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In Taiwan, clash at pro-Israel concert highlights divisions over Gaza war

In Taiwan, clash at pro-Israel concert highlights divisions over Gaza war
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In one video, a man is seen grabbing a Palestinian flag from activist Aurora Chang and pushing a Taiwanese woman holding a banner. In another video, he appears to say, “They should rape them, then they will understand and get the idea.”

Other videos show a different man throwing a protester to the ground before police and other attendees rush over to intervene.

The man who was attacked, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Temir, is a student in Taiwan originally from Kazakhstan.

Temir told the Post he was thrown to the ground twice when he attempted to approach the crowd and open a sign that said, “Stop the war”.

“I think he was trying to make me invisible to the [festival attendees],” he said.

Temir said that before he was attacked the second time – the incident caught on video – the man told him: “I’m going to kill you by smashing your head.”

When police and other observers approached, the man accused Temir of having a bomb in his backpack. Neither Temir nor the man who attacked him were arrested by police at the scene.

Temir was later taken to hospital with tissue damage. He said he now needs help to walk.

People at the event said the assailant was identified by police as head of security for the Israel Economic and Cultural Office (ISECO), Israel’s de facto embassy in Taipei.

ISECO wrote in a statement to the Post that Maya Yaron, the Israeli representative to Taiwan, was present at the concert on Saturday and her presence “was coordinated in advance with local authorities” against rising antisemitic attacks and “threats against Israeli representatives worldwide”.

“One of the foreign protesters made a threatening and suspicious dash toward the stage, prompting the security team to quickly intervene to prevent him from reaching the concert stage,” the statement continued.

ISECO did not confirm the security worker’s position or name. But Chen Yi-jun, chief of the Taipei Rui-an Street police station, confirmed that the man is Israeli. Chen said the man believed Temir was attempting to reach the stage while Yaron was onstage.

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Pro-Palestine protesters allege assault at a pro-Israel concert in Taiwan over Gaza crisis

Pro-Palestine protesters allege assault at a pro-Israel concert in Taiwan over Gaza crisis

Temir and Chang said they are now attempting to press charges against the two men. Police are still collecting information to determine whether charges can be pursued.

Paul Hsieh, one of the organisers of the event, told the Post the man who attacked Temir was not hired by the event organisers as security for the concert. He said protesters were disrupting the event by bringing their own signs and banners, which were not sanctioned by the concert.

Chang says protesters remained quiet and peaceful during the demonstration and were not aware of rules regarding signs, as the concert took place in a public park.

The incident on Saturday reflects a rise in tensions as supporters of both Israel and Palestine escalate efforts to draw sympathy for their causes in Taiwan.

The concert was organised by the newly formed Friends of Israel Alliance, which Hsieh described as a grass-roots organisation of Taiwanese people of diverse backgrounds who oppose terrorism and stand with Israel.

Hsieh – a Taiwanese-American who founded the Kingdom of Jesus Corp, aimed at spreading information about the “end time” and “Biblical truth” to Chinese-speaking audiences – says the alliance will “grow into a movement” to “make sure that Taiwan will never become the next antisemitic society”.

Some 1,700 people attended Saturday’s event, according to Hsieh, and it attracted only a handful of protesters. It cost NTD$3.5 million (US$108,000), funded by small donations through an unfinished fundraising campaign, Hsieh said.

Hsieh said the turnout reflected Taiwan and Israel’s shared values of “peace and love”.

He added that Taiwan and Israel face similar threats: “Taiwan being small, Israel being small, but we still have courageously pursued democracy and human rights. All different religious groups, different races in Taiwan have equal rights in all aspects, just like Israel.”

Pro-Palestinian activists in Taiwan see things differently. Chang, who has been at the forefront of organising efforts, said Taiwanese should sympathise with Palestinians as they faced similar threats from a larger neighbour, Israel.

“Taiwan likes to call itself a democratic freedom-loving country in alignment with the international community. We’re not doing that right now with our stance on Israel-Palestine,” she said.

“Even if Israel claims to be democratic, the crimes against humanity that they are committing in Gaza are not consistent with the values that Taiwan claims to care about.”

Israel launched its war in Gaza after Hamas militants killed 1,139 people in Israel last October. Since then, over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, and those in northern Gaza are facing the threat of famine.

Taiwan’s government has seen the war as an opportunity to learn from Israel’s defence strategies and expand its already warming bilateral relationship. Despite a lack of formal diplomatic ties, Taiwan was one of the first governments to condemn Hamas’ actions on October 7 as terrorism.

Since the war started, the island has hosted delegations of Israeli think-tankers and parliamentarians to discuss further cooperation and donated US$500,000 to an Israeli organisation to support security efforts in communities affected by the war.

Taiwanese activists have stepped up pressure on the government in recent weeks.

In April, over 60 Taiwanese civil society organisations signed a joint statement asking the government to cease trade of Taiwanese materials with Israel used in weapons, and for members of the Taiwan-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Association to engage in humanitarian advocacy with Israel or withdraw from that association.

Earlier this month, Taiwan announced a US$500,000 donation to Mercy Corps, an international non-governmental organisation providing humanitarian aid and supplies to Palestinians in Gaza.

Taiwan has called for continued “mediation and communication” to “bring opportunities for peace” since November but has stopped short of condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza.

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