Hundreds of London Zionists gather at WZO counter antisemitism conference

Hundreds of activists discussed the British Labor party, the anti-Israeli trend at universities, and what can be done.

October 22, 2017 18:46
2 minute read.
Hundreds of London Zionists gather at WZO counter antisemitism conference

Participants at WZOs Boycotts & Sanctions The New Anti Semitism conference 22 October 2017. (photo credit: NIZZA FLUSS)

WZO Vice Chairman Yaakov Hagoel struck a defiant note at his organization’s conference on combating BDS.

“It isn’t just our [problem] as the Jewish people, the problem belongs to the world,” he said at the WZO and Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland’s ‘Boycotts & Sanctions: The New Antisemitism’ conference.

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The conference took place on the background of growing concerns over antisemitism in the UK, with the Community Security Trust recording 767 antisemitic incidents across the UK in the first half of 2017. This was highest total the community organization has ever recorded since it began recording antisemitic incidents in 1984.

This issue was discussed in depth during Friday evening’s keynote speech by Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard, “On Campus Antisemitism,” which focused on the concerns over antisemitism in the UK on both campuses and within parts of the Labour Party.

Speaking in no uncertain terms, Pollard described the party led by Jeremy Corbyn as having reached the stage where it was “now run by a cadre for whom antisemitism really is okay so long as it’s dressed up as anti-Zionism.”

The conference held in London this weekend marked the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, drew over 200 participants from 11 countries from Friday to Sunday.

Events taking place at the conference included a talk and discussion by Israel human rights activist Arsen Ostrovsky focusing on how to deal with antisemitism across Europe, a panel on lawyers dealing with antisemitism on campus, and a talk by Shadman Zaman, the first ever Bangladeshi passport holder to visit Israel.

Attending the conference was Lesley Klaff, an academic at Sheffield Hallam University.

A member of advocacy group UK Lawyers for Israel, Klaff played a major role in the successful appeal made by a disabled Jewish student at the university over the institution not properly considering his complaint regarding social media post by the student Palestine Society, resulting in a £3,000 payout.

For Klaff, the conference was one that she found “exhilarating and inspiring” as it allowed her to be alongside “other Zionists committed to fighting antisemitism.”

In academia, Zionism can be a dirty word, she said. “but here one can freely talk about being a Zionist.”

Aaron Serota, a German student activist from Frankfurt, said the conference presented him with tools to help young Jewish students have a voice.

Talking to The Jerusalem Post, he explained that many in Germany are only now realizing that antisemitism is still an issue in the country, noting that “with the rise of the AfD in Germany, people realize that it is something that never left but is only now becoming visible.”

Also attending the conference was Hen Mazzig, a IDF commander who has been heavily involved in campus Israel advocacy. Mazzig was infamously compelled to barricade himself alongside several others inside a room in University College London in the face of vehement anti-Israel protests in October 2016 during a talk he was delivering on campus.

Commenting on his reasons for attending the conference, Mazzig said, “Six out of 10 times people protest against me when I speak. It’s a reminder to me that I need to be at conferences like this.”

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