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Greater Washington JCRC: Statement in Solidarity with Israel

The Jewish Community Relations of Greater Washington affirms its solidarity with Israel in the aftermath of the recent violence instigated by the misnamed "Free Gaza" flotilla. Our community grieves for the recent loss of life that resulted from the actions of the flotilla participants and the larger tragedy of the region caused by Hamas’ efforts to eliminate and delegitimize Israel.  Hamas’ violent take-over of Gaza after Israel withdrew from the territory, and Hamas’ ensuing use of the Gaza strip as an armed base from which to launch rocket attacks against Israeli citizens, thwart Israeli and international efforts at bringing peace to the troubled region. Our hearts go out to the people of this region, and we stand with the state of Israel as it struggles to cope with those enemies of peace who refuse to permit Israel and its neighbors to live in peace.

As we are faced with the sometimes biased or confusing media reports in the coming hours and days, it is important to understand certain key facts.

  1. Hamas, which rules Gaza, is recognized by the international community as a terrorist organization.  Hamas openly declares its intention and goal of annihilating Israel, and uses Gaza as a launching pad for war against Israel’s citizens and against the peace process. The legal embargo on Gaza was necessary because of Hamas’s use of incoming materials to wage war against Israeli civilians. The purpose of the IDF's acts was the enforcement of the lawful embargo established by Israel and Egypt against Hamas belligerents. 
  2. Israel has worked consistently to ensure that genuinely humanitarian aid reaches the people of Gaza, who live under the iron fist of the repressive Hamas regime that cares more about waging war on Israel than it does about improving the lives of its people. Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza. 
  3. The true nature of the flotilla’s organizers and intentions is clear.  They ignored repeated warnings from the Israeli government intended to avoid violence and chose to refuse Israel's offer to ensure that the humanitarian aid on board these ships be routed to the people of Gaza after any non-humanitarian materials were removed. Unfortunately, the vessels coming from Turkey were not full of non-violent peace activists as they claimed.
  4. The loss of life that resulted from this lie is tragic, but it is unacceptable to blame the IDF for responding in kind to violent attacks.  The acts of the IDF were acts of self-defense undertaken by courageous Israeli naval personnel against the armed assault of the violent activists onboard the Marmara. Israeli soldiers acted in self defense after being violently attacked by activists on the Mavi Marmara.  Video footage of these lynchings are available below.

Our community continues to hope that those who are so adamantly opposed to peace with Israel will join with those who desire peace, and will cease taking actions designed to frustrate the cause of peace in the Middle East to which all reasonable people aspire. 

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Cincinnati JCRC: Statement on Gaza Flotilla Incident

The JCRC reacted with shock and condemnation at the deadly provocation by anti-Israel extremists aboard the so-called "Gaza Flotilla", which resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen passengers on one of the ships.

The "Gaza Flotilla" was a group of six ships carrying hundreds of activists and journalists with the purported aim of delivering humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip. This effort was organized primarily by the Turkish Government, and as the story developed over the past several days it became clear that the flotilla was an attempt to provoke Israel into a confrontation at sea. 

The organizers, in collusion with the terrorist organization Hamas, which controls Gaza, were playing on the notion that there is still a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Although the media has generally not reported it, Israel, along with international humanitarian organizations, has delivered more than a million tons of food, medicine and other essentials during the past 18 months, and in an average week Israel facilitates 15,000 tons of these supplies.

In the meantime, Hamas, which seeks Israel's destruction and has never forsworn violence against the Jewish State, has chosen to prioritize deadly conflict over the well-being of its own citizens. While Israel has been transferring food and medicine into Gaza, Hamas has been smuggling thousands upon thousands of tons of ammunition, rockets, and even parts for tanks and other sophisticated weapons of war - all with an eye towards the next attack against Israel.

When the organizers of the Gaza Flotilla announced their intention to deliver their unknown inventory of supplies to Gaza, the Government of Israel immediately denied them permission, and instead offered to dock their shipments in the Israeli port of Ashdod, from where - upon proper inspection - the goods could then be delivered by land into Gaza. The organizers refused this offer. When the flotilla insisted on sailing towards Gaza, ignoring the several warnings by Israeli naval vessels, Israeli soldiers boarded the ships and on one of them the soldiers subsequently came under attack by combatants armed with live ammunition, axes, metal rods and blunt instruments. The passengers on this ship had clearly prepared these weapons in advance for this specific purpose, and none was harmed until the attacks on Israeli soldiers proved to be life-threatening. It is important to note that none of the other five ships resisted, and that no one was harmed on those ships at any point.

The one ship whose passengers did engage in violence was controlled by IHH, a Turkish organization that is known for outspoken support for Hamas.

Israel has the right of any sovereign nation to protect its citizens, and preventing unsupervised shipments to Hamas-controlled Gaza is an essential part of that self-defense. Israel sought to avoid this confrontation, and we believe that evidence will confirm that this was a premeditated act of violence by extremists, whose true objective was not to deliver humanitarian supplies, but rather to initiate violence and provoke a response in the hopes of further smearing Israel's reputation in the international community. Such cynical behavior, which resulted in these deaths, ought to be condemned by all who seek peaceful resolution of Middle East conflict. Israel's actions should be understood by our government and by the American people as appropriate and proportional measures taken in response to a life threatening situation.

Arna Poupko Fisher, JCRC President
Gary Greenberg, JCRC President-Elect
Leslie Newman, JCRC Vice President
Brian Jaffee, JCRC Director
Gal Adam Spinrad, JCRC Associate Director

The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) is the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community in Cincinnati. The JCRC is an address for information about Jewish communal concerns - including the security and viability of the State of Israel, anti-semitism, as well as threats and/or unjust actions directed against the rights of individuals, as guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati brings our community together to care for Jews in Cincinnati, in Israel, and around the world, and develops opportunities for each of us to embrace a Jewish life.

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Boston JCRC: Statement on Flotilla to Gaza

Our community grieves this most recent loss of life in the Middle East which, like so many others before it, has as its direct cause the refusal of certain forces to end their state of war with Israel. Hamas' determination to persist in its declared effort to eliminate Israel, and to maintain the Gaza Strip as an armed base from which to conduct its campaign of elimination, continues to bring no end of tragedy to the people of this region, and to frustrate hopes for peace at every turn. Hamas' unwillingness to make peace with Israel, and to make Gaza a place of opportunity rather than a place of war, continues unabated and so, too, does the loss of life for which Hamas is responsible. Our hearts go out to the people of this region, and we stand with the state of Israel as it struggles and struggles again to cope with those who, regrettably, refuse to permit Israel and its neighbors to live in peace.

Certain fundamental points are of critical importance. First, Hamas, which rules Gaza with an iron hand, is recognized by the international community as a terrorist enterprise, and one which has pledged itself to the annihilation of Israel and the torpedoing of peace. Second, Hamas insists on using Gaza as an armed base from which to wage war on Israel and, for that matter, on the peace process. Third, it is Hamas and its allies who have necessitated the embargo on the Gaza Strip, which has as its purpose stopping the flow of materials used to launch attacks on Israeli civilian centers.

Fourth, Israel works on a daily basis to ensure that aid that is genuinely humanitarian in nature reaches the civilians of Gaza, who are effectively held hostage by a repressive regime which cares more about waging war on Israel than it does about improving the lives of its people. And finally, the organizers of the flotilla involved in today's incident, who ignored repeated warnings from the Israeli government intended to avoid violence, chose to refuse Israel's offer to ensure that the humanitarian aid on board these ships be routed to the people of Gaza after any non-humanitarian materials were removed. Sadly, this speaks volumes about the real nature of this flotilla.

Our community continues to hope that those who are so adamantly opposed to peace with Israel will join with those who desire peace, and will cease taking actions designed to frustrate the cause of peace in the Middle East to which all reasonable people aspire.

Nancy Kaufman, Executive Director, JCRC               Barry Shrage, President, CJP

Stuart Rossman, President, JCRC                           Brad Bloom, Chair, CJP

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San Francisco, May 31, 2010: The Jewish Community Relations Council, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community, issued the following statement in the wake of today’s terrible incident at sea:

The JCRC is profoundly saddened by the loss of life in this incident. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the dead and the wounded.

News is still filtering out as to what occurred on one of the six ships the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) boarded that were running the maritime blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. With growing evidence, it appears that there is much more to this incident than was initially reported.

  • We urge the media and the public to await the facts and not rush to judgment by assuming that this was a situation of the IDF attacking defenseless “peace activists.” There is evidence from video clips that when Israeli soldiers began to board the ship, one by one as they rappelled down a rope onto the deck, well-trained fighters armed with knives, axes, clubs, firebombs, concussion grenades and firearms attacked them. In the initial videos, Israeli soldiers are seen being clubbed and stabbed, and there is no evidence of any Israeli use of live ammunition until after this occurred.
  • Under international law, Israel has every right to act in its own defense, including by intercepting these ships. Israel had warned the flotilla repeatedly not to try to land in Gaza, but the flotilla leaders chose to ignore the warnings.
  • Israeli soldiers suffered serious wounds, including gunshot and stab wounds and at least one soldier, who was flung from an upper deck some 30 feet to a lower deck, suffered a severe concussion. At least one soldier jumped overboard to save his life.
  • There is evidence that the IDF soldiers opened fire because they legitimately feared for their lives from the shipboard fighters prepared for battle. Those attacking the Israeli soldiers were not peace activists and should not be permitted to hide behind that phrase.
  • Gaza flotilla spokesperson Greta Berlin acknowledged that the primary goal of the flotilla organizers was political, not humanitarian, telling AFP on May 27, “"This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking Israel's siege” on Gaza.
  • There are many serious questions about the role of the Turkish Islamist humanitarian aid group, the IHH, in provoking the violence. The IHH is anti-American, is a strong supporter of Hamas, has a presence in Gaza and is working closely with Hamas in coordinating aid flotillas designed to provoke confrontation.
  • The purpose of the blockade is to prevent rearmament of the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, a radical Islamist terrorist group that openly seeks the destruction of Israel. Hamas seized control of Gaza in a violent coup ousting the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, and launched scores of suicide attacks on Israeli civilians, killing hundreds over the years, and fired thousands of rockets into Israeli towns such as Sderot, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beer Sheba among others.

There is much more to be learned, and in the coming days more information will be forthcoming. We expect that the Israeli government will undertake a full investigation of this episode and the procedures its military employed and determine how best to exercise its right and duty to protect its population in similar situations in the future while minimizing the risk of loss of life. This tragedy emphasizes again the need for new momentum in the peace process leading to an end of the conflict.

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Reform Jewish Movement Saddened by Deaths in Flotilla Clash

Statement issued in response to today's violent confrontation between the Israeli Defense Forces and the activist flotilla of ships destined for Gaza.

NEW YORK, NY, May 31, 2010 - In response to today's violent confrontation between the Israeli Defense Forces and the activist flotilla of ships destined for Gaza, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We are deeply saddened by the events off the coast of Gaza.  We greatly regret the loss of life that resulted from the clashes between activists on the flotilla and Israeli forces.

We note that the Hamas government, which is committed to Israel's destruction and which has long been responsible for attacks against Israeli forces and civilian centers, cannot expect to have open borders.  We also note that humanitarian aid sent to Gaza in the past has often been used as a cover for delivering weapons and military supplies.  In light of these factors, Israel has responded as a sovereign nation must, by exercising her right to self-defense.

We urge the Government of the United States to work with Israel in addressing Israel's security concerns while examining as well the plight of those living in Gaza who require additional humanitarian assistance.  Recent events underscore the urgent need for real progress in addressing both sets of concerns. 


The Union for Reform Judaism is the congregational arm of North American Reform Judaism. The Union strives to create and sustain vibrant Jewish congregations as the center of Jewish life. With some 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 affiliated congregations, the Union supports the largest movement in modern Jewish life today.

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B'nai B'rith Deeply Troubled By Intentional Provocation of Israel

The provocation by a pro-Hamas group hiding behind a humanitarian mantle as its ships sailed toward Gaza on May 31 was tragic and avoidable. This latest attempt by pro-Palestinian terrorists to delegitimize Israel is an extreme example of the lengths anti-Israel groups will go to in order to destroy the Jewish state.

Israel had repeatedly requested that the humanitarian cargo carried by these ships be unloaded in the port town of Ashdod and then trucked to Gaza after a standard security check. Instead the Free Gaza Movement incited a confrontation with Israel.

“This so-called humanitarian mission did not have to end this way,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Israel gave this group every opportunity to deliver its goods in a manner safe for all involved. Instead the Free Gaza Movement chose confrontation.”

According to Palestinian Media Watch, the flotilla had whipped itself into a pre-war-like frenzy in the days leading up to the confrontation. Men on the ships reportedly shouted a popular chant asking for the death and defeat of Jews in battle. These supposedly non-violent humanitarian ships reportedly attacked Israeli commandos with weapons as they boarded.

Humanitarian aid does enter Gaza on a regular basis—some 15,000 tons a month pass through proper safety channels, even after Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade of Gaza three years ago after the terrorist group Hamas seized control of the region. By ignoring Israel’s request, this terror group showed its true intentions: That it was solely interested in confronting Israel.

“Hiding behind humanitarian claims, this flotilla accomplished exactly what it set out to do—to provoke and delegitimize Israel,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “These methods feed terror groups and public sentiment that seeks to destroy Israel’s international standing.”

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AJC Condemns "Free Gaza" Flotilla for Provoking Tragic Violence

May 31, 2010 - New York - AJC condemned the pro-Hamas "Free Gaza" movement and its supporters for deliberately provoking a violent confrontation with the Israeli Navy in its attempt to sail a flotilla of ships to Gaza. 

"This tragedy on the high seas could have been avoided, and we regret the loss of life,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The fact that the flotilla refused to cooperate with Israel’s repeated entreaties to unload their humanitarian cargo in Ashdod for delivery to Gaza proves that violent clashes are exactly what the international supporters of Hamas must have been seeking." 

Israel, under international law, has every right to intercept the ships, and had warned the flotilla to not attempt to land in Gaza, which is controlled since 2007 by the terrorist Hamas, a group that openly seeks the destruction of Israel, and seized control of Gaza in a violent coup ousting the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas. 

"The ironically-named 'Free Gaza' movement, which exists to bolster the despotic Hamas regime and its Muslim Brotherhood support base in Turkey and elsewhere, sailed this flotilla not to deliver humanitarian aid -- which Israel offered to deliver by land after a security check -- but to add an international dimension to the relentless campaign of Hamas against Israel's very existence," said Harris.

When Israeli commandos boarded the ships, they were met with violence from a supposedly non-violent group, including gunfire from automatic weapons and attacks with knives and axes. Several Israelis were wounded. As a result of the clash triggered by the pro-Hamas group, a number of them were killed or wounded in the confrontation.

As the flotilla sailed toward Gaza, Al Jazeera television showed pro-Hamas activists chanting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic songs, including the notorious words, "Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, the army of Muhammed will return." One Hamas supporter declared that the aim of the flotilla was either of two "good things...achieving martyrdom or reaching Gaza."

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ADL Calls Flotilla to Gaza A Deliberate Provocation Against Israel

Jerusalem, Israel, May 31, 2010…..The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed support for Israel's response to the deliberate provocation by a flotilla of ships seeking to break the blockade of Hamas Controlled Gaza.

ADL called the use of humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza "an elaborate sham" and "a pretext for ambushing and violently attacking Israeli military personnel "who were seeking to redirect the ships to a port in Israel where the aid could be off-loaded and delivered to Gaza by established land routes.

Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

Once again those who are unilaterally opposed to Israel's legitimate right to defend herself against an enemy which seeks its destruction have cynically used the innocent people of Gaza to further their goals. Instead of accepting Israel's offer of a non-confrontational way to assure that the aid on the ships bound for Gaza reached those in need, the sponsors of the flotilla deliberately disregarded all requests and warnings issued by Israel and knowing they would be boarded, acted to lure the Israeli military onto the ships where many were waiting with weapons to attack them.

It is deeply disturbing that the leaders of the flotilla and their sponsors were willing to engage in an elaborate sham as a pretext for ambushing and violently attacking Israeli military personnel. This unconscionable act should be condemned by the leaders of every nation who truly seek peace in the region.

We regret the loss of life and express our sincere hopes for the full recovery of all who were injured, particularly those in the Israeli military who were acting to protect their nation against another assault by those who wish to do harm to Israel.

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