President Reuven Rivlin speaking at the Western Wall on Israel's 2019 Memorial Day .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
President Reuven Rivlin earned loud applause accompanied by cheers when he said on Thursday that it was legitimate for Diaspora Jews who have a dispute with the government of Israel to have their say “loud and clear.”
Speaking at the International Conference on Combating Antisemitism and the BDS Campaign, Rivlin said: “The government of Israel must do a better job in listening to your concerns.”
Reactions of approval were instantaneous, perhaps indicating the frustrations of Diaspora Jews who have been unable to make headway with prominent figures in Israel’s government.
Relating to the topic at hand, Rivlin said: “Honest criticism? Friendly criticism? Yes. Delegitimization of Israel? No!”
Rivlin thanked conference participants for working together to deepen and expand cooperation in the fight against BDS, which he said “does not seek peace,” nor does it even want to help Israel’s Palestinian neighbors. “It seeks to delegitimize Israel’s very existence,” he said.
Emphasizing that all available tools must be used in the court room, the board room, civil society, social media, and in academia and the halls of power in the campaign to defeat BDS, the president stressed the importance of exposing “modern blood libels spread by BDS” and banishing hate and discrimination.
He insisted that the State of Israel has no problem with legitimate criticism when it flows from true concern for Israel’s security and welfare – especially when it comes from Diaspora Jewry.
Too often, he said, the Left tries to hide its antisemitism in the guise of anti-Zionism. “They try to present their campaign to boycott Israel as progressive,” he said. “There is nothing progressive about antisemitism.”
While fighting antisemitism on the Left, “we must show zero tolerance for antisemitism on the Right, even when it comes from those who claim to admire Israel,” said Rivlin. “They admire Israel, but don’t like Jews much. An attack on any one of us is an attack on [us] all.”
Rivlin began his address by welcoming to Jerusalem the “supporters and defenders of Israel,” whom he called “my sisters and brothers.”
His words were in line with the slogan of the conference “We are One” – the same slogan that was used by America’s United Jewish Appeal in the 1970s when strenuous efforts were being made to free Soviet Jewry. Ironically, it is being used again at a time when Jews are more fragmented in their ideologies – or lack of them – than ever before.
Rivlin told his audience at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem Hotel something of the history of his family, which came to Jerusalem in 1809, concluding the tale with “We will remain here forever.”
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