The Hague in the Netherlands is and was at the center of attention this past week, where South Africa filed a special case of genocide against Israel. Rabbi Yanki Jacobs, spokesperson of Chabad of Holland, and son of the Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands, Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs, was at the march for Israel in the Hague this past week. Rabbi Jacobs spoke to Arutz Sheva - Israel National News.
Rabbi Jacobs began, “During the past week an international court case was started by South Africa, accusing Israel of genocide, but we have to understand that the International Court of Justice, while it is located in Holland, it's not a Dutch institution. The judges are not Dutch. It happens to be in the Hague, which is also the city that hosts the Dutch government, but it's not a Dutch institution. At the same time, it's an institution which got a lot of attention last week and on the day that the court case started there were big protests and manifestations. There was a pro-Palestinian protest and there was also a pro-Israel solidarity march being hosted at the same time of the day that these court cases started.”
Rabbi Jacobs continued, “This pro-Israel march was organized by a multitude of Jewish and pro-Israel organizations. A very big element, very big part of it, was an organization called Christians for Israel, which, as the name says, are Christians. They're non-Jewish, but they're very, very supportive of Israel in any way possible and they came from all over the country. Buses came, some people leaving their houses as early as 6:00 in the morning and being on buses for 3 hours to be there at 9:00 to join this march and to show solidarity with Israel and with justice. I think there were a thousand people. On a Thursday morning at 9:00 people have to go to work, but they came and there were busloads from all over the country. People came there for one reason only; one simple reason: To show Israel that they are there to support them. That was a very, very beautiful and strong sign of solidarity.”
On concurrent protests of pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel supporters, Rabbi Jacobs said that, “This was actually interesting. This little square in front of the Peace Palace itself is not so big. It's quite small, so, they didn't want two protests to take place at the same time in this small square. The idea was that the pro-Palestinian protest would be their first, then the pro-Israel protest would walk by and the Palestinians would go to the side. We would be allowed to be there to show our support, then we leave and the pro-Palestinians would be allowed to come back. However, the pro-Palestinian protesters made a lot of noise, made a lot of trouble and they didn't want to leave and multiple times the police actually stopped our march, because they didn't want confrontation between the two camps. Rightfully So, I must say."
He continued, “Our organization went to the police and said, ‘Listen we are going to go through, because we want be there when the media is there. We want to show the world that we are supporting Israel and whether you guys are going to save us or not, within exactly five minutes we're going to continue our walk.’ After that being said I'm not sure if that was a reason but within one minute they said, ‘You're allowed to continue your walk and you're allowed to continue your march to the Peace Palace.’ You know you always have to be nice with the authorities, but sometimes you do have to make it very clear that we're not going to allow ourselves to be silenced just because we are polite.”
Rabbi Jacobs praised the police intervention, saying, “Of course. Let's be very honest over here the police is very, very protective of the Jewish community. Obviously the police itself is not taking a political stance, but they are doing anything they can to make sure the Jewish community is safe. For them this was also, a very scary moment. There's a lot of international media attention. You can't imagine how much media was there. All eyes were upon them and if something would have gone wrong over there everybody would have blamed them. So, I don't envy them, but they were there and they protected us and made sure everything went well."
Rabbi Jacobs described, “There were people who were part of the Israeli delegation, people and families of the hostages and Jews and Christians. We found it also, very, very important to be very visibly attending an event like this, to show the outside world, but also, to show our Jewish community that we should never be scared of showing our support to Israel and showing our support to justice, because sometimes people might be scared to voice their opinion at the universities or at work etc. So, we felt it was very, very important that we were very visibly Jewish, attending such an event supporting Israel.”
“At universities, like in America and everywhere, we're dealing with internationally-organized activist groups, who are very well-financed, trying to influence academic debate and trying to influence and trying to create a lot of criticism on Israel within the universities. We fight against it, meaning if people want to have an academic perspective, they come to certain conclusions and it's their right. They can even voice an opinion, which is not an opinion that I share, but we should be very, very careful of foreign countries trying to influence what is being taught at universities over here. That's what's happening. That's what’s happening all over the world, and this is something we have to fight against and make sure that there is true academic debate taking place at these universities."
Rabbi Jacobs is also not scared of showing his Jewishness externally.
“Absolutely not. I'm not scared and I also, never hide my Jewish identity in any way," he said. "I would walk anywhere in the city or in any other city, showing visibly that I am Jewish. That is what I tell my people as well. Now, of course, there are people who are scared. I think that individual people shouldn't be scared, but institutions obviously need a very high measure of security, due to a rise of terror. The threat of terror against Jewish institutions, meaning when my kids go to school there is police, there is army. There's a lot of protection around Jewish institutions, but individuals don't have a reason to be hiding their Jewish identity, even more, So, I can walk around the universities with a kippa. I’ve never had an issue and I will never have an issue because I'm not going to hide my Jewish identity.”
On the political situation in the Netherlands, Rabbi Jacobs added, “There is no coalition here yet, and we don't know what the future is going to entail but the winning party is pro-Israel. Besides this party, there are many other parties that's that are supportive of Israel. Let's be very honest, the government at the moment, the Dutch government, is supporting Israel in their right to defend itself, within the parameters of what you can expect for a European country, but they are supportive of Israel and that is something we should be thankful for. At the same time no one knows what the future is going to entail and in society there is a lot of support, as more and more support is coming for the Palestinian side of the narrative, but that does not necessarily reflect the majority of Dutch voters.”
Rabbi Jacobs is proud to promote Israel in his local community, and stressed, “Just two weeks ago a father called me and said, ‘My daughter wants to do her year of study in Israel, but I'm so scared. Can you speak to my daughter and convince her not to go, because I won't be able to sleep at night.’ I told the father that I think the safest place for the daughter right now is in Israel, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe used to say, ‘Israel's a land which had God's eyes upon it from the beginning of the year till the end of the year.’ So, I responded to the father and said ‘I can speak to your daughter. I can advise her to be in touch with you every day, but I'm not going to tell her not to go to Israel.’ Last week he went to bring her to Israel, because she insisted and said that she is going to go anyways. He brought her and I just called him on my way here and asked him how it was. He said, ‘Well, I'm so, happy my daughter went to Israel’, and he was all calm and he felt fine. He was happy that his daughter is there right now. So, you do see a tremendous connection to Israel and people are supporting and feel connected to Israel. They feel it's part of their identity.”
Rabbi Jacobs is also proud to fight antisemitism in his own way: “I think the best way to fight antisemitism is not to fight negativity, but to proud of who you are. Do not be involved constantly with negativity. Don't focus on the negative elements of it. I want to give you an example. A few years ago, I was at a certain university and students came over to me said, ‘At the intro week, which is the week that the university starts, the Palestinian students are going to have a stand and they will give out Palestinian flags.' They were all worried."
"I asked them, ‘So, what are you worried about?’ ‘Well, they will give out Palestinian flags.’ I asked them what they want to do and they said they want to make an Israeli stand and give out Israeli flags. I asked them, ‘What do they think most people are going to think?’ You know the Palestinians are going to give out Palestinian flags, the Jews are going to give out Israeli flags and most people are just going to continue walking and say, ‘Those crazy Palestinians, those crazy Jews.’ What are you going to achieve? So, they asked what I want them to do and I replied, ‘The student year is starting right before Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year - ed.). So, what you're going to do is you going to make honey cake and give them out to all students with a big sticker on it saying, ‘The Jewish Student Association of that University wishes you a sweet new year of study.’ ‘Oh really, we should give it out to everyone, also, to the Palestinian students?’ I said, ‘Yes, you also, give it to the Palestinian students.’ ‘Oh, wow we never thought about it, but that is the best way.’
"Through positivity you can reach much more, than just by calling out people for the antisemitism. So, the best way of fighting antisemitism is to speak about positivity. Speak about what Israel is adding to the world, the fight for Israel is fighting for justice, the great things that are happening in Israel and by Israel, and not focusing on the negativity, but focusing on the positivity and that's going to win many more people over than by just speaking about negative elements."
In conclusion, Rabbi Jacobs emphasized that, “Whatever the news is going to be, we have to realize that we are outnumbered. In numbers we are smaller and that means we have to work more effectively. Whatever is going to come out of the Hague, we know what justice is and whatever is going to come out of the Hague is going to say more about the Hague than it's going to say about Israel. That should be clear. We should be proud of who we are, and we should be fighting to make sure our people are safe, and you know that is not only in our interest, that's also, an interest of the of the people in Gaza themselves. They're also not helped by a dictatorship of Hamas.”