Following U.S. Sen. John McCain’s death in 2018, the Halifax International Security Forum presents the award annually in his honor to “individuals from any country who have demonstrated uncommon leadership in the pursuit of human justice.”
The forum, which attracts military officials, United States senators, diplomats and scholars, announced the decision in a statement late Friday.
“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 McCain, is due to present the award to representatives of Brothers in Arms. The group started as a protest movement against the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but transformed itself into the largest non-governmental aid agency in Israel to help those affected by the latest Israel-Hamas war.
The conflict erupted on Oct. 7 when militants in Gaza crossed into Israel and killed at least 1,200 people and kidnapped 240 others. Israel launched a war that has claimed over 11,000 lives in Gaza, according to health officials in the Hamas-ruled territory, who do 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 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak will participate in a discussion on Saturday — gathered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, ahead of the three-day conference on global security. This year, the forum is largely focused on the Ukraine war, but the fighting between Israel and Hamas is also a major talking point.