Member sof the European Student Union during their visit to Israel..
(photo credit: SHLOMI MIZRAHI)
Monday marked the start of the bi-annual, week-long European Student Union board meeting, which this year is taking place in Jerusalem for the first time.
The official theme of the meeting is “Academia 2.0: Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Linking Networks.” Much of the opening events, however, centered around Israel’s place in the Europe’s academic community amid growing anti-Israel sentiments on college campuses.
The event brings together some 120 representatives from student unions in 37 countries, representing some 15 million students throughout Europe.
The goal of the week’s gathering is to promote the social, educational, economic and cultural rights of students throughout the continent.
The most recent such event took place in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2015.
The location of this year’s board meeting was hailed by the National Union of Israeli Students.
A statement issued by NUIS following Monday’s event said: “Despite political objections from some countries, we succeeded against all expectations, winning enough votes to host the annual meeting in Israel.
The association acted out of a desire to improve Israel’s image among young people in Europe, and to show Israeli students are progressive in academia as well as being influential both civilly and socially.”
The opening ceremonies confronted the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel head-on, with representatives from the NUIS and MK Gilad Erdan lauding Israel’s higher education system as well as its place as a world-leader for innovation.
“There are those who think that calling for an academic boycott of Israel will somehow help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, dear friends. It won’t. It will do just the opposite,” Erdan said.
“Unfortunately this campaign of delegitimization and boycott of the Jewish state has led to a hostile environment to Jewish students and prevented them from exercising their rights. And I know that the ESU is committed to ensuring the rights of students of every religion and we thank you for that,” he added.
Erdan reminded the group that criticism of Israel is acceptable, saying: “In fact no one criticizes the Israeli government more than Israelis themselves [but] the path to peace is by building bridges.”
NUIS president Aviv Itach told the assembly: “I know it wasn’t easy for everyone to come here. When we brought up Israel to be the host country one year ago, there were a few who were ambivalent about coming to Israel, and because of that, I really, really, really appreciate seeing you all here.
The fact that we are all here together is proof that youth leaders can impact and bring upon real change to the world” The European Student Union is an umbrella organization that represents 45 student unions throughout Europe.
In addition to influencing the overall framework of those student unions, the representatives will attend a variety of events – including tours of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – while they are in Israel, most of them for first time.
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