Statement from Arnie Fielkow: “War in Israel”

Arnie D. Fielkow Former New Orleans City Council President and Former CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans

The Jewish world, both here in New Orleans and around the globe, wakes up to a very different reality today. As of this writing, more than 700 Israelis have died, more than 1500 have been injured, and reportedly over 100 innocent civilians have been brutally kidnapped and taken hostage into the terrorist territory of Gaza. All of these numbers will assuredly rise in the coming days, as will the number of deaths and injuries inevitably to be faced by the Palestinian population as Israel responds to the weekend of terror.

I have heard commentators call the events of the weekend Israel’s 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. Some have rightfully characterized it as the worst event in Jewish History since the Holocaust. But for me, it brings back those sickening moments of 1972 in Munich when innocent Israeli Olympians were pulled from their rooms by Palestinian terrorists and eventually murdered at the Munich airport. I am forever haunted by the words of the great Jim McKay who informed a global audience that “They’re all gone, They’re all gone”. I am also reminded of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane to Entebbe, Uganda by Palestinian terrorists, where Jewish passengers (eventually freed) were separated simply because of their religion.

I spent the entire weekend crying, with alternating emotions of anger, disbelief and sadness. There are obviously many questions which need to be answered such as how such a security breach could have happened, the role of Iran, and how will Israel, the United States, and the international community respond. Israel has experienced many military conflicts with terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others, but I don’t think anyone could have ever projected the level of cruelty and evil seen over the weekend.

Undoubtedly, some in the media will point fingers at Israel, condemn it when it responds to Hamas’ actions, or try to justify everything based upon Israeli policies and politics. But people of good conscious and humanity need to stand up and say NO! Because what makes this weekend different and unprecedented is the animalistic conduct of the Palestinian terrorists who intentionally took hostage innocent women, children, seniors, and even Holocaust survivors. Terrorists who shot, cut throats, and viciously murdered hundreds of innocent youth and teenagers (both Israelis and Americans) at a Pro-Peace Music Festival, or who dragged young children from their homes so as to create human shields against future Israeli response. How could one not cry in hearing the emotional pleas of fathers and mothers asking that their innocent children be returned? My wife and I have 5 children and all I could think about over the weekend was that these murder victims and hostages could easily have been my own kids targeted for only one reason: they are Jewish.

I fear for the worst in the coming days as thousands of lives will likely be lost. I have compassion for both the innocent Israeli and Palestinian populations, but emotionally my priority today is the safe return of the hostages. I do not know how, or if, this can be accomplished but until it does, Israel is fully justified in taking whatever action is needed to accomplish the task. At the end of the day, Hamas and terrorist groups like it care little about the Palestinian population they purport to govern and sadly, by virtue of their actions, have likely signed a death sentence for their own civilians. How sad for all parties that this is where we are in 2023!

I ask all New Orleanians to come together in unity and partnership, as your Jewish brethren are today very much hurting. I have tried to live my entire life bringing people together and rejecting all forms of hate, including antisemistism and racism. If there was ever a moment for people to come together, put an arm around each other, and collectively condemn evil, that time is now. Let us all hope and pray that the cruelty seen this weekend will be defeated, and that both Israelis and Palestinians can one day live with peace and prosperity!

In Solidarity and Unity!
Arnie D. Fielkow

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