WZO launches global effort to fight anti-Semitism

Students from 14 countries unite to battle the rise in incidents against Jews around the globe.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
December 12, 2010 15:01
4 minute read.
WZO Anti-Semitism seminar in Paris.

WZO Paris seminar 311. (photo credit: Eitan-Ori Behar)

 
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PARIS – Dozens of students from 14 countries around the world joined together this weekend at a seminar in Paris that launched the World Zionist Organization’s new Global Network for Countering Anti-Semitism.

The students and others like them will be the soldiers on the ground who will report to the WZO about anti-Semitism in their countries and receive advice about how to tackle future incidents. To that end, the WZO launched a media room that will be in touch with activists around the world in several languages.

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“Unfortunately, the past year, according to our statistics, had more anti-Semitic acts than any year since World War II,” said Yaakov Hagoel, who heads the WZO’s Department for Activity in Israel and Countering Anti-Semitism.

“Because of this, we decided to create an international atmosphere of fighting this frightening phenomenon. We want to utilize Jewish and non- Jewish students as well as politicians and other influential people in countries around the world. This can have a significant impact on decreasing anti-Semitism by taking away the legitimacy that it is gradually achieving.”

The global network intends to act as an umbrella for the international organizations and governmental agencies involved in the fight against anti-Semitism. It will cooperate with the Anti-Defamation League, the Foreign Ministry and the Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

“We know many organizations in the world deal with anti-Semitism,” said Hagoel, who is a member of the Jewish Agency Executive and a former director-general of World Betar. “We want to bring them together, pool their resources and coordinate a united fight. That could allow us to double our strength.”

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The global network’s media room will use volunteers on MASA programs in Israel who will be in contact with students acting as antennas on campuses around the world. For instance, if there is a problem on a particular campus, the WZO can contact the university and ask for security or bring in other activists from close by to help counteract the problem.

The media room will maintain a database of Zionist activists around the world and communicate with them regularly in English, Hebrew, French, Spanish, Turkish, Russian and even Arabic. It already has pages on YouTube and Facebook.

“The goal is to be even more organized than Israel’s enemies on campuses and in communities,” said media room director Eitan Behar.

“With the right work of all our activists around the world and if we are unified, we can win the battle that is going on around the world for Israel’s image.”

The seminar attracted students from Israel, Hungary, England, Germany, France, Belgium, Poland, Switzerland, Canada, US, Romania, Italy and the Netherlands, who were given a kit and a disk with information. The WZO will hold an annual conference in each of six regions in the world: North America, South America, Europe, the former Soviet Union, Australia and South Africa. Its next conferences will be in Ukraine and in Israel.

Participants met with Paris Grand Victoire synagogue Rabbi Moshe Sebbag, French anti-Semitism experts Michel Gurfinkel and Guy Milliere and a French family that had been targeted by anti-Semitism.

Participant Ariel Goldgewicht, who directs the Europe and North America department of the Hanoar Hatzioni Zionist youth movement, praised the WZO for organizing the seminar and setting up the network. He said his activists around the world would be active in the network.

“It’s empowering to people who suffered from anti-Semitic encounters to share what happened to them with people who care,” Goldgewicht said.

“It’s important to know what is going on with Jews on the other side of the world, share experiences and learn from each other.”

Monika Krawczyk, who heads a Polish Zionist organization and the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish heritage in Poland, asked questions at the conference about what to do when media outlets fail to respond to letters complaining about anti-Semitic articles, and seemed to feel that she received some useful responses.


“The seminar was an important event, especially for us European participants, because Europe is disposed to anti-Israel propaganda, and sometimes we don’t know how to handle it when criticism of Israel crosses the border to anti-Semitism,” Krawczyk said. “It’s important to realize that anti- Israelism has the same spirit as the old, primitive anti-Semitism of the past.”

Daniel Sourani, the program director for Canadian Young Judaea, said the highlight of the conference was not the lectures but the networking.

“Sharing experiences with Jewish youth from around the world was eye-opening,” Sourani said. “As much as I had read about world Jewry, hearing those first-hand testimonies was simply fascinating.”

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