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‘What will your excuse be?’: Gaza hostage’s mother urges world to help

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‘What will your excuse be?’: Gaza hostage’s mother urges world to help



Rachel Goldberg, whose 23-year old son Hersh Polin Goldberg was taken hostage from the Nova music festival on October 7, invoked Cain and Abel as well as the Holocaust in a fiery speech at the Israel rally last Tuesday in Washington, DC, advocating for more activism on behalf of the hostages.

Goldberg, who emigrated from Virginia to Israel with her family when Hersh was eight, has been one of the most vocal family members of hostages to speak out on the international stage on behalf of the hostages’ plight. A couple of weeks after the massacre, she was the focus of a 35-minute podcast episode of The New York Times‘ “The Daily,” in which she recounted in detail the events of the day, what they knew about her son’s condition, and stories of unity and love among the family members of the kidnapped and dead—who through their shared circumstances have become a community of their own.

Posters of Hersh—larger and more distinct than the typical “kidnapped” signs featuring different hostages—have been displayed in many places throughout Israel and the world. 

“Right now, how we are living is hard to describe to you,” Goldberg told the crowd of nearly 300,000 at the National Mall in Washington last Tuesday. “We hostage families have lived the last 39 days in slow motion torment. For 38 nights none of us have slept the real sleep of ‘the before.’ We all have third-degree burns on our souls. Our hearts are bruised and seeping with misery.

“But the real souls suffering are those of the hostages,” she continued. “And they want to ask everyone in the world —all the screamers, the indifferent, the experts, the academics, the knowledgeable, the passives, the perfectly outraged, the righteous, the indignant, the haters, the leaders, the lovers—every single one of us: Why? Why is the world accepting that 240 human beings from almost 30 countries have been stolen and buried alive?

“These children of God ranged in age from nine months to 87 years. They are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindu. Why are they being left underground in the dirt?” she asked.

“Abigail Mor Idan is three years old; she watched her parents get murdered in front of her and was then kidnapped, and she would like me to ask the world, why are you letting her stay in the dark in her trauma, buried in the Earth’s crust?” she asked. “And Joshua Mollel, who is a Tanzanian African graduate student studying agribusiness, would like for me to ask you why somehow his life actually doesn’t matter. The world must prepare what we will say to them.”

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Hersh Goldberg-Polin (credit: Courtesy)

Comparing the current situation to significant moments in history, Goldberg told of a Christian German who hid Jews during the Holocaust. When he was asked why he risked so much to do this, he answered: “at least I will know when I die and stand before God, He will not ask me what he asked Cain in the Bible: ‘Where were you when your brother’s blood cried out from the ground?’

“What the world needs to start thinking about today is, ‘what will your excuse be?'”





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International Peacekeepers Day: UNIFIL’s role questioned amid Israel-Hezbollah conflict

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International Peacekeepers Day: UNIFIL’s role questioned amid Israel-Hezbollah conflict



As international actors debate the legitimacy of Israel’s operation in Gaza, the war on Israel’s northern front rages on. Deaths from the Israel-Hezbollah conflict are continuing to rise, and over 100,000 Israelis are still evacuated from their homes in northern Israel, leading some to question the efficacy of the UN peacekeeper force meant to maintain security in southern Lebanon.

For more stories from The Media Line go to themedialine.org
After the Israeli army finished a military operation against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Lebanon in 1978, the UN established a temporary peacekeeping force known as the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The body was meant to restore international peace and security and to assist Lebanon’s government and army in restoring control of the border with Israel.

Israel’s 1978 invasion pushed the PLO north of the Litani River, about 18 miles from the border, in order to limit attacks against Israel. Despite the establishment of UNIFIL as a peacekeeper force, Israel returned to Lebanon in 1982. In 2006, another conflict broke out between Israel and Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite group with ties to Iran.

After 34 days of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, the UN brokered a cease-fire. Under the agreement, UN Security Council Resolution 1701, Israel and Hezbollah agreed to cease hostilities, and UNIFIL was tasked with ensuring that no armed groups other than itself and the Lebanese army operated south of the Litani River.

Today, UNIFIL comprises more than 10,000 soldiers from 49 nations. In addition to monitoring the border, the organization also provides humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by the exchange of fire in southern Lebanon.

UNIFIL peacekeepers from the Republic of Korea conduct a vehicle patrol in the vicinity of Tyre, south Lebanon, February 21, 2024. (credit: Pasqual GORRIZ/UN)

UNIFIL’s role pre-October 7

“Before Oct. 7, we were able to guarantee the overall stability of the southern border for years, and this was clearly a success,” Andrea Tenenti, spokesperson for the UNIFIL mission, told The Media Line. “We played an active role. In fact, we have helped the Lebanese army, starting from 2008, to regain control of the southern part of the country.”

Despite UNIFIL’s successes, Hezbollah has grown stronger in southern Lebanon since 2006, especially in the towns and villages along the 75-mile-long demarcation line, leading some to criticize UNIFIL as ineffective. Since Oct. 7, as constant clashes between Hezbollah and Israel have plagued southern Lebanon and northern Israel, those criticisms have grown louder.

“The UNIFIL mission started with very weak points and ended up being more a cease-fire resolution than a peacekeeping one,” Hanin Ghaddar, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, told The Media Line. She noted that the forces mostly report violations.

“They do not possess the tools and permission from the UN to confiscate weapons or even arrest those affiliated with” Hezbollah, she said.

Tenenti characterized UNIFIL as “the only ones who can mediate properly” amid the rising tensions, noting that the group had arranged meetings between the Israeli and Lebanese armies.

UNIFIL does not only monitor the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel—at times, it finds itself caught up in that contact.  Among other incidents, a car bomb killed six UNIFIL personnel in 2007, and in October, two mortar shells of undetermined origin hit a UNIFIL base, injuring one peacekeeper.

“Hezbollah targets UNIFIL because they do not want another actor in the south,” Ghaddar explained. “It is never an accident when UNIFIL personnel is targeted because the militant group aims to send a message both to the countries that serve in these forces and to the UN: do not interfere with our activities in the southern part of the country.”

Avraham Levine, a speaker at the northern Israel-based Alma Research and Education Center, told The Media Line that Hezbollah has more control over UNIFIL than UNIFIL does over Hezbollah.

“There are areas where UNIFIL personnel cannot go to, and if they end up by mistake in Hezbollah’s territory, they are attacked on the spot, their vehicles are burnt, and sometimes they are even shot down,” he said.

Levine also said that Hezbollah uses UNIFIL bases for its military purposes.

“Both in 2006 and in further operations that Israel carried against Hezbollah, the militants used UNIFIL compounds as shields for their operations in order to stop Israel’s counterattacks against a UN base,” he said.

One of the rockets launched at Israel by Hezbollah in December originated just 20 yards from a UNIFIL compound.

Levine said that the Lebanese army’s lack of action to rein in Hezbollah relates to the Shia sympathies of many of the soldiers as well as the interest in avoiding another Lebanese civil war.

Describing both UNIFIL and the Lebanese army as ineffective deterrents to Hezbollah, he said that Israel may have to invade Lebanon once again.

“We cannot risk another Oct. 7 in the northern part of Israel since [Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan] Nasrallah publicly claimed his goal to invade the Galilee. Even if this scenario is not pleasant for both sides, we may need to stop Hezbollah by entering Lebanon as we did in the past,” he said.

In the event that a full-scale war between Israel and Hezbollah does break out, UNIFIL may be a target, Levine said. “Maybe this may push to reconsider its mission in the first place,” he speculated.





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Israel’s High Court rejects petition of east Jerusalem family facing eviction

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Israel’s High Court rejects petition of east Jerusalem family facing eviction



Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected on Sunday a petition by an east Jerusalem family seeking to challenge a previous court decision – which ruled that the family must vacate their home in Silwan in favor of Jewish residents,  the Israeli NGO Peace Now reported. 

The Shhadeh family, from Batan al-Hawa in Silwan, challenged Judge Noam Solberg’s ruling, which rejected their appeal request. However, the Shhadeh family claimed that the court did not seek their response to the Jewish buyers’ applications in the case, leading to a flaw in the court’s decision-making process. Their voices were not heard before the decision – contrary to procedural rules. 

However, on Sunday, the High Court rejected the petition. 

Peace Now, an Israeli NGO working to promote a two-state solution, made a statement on the ruling, saying, “This is a political move, under the guise of legal proceedings, for the forcible displacement of a Palestinian community and its replacement by settlers in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem.” 

Palestinian children stand outside an apartment in the Silwan district of East Jerusalem in Jerusalem, May 15, 2024. (credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

“The responsibility to prevent the injustice lies with the government,” Peace Now added. “It must determine that if settlers have rights to properties from before 1948, they should be compensated for them, not to have the right to evict families who lawfully purchased the property and lived there for decades.”

Currently, all legal paths have reportedly been exhausted, and the family will need to evict its four-floor home by June 1. If they do not leave willingly, the Jewish buyers can file a procedure that would see police forcefully evict residents. 

Background on the case

In November 2022, the District Court rejected the Shhadeh family’s appeal and ruled that they must vacate their home. The family then filed a request to appeal to Israel’s High Court. Solberg, the judge who received the case, decided in 2023 to wait for the position of the Attorney General in a similar eviction case.

In the months that passed, while waiting for the Attorney General’s decision, the Jewish buyers’ lawyer submitted six requests to the court to expedite the decision and rule on the case. 

Following their sixth request in April 2024, Judge Solberg decided not to wait for the Attorney General’s decision and determined that the family must vacate their home. The family submitted a motion for reconsideration, which was also rejected by the judge. Last week, the family filed a petition to the High Court against the decision, which was rejected on Sunday. 

Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing group, was involved in the case and has filed numerous eviction lawsuits against some 84 Palestinian families in Silwan, Peace Now stated. Since 2015, 14 families have been evicted from Batan al-Hawa. 





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FM Katz severs connection between Spain’s representation in Israel and Palestinians

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FM Katz severs connection between Spain’s representation in Israel and Palestinians



Israel will bar the Spanish Consulate in Jerusalem from servicing West Bank Palestinians to protest Madrid’s decision this week to unilaterally recognize Palestinian statehood.

“I have decided to sever the connection between Spain’s representation in Israel and the Palestinians,” FM Israel Katz wrote in a post on X on Friday.

Spain has an embassy in Tel Aviv that services Israelis and a consulate located in east Jerusalem that acts as a de facto embassy to the Palestinian Authority.

Most countries similarly split their missions, with an embassy in the Tel Aviv area that services sovereign Israel and a second mission located either in east Jerusalem or Ramallah for West Bank Palestinians.

Flags of Spain, Norway and Ireland seen as Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations (illustrative) (credit: REUTERS, WIKIPEDIA COMMONS)

Decision came after recognition of Palestinian statehood

Katz wrote Friday that he would “prohibit the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem from providing services to Palestinians from the West Bank.”

He ordered the measure two days after Spain, Ireland and Norway announced they would unilaterally recognize Palestine as a state, a measure that officially goes into effect on May 28.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry immediately recalled its envoys from those three countries and severely reprimanded the ambassadors of those three countries at a meeting in Jerusalem.

Israel also plans to take additional measures against those three countries. Katz focused in particular on Spain because the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz used the phrase “from the River to the Sea Palestine will be free” in a video message this week.

The slogan which calls for the borders of a Palestinian state to stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, is seen as a call for the elimination of the state of Israel, which is located din that territory.

Katz wrote, “If this ignorant, hate-filled individual wants to understand what radical Islam truly seeks, she should study the 700 years of Islamic rule in Al-Andalus—today’s Spain.”





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