Student Leader: Rampant Anti-Israel Activity on Belgian Campuses Has Jewish Students Desperate to Make Their Voices Heard
The head of Europe’s Jewish students umbrella group told The Algemeiner on Wednesday that rampant anti-Israel activity on Belgian campuses has Jewish students desperate to have their voices heard.
Benjamin Fischer, president of the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS), said four universities turned down appeals to cancel events featuring Palestinian terrorist Salah Hamouri, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine arrested in 2005 for plotting to assassinate Israel’s former Sephardic chief Rabbi, the late Ovadia Yosef. Despite a letter-writing campaign to university directors, spearheaded by EUJS and the Belgian Union of Jewish Students (UEJB), Hamouri was allowed to speak throughout February and March — during “Israeli Apartheid Week” — on the topic of Palestinians’ treatment in Israeli prisons at the University of Antwerp, the Free University of Brussels, the Catholic University of Louvain and the Catholic University of Leuven.
“The directors told us that it was a matter of free speech, and they would permit the programs to go forward as planned,” Fischer said, noting that EUJS “took the unusual step of asking an event to be shut down, because we thought, in this particular instance, the campuses had gone too far.”
In a statement, UEJB wrote, “We cannot understand and even less accept that our free and democratic universities would welcome in their halls such speakers, who will spread words inciting violence,” referring to Hamouri, who was released to Hamas in 2011 after seven years in Israeli prison, as one of 1,000 Palestinian terrorists swapped for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.
They added, “We are not trying to question the integrity of [those] promoting the boycott of Israel, but we wish to highlight the fact that their actions and their statements…opens the door to statements of an antisemitic nature.”
Yos Tarshish, chairman of the World Union of Jewish Students, took a harder view of those behind the Hamouri invites, saying, “The most telling signal that the BDS movement has no sense of morality is who they ally themselves with. When you promote convicted terrorists as social justice activists there are no shades of grey.”
Fischer said the trials met by Jews on Belgium campuses are not comparable to those facing their US and UK counterparts, as radical Belgian student groups — specifically the Marxist COMAC youth movement and Een Andere Joodse Stem (Another Jewish Voice) — reflect the extreme anti-Israel and atheistic rhetoric found regularly in public and political discourse.
“Being a student in Belgium means that there are campuses where you have to hide your Jewish identity,” he said. “The students here aren’t less active about responding to Israeli or Jewish issues, but they don’t have the numbers or the necessary support and resources of the international anti-BDS movement.”
In January, as The Algemeiner reported, the European Parliament held a groundbreaking conference in Brussels to discuss the boycott movement’s influence on the continent.