Monday, May 27, 2002

In a presentation yesterday at Temple Emanu-El in Nuuanu, Yuval Rotem, consul general of Israel, gave an overview of recent events in the Middle East and urged the audience to lobby Hawaii's members of Congress for support of Israel.

Isle Jews asked
to support Israel

Israel's consul general and a
Jewish leader offer their views
on the Middle East conflict

By Treena Shapiro

The consul general of Israel and the national chairman of the Network of Independent United Jewish Communities were in Hawaii this weekend to drum up financial and political support for Israel.

Yesterday, Yuval Rotem, consul general of Israel from the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, gave an overview of the crisis in the Middle East to Jewish community members at Temple Emanu-El in Nuuanu.

Rotem said that things in the Middle East have been changing so rapidly that even those born in Israel "sometimes can't understand and comprehend the enormity and the seriousness" of the situation.

Over the weekend, Israeli Defense Forces continued to enter West Bank towns, conducting searches, making arrests and imposing curfews in Qalqilya, Bethlehem and Tulkarem in what Israel said is an effort to curb further terrorist acts.

According to CNN, a 12-year-old Palestinian girl and her 40-year-old grandmother were killed Saturday by an Israeli tank shell in a refugee camp in Gaza, while the IDF reported that Palestinians shot and killed an Israeli soldier and wounded two others in Tulkarem.

Roten said recent surprising developments included calls for reform in the Palestinian Authority, which would include the removal of Yasser Arafat as chairman, and an emergence of a code of conduct among moderate Arab states. In March the Arab League adopted a resolution calling for peace with Israel in exchange for a return to pre-1967 borders.

Rotem and Joel Alperson, national chairman of the Network of Independent United Jewish Communities, both emphasized that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dealt with ideas, not territory.

"This is not just a battle for land, this is a battle to dismantle the state of Israel," Alperson said, as he asked the audience to donate to the Israeli cause.

The Rev. Vaughn Beckman, chairman of the interfaith group Friends of Sabeel, which promotes Palestinian liberation, said that he supports any efforts to end the conflict, provided that it means justice for all sides and the creation of a Palestinian state.

However, "We are seeing no effort to move anything forward that will represent real peace in the Middle East," he said.

The 2-month-old organization has about 60 members and has been working to get its message to the media and elected officials and is considering fund-raising activities in the future, Beckman said.

Rotem urged yesterday's audience to lobby Hawaii's members of Congress for support of Israel, telling them that U.S. Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Patsy Mink were part of the minority who recently voted against two resolutions calling for support of Israel.

"In the last three to four months, hundreds of kids have lost a leg or an arm or an eye because nails or screws were exploded into their own body, and now it's a part of their own soul and experience," Rotem said. "I want your congressmen to understand this problem of suicide bombers."

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