Witnessing The Demonisation Of Israel In UK
"We are all Hezbollah."
"We are all Gazan."
The yellow of the Lebanese terrorist organisation's flag is unmistakable. For a moment, I am confused: Where am I? The Lebanese border? Near Gaza? No - there's the familiar bright red double-decker bus, the crowd streaming past Piccadilly Circus. I really am in London - and I'm in shock.
It's not like I've never been out in the world before. I grew up in New York before moving to Israel. I travelled in many countries as a student. But never before have I experienced this level of animosity/hostility against Israel as on the streets of one of the world's leading democracies.
I'd been warned about this before ever coming to London. For the past year, I've been a Fellow of StandWithUs International, an educational organisation established to combat misinformation and bias about Israel. I'd been briefed on the situation in Europe, and in the UK in particular. When I found out that I would be spending six weeks in London working for the Zionist Federation, I began conducting my own informal survey of former Britons familiar with the local scene, asking them what I might expect.
The word they used over and over was: "hostile". But it's one thing to hear this in the abstract, and quite another to experience it so directly, so viscerally.
Jewish students I've met with tell me they're afraid to post notices about pro-Israel events because these will be torn down within minutes.
They dare not speak out on behalf of Israel. How can this be? The university campus is supposed to be a place of curiosity and exploration, allowing free and open access to other people's ideas and beliefs.
Instead, pro-Israel students feel intimidated and afraid.
The situation on the campuses only mirrors what's taking place on a broader scale in the UK, what with TUC and academic boycotts and courts that entertain petitions for arrest warrants against Israeli officials.
Spewing hatred against Israel and the West is commonplace.
The situation is grim indeed.
I feel fortunate to have come here and to have gotten a sense of this for myself. You have to see it and feel it to believe it. That's why I think it's so important that Israeli students like myself visit the UK so we can appreciate the gravity of the situation you are facing and the important work you are doing. At the forefront of this struggle is the ZF, which organises pro-Israel academic activities and cultural events.
Let us combine our creativity, knowledge, and energy with yours to face these challenges together. Launch an all-out assault that begins with education. Integrate young Israelis in your activities and set up meetings between them and their non-Jewish British counterparts so that the latter can meet real people, not demonised stereotypes.
There is no doubt that British Jewry, and British pro-Israel organisations, are facing daunting challenges. This is a battle that must be won, because the stakes go far beyond the local Jewish community. Intimidation that attacks the foundations of one group will ultimately erode the bedrock of modern western civilisation.
So stand tall. Stand proud. Don't be afraid of tough questions. Sure, mistakes have been made - that's part of being human - but as supporters of Israel, we also have a lot to be proud of.
We yearn for a brighter future and are working to make that happen.
Together we will show the larger community who we really are.
Stand with Israel.
Stand with us.
- Yonatan Zlotogorski is a StandWithUs International Fellow.
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