Canadian security forum honors ‘the people of Israel’ following deadly Hamas attack

Halifax International Security Forum presents award to those ‘who have demonstrated uncommon leadership in pursuit of human justice’; prize accepted by rep of Brothers in Arms

Israelis stand for a minute of silence in Tel Aviv on November 7, 2023, to remember the victims of the October 7 Hamas massacre last month. (Photo by Albert Bannon, made available by the Brothers and Sisters in Arms protest group)
Israelis stand for a minute of silence in Tel Aviv on November 7, 2023, to remember the victims of the October 7 Hamas massacre last month. (Photo by Albert Bannon, made available by the Brothers and Sisters in Arms protest group)

A Canadian security forum on Saturday presented an award to the people of Israel for 75 years of democracy, following the shock Hamas incursion into the country on October 7 that left some 1,200 people dead and 240 abducted.

The Halifax International Security Forum presents the award annually in honor of US Sen. John McCain, who died in 2018, to “individuals from any country who have demonstrated uncommon leadership in the pursuit of human justice.”

The forum attracts military officials, United States senators, diplomats and scholars.

“On the 75th anniversary of Israel’s creation, and in the aftermath of the October 7 attack that resulted in the greatest loss of life to the Jewish people since the Holocaust, it is fitting to present an award that bears Senator McCain’s name to: The People of Israel,” the statement read.

McCain was a regular at the forum and his wife, Cindy, was present this year and sat in the front row.

Peter Van Praagh, president of the Halifax International Security Forum, presented the award to Lital Leshem, a representative of Brothers in Arms. The group started as a protest movement of military veterans who opposed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul, but it has transformed itself into the largest nongovernmental aid agency in Israel to help those affected by the Israel-Hamas war.

It now organizes volunteer activities to assist victims and families who were evacuated from border communities. It provides counseling and transportation and arranges for volunteers to work on farms where the workers were killed or kidnapped or went back to their home countries.

Leshem said she was honored to accept the award on behalf of the people of Israel.

Illustrative: Parcels of food, clothing and other items in Tel Aviv, in a donation drive organized by Brothers and Sisters in Arms, on October 8, 2023. (Courtesy)

War erupted on October 7 when over 3,000 terrorists burst into Israel from Gaza, killed at least 1,200 people and kidnapped 240 others. Israel launched a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas and removing the terror group from power in Gaza, where it has been the de facto regime since 2007. The Israeli campaign has claimed over 12,000 lives in Gaza, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza, whose Hamas figures cannot be verified and which does not differentiate between combatants and civilians.

“After the horrendous attack on Israel, we put politics aside and immediately came to the aid of our fellow citizens,” Eyal Naveh, a representative from Brothers in Arms, said in a statement. “Democracy is fragile. It requires constant vigilance and attention. We are a team of action so when the people of Israel needed us the most, we answered the call.”

Past winners of the John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service have included the people of Hong Kong for their “fight for their rights in the face of oppression from the government of China” and the people of Lesbos, Greece, “for their valiant actions to rescue refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East.”

Leaders from democratic nations — including former prime minister Ehud Barak — participated in a discussion on Saturday on global security. This year, the three-day forum is largely focused on the Ukraine war, but the fighting between Israel and Hamas is also a major talking point.

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