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“You are our hero!”, said Chair of the chair of a special Knesset Committee on the topic of Anti-Semitism to a former student leader who tearfully recounted being arrested on campus for speaking about Israel. MK Avraham Neguise, the chairman of the Aliya, Absorption and Diaspora Committee, was responding to Becky Sebo, former President of “Bobcats for Israel” at Ohio University. She showed video of the incident and explained how pro-Israel voices were suppressed from debate by the Student Senate in the summer of 2014. Sebo was arrested and charged with a 4th degree misdemeanor which carried a fine and the possibility of 30 days in jail. Becky fought the charge and now works for global pro-Israel organization StandWithUs.
The Knesset discussion led by MK Neguise was initiated by David Ya’ari, former head of Hillel Israel and a businessman who immigrated from the United States eight years ago, together with StandWithUs. In attendance were Members of Knesset from across the political spectrum, diplomatic representatives including and heads of Jewish organizations.
The committee will focus on new anti-Semitic incidents on US campuses and will hear from students, campus activism professionals and European Ambassadors. Students will provide first hand testimony while Ambassadors will speak about their governments’ actions against the recent spike in anti-Semitism.
The meeting was attended by the ambassadors and diplomatic representatives of Germany, the UK, Austria, the European Union, and France and Russia.
Speaking to the committee, David Borowitch-Ya’ari said “Anti-Semitism should have died with the liberation of Auschwitz. Today, the sense of security felt by many Jewish communities around the world remains unstable. History has taught us that the Jewish people cannot outsource the security of our people. It is the responsibility in Israel to support our brethren who have remained in the Diaspora.
I call on the Chairman to schedule a permanent hearing be entered on the Knesset calendar on each anniversary of Kristallnacht and that our Knesset, Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Foreign Affairs commit to share knowledge and resources with our brethren in the Diaspora to strengthen security and provide the training for Jewish communities to properly defend themselves.”
Michael Dickson, Executive Director of StandWithUs Israel, told the committee: “We find ourselves in a uniquely challenging time, facing resurgent anti-Semitism on the far right and far left extremists who use this as an opportunity to further smear Zionism, perversely claiming that it is comparable to fascism and white supremacy.”
Vice-Chair of StandWithUs UK, Loretta Cash reviewed incidents of Antisemitism in the UK and Europe including in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor Party and on campuses. She reminded the Committee that Anti-Israel activity is nearly always tinged with anti-Jewish sentiment which must be addressed. She outlined educational programs that are teaching young people in Britain about this issue and ended by saying “This week we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. Prime Minister Theresa May has said of this: “It is one of the most important letters in history. It demonstrates Britain’s vital role in creating a homeland for the Jewish people. And it is an anniversary we will be marking with pride.” That pride is indicative of the shared values that British and Israeli people share. It is an attitude we will join with others to build upon.”
Tamir Oren, a reserve IDF Company Commander, now Executive Director of StandWithUs UK showed video of him and a colleague being shouted down on the campus of Cal Poly Pamona in California. He urged those assembled to fight to allow free speech on campus when it comes to Israel.
Other speakers included Charles Small, the founder and Director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy, representatives of Israeli government ministries and Holocaust survivor, Yosef Kleiman, who had given testimony at the Eichmann trial in 1961. Kleiman told of his experience at Auschwitz to give warning of where tolerance of anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence can lead.
Representatives were also sent to the hearing from the anti-Semitism Committee at the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Absorption and the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Information and Yad Vashem.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)