Student group cites frustration with "one-sided testimonies" at rabbi's parley over Cast Lead.
By ABE SELIG
A group of activists from the student organization Im Tirtzu held a demonstration outside a Rabbis for Human Rights conference at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem on Wednesday. The conference is focusing on the conduct of IDF combat soldiers during last January's Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.
Holding up signs that decried "Blood libels against IDF soldiers for the sake of European cash," the activists heckled participants arriving at the conference and explained to curious passersby that they were unnerved by the one-sided testimonies being given inside the conference and the apparent lack of factual data backing up the claims.
"What bothers me is that the people in there are making accusations about IDF soldiers without giving names, without giving locations of the alleged events," Amir Levy, an officer in the reserves who served in Operation Defensive Shield, the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead, told The Jerusalem Post.
"They are making these accusations, but they're making them without facts," he continued. "And that implicates all of us; it implicates the IDF as a whole. If there were people that committed crimes, then provide their names, take them to court. But to hold a conference with European financial support is only giving fodder to the foreign press, who will undoubtedly write all kinds of stories based on these allegations."
Some funding for the RHR conference and its Internet site, gazawar.co.il, is provided by Trocaire, an Irish Catholic organization opposed to Israel's military operations in Gaza. Protesters on Wednesday also alleged that a Spanish government official had donated a significant amount of funding for the conference.
"I couldn't take it anymore," said an elderly woman who had walked out of the conference and passed by the gathering of protesters. "It's anti-Semitism in there. They showed us a video of Palestinians bashing the IDF and bashing Israel. Is that such a new phenomenon?"
Protesters were additionally caught off guard when a man exiting the building approached them, identifying himself as Rabbi Chaim Cohen - a participant from the conference and a member of RHR.
"I want to tell you that what's going on in there is unfair," Rabbi Cohen told the crowd. "There is bribery going on, and I ask you to come inside, quietly, and respectfully ask them who is funding this conference. Ask them questions about this."
But once inside the conference, an Im Tirtzu member who raised the question was cut off by panelists. "We're not here to discuss these things," he was told at first.
"We receive our funding from a variety of sources and we're not ashamed of it," another panelist told the protester. "We began this project with our own money, but we need funds from the outside to keep it going."
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