ZFA President Jeremy Leibler was invited to participate in a global forum on antisemitism on Monday 30 January, convened by the Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli at the Knesset.
Also speaking at the forum were important figures in the Jewish world, such as former Canadian Attorney-General Irwin Cotler and NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg, as well as presidents and directors of other diaspora organisations, such as the American Jewish Committee, European Jewish Association, and South African Zionist Federation, plus the heads of a number of NGOs, such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Hillel, Palestinian Media Watch and more.
Mr Leibler welcomed the Government’s interest in the situation faced by diaspora communities. “The minister made clear the point of the meeting was to listen to the concerns of Jewish communities around the world”, said Mr Leibler, “and to hear their recommendations for future action. It was an important opportunity to share the impact of antisemitism on the Australian Jewish community and to discuss ways in which the Israeli Government can support us in the diaspora in the fight against antisemitism.”
During his talk, Mr Leibler briefed the forum on the richness of Jewish life in Australia, the high levels of commitment to Israel found within the Jewish community, and the broad political support the community enjoys in the fight against antisemitism.
However, Mr Leibler also noted the dramatic increase in antisemitism over the past few years as documented in the report just issued by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. He described the patterns that have emerged; that far-right antisemitism is easier to identify, more likely to include violence, and widely condemned by mainstream media and polite society, whereas far-left antisemitism often masquerading as anti-Zionism, is harder to identify and call out, but is equally as dangerous in the impact it has on the wellbeing of Jewish Australians, particularly our university students.
Mr Leibler noted that the issue is at its worst on university campuses, where extreme faculty members obsess about Israel and single out Jewish students because of their support for Israel and where student unions pass antisemitic motions in support of BDS, that describe Israel as an apartheid state and deny only Jews the right to self-determination.
Mr Leibler told the forum that the Australian Jewish community views Israel as a partner in the fight against antisemitism. He also encouraged the Israeli government to send to Australia advocates and thought leaders to meet Australian decision makers.
Mr Leibler informed the forum of the ZFA’s upcoming national survey, which will provide the Jewish community and Australian universities with never-before collected data that will paint an accurate picture of the type and level of antisemitism on Australian campuses.
Finally, Mr Leibler expressed the view that the most powerful tool in the fight against antisemitism is strengthening Jewish identity in the diaspora and called on the Israeli government to ensure that it continues to fund programs like Masa and Taglit-Birthright that we know have a long-lasting impact on Jewish identity and connectedness.