News Digest — 3/1/22

Lapid: Israel Will Vote To Condemn Russia At UN

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced Monday (2/28) that Israel will vote to condemn Russia at the UN General Assembly, thus joining many countries that are expected to do so as well.

“Israel has been and will be on the right side of history,” he said.  “These are our values.  Our main ally has been and always will be the U.S.”

“But America also understands the complexity of the situation,” Lapid added, referring to Russia turning a blind eye to IDF attacks on Iranian bases in Syria.  

On Sunday (2/27), Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel was taking a “measured and responsible policy” with regard to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.

“Israel is carefully examining the significance of the sanctions on Russia.  We have established an inter-ministerial team that will examine the effects on the Israeli economy and our policies,” Lapid said in his announcement on Monday (2/28).

The foreign minister also discussed Israel’s humanitarian aid to Ukraine and clarified that rescue efforts are continuing.

“Four thousand Israelis have already left Ukraine with the help of the Foreign Ministry, but there are 180,000 eligible for the Law of Return.  They are a part of a wave of refugees that is growing every day.”

“Ukraine is an area of heavy fighting, but we are obligated to a sacrosanct commitment that we will do everything to not leave any Israeli or Jew behind.  This is why there is a Jewish state.  It’s our obligation.” Lapid said, while conceding that the task is becoming increasingly difficult.

“Communication networks are collapsing, and there is a significant amount of inaccurate information.  Israelis and Jews are a part of a wave of hundreds of thousands of refugees, and this wave grows daily,” he said.



Israeli Citizen, Father Of Two, Killed In Ukraine

A 40-year-old father of two was the first Israeli killed during the fighting in Ukraine.

Roman Brodsky was heading to the border with Moldova, from where he planned to return to Israel when shot to death, his father told Kan News.

Traveling in a convoy of five cars, he was hit in the crossfire between Ukrainian and Russian fighters.

Minutes after learning of his son’s death, Brodsky’s father talked to Magen David Adom about the difficulties of rescuing the body under fire and the dispute over where to bury it, Channel 12 reported.

“I do not know if I will get out of here alive,” he said.

“I was saddened to receive the bitter news about the death of Roman Brodsky, an Israeli citizen in Ukraine,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated.

“On behalf of all the citizens of Israel, I want to send my condolences to his wife, children, and family in Israel and in Ukraine.  We are continuing to do everything to help Israelis return home,” he added.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted their condolences.

“The Foreign Ministry will continue to assist the family as much as possible during this difficult time,” Lapid said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted “deep sorrow over the death of the Israeli citizen in Ukraine.  My heart goes out to his family in these difficult moments.”

“We are investing a lot of effort in rescuing Israelis and Jews seeking to leave Ukraine and we will continue to operate around the clock until the mission is complete,” added Gantz.

The Hatzalah emergency rescue organization in Ukraine is urging Israeli citizens to leave as soon as possible while warning them not to violate the military curfew.

UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet said Monday (2/28) that at least 102 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded, and more than 300 were wounded, with the number rising.

Approximately 200,000 Jews are still in Ukraine, the spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Ukraine said Monday (2/28).



Russia Recruits Syrian Youth To Fight Ukraine

Reports from Syria indicated to TPS that Russia has been recruiting Syrian volunteers to join the assault on Ukraine.

Russia is said to be offering $2,000 to each recruit as well as a promise to pay $5,000 to the family of anyone who is killed while fighting in Ukraine.

It seems that the war between Russia and Ukraine has put Syrians on both sides of the fence.

On the one hand, the Syrian rebels are demanding that Western countries equip them with quality weapons so they can “become Europe’s defense belt” against President Vladimir Putin’s aspirations to expand Russia’s influence in the Middle East.

On the other hand, young Syrian supporters of Assad’s regime are reportedly offering to serve with the Russian military now fighting in Ukraine.

There are also reports from Syria indicating that groups of rebel forces – those fighting against the regime of the Syrian dictator – have already begun the process of heading to Ukraine to join the war against the Russian invaders.

One Syrian businessman of Ukrainian descent is said to have announced plans to fund the establishment of a Ukrainian battalion consisting entirely of Syrian rebels.

A Syrian journalist who supports the rebellion against the Assad regime told TPS that “rebel forces who have despaired in recent years due to the West’s response to their conflict are now resurfacing in the face of the need in Europe to help Ukraine and send it advanced weapons in the face of Putin’s ambitions.”

Russia claims that Ukrainian fighters are now using tactics they learned from the rebel forces in Syria.



Israelis Rally To Ukraine Side While Government Takes More Cautious Approach

Thousands of Israelis took to the streets in large demonstrations on Saturday (2/26) and Sunday (2/27) evening in protest of Russian military action against Ukraine.  Many of them were Ukrainian and Russian-born Israelis.

Israel finds itself in a unique position, with large communities of both Ukrainians and Russians living in the country.  When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, approximately 1 million people immigrated to Israel, including hundreds of thousands from both Russia and Ukraine.

Immigration from both countries has continued throughout the years.  Currently approximately one in every five Israelis is of Russian or Ukrainian origin.

Municipalities across the country raised Ukrainian flags and signs in support of the country.  Yet, officially Israel is being more measured.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced Sunday (2/27) at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel would be sending 100 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including water purification kits and emergency supplies such as sleeping bags and tents, beginning Monday (2/28).

“We are conducting a measured and responsible policy,” Bennett told his cabinet ministers, perhaps signaling to Russia that Israel was taking careful consideration in its moves.

As fighting between Russia and Ukraine intensifies, Israel has adopted a cautious response.  Before Russian forces began their offensive on Ukraine, Israel voiced “concern” over the situation.  Once the invasion began, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned the attack as “a serious violation of international order.”

The complex position is largely due to geopolitical considerations.  Thus Israel has been careful to not clearly align itself with either side of the conflict.  While it has a strong alliance with the United States, Israel has a vested interest in good relations with Russia.

Israel and Russia both operate in Syria, requiring close military coordination.  The freedom of operation that Russia grants Israel there, is critical in the Jewish state’s fight against Iran and its proxy forces throughout the region.  A spat with the Kremlin would exact a heavy price.

Israel’s natural gas reserves and plans to export the gas to Europe could decrease European dependency on Russian gas, thus putting it at another potential clash with Moscow.

Putin’s use of World War II rhetoric to justify his actions toward Ukraine has also put Israel in an uncomfortable position, as the Jewish state is usually averse to the use of Holocaust memory in different settings.

Israel has offered to mediate between the warring sides, taking advantage of its unique position, but the move carries risk for Israel, with ramifications that may only become apparent in the distant future. 

Meanwhile, on Tuesday (1st) it was reported that the Netherlands and Germany will be sending anti-tank weapons systems to Ukraine manufactured by a subsidiary of Israel’s state-owned Rafael.



France’s Macron Speaks Out Against Claims Of Israeli Apartheid

Last weekend, the annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) was held.

Prime Minister Jean Castex was asked to deliver President Macron’s speech for him, as he had to cancel because of an important meeting.  Castex actually read Macron’s speech out loud to the crowd:

“Like you, I am concerned about the United Nations resolution on Jerusalem which continues to deliberately and against all evidence remove Jewish terminology from the Temple Mount.  You know of my attachment to Jerusalem, where I went several times before becoming  President.  Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people – I have never stopped saying that.  This in no way precludes recognizing and respecting the attachment of other religions to this city, and it was in this spirit that I, myself, walked through the Old City in 2020 and visited each of the holy Places.”

“Erasing Jerusalem’s Jewishness is unacceptable, just as it is unacceptable in the name of a just fight for freedom, that associations misuse historically shameful terms to describe the State of Israel… How dare we talk about apartheid in Israel, a state where Arab citizens are represented in government, in parliament, in leadership positions and in positions of responsibility?”

Castex added in the name of the president here: “As I [Macron] promised you, the definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance has been adopted by our Republic.” 

“The fight against antisemitism is European.  I said this last January 27 on the occasion of the International Day delivered to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust.  France has chosen to make the fight against racism and anti-Semitism one of its major priorities for its Presidency of the Union.  France, which hosts the largest Jewish community in Europe, must show the way,” said Castex, as he finished the speech.

The CRIF, Representative Council of French Institutions, is an umbrella organization comprising many groups representing the interests of French Jews.