Israel Consul General Ofir Akunis On a float in the Israel Day Parade (video snippet)

Israeli Consul in New York, Ofir Akunis, delivered a compelling speech at the Arutz Sheva-Israel National News Jerusalem Conference in New York City, addressing the digital campaign against Israel and the critical issue of hostage release. His speech came at a time of heightened tension and global discourse surrounding Israel and its security challenges.

Call for Hostage Release

Akunis passionately urged Hamas to release the hostages taken on October 7: "We say to Hamas, 'Let my people go.' It is our responsibility and commitment to bring them home, and we will do it." This statement underscored Israel's unwavering dedication to ensuring the safe return of its citizens.

Significance of Support for Israel

Reflecting on a recent parade, Akunis highlighted the importance of global support for Israel: "Just hours after the parade, we showed the great importance of supporting the State of Israel. We marched today, listen carefully, we marched today here in New York as proud Jews, proud Zionists, and proud Israelis! Israeli flags were flown proudly and powerfully along Fifth Avenue. We showed everyone that the people of Israel are alive, and we will always live."

Addressing the Conflict and Palestinian Statehood

Akunis addressed the international community's stance on the conflict and the prospect of a Palestinian state: "We occasionally hear from the international community regarding the war in Gaza. What is the basic fact about October 7? We did not start the fire. Recently, some countries have declared their intention to recognize a Palestinian state; this is a reward for Hamas. Eighty percent of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria continue to support the massacre of October 7. I ask you from here in New York, when was the last time you heard Mahmoud Abbas condemn the October 7 massacre? Never. He has never done it. Any Palestinian state with Hamas would be a terrorist state that would repeat the events of October 7 over and over."

Response to the "All Eyes on Rafah" Campaign

Akunis also responded to the "All Eyes on Rafah" campaign, emphasizing the need to shift focus to the terrorists: "In recent days, I have heard a ridiculous slogan, 'All eyes on Rafah.' We need to respond to them: 'All eyes on you, terrorists!' I want to say something very important to the American people, with your permission, directly from here. Your September 11 is our October 7."

Salute To Israel Parade

Akunis' remarks coincided with the Salute To Israel Parade on Fifth Avenue in New York. Despite the rise in anti-Israel sentiment in the city, the organizers proceeded with the parade, demonstrating resilience and solidarity. During the event, an anti-Israel protester, masked and carrying a Palestinian Authority flag, attempted to disrupt the parade with a sign reading, "Kill hostages now."

Families of Hostages Lead the Parade

This year's parade was notably led by the families of around 250 individuals taken hostage by Hamas and other terrorists on October 7. The Red Cross has been denied access to the hostages, leaving their status uncertain. Most of the hostages taken were civilians, including women and children. Despite agreements during the November 2023 prisoner swap deal, fifteen civilian women and two children remain captive in Gaza. Hamas has yet to commit to releasing even 33 of the over 120 hostages still held in Gaza in any proposed prisoner swap deal.

Akunis' speech and the parade underscored the ongoing challenges and the resilience of the Israeli people in the face of adversity, highlighting the global call for justice and the release of innocent hostages.

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