European Diplomats Attend Knesset Meeting on Rising Antisemitism, Including on US Campuses
European diplomats attended a discussion at the Israeli parliament on Monday addressing concerns about rising antisemitism worldwide — including on American college campuses.
Envoys from Germany, Austria, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the European Union heard testimony from a diverse set of speakers, ranging from Israeli government representatives to former American college students, who urged them to protect Jews in their countries from bigoted attacks.
Becky Sebo, a 2015 graduate of Ohio University (OU) who served as president of Bobcats for Israel during her senior year, said she was profoundly affected by her own encounter with the “antisemitic” boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign on campus.
Sebo — who now works with StandWithUs, a pro-Israel US-based education organization that helped arrange Monday’s meeting — was arrested after speaking out against boycotts of Israel at a 2014 OU student senate meeting. The student senate president, Meghan Marzec, drew controversy earlier in the year after pouring a bucket of fake blood on herself and encouraging peers to support boycotts of Israel.
“After experiencing firsthand how BDS and anti-Israel movements can divide a campus, I can confidingly tell you it’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” Sebo told diplomats and Israeli parliamentarians, led by Likud MK Avraham Neguise, head of the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee.
“Anti-Israel activists hide behind human rights while spreading lies and propaganda about Israel,” she added. “They ignore serious humanitarian issues around the world, but make time to single out Jewish students over and over again.”
Michael Dickson, the executive director of StandWithUs Israel, similarly noted that “all too often anti-Israel groups with names that disguise their extreme agenda — Students for Justice in Palestine or so-called Jewish Voice for Peace and others — misleadingly pretend that their racist campaigns against Israel are in some way linked to their support of other groups.”
“Shamefully, they co-opt the memory of the Holocaust and invert it to portray Jews as Nazis — the ultimate slap in the face to a nation who stood on the brink of extinction in modern times,” he noted. “This is not pro-Palestinian, it is anti-Israel and it is antisemitic.”
Dickson called on “our friends and people of goodwill around the world to call out racism against Jews and against the Jewish state.”
David (Borowich) Ya’ari — a former CEO of Hillel Israel who was involved in organizing Monday’s discussion — said, “It is the responsibility in Israel to support our brethren who have remained in the Diaspora.”
He urged the diplomats present at the meeting to “reach out to their respective governments to ban all expressions of antisemitism,” and called on Israeli lawmakers and non-government groups to “share knowledge and resources with our brethren in the Diaspora,” in order to help Jewish communities “properly defend themselves.”
Germany’s ambassador to Israel, Clemens Von Goetze, took the opportunity to emphasize his country’s “historical responsibility” to fight against antisemitism, adding that over the past year, “in our case, most of the crimes that have been committed have been committed by right-wing extremists.”
Austrian Ambassador Martin Weiss conversely noted that his country was experiencing “a phenomenon of imported antisemitism,” which led to a slight increase of cases in 2016 over the year before.
American diplomats were also invited to the meeting, but did not send a representative, a decision that was called “very disappointing” by Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai on Twitter.
Shai, who co-chairs the Knesset caucus for US-Israel relations with Neguise, later added that he spoke with American representatives at length and was told that the embassy and its officials were “committed and devoting great efforts to the struggle against antisemitism.”