Shas compared to Hamas at Synagogue sponsored event in Seattle

TEMPLE DE-HIRSCH SPONSORS CONTROVERSIAL ISRAEL EVENT

Group claims to promote dialogue but only tells only one side of the story.

Seattle, WA – Parents Circle  is an organization founded by a group of parents of victims of Palestinian violence and parents of Palestinians killed while either attacking Israelis or caught in the crossfire. The group describes itself as founded to “Support Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance” and sponsors  multiple outreach and educational programs to further their message.

Robi Damelin of Parents Circle addresses the audience at St. Mark's Cathedral.

Robi Damelin, bereaved mother and publicist for Parents Circle addresses the audience at St. Mark’s Cathedral.

The program on Sunday, October 13th at St. Mark’s featured Parents Circle publicist Robi Damelin, an Israeli  of  South African origin whose son David was killed by a Palestinian sniper at a checkpoint in East Jerusalem. Robi is an articulate and passionate advocate for reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. During her talk she frequently compared the South African Apartheid experience to the situation in Israel. Ms. Damelin promoted her vision of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission  for Israel based on the post Apartheid South African model.

Bassam Aramin’s eleven year old  daughter Abir was tragically killed in 2007 when caught in IDF crossfire during a Palestinian riot in Anata near Jerusalem. While the exact cause of death is disputed, it appears  likely that Abir was struck in the head by an errant IDF Rubber bullet.  Aramin similarly spoke of the need to humanize the “other” as a means towards achieving trust between the two peoples. He condemned both violence and revenge as a means towards achieving the goal of a Palestinian state.

One could not help but be moved by these two sympathetic figures who appear to be genuinely trying to turn their personal tragedy into something positive. Throughout the program the focus was less on fault and more on moving forward. But whenever blame was assigned it was assigned to Israel.

 Whenever blame was assigned it was assigned to Israel. 

At no point  in the nearly two hour program was a mainstream  Israeli perspective on the causes of the conflict or its lack of resolution presented. There was reference made by Ms. Damelin for the need to remove the security barrier as a prerequisite to peace. She did not mention that Palestinian terrorism was the precipitant for the construction of the barrier or that terror attacks have been dramatically reduced since the barrier’s installation. Both presenters identified “the occupation” as the progenitor of the conflict.  There was no context  offered as to how the occupation came about or acknowledgement that Israel has ever made any concessions for peace.  One could have easily left the lecture under the impression that hostilities between Israel and her Arab neighbors  commenced only with the acquisition of  the West Bank and Gaza in 1967.  

An unrelated support organization for  bereaved Israeli parents  released a statement in July of 2013 expressing their discomfort with Parents Circle, questioning their motives and agenda.  “Reviewing the public statements of Parents Circle’s key figures over the past decade, a consistent and depressingly familiar political agenda emerges. The Israelis are the aggressors. The Palestinians are the victims. The occupation is at the heart of the conflict. And as for the role of the terrorists, their ideologies and decades of Arab rejectionist politics – that is simply absent.”

Towards the end of the program the audience was invited to ask questions. One woman queried the presenters on how one could combat the appeal of Hamas to young Palestinians, asking “With Hamas so into the Jew’s destruction, how are you able to counter that among the young people who look up to them? How do you even begin?”

Mr. Aramin responded. “It is exactly how the Israelis do with Shas.  Shas and Hamas. We are talking to everyone, Hamas. One of the founders of combatants for peace was from Islamic Jihad, which is the same mentality that you see with Hamas. We are talking to the people and I believe it starts and ends with education. Education on both sides, it is not less worse in Israel.”

One woman asked “With Hamas so into the Jew’s destruction, how do you counter that among the young people who look up to them?” Mr. Aramin responded “It is exactly how the Israelis do with Shas. Shas and Hamas… it is not less worse in Israel”

There was no objection or gasps of shock when Mr. Aramin placed an Israeli Sephardic-ethnic political party on the same moral plane as the Hamas Terror organization. Hamas has indisputably murdered hundreds of innocent civilians in the most gruesome fashion, including many of their fellow Palestinians. While Shas politicians may have at times engaged in offensive rhetoric, they are a political party and have never blown up a pizza parlor or a bus, or murdered anybody for that matter.

Rabbi Aron Meyer of Temple De Hirsch-Sinai giving the opening invocation.

Rabbi Aaron Meyer of Temple De Hirsch-Sinai giving the opening invocation.

 The effectiveness of events like these lie in the emotional stories of the presenters and the decency that they project. Both presenters appealed for non violence from all parties, including Palestinians. They pleaded with their audience not to dehumanize either side. But their message, while sympathetically packaged is singular, the fault  of and solution for the conflict lies entirely in Israel’s hands.

Frimet and Arnold Roth, whose daughter Malki was murdered by Hamas terrorists in the Sbarro massacre of August 9, 2001 expressed their displeasure with Parents Circle in a July 2013 article.  “We believe Parents Circle leverages our collective bereavement to secure funding for advancing a very specific and particular political line – a line even they concede is unrepresentative of Israel’s bereaved families.”

This one-sided perspective served up gently has garnered support from extremist groups advocating for the boycott and international ostricization of Israel. An unaffiliated Israeli bereaved parents group notes that  “it is not so surprising that groups promoting BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel) including EAPPI and Sabeel  acknowledge a close relationship with, and support for, Parents Circle.”

This event was co-sponsored by St. Mark’s Cathedral and Temple De Hirsch Sinai. Rabbi Aaron Meyer of Temple De-Hirsch offered  the opening invocation. The Stroum Jewish Community Center hosted a similar forum with Parents Circle that same afternoon.

This event was co-sponsored by St. Mark’s Cathedral and Temple De- Hirsch Sinai. Rabbi Aron Meyer of Temple De-Hirsch offered  the opening invocation. The Stroum Jewish Community Center hosted a similar forum that same afternoon.

In a region where animus towards Israel is rampant.  [some in the audience expressed feverish hostility towards not just Israel but also to Jews. One man verbally accosted a pro-Israel  woman in the audience.] one cannot help but be alarmed at the gross naïveté at best, of Jewish organizations that promote sleekly produced, agenda driven programs that are not fair to Israel and may ultimately place the Jewish state in greater danger from her very real enemies. 

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