Monday, March 21, 2005

Column: Gaza Bound

I am writing this column as I prepare to join Assemblyman Dov Hikind and a group of 50 American Jews who will arrive in Israel on March 14 and head straight to Gush Katif in Gaza to make a show of support for the Jews there and to protest the "disengagement" plan of Ariel Sharon. Joining the three day mission will be Rabbis, a Supreme Court Judge, a Civil Court Judge, an Administrative Law Judge, a psychologist, a gastroenterologist, builders, businessmen, industry leaders, mothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers -- including my own mother, Helen Freedman, executive director of Americans for a Safe Israel.

First elected to office in 1982, Dov Hikind is now serving his 9th term as the representative for the 48th Assembly District. The district includes Boro Park, Dyker Heights, Kensington and a portion of Flatbush.

Hikind’s activism on behalf of the Jewish community includes his 1992 public denouncement of Jerry Brown's choice of Jesse Jackson as running mate for the presidency of the United States, saying that Jackson’s connections with anti-Semites such as Louis Farrakhan made him completely objectionable to Jewish voters. Media coverage of Hikind’s remarks was followed by a loss for Brown in the New York primary, contributing significantly to his withdrawal.

Following the Crown Heights riots in1991, Hikind called for an independent investigation into the breakdown of the chain of command at City Hall and a federal civil rights investigation into the murder Yankel Rosenbaum. Hikind’s perseverance paid off in 1997, when a federal court found two individuals guilty of violating Yankel Rosenbaum's civil rights.

In a previous act of solidarity with Israeli’s in danger, Hikind arrived in Israel at the onset of the Gulf War, where wearing a gas-mask he witnessed the first SCUD bombardments.

Now, when Israelis face the imminent danger of being evacuated from their homes, Hikind is on his way to Israel.

Upon arrival there will be a press conference in the airport. Hikind will most likely have to deal with some very unfriendly questions.

Knesset member Yossi Sarid (Meretz/Yahad) has already said the following about the mission:

"We have enough crazy people in Israel ... We don't need any more crazies, even if they are Congressmen." Additionaly, Eitan Cabel (Labor) called the project "chutzpah" and said that the Americans come to Israel to live instead of "interfering" in internal Israeli decisions.

These comments from the Left surely define the tone that will make up the vast majority of the questions from the Israeli press -- and all of the questions asked by the state controlled television and radio stations. I think it will likely be the most distasteful part of the trip -- but one that will hopefully be sweetened by a warm and large reception at the airport and the very, very, warm welcome of the residents of Gush Katif will be incredibly uplifting upon arriving in their communities.

From the soldiers serving in Gaza that the group encounters, I would expect a mixed response but one where the positive overwhelms the negative. If police are present I would expect that they will be distant and cold -- reflecting the government’s fear that literally thousands of Jews and Christians will be coming on similar missions in the coming weeks and months.

Arutz 7 reports that as this trip begins, "a Norwegian organization called Friends of Gaza in Norway is concluding a two-day campaign to distribute flowers to each and every Jewish family in Gush Katif. Attached to each bouquet is a letter reading, "Having come from Norway which, together with an irresponsible Israeli leadership, brought upon you the catastrophe of the Oslo Accords, we pray that the Israeli Government will not err once again."

The support that the Jews of Gaza receive over the course of the near future -- if it swells to great numbers -- could potentially make a great difference. Ariel Sharon talks tough and the polls boast of support for his plan but his government stands on shaky ground ahead of the March 31 deadline for the approval of his budget -- where he does not yet have a majority -- and these missions could help to bring him and his plans down.

Next week I will share with you my observations from the trip. See you then.


Blogger Cosmic X said...

Looking forward to your post from Gush Katif!

9:40 AM  
Blogger Barry Freedman said...

Much thanks. It will up in a few days. Have a great Purim!

11:23 PM  

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