EUJS statement on the upcoming Israeli elections

Brussels, Belgium – 28 October 2022

A far-right government with Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir is incompatible with our values of democracy, equality, and human rights.

The European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS), a Jewish and Zionist organisation founded on the values of human rights, equality, acceptance and inclusion, and which is the umbrella organisation and democratic representation of 160,000 young Jews in Europe, is deeply disturbed by the potential for far right representation in the Israeli government following the upcoming elections in Israel.

“On a daily basis, Jewish students around the world, including in Europe, are facing increasing antisemitism and anti-Zionist sentiments on university grounds, from professors, from strangers on the street, in the workplace and beyond. The rise of the far-right, and their potential participation in the next Israeli government, will further embolden and empower such statements, and will have a direct effect on Jewish students in the diaspora.”

– Avital Grinberg, President of the European Union of Jewish Students

On Tuesday, November 1st, Israelis will vote for their representatives in the twenty-fifth Israeli Knesset. According to preliminary polling data, the far-right bloc (Religious Zionism), led by politicians Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, is expected to receive the third largest number of votes, with many political analysts expecting the far-right alliance to double their current seat tally. Such an increase could grant Smotrich, Ben-Gvir and their extremist political bloc considerable power in a governing coalition, with them potentially occupying important ministerial positions.

This is of grave concern to EUJS.

Bezalel Smotrich is a current member of Knesset and continues to stand on a platform of homophobia, anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab sentiment as well as believing that streams of Judaism that are not Orthodox are a danger to Israel. For precisely these reasons, the Board of Deputies of British Jews stated that Smotrich was not welcome during his visit to the UK in February.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, also a current member of Knesset and a follower of the extremist Jewish ideology of Meir Kahane (Kahanism), similarly stands on a racist platform. He has praised Baruch Goldstein, the perpetrator of a 1994 massacre in Hebron in which 29 Palestinians were killed. In December of last year, he brandished a handgun at Arab security guards at a parking garage in Tel Aviv. Ben-Gvir emboldens those that support him, many of whom have been recorded chanting “Death to Arabs”. For both men, these are only a small set of examples of their radicalism and fanaticism.

To be clear, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are a serious danger to Israelis and Palestinians. We are convinced that with an extreme right wing leadership Israel will not be able to strive for peace and for the safety of its people.

The potential power that these men could yield is deeply disturbing and unsettling, and as such EUJS believes it has an obligation to call out the hatred propagated by Smotrich and Ben-Gvir.

EUJS reaffirms itself as a fundamentally anti-racist and Zionist organisation, which has a proud history of challenging homophobia, bigotry and racism wherever and whenever it arises in society. As a result, EUJS urges Jewish communal groups and organisations to call out such hatred done in the name of Zionism and in the name of the Jewish people.

“Therefore, EUJS cannot afford to sit idly by and watch these men, who stand in stark contrast to the values of our organisation, ascend to power without us raising serious worries and concerns. Respect for human rights, dignity, and inclusion are non-negotiable and must be respected.”

– Avital Grinberg, President of the European Union of Jewish Students