Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog speaks at the GC4I conference in Jerusalem, June 19.
(photo credit: MIRI SHIMONOVICH/GPO)
As rhetoric in Israel rages over the role and scope of the Supreme Court, Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog said Wednesday that its strength is a key defense of the State of Israel around the world.
“The fact that we have an independent, strong judiciary, an independent strong Supreme Court, is one of the most effective ways to combat the boycotts and delegitimization of Israel,” said Herzog at the Global Coalition 4 Israel (GC4I) conference in Jerusalem. “An independent Supreme Court, which is proactive, which lays down the rules protecting human rights and civil liberties for all citizens – is one of the most effective calls to counter delegitimization on college campuses.”
Herzog said he considered it a particularly “effective tool” to challenge those on American campuses who delegitimize the State of Israel: “It’s truth, it’s not fake. We should commend our legal system for being so strong.”
Herzog spoke during a full day of speeches and panel discussions about BDS and antisemitism around the world at the GC4I conference. During his speech, the Jewish Agency chairman reiterated a point he has made repeatedly over the past year since taking office.
“This is one of the most disturbing eras in antisemitic attacks since World War Two,” Herzog said. “As the largest Jewish organization in the world, we are touching upon the issue of delegitimization/antisemitism/BDS almost on an hourly basis. We have an emergency room operating 24 hours a day; we know about swastikas on campuses across the US, we know about antisemitic comments around the world as soon as they happen.”
He added that he is also hyper aware of the distinction between criticizing the State of Israel and delegitimizing it.
“All of my speeches as leader of the Opposition – anybody could label them as attacking the government of Israel,” he said. But, he added, they are watching for when comments cross the line.
Throughout Wednesday, Jewish leaders from around the world debated the best methods to counter antisemitism and BDS across the US, Europe and beyond.
Sharon Nazarian, the senior vice president of the Anti-Defamation League, said her organization tries to be careful when engaging with young people, in particular on college campuses.
“We have to be careful not to alienate them,” she said. “We have to be careful and point out that the real roots of BDS are antisemitic, and the founders are antisemitic.” She added that the ADL is unequivocal in public statements “where redlines are crossed,” when violence is used and when US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar “accuses her colleagues of dual loyalty.” But with more localized activity on campuses, “nuance is important, a deliberate response is important. I do believe that we have to look at our audience and see who we’re trying to influence.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, meanwhile, took a more hardline approach on the issue.
“It is important, especially with young Jews, to remember that the BDS campaign has consistently moved the goal posts,” Cooper said, from original more vague arguments to its current, intolerable iteration. “BDS should be a litmus test” for hiring at Jewish organizations, he argued. “BDS is antisemitic.”
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