Step Up for Israel fights Israel Apartheid Week
Step Up for Israel fights Israel Apartheid Week Step Up for Israel

The United Nations’ so-called Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel was caught red-handed in the antisemitic cookie jar recently, when a member of the inquiry reportedly said that social media is largely controlled by the “Jewish lobby.”

That Jewish people somehow control global media is an antisemitic canard. And despite the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the region, the UN’s commissioner audaciously went further by saying that he would “go as far as to raise the question of why are they (Israel) are even a member of the UN?”

In response to these hateful comments, Canada’s permanent ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae, tweeted, “A Commission of Inquiry is different from a never ending Inquisition. Blatantly biased, anti-semitic comments are completely unworthy of the UN, the UN Human Rights Commission, and are a disgrace to institutions supposedly dedicated to the rule of law.”

It's this kind of pervasive antisemitic behaviour by the politicized and ultra-biased United Nations Human Rights Council that has given legitimacy to the Israel-bashing on university campuses and on our own city streets. Recent reports of signs on city buses in St. John’s, N.L., calling Israel an “apartheid” state are but one example. Yet although the signs were shocking to many Canadians, in Israel, the ad only drew laughs from most people with whom I spoke while filming the upcoming documentary, “The Future of Israel and its Defenders.”

In the northern Israeli city of Karmiel on July 27, an Arab-Israeli leader we were filming literally laughed in hysterics when I asked him about the assertion that Israel is an apartheid state. He outlined his own success in Israel, having completed a graduate degree at an Israeli university, then having the freedom to travel to Jordan to earn a doctorate and to pursue a successful career as an educator and media personality. Many of his friends are professionals like him and enjoy the benefits of being Israeli citizens. In fact, he ran in the last national election and still aspires to enter politics.

Indeed, hardly anyone in Israel actually believes it is an apartheid state. Co-existence and peace is the language of most political and community leaders in Israel today. This was the sentiment expressed by a Druze community leader who received me graciously in his home. He told me that the youth of his village, Majdal Shams, study on Israeli campuses and have professional careers throughout the country.

The war of words being waged against the Jewish state in the West seems somewhat surreal in Israel. When asked about the impact of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, Emilie Moatti, an Labour member of the Knesset, looked at me and said, “Seriously? Look around you. Does it look like its impacting us at all?”

While we grapple with these issues in the West on university campuses and our streets, it is becoming increasingly clear that they are having zero impact in present-day Israel. Instead, the Abraham Accords have shattered Israel’s isolation. They have created a complete paradigm shift and an unprecedented sense of normalcy for Jewish and Arab citizens alike.

In my meeting with Morocco’s ambassador to Israel, it became clear that the sense of optimism is regional. The ambassador expressed how proud he is of the warm reception he has received in Israel and the numbers of people who have attended his events to date.

Still, we must stand against the delegitimization campaigns targeting Israel, especially those of us who believe in freedom and democracy. Israeli celebrity Noa Tishby, who is also the country’s special envoy for combating antisemitism and delegitimization, said it best: “destroying democracies is not good for, you know … democracies.”

Those who despise Israel don’t care about the numerous Arab and Israeli families that mingle in the cafes in Jaffa every evening. In a conversation by the clock tower in Jaffa with Col. Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan, he casually observed the remarkable intermingling of people of all faiths around us as we spoke.

Those who oppose Israel do not care about the future of the Jewish and Arab youth who work together at the local sports store down the street. The wasted energy and resources on negative ad campaigns that achieve nothing except hate and discord sadly misrepresents the seismic shift that’s now underway in the entire region. Those who truly seek out peace will work toward those goals by promoting tangible solutions, not sowing discord among different groups of people.

Still, we cannot turn a blind eye to those who are intent on spreading libels and falsehoods about the Jewish state. A lie told enough times can become a truth if unopposed. We have a responsibility to stand up for Israel, because the right thing to do is to support the development of peace and friendship in the region. As Tishby said, Israel is a “miracle that we need to defend whether we live there or not.”

Thus, even when the false libels thrown at Israel are laughable, we must vigorously defend the Jewish state and the freedom and democracy that it represents. Which is why it is now incumbent upon the mayor of St. John’s to ensure that hateful rhetoric no longer has a place on the city’s public transportation network.

Avi Benlolo is the founder and chairman of the Abraham Global Peace Initiative.

Reposted with permission.