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U.S. Rabbi Who Visited Wounded Israeli Soldiers Says They Feel Maligned by American News Media

An American rabbi who just returned from Lebanon and Israel, where he visited close to 400 wounded Israeli soldiers, conveyed today what he said was a prevailing feeling among the Israel Defense Force that they are being unjustly maligned by the American news media. He also maintained there was a broad consensus in Israel in support of the government’s operation in Lebanon.

Speaking at a press conference of Americans for a Safe Israel, Rabbi Avraham Weiss, of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, N.Y. said that the question most frequently asked him by hospitalized soldiers with whom he visited was: “Why does the news media portray us like animals.”

He added that accounts related to him by the wounded men of Israeli casualties resulting from efforts to spare civilian lives refute the reports of IDF disregard for human life that Americans are hearing. “I heard many accounts of terrorists grabbing women and children, using them as shields, and then shooting an Israeli soldier who could not kill a child,” Weiss said.

Weiss, who is a member of the Executive Committee of Americans for a Safe Israel, also denied that the crisis in Lebanon has divided Israeli public opinion. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “The Israeli public is firmly behind the government and the army’s morale is very high.” He dismissed recent anti-war demonstrations in Israel as “insignificant,” calling the participants “a small group that is viewed in Israel literally as a treasonous group.”

CAMPAIGN TO AID MEDICAL CENTER IN BEIRUT

At a separate meeting this morning, Dr. Malcolm Kerr, president of the American University of Beirut, announced the launching of an emergency fund-raising campaign for that institution’s medical center, whose finances he said are being drained by the current crisis.

The hospital, which, according to Kerr, treated 1,100 casualties, predominantly civilians, last month alone, has run up a deficit of $1.1 million as a result of the flood of emergency treatment of patients who could not afford to pay for their medical care. He said he expected an additional flood of backlog cases, once the fighting ends and movement in Beirut becomes safe.

At the conference of Americans for a Safe Israel, Weiss told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he supports the efforts of American Jews to provide emergency relief to Lebanese civilians. But he said he was “outraged with American Jewish organizations for not having shown sufficient support for the Israeli soldiers and people during this action.”

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