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Thursday, May 20, 2004

As is written,
"For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this . . . ."
Esther 4, 14

Dear Supporter of Israel,

I write to you on behalf of a 20 year-old Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer who is facing long years in prison on trumped-up charges.

In the course of IDF combat operations against Palestinian terrorists last year, the young officer was alleged to have shot a British anti-Israel militant who was aiding the Palestinians. The IDF conducted a thorough investigation, and ruled that the officer acted correctly and lawfully. However, following an outrageous campaign of pressure, intimidation and diplomatic threats by the British government, the officer was arrested and falsely charged with homicide. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.

For decades, Israeli soldiers have risked and given their lives to defend the Jewish homeland. Now, you have the opportunity - and the privilege and duty - of defending an Israeli soldier.

Since the outbreak of the current round of Palestinian violence in September 2000, Israeli troops have conducted thousands of counter-terrorism operations in the towns and villages of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, in the heart of hostile and dangerous Palestinian population centers.

The IDF's ability to operate effectively in these areas against the Palestinian terrorists has been systematically and intentionally obstructed by groups of foreign volunteers, who are used by Arafat and the Palestinian Authority as ''human shields''.

The most dangerous of these groups is the Palestinian-financed International Solidarity Movement(ISM). The ISM recruits anti-Israel radicals, primarily from Europe, and sends them to Judea, Samaria and Gaza to disrupt Israeli military operations. The presence of these foreign civilians in the midst of the Palestinian population obstructs the IDF's ability to fight Palestinian terrorists. By interfering with Israeli counter-terrorism operations, the ISM directly endangers the lives of Israeli civilians.

In April 2003, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that:
"ISM members take an active part in illegal and violent actions against IDF soldiers. At times, their activity in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip is under the auspices of Palestinian terrorist organizations."

ISM encourages its members to enter Israel on fraudulent visa applications and illegally cross into the territories

ISM demonstrators regularly disrupt IDF patrols in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

ISM members have been arrested vandalizing and destroying Israeli security fences and equipment

On March 27, 2003 fugitive Islamic Jihad terrorist, Shadi Sukiya, was arrested in a house in Jenin rented by the ISM

On April 30, 2003, two British Muslims blew themselves up at a popular Tel Aviv nightspot, Mike's Place, killing three and injuring fifty. The terrorist had spent the weeks before the attack living with the ISM in Gaza.
On April 11, 2003, a group of ISM operatives were interfering with IDF operations in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip. Tom Hurndall, an ISM member from England, was among a group of ISM and other foreign militants who had taken up positions among a mob of Palestinians who had illegally congregated in a closed military zone. Hurndall was allegedly shot and injured when the mob resisted an IDF operation to clear the zone.

After being evacuated by the IDF to an Israeli hospital for treatment, Hurndall was flown by his parents to a London medical facility for further care. Nine months later, on January 13, 2004 he died of pneumonia in the London hospital.

At the time of the incident a young Israeli officer was questioned about the shooting. The IDF found no misconduct or breach of regulations regarding the use of live fire.

However, under furious pressure from the British government and a sophisticated propaganda campaign launched by Hurndall's parents, and despite the finding by the IDF that the officer had acted correctly, cowed Israeli prosecutors did an about-face and charged the officer with ''intent to cause injury.'' After Hurndall died of pneumonia, the charge was amended to ''homicide.'' The young IDF officer, 20 years old, now faces the prospect of life in prison.

Not surprisingly, the case against the IDF officer has become a cause celebre for Israel's opponents in England. Britain's anti-Israeli press has tried to depict Hurndall as an innocent volunteer, who died trying to save Palestinians from Israeli military aggression. They do not question what Hurndall was doing in Gaza in the first place, nor why he was interfering with an IDF operation in Rafah.

Hurndall's family has repeatedly flown to Israel to pursue the case, and has retained radical left-wing attorneys to advise them on ensuring that the soldier receives the maximum penalty. They are carrying out a loud public campaign to convict the officer. Representatives of the British Embassy attend all the court hearings, as a crude but effective means of intimidating and influencing the judges.

And who in the Jewish community is standing up to defend this Israeli soldier?

The Jewish People has a long-standing tradition of not abandoning its soldiers on the battlefield. We must not allow this IDF officer to be turned into a scapegoat, his young life thrown away to appease the British Foreign Office.

Shurat HaDin has organized a campaign to assist in his legal defense.

Only a strong IDF can safeguard the Jewish State. If you care about Israel's future and security then you must not remain silent while our soldiers are falsely prosecuted and imprisoned. We must give every soldier serving in the IDF the solidarity and support he deserves.

I call upon you to join in the legal defense campaign being organized by Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center on behalf of this IDF officer. This is your opportunity to defend a defender of the Jewish people.


Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Esq.