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Jewish students describe violent atmosphere on US college campuses


December 1, 2017

‪The Knesset—Despite laws in Europe against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, as well as police activity and obligatory school trips to concentration camps, the number of anti-Semitic incidents is only increasing. 

During Monday’s meeting of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, Jewish and Israeli students described incidents of harassment on college campuses in the United States. Committee Chairman MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) said, “Classic hatred of Jews is disguised today as criticism of Israel, and leading universities in Britain are routinely hosting Islamist preachers who defame Jews and Israel.” 

German Ambassador to Israel Clemens Von Goetze said a slight increase in anti-Semitic incidents was recorded in his country since 2016, noting that a committee of experts recommended combating this phenomenon by educating teens while stressing the importance tolerance, instilling values through sports associations, and so forth. “We will not be able to prevent every incident, but I promise that we will investigate each incident,” Neguise said. 

Austrian Ambassador Martin Weiss also acknowledged that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in his country has increased, but he added that school programs aimed at educating the younger generation on the issue have been augmented. 

“You can rightly say it took Austria all too long” to face its culpability in the Holocaust, Weiss said, “but today every student is obligated to visit the Mauthausen concentration camp twice.” 

MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) said that just as anti-Semitism exists, Islamophobia exists as well, and he denounced the “attempt to attach the anti-Semitic label to anyone who criticizes the Government’s policy.” 

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp) mentioned with “anger and regret” the absence of American representatives from the meeting at a time when anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. are increasing. He urged the American president, House of Representatives and public opinion to denounce the phenomenon, and called on the Israeli Government to boost its protection of Jews worldwide. 

MK Anat Berko (Likud) criticized countries that are ”tolerant towards a country such as Iran, which openly declares its preparations for the destruction of Israel.” 

EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret acknowledged the rise of anti-Semitism compared with past years and stated that “anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and violent racism are forbidden by law, and 15 EU states have already adopted it.” 

World Zionist Organization Vice Chairman Yaakov Hagoel, who formerly served as the Head of the Department for Activities in Israel and Countering Anti-Semitism, argued that in light of the rise of anti-Semitism around the world, European governments must intensify legislation, education and preventive measures. Most of the victims of anti-Semitic attacks do not report them, he noted. 

“In the past decade, we have had the misfortune to see a rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidence. The number of these incidents increases every year, all over the globe,” Hagoel said. “The rise in anti-Semitism is not only expressed in the sheer numbers of incidents, but also in the severity of the incidents, which is steadily increasing. Unfortunately, this holds true all over the world, and there does not seem to be an end in sight.

“Ambassadors of the world, it is important that you understand: The responsibility for Diaspora Jewry rests on the world’s governments. Governments must work to defeat anti-Semitism and ensure the safety of their Jewish citizens.” 

Turning to the leaders of Jewish organizations around the world, Hagoel said, “You should know that a rise in anti-Semitism causes us, the Jews, to be afraid of seeming outwardly Jewish. Around the world, Jews do not wear a kipa (skullcap), they put their mezuzahs on the inside of the doorway, they change their names, and so on.” 

“They do all of these things in order to hide the fact that they are Jewish. This fear causes Jews to distance themselves from anything that might outwardly identify them as Jews. However, at the same time, the outer signs of Judaism bring Jews closer to religion and Jewish identity. 

“At the end of the day, the fear [of being outwardly Jewish] causes assimilation. 

We must strengthen Jewish pride around the world. If we do not, our name will disappear from the Diaspora.” 

Deputy UK Ambassador to Israel Tony Kay said British Jews must be allowed to live without being attacked physically or verbally. The number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in Britain has increased by 70 percent since the beginning of the year.

A French Embassy representative said that while anti-Semitism has “deep roots” in his country, “Judaism is an integral part of French culture, and it is the Republic’s responsibility to protect the community.”

The current situation is still worrying,” but the number of anti-Semitic incidents has dropped 60 percent in 2016, and the past year has seen another 20 percent decrease, he noted. 

During the meeting, the committee heard testimonies about the violent atmosphere against Jews in the United States and Europe. Zachray Zimmer, a high school senior from New Jersey shared his perspective: “When I toured prospective colleges last year, I considered each through the filter of my own interests: location, size, academic strengths and—unfortunately—the rising tide of anti-Semitism faced by Jewish students on campus... I had my first encounter with anti-Jewish sentiment at UCLA in 2015, while attending a pre-college program. Taunting me for keeping kosher, a fellow participant slapped me in the face with a piece of bacon. About a week later, I was jostled to the back of our bus because `that’s where the Jews sit.” 

Tamir Oren, a reserve IDF company commander, now executive director of StandWithUs UK, showed a video of himself 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 on the subject of Israel. 

Other speakers included Dr. 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 Kleinman, who had given testimony at the Eichman trial in 1961. Kleinman told of his experience at Auschwitz to warn where tolerance of anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence can lead. 

The meeting was initiated by David Ya`ari, an American businessman who moved to Israel eight years ago, together with StandWithUs. “Here in Israel we must be aware of the challenges of the communities in the Diaspora and help them as much as is needed in developing awareness and the abilities to protect themselves from the growing threats,” he said. 

Michael Dickson, executive director of StandWithUs Israel, said “we are dealing with the renewed anti-Semitism on the extreme right and left.”

He said anti-Israel groups with misleading names, such as “Students for Justice in Palestine,” try to “dictate their extremist agenda, and their real goal is to oppose the only Jewish state in the world.” ‬


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