Winning the Battle for Israel in Europe: ELNET – European Leadership Network
Former French Prime Minister, Valls, speaking at the Friends of ELNET event at the Harmonie Club.
By Henry Levy
December 15, 2017 Hanukkah issue
Who knew that it existed? But, as a representative of ELNET (European Leadership Network) said, “Is it realistic that Israel should depend solely on the United States for advocacy?”
ELNET was formed in 2007 by visionary leaders from the US and Europe. ELNET's mission is “to educate leaders and citizens from Europe about Israel, promote an exchange of ideas between leaders and citizens with Israelis, and increase knowledge about Israel, thereby improving the diplomatic and cultural relations between the regions.” The rise of anti-Semitism in Europe over these last years, has been understandably troubling and unfortunately growing, as has an increasing Arab and Muslim immigrant population largely unfriendly to Israel and the Jews.
Consequently Israel's relations with Europe have grown more challenging and critical. As Israel's Consul General in New York, Ambassador Dani Dayan remarked at the recent Friends of ELNET gala, “Oy vey, Europe! So difficult with you. So difficult without you. Jews cannot disconnect itself from relationships with Europe.” Dayan went on to say that French-Israeli relations are the best since the 1960's and that Netanyahu was presently on his way to see French President Macron in Paris. In fact, this year Israel and France will have over 150 cultural performances taking place in each country. Dayan also praised Macron for recently saying that anti-Zionism is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.
Arie Bensemhoun, ELNET-France Executive Director remarked that it took years to recognize the new terrorist threat that was attacking France and later Europe, and that threat is radical Islam. Arie then proudly introduced former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, keynote speaker at the Friends ELNET program “The Critical Importance of the French-Israel Relationship” held at the Harmonie Club in NYC on December 5, 2017.
Mamuel Valls, who was Prime Minister from 2014-2016 was greeted very enthusiastically by all the attendees, and with good reason. He said, “to be a target of all those who are anti-Semites and hate Israel is an honor – and I accept it.” In his opinion it was not until the attack against the Charlie Hebdo magazine on January 7, 2015 for printing cartoons perceived to be against Muhammad (12 employees were murdered) and the killing of innocent people at the Hypercacher Kosher Supermarket two days later that the French people and government finally took the acts of hatred and terror seriously.
The entire country, and the world, had no doubt that they were facing a new breed of barbarians within the French Muslim society after the attack in the Bataclan concert hall on November 13, 2015 with 90 people killed and many more injured. However it was a courageous Manuel Valls who in January 2015 said that France without French Jews would no longer be France and that in the soul of France is Judaism. He maintains that those who do not denounce anti-Semitism are on the wrong side of history. Valls, born in Barcelona to a Spanish father and a Swiss mother in 1962 and a member of the Socialist Party, said what drew him to his strong stands against anti-Semitism was the Dreyfus Affair at the end of the 20 th century.
Dreyfus who was a French Jew and a Captain in the military was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprison-ment for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy. The extreme right leaning press conveyed the worst stereotypes of Jews in attacking Dreyfus. When it became known through uncovered evidence that a Major Esterhazy was the real culprit, new charges based on falsified documents attempted to frame Dreyfus again but for J'accuse!, a letter by Emile Zola that pressed for a reopening of the case. France's ethical and moral future was at stake and this is what so intrigued Manuel Valls.
With support from the likes of Sarah Bernhardt, Anatole France and Georges Clemenceau and thousands of others who stood with Dreyfus, the honor of France was saved. That is what motivates Valls in his present fight against anti-Semitism and for Israel.
Friends of ELNET Board member Andy Hochberg remarked that the sole focus was to mobilize Jewish and non-Jewish communities to speak up for political action and for pro Jewish advocacy. He cautioned, “The last time in Europe when no one spoke up look what happened.”
An interesting statistic is that in the US approximately 85% of US politicians have been to Israel (most on sponsored trips) but in Europe it is only 12%. Such trips are always eye openers for these decision makers and provide an informed outlook on the realities that Israel faces.
David Siegel, the Chair of ELNET in Israel and a former Israeli Consul General of Israel for the southwestern US, said that a new concern is that not only can Hezbollah fire on Israel, but it is putting precision onto their rockets to pinpoint targets. He spoke of hosting seven Senators from France who had no idea that Israel was a global center of innovation nor did they know that Israel was a safe country.
The money that Friends of ELNET raise to promote such trips, educates leaders in Europe about Israel and teaches European Jews how to speak up. The message is that Europe is not lost and that any funds raised beyond their modest current $5 million budget will be spent wisely and purposefully.
Friends of ELNET can make a significant difference in winning the battle for Israel in Europe. We encourage you to support them and get involved. Their website is www.felnetus.org and they can be reached at 917-722- 1255 at their national office in Manhattan, as well as in Los Angeles and Chicago.