Thousands rally in support of Israel in Paris

(JTA) — Between 5,000 and 7,000 people gathered at the Israel Embassy in Paris for a mass pro-Israel demonstration, French media reported.

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The pro-Israel demonstration, one of the largest held in Europe since Israel launched operation Pillar of Defense against Hamas on Nov. 14, was organized by the umbrella group representing Jewish communities, CRIF. The message the protesters were meant to convey, CRIF said in a statement, was that no analogy can be made “between the State of Israel, which attempts to spare civilians through accurate strikes, and Hamas which puts civilians on the front lines.”

The crowd “waved a multitude of Israeli flags and chanted slogans accusing Hamas of murder and ‘Israel will live on, Israel will win’ as well as songs in Hebrew, according to the French daily L’express. CRIF, the paper said, counted 5,000 to 7,000 demonstrators, but French police said only 3,000 were present.

Chief Rabbi of France Gilles Bernheim, also was present and stated his “deep and total solidarity with the State of Israel in these painful and trying times.”

Richard Prasquier, the president of CRIF, thanked a group of young French Jews who cancelled their own support rally scheduled for Nov. 22, which they organized on Facebook. This, he said, helped keep a “united line” and prevented splitting up those who wanted to show support for Israel during its operation against Hamas.

In the Netherlands, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel – a pro-Israel NGO — organized a lecture on the ballistic threats facing Israel to increase awareness to the reasons for Israel’s strikes in Gaza. Dr. Amichai Magen of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya is spoke Tuesday in Amsterdam before more than 200 Jews and non-Jews at the Liberal Synagogue.

At the same time, 500 people attended a concert by the Israel Defense Forces orchestra in The Hague which was organized by Christians for Israel. Many came wearing Israeli flags.

Meanwhile, the South African Minister of International Relations, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on Tuesday condemned Israel for ‘’the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli government, which has resulted in a significant number of deaths and injuries on both sides, particularly among Palestinian civilians, including children’.’

Mashabana, at a news conference at the Parliament in Cape Town, said that the Israeli decision to call up 75,000 reservists is an ‘’ominous development,’’ and implored the Israeli government not to embark on a large-scale ground assault, which she qualified as a ‘’fatal step…which will not only result in the inevitable loss of a large number of both Palestinian and Israelis lives – but also further inflame sentiments in an already volatile region’.’ Mashabana called on both sides to stop the violence and to negotiate.

It is the first official reaction of the South African government to the Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense. Over the weekend the main South African workers union, Cosatu, published a statement condemning Israel, and calling on the government to expel the Israeli ambassador from the country. The communist party also published a statement supporting the Palestinians.

Pro-Palestinians organizations in South Africa have called over recent days for pickets against Israel. Forums such as Open Shuhada Street and the Free Palestine Association demanded publically to sever ties with Israel and to recall the South African ambassador from Tel Aviv. They also called for a full boycott on Israel.

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