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Speaking for Israel

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Moshe Naimi suffered a horrible loss only weeks before he arrived in Rochester May 2 to speak at a fundraiser sponsored by the Jewish Community Federation. His mother, Furuk Naimi, was killed with 27 others March 27 when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up a Passover Seder in Netanya, Israel. What’s more, Moshe’s father, Nusrat Naimi, was wounded in the attack. The Naimi family originally came from Iran; Moshe now lives and works in northern New Jersey.

At an afternoon news conference, Moshe Naimi was clearly still in mourning yet passionate and composed. He said he’d long hoped Israelis and Palestinians alike would profit from economic development. “I’m amazed what Israelis have done with their country, and I hoped that could spread through the region,” he said. “Everybody wants a better life, and a better life for their kids,” he added.

Today, Naimi said, the Israeli economy has come to a standstill. Violence directed against Israelis, he said, has exacted “a high cost” beyond the personal and emotional. For example, he said, tourism is almost non-existent now.

We asked Naimi if, through his grief, he could see a way forward to peace. Specifically, we raised the question of the Saudi peace plan now on the table. This plan, descending from UN resolution 242, offers “normal” relations in exchange for Israeli acceptance of the pre-1967 borders between Israel and a new Palestinian state. “I hope that can happen,” said Naimi, adding a caveat: In Saudi Arabia, he charged, kids are being taught to kill people on the basis of religion.

Naimi also said that --- at least before the Netanya attack --- his father favored removing Israeli settlements from Palestinian lands in the cause of peace. However, he continued, “the issue is not how much land one side has; it’s about living one’s life in peace.” He maintained that at Camp David, the Palestinians were offered the requisite land. “If you want to negotiate, you don’t do it with the barrel of a gun… or send a 15 or 16 year old you have brainwashed to blow themselves up.”

In the end, Naimi took a harder line on the defense of Israel: “Whatever may be done,” he said, “we will do it.”

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