American Jewish leaders have condemned a physical attack on Shulamit Aloni, Israel’s communications minister. The attack occurred Sunday morning at a breakfast prior to New York’s Salute to Israel Parade.
Aloni was speaking before an audience of 500 at the Hilton Hotel here when one of the guests charged her on the stage and punched her in the stomach, sources said.
The attacker, who was identified as Jack Avital, is known for his support of the Israeli right wing.
Ushers forcibly removed Avital from the stage, while others came to Aloni’s aid, including Gad Ya’acobi, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, news reports said. The minister continued to speak after the attack, concluding her statements shortly afterward.
She has since seen a doctor and was resting at the Regency Hotel here, her secretary said.
A leader of the left-wing Meretz bloc, which is part of the governing coalition, Aloni has a history of controversial public speeches and media interviews. Some view her as being anti-Orthodox and anti-religion.
Organizers of the breakfast were concerned about hecklers, and had earlier discouraged Aloni from giving a speech, she told Israel Television.
“But in the end, I decided that it was important that I speak, because you cannot give in to these kinds of people,” Aloni said.
The Israeli ambassador to Washington, Itamar Rabinovich, who had spoken before Aloni, was interrupted with boos and shouting at the event.
No arrests were made and the parade continued as planned.
The attack eclipsed the parade for some, particularly among those who had attended the breakfast.
“There is no place for violence.” A parade organizer said.
Malcolm Hoenlein and Lester Pollack, executive vice chairman and chairman, respectively, of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, said in a statement: “We are outraged and disgusted by the attack on Minister Aloni at the Salute to Israel Parade breakfast.
“Such action has no place in our community and cannot and will not be tolerated. There is no justification for physical assault or personal invective and we will not allow these t characterize discussions in our community, even when there are serious disagreements,” said the two leaders, both of whom attended the breakfast.
In Israel, Moshe Katsav, faction leader of the opposition Likud Party, condemned the attack.
Katsav said in a statement that a forum for reasonable political argument exists, adding that violence only hurts the cause a person is trying to help.