OPINION: Time to stand against institutions who refuse to stand on the right side of history

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OPINION: Time to stand against institutions who refuse to stand on the right side of history

'We need to stop supporting them. We need to resign from their boards. We need to make it public where they stand', writes former chair of BICOM Edward Misrahi

Demonstrators disrupting an event with Israeli speaker at UCL campus.
Demonstrators disrupting an event with Israeli speaker at UCL campus.

As all of us try to come to terms with the horrible events of last Saturday in Israel, one thing is clear. Nothing will be the same anymore. We cannot stay the same anymore. And I am starting with myself and my family.

Over the last few years we have witnessed across many parts of our society how anti-Israel statements and actions slowly grew as different parts of the society, including many in the Jewish community, grew uncomfortable with the lack of progress on peace.

This was despite achievements like the Abraham accords. BDS movements grew (many times led by Jewish students), Israeli speakers were shunned, and expressing positive views on Israel was seen as a risk for students, academics and professionals.

Since this happened in many institutions that many of us had historically respected, attended or supported, there was always a desire to find an elegant solution. We generally had a desire to resolve issues without creating too much of a stir.

Universities have been the epicentre of this behaviour where we have had the unusual situation of there being outrage about what was happening whilst at the same time as all of us (and I fully include myself in this hypocrisy) were trying to get our kids in them.

We argued that it was minorities, that it was not reflective of the institution and we tried basically to rationalise what is clear now was not explainable.

Edward MIsrahi

Unwillingly or with complacency, we allowed this cancer to grow to such an extent that we see now how the behaviour in some of the leading universities and cultural institutions across the world. Situations where students attending the universities with the smartest and most accomplished students spewing hate and no compassion.

It is fully legitimate to have people worry about the Palestinian cause and defend their right to have a more promising future alongside Israel. I live in Israel now and many Israelis feel even more passionately about that than people abroad.

It’s not all right to be so blinded by that belief to think that atrocities against civilians are justified. That is the worst I have ever seen.

The same way Israel is wounded and hurting by what is happening, what I have witnessed in Israel this week is how a country responds to that hurt and sorrow with solidarity and support. Apart from the military operation, it is nothing short of breath-taking to watch how Israelis and many, many Jews in the diaspora are literally working 24/7 to help people they don’t even know in any way they can.

Right now everybody is a family member and we all feel the pain for every loss. People are signing up to the army, stopping their lives, giving up their homes, their businesses, their time just to help. People are literally fighting to be able to get back to the country so they can risk their lives. No one cares about the implications for their personal lives.

We are now ONE which is why evil will never be able to beat us.

Now we need to extend that support and solidarity globally and finally make a stand against institutions that we might care about but are not acting on the right side of history.

What happened this weekend in Israel needs no nuance. It is black and white. And if institutions of any kind, academic, commercial, cultural, not for profit, arts, etc. cannot see that, we cannot and should not be involved with them anymore. It does not matter what links we might have.

We need to stop supporting them. We need to resign from their boards. We need to make it public where they stand. We are not asking anybody to get involved in the politics. We are asking people to stand on the side of humanity. You don’t need a legal review to decide that.

These decision might costs us. Business might be lost, access might be more limited and we will have to make sacrifices. None of them compare to what our brothers and sisters suffered last Saturday and what I am seeing here this week.

Over the last few days I have started to see the tide turn. We have had actions not just statements by supporters of universities. But it is still too little. We need much more.

We need a wave; we need a tsunami. They need to know that we want to be a force for good but if they don’t want us, we will not help them anymore.

Israel is the country for all Jews and it is the only country we have. Don’t let the recent terrible politics fool you. That is never going change. It is not perfect and we will need to continue to get better but now is the time to state where we stand.

No more of being pro Israel unless it is inconvenient or with conditions. For me that Zionism does not count anymore.

Get on that path or get out of our way.

It is not ok anymore. Am Israel Chai.

  • Edward Misrahi is a businessman, philanthropist and former chair of BICOM (Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre). He made aliyah in 2020.
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