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HILL TO DIE ON

Cabinet minister declares wholehearted support for Israel in divisive Gaza conflict

Published:Friday | December 1, 2023 | 12:14 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter

Cabinet Minister Aubyn Hill on Wednesday declared his support for Israel amid its ongoing conflict with Hamas in the Middle East, calling it independent of any Holness administration position or policy. Hill, the minister of industry, investment,...

Cabinet Minister Aubyn Hill on Wednesday declared his support for Israel amid its ongoing conflict with Hamas in the Middle East, calling it independent of any Holness administration position or policy.

Hill, the minister of industry, investment, and commerce, explained his position during a pre-celebration for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in St Andrew.

Hanukkah is a celebration that reaffirms the ideals of Judaism and commemorates in particular the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem by the lighting of candles on each day of the festival.

Hill, who was introduced as a government minister and said he was honoured to address the gathering in that capacity, asserted that he was giving a personal opinion when he declared his support for Israel.

The minister noted that he had a keen interest in the Middle Eastern country, mentioning that he grew up learning about the state and related biblical teachings.

He said that the festival, being celebrated between December 7 and December 15, holds “profound significance” for both the Jewish community and wider Jamaica.

He further noted that with the celebration of Hanukkah – which he described as a festival that symbolises hope, joy, and resilience – it is a time to reflect on the importance of peaceful coexistence in an interconnected world.

Hill, who is also a government senator, said that a world marked by diverse cultures and traditions demands collective efforts to foster understanding and unity.

The minister said at a time when tensions persist in various parts of the world, it is crucial that there is advocacy for peace wherever conflict exists.

He said that having lived in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf for more than 20 years as a banker, having visited Israel on more than one occasion, and as a believing Christian, it “pains” him to witness the “brutality” of October 7, the day Hamas attacked Israel.

He also decried the “unavoidable human pain that results as Israel exercises its right to defend its sovereignty and protects its citizens”.

“My sadness is heightened when I consider that both sides of families are from the Abrahamic family tree into which believing Christians are engrafted by faith. I am one of those, and like you, who don’t apologise for who you are, I stand proud of who I am in a Jewish man called Jesus Christ,” said Hill.

“Those two paragraphs are my two statements, my personal belief, and for the record, it’s not a recitation of Government. That’s where I stand,” he said.

Efforts by The Gleaner to reach Hill for comment on his address at the celebration were unsuccessful.

His statement was delivered under the night’s theme ‘Jamaica Stands With Israel’.

It follows Sunday’s call by Prime Minister Andrew Holness for a two-state solution as the recent violence, which has accounted for the death or injury of more than 30,000 Palestinians and Israelis, continues.

More than 14,000 Palestinians have been killed, Hamas has said.

“We urge all parties to seek a permanent solution. We remain convinced that this can only be achieved by a negotiated solution enabling the Palestinians and Israelis to live securely in peace and dignity,” Holness said on Sunday during the Jamaica Labour Party’s 80th anniversary conference.

Holness said that his administration condemns all forms of terrorism and supports the rights of nations to defend themselves and pursue their security while preserving the rights of innocent civilians to live in peace and dignity.

He also noted concern at the “rising human cost” in the conflict and said that Jamaica welcomed the pause in hostility.

The statement followed Jamaica’s failure to vote on a Jordanian resolution at the United Nations General Assembly in November, which called for a humanitarian truce in the Hamas-Israel conflict.

kimone.francis@gleanerjm.com