Top Belgian rabbi on BDS: When our home is attacked, we must defend it

Jewish leaders gather to mark 50th anniversary of reunification of Jerusalem.

January 3, 2017 08:50
3 minute read.
BRUSSELS CHIEF RABBI Avraham Gigi: ‘Anti-Zionism is the new antisemitism.’

BRUSSELS CHIEF RABBI Avraham Gigi: ‘Anti-Zionism is the new antisemitism.’. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Jews around the world must unite to “fight the lies of the BDS movement with Israel’s truths,” a top Belgian rabbi said on Monday at a conference of international rabbis at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem.

Brussels Chief Rabbi Avraham Gigi was speaking to dozens of rabbis as a member of a panel addressing the issues of antisemitism and BDS as part of a threeday conference organized by the World Zionist Organization to mark the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

Gigi said there are many people who believe the BDS movement does not merit any response, but made clear that he fiercely objects to this approach.

Accusing the movement of disseminating numerous lies about Israel, he said silence would only give strength to those lies.
Anti-Israel protest outside Israeli embassy in Washington in 2014

“This fight is very important and we need to repeat again and again and explain that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East,” he said. “Not all non-Jews are against us or antisemitic, we just need to explain our side.”

Gigi called on every rabbi and Jewish leader around the world to join the fight.

“When our home is attacked, we must defend it,” he said. “There is no Left or Right here. We are one nation.”

The rabbi elaborated that this fight could be won via both an internal track and a political track. For the former, he said, “we must convince our community members and youngsters on college campuses to wage a war on BDS and to give them the tools to do so successfully.”

On the political track, he said, it was up to European rabbis to exert pressure on the European Union to adopt a legal definition of antisemitism which determines that the denial of the right of a Jewish state in Israel is antisemitism.

“Anti-Zionism is the new antisemitism,” he said, backing earlier statements made by WZO deputy chairman Yaakov Hagoel, who said that there was no other way of interpreting the boycott movement.

Strategic Affairs Ministry Tzahi Gavrieli deputy director-general said he and his colleagues were working on building a massive network to “delegitimize the delegitimizers,” describing BDS as “a form of terrorism.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, however, said BDS “had failed,” and a more important focus was the relationship between Diaspora Jews and Israel.

“[Israel’s] survival is certain – it’s our spiritual survival that needs to be spoken about. We need to build a bridge between Diaspora Jews and Israel,” she said, citing studies that have shown that the young generation of diaspora Jews is not interested in Israel.

Other leaders participating in the conference include Chief Rabbi David Lau, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and various ministers, including Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan.

A total of 136 rabbis from dozens of countries around the globe were slated to take part in the conference over the three days.

Other topics on the agenda were geopolitical changes in the Middle East and the role of rabbis promoting the principles of justice and morality.

Rabbi Yehiel Wasserman, head of the Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora in the World Zionist Organization, said the aim of the conference was to convey a message about the centrality of Israel and Jerusalem to the Jewish nation as whole, a well as to bring together rabbis from around the world and facilitate the exchange of ideas and dialogue about pressing issues for Orthodox Jewish leaders.

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