The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain rose by 11% in the first six months of the year, reflecting a worrying trend of intolerance across the country, a Jewish advisory body said on Thursday.
The Community Security Trust, which advises Britain’s estimated 260,000 Jews on security matters, recorded 557 incidents from January until June of 2016, the second highest number for the first period of a year since data collection began in 1984.
The year-on-year rise comes at a time when politicians and police have warned about growing levels of hate crimes since Britons voted to leave the European Union on June 23, with Muslims and Eastern Europeans particularly targeted, although the CST said it had not seen a spike after the referendum.
It also follows accusations of anti-Semitism against figures in the opposition Labour Party.
“This rise in reported anti-Semitism comes at a time when division, intolerance and prejudice appear to be deepening within our society,” said CST Chief Executive David Delew.
Scottish Jews are increasingly keeping their identity a secret for fear of being the target of antisemitism, a new study reveals.
According to “Being Jewish in Scotland” — commissioned by the Scottish government and carried out by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) — 17 percent of respondents said they take steps to hide their Jewish identity, which the study noted is “many more than in 2012.”
One Glasgow woman in her 20s told SCoJeC, “I would never before have considered it risky to show my Jewish identity in public. However, that is changing.”
In addition, non-Jewish parents of offspring with Jewish heritage said they are concerned about their children being publicly perceived as Jewish, which would pose a threat to their safety and security.
“This exacerbates their isolation, since hiding their Jewish identity also diminishes their opportunities to connect with other Jewish people and thus to develop strong, resilient and supportive communities,” the authors of the study wrote, pointing to the 32% of Scottish Jews who expressed heightened levels of anxiety, discomfort or vulnerability, due to antisemitism.
“For the first time in 62 years, I did not attend high holiday services this year due to my security concerns,” a male respondent in his 60s from Edinburgh told SCoJeC.
Historians, a top Jewish leader and a major newspaper have criticized a court in the central German city of Naumburg for letting a far-right politician off easy after his conviction for Holocaust denial.
A state supreme court annulled the fine levied by a lower court against Hans Püschel, effectively overturning his conviction. The move is viewed by some as an unprecedented challenge to German law, which requires punishment for trivialization of the Holocaust and glorification of Nazi crimes.
The decision was announced locally in October 2015, but became public on Wednesday after inquiries by the German daily newspaper Die Welt.
Historians have expressed astonishment at the ruling, and observers expect courts to run into trouble when trying to prosecute future cases.
Siavosh Derakhti, a young Swedish Muslim honored in Europe and the U.S. for his campaign to counter anti-Semitism, always explains his motivation by invoking David.
David — Derakhti has told audiences on four continents — was one of his best friends when he was a kid. Other kids always bullied David, and a very young Derakhti wanted to know why. David said he was hated for being Jewish. After that, David had a Muslim ally, someone who literally fought by his side.
Derakhti, now 25, has made his life’s work the plight of the Jews in Sweden and Europe, where anti-Semitism has risen to levels so alarming that Jews talk of leaving for safer lives in Israel or the U.S.
“We have to stand up for my cousins. My Jewish cousins,” Derakhti said. “I’m Muslim, I’m proud of it, but I’m also proud to be cousins with the Jewish population.”
Derakhti has led busloads of Swedish teenagers — Muslim and non-Muslim — to Auschwitz and other concentration camps, in hopes of moving them to join him in his fight against anti-Semitism. He takes his anti-bigotry message into schools and businesses, and at 19 founded Young Muslims Against Anti-Semitism, now known as Young People Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia.
Honore Gatera was 13 years old when the killers came to his village in the Rwandan countryside. “I can recall everything that happened to me,” he said.
A neighbor belonging to the Hutu tribe bent on annihilating the country’s Tutsi community — to which Gatera’s family belongs — hid him and his cousin for a few weeks, until May 1994. “But as the killers were intensifying the searches in the homes and killing everyone, he decided to send us away. He said, instead of seeing you killed in front of my eyes, I prefer you to leave and join the other refugees in public facilities.”
But Gatera and his cousin did not follow their neighbor’s advice. Instead, they returned to the ruins of their family home, part of which was still standing, until the Rwandan Patriotic Front came to their rescue and helped them reach a safer area where they stayed till the mass killings were over. Only his mother, two uncles and an aunt survived the genocide. “From a family of more than 60 people, 30 were gone,” he said, apparently referring to his extended family.
Today, Gatera is the director of the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in July during his historic visit to Rwanda’s capital. Last week, Gatera, 35, and two colleagues came to Israel for the first time for a three-day study tour organized by Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Yad Vashem.
IOC President Thomas Bach led a mourning ceremony Wednesday for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain at the 1972 Munich Olympics — a tribute that a widow of one of the victims said brought “closure” for the families.
Bach, his voice cracking with emotion, read out of the names of each of the 11 Israelis and the German policeman who died after Palestinian terrorists from the Black September group raided the athletes’ village in Munich, the worst terror attack in Olympic history.
With two widows of the victims and several current Israeli team members looking on, Bach said the Munich massacre “was an attack not only on our fellow Olympians but also an assault on the values that the Olympic Village stands for.”
Bach led a minute of silence during the inauguration of a “place of mourning” in the athletes’ village in Rio de Janeiro. He hugged Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, the widows of fencing coach Andre Spitzer and weightlifter Yossef Romano.
Families of the Munich victims have campaigned for years for greater public recognition for those murdered from the International Olympic Committee. The IOC faced criticism for refusing to hold a moment of silence for the Israeli victims during the opening of the 2012 London Games, 40 years after the attack.
“We waited for this for 44 years, to have this remembrance and recognition of our loved ones who were killed so brutally in Munich,” Ankie Spitzer said Wednesday. “We wanted them to be really accepted as members of the Olympic family. Now that President Bach had a minute of silence in the Olympic village, calling out the names of our loves ones, this is closure for us.”
“I cannot explain how emotional I am; how much this means for us.”
The 2016 Summer games begin this Friday night. The following is my own Olympic journey.
I was born twenty years after D-Day and we were still living with the after effects of WWII. Twenty years is measured today as the time from when Drudge outed Bill and Monica until Hillary became the Democratic nominee for President. Growing up in the 70s, my Jewish peers lived lives as predictable as the elevator music on a ride to the top of the Empire State building. My experience was more technicolor funk, plunging through the wormhole of a fractured time space continuum.
At some point we all find ourselves at a crossroads. In 1972, I was 8 years old and struggling to grow up Jewish in a brutal Appalachia. I dreamed of being an Olympian, and not just any Olympian: after a family trip to Israel the previous summer I dreamed of being a proud Jewish Olympian swimmer with gold medals. Then I watched the tragic events at the Munich Olympic Games unfold on live TV. Over those twenty-something hours, Jim McKay kept me company as I had my heart and soul ripped open. They still ache. By the time I watched the coffins being flown back to Israel, the Olympic dreams of an 8-year-old were dead. But that September day many years ago I made a promise to never, ever forget my eleven heroes.
Andrea Murez’s swimming journey began in California and took her to Israel. Now she is on her way to swim in the Rio Olympics.
This year’s Israeli Olympic team is composed of 47 athletes who will compete in 16 sports. It is by far the largest delegation the country has sent to the games since it first competed in 1952, just four years after the state was established. Given its small size and relatively short history, Israel has never been an Olympic powerhouse. It was not until 1992 that an Israeli athlete took home a medal, when Yael Arad won silver in judo at the Barcelona games. Since then, Israeli athletes have won six more medals, including one gold in windsurfing.
Rather than medals, Israel’s Olympic legacy is often associated with the 11 athletes and coaches who were killed in a Palestinian terrorist atrocity at the Munich games in 1972. The memory of this event and its victims continues to both haunt and inspire the Olympics today. All Israeli Olympic athletes visit a memorial to the victims, located in Tel Aviv, before departing for the games. The Olympic Committee of Israel is also organizing a memorial service during the games in Rio, which will be attended by international dignitaries, including the head of the International Olympic Committee and Brazilian government officials.
As former minister of culture and sports Limor Livnat said at a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the attack during the London games in 2012, for Israelis, the massacre and the memory of the victims is “forever etched in our collective soul.”
The Olympics, like much in Israel, are a combination of a traumatic past and the quest for a brighter future. A related but lesser-known facet of Israeli Olympic dreams is embodied in the story of Murez: The role immigrants play in Israel’s still-emerging sports scene. Of the 47 athletes competing in the Rio games, 10 were born outside of Israel. Most of the members of the 2014 Winter Olympics team were born in countries like Ukraine, the United States, and Belgium, where the colder climate makes sports like ice-skating and skiing much more common. This is not a new phenomenon. Immigrants have long played a part in Israel’s Olympic teams, as they do in many aspects of life here. In fact, at least two of the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre were immigrants, including David Berger, a weightlifter born and raised in the United States.
Today, however, things are looking up. As these photos demonstrate, Israel is fielding a formidable Olympic team this year, and there are several participants with a serious shot at the gold in Rio de Janeiro.
Among the most promising is judoka champion Yarden Gerbi, currently number four in the world in her weight category. Then there is Yakov Toumarkin, Israel’s leading swimmer, who won the silver at the last European Championships and hopes to place higher at the Rio games. Another competitor is a relatively new olah. Triple jumper Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko hails from Ukraine, where she competed on national teams, but she made aliyah to Israel in 2013 and, since then, has only risen in stature.
Israel’s Olympic team also contains a notable first: Israel’s first female wrestler to attend the games. So far, Ilana Kratysh has scored several medals in European championships and hopes to take the gold in Rio.
As these photos show, there is an astonishing diversity of other competitors: Gymnasts, golfers, martial artists, runners, windsurfers, badminton players, and others; all seeking to honor the Olympic motto: “Citius, Altius, Fortius” – “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”
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