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Pulse of Israel conference tackles Jewish identity, independence

A wide range of speakers addressed topics from rising antisemitism to the "day after" in Gaza to the Iranian threat, and how Israelis and Jews around the world can stand up to the lies being hurled at them.

Israeli flag. Credit: Ri-Ya/Pixabay.
Israeli flag. Credit: Ri-Ya/Pixabay.

Pulse of Israel hosted its second annual conference on Sunday evening, in a night dedicated to finding solutions to problems facing Israel and achieving “independence” after the war.

“We need to be who we are in the deepest sense,” said Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli in answer to a question by Pulse of Israel founder and CEO Avi Abelow about what Israel’s role should be in the world. Recounting a story he was told about the Nazis, “the ultimate evil,” Chikli said, “Ultimate evil declared Judaism as its enemy…We should be proud to be the enemies of pure evil, because we represent the opposite of it. To seek goodness and the truth.”

Chikli’s remarks were part of a larger discussion touched on by most of the speakers, including JNS senior contributing editor Caroline B. Glick, about the “red-green alliance of Marxists and Islamists” and its acts of upheaval in the world today.

“The core of the Jewish people is the Ten Commandments, universal freedom, our connection to our homeland,” said Chikli. “We need to give up on the notion that we are a normal nation—we are not,” he added.

Drawing the connection to his role in the government, he said this means ensuring Diaspora Jews learn Torah and understand the history and stories of the Jewish people, and most important: “They need to know Hebrew.”

Another member of the coalition, Constitutional Law and Justice Committee chairman MK Simcha Rothman of the Religious Zionist Party discussed Israel’s judicial system and how it is hampering the Israel Defense Forces’ ability to achieve victory in the war against Hamas.

Rothman lamented the fact that while in the past—including during the 2011 Shalit prisoner exchange deal—Israel’s High Court of Justice took the position that it was not their place to legislate, today it is involving itself in every aspect of the war.

“Israel’s justice system lost its sense of justice,” he said. “The court and its legal advisers are actively limiting the way the IDF fights in the war,” Rothman said. He also pointed to pending cases in which it may force the government to hand over the bodies of dead terrorists to Hamas while Israeli hostages—dead and alive—remain in captivity.

Rothman also pointed to the potential arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant from the International Criminal Court as evidence of failed policy by the High Court.

The charges against Netanyahu and Gallant will include “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies [and] deliberately targeting civilians in conflict,” ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan told CNN‘s Christiane Amanpour in May.

Rothman, himself a former lawyer, said that during last year’s protests in Israel against his judicial reform initiative, its opponents argued that the reforms would eliminate the “legal Iron Dome” protecting Israel from such actions by the ICC. “It did not work,” he said.

The wide-ranging conversation also addressed the “day after” the war in Gaza.

IDF Brig. Gen. (Res.) Amir Avivi, the founder and chairman of the Israel Defense and Security Forum, outlined various approaches to security for Israel, not only in Gaza but also in Judea and Samaria. The only feasible one, he said via video message, was total Israeli military and civilian control.

It’s not just the “IDF controlling Judea and Samaria, it’s the town, the cars, the people—also in the Negev and the Galilee” that is keeping those areas under Israeli sovereignty, he said.

In a short video message to the audience, U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson declared his commitment “to speak clearly about opposition to antisemitism” and spoke about his recent “life-changing” trip to Israel.

JNS CEO Alex Traiman sat down with Len Khodorkovsky, current senior adviser to the chairman of the Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue, for an in-depth discussion on the Iranian threat and the implications of the upcoming U.S. election.

“Hamas is Iran. Hezbollah is Iran. Houthis are Iran,” said Kodorkovsky, describing how the Islamic state is overseeing the largest state-sponsored terror apparatus in the world today. “The United States would be wise to have a different strategy on Iran,” he added.

Regime change should be on the table, as only an alternative government in Iran could bring about peace in the region, he said.

Israel, said Kodorkovsky, “finds itself in the most perplexing situations, that would make King Solomon jealous,” but ultimately must act in its own interest.

“In the end, it’s not the call of the U.S. government [to take care of the Iranian threat], it’s the Israeli government,” he said.

Turning to the audience, Khodorkovsky asked, “Do the Israeli people want to solve this problem?”

With regard to the nuclear threat, he asked the same question, again saying the Israeli government must make the decisions.

“America is not going to solve this for you,” he said.

Tehran is reportedly set to triple or possibly quadruple its uranium enrichment capacity at Fordow, one of the country’s most secretive nuclear facilities, where it is installing some 1,400 advanced IR-6 centrifuges. Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran had committed not to install or operate those centrifuges, and not to use Fordow for enrichment purposes. 

Tehran’s decision to do so was possibly an answer to the censure of the Islamic Republic on June 5 by the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors, which demanded it comply with the IAEA and reinstate inspections. The effort was led by the so-called E3 of the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

Glick touched on this, speaking about how with all relationships, including with the United States, the degree of friendliness depends on who is in power. “Israel needs to stop romanticizing international affairs” and recognize that other countries will act in their own best interest, and to not take it personally, she said.

Via video, Knesset member Dan Illouz of the Likud Party emphasized this, saying that Israel must stand strong diplomatically and defeat Hamas to prosper in the future. “We are at a crossroads,” he said.

Also at the conference, comedian Michael Rapaport, who has been an outspoken supporter of Israel and the Jewish people since the war broke out on Oct. 7, was given the “Leadership of Zion Award.”

“I love this country. I respect this community,” said Rapaport, adding he feels at home in Israel and prays daily for the hostages, the soldiers, the citizens and the displaced of Israel.

Rapaport touched on the growing antisemitism in New York, saying it makes him sad. However, he added, “Never doubt your Judaism…it did not matter what kind of Jew you are, on Oct. 7 you were treated as a Jew.”

Speaking with JNS on the sidelines of the summit, Rapaport said that the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, and the wave of antisemitism that it triggered across the United States, were deeply personal for him and enhanced his connection with Judaism.

“How could I not take it [Oct. 7] personal?” he said. “How could you not take it personal that, you know, immediately after that people were celebrating it? How could you not take it personally immediately after the celebrations that people were ripping down posters of the hostages?” 

Finally, Shay Kallach, a former fighter pilot and founder of Netzach Israel movement, gave a lecture on the meaning of the Jewish people returning to their homeland after 2,000 years. “Why have we returned to Zion…to be a light unto nations, to lead the world,” he said.

To accomplish this, “We are in the process of rediscovering our identity,” he added.

Pulse of Israel is a media company that seeks to tell the true story of Israel.

“We are about providing the not politically correct but correct information for Jews and non-Jews around the world, that we are on the right side of history,” Abelow told JNS.

“It’s hard when people make us out to be evil, even though we are the good fighting that evil,” he said.

“This conference is to teach proud Jewish identity so we can be on the offense be able to stand up against lies,” he concluded.

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