"Never Again will nations stand silent in the face of boycotts against the Jewish people," stated a declaration signed by an international group of 25 ministers and parliamentarians strongly denouncing the EU plans to label Jewish products.
The delegation of lawmakers, including members of the EU, are in Israel as part of the annual Israel Allies Foundation Chairman's Conference convening in Jerusalem, Israel, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The lawmakers toured the Shomron, the Biblical heartland of the land of Israel, on Sunday. First stop on the full-day tour, was the Barkan Industrial Park where 8,000 Arabs and Jews work together. Touring the Twitoplast factory, the delegates had an opportunity to see and speak with workers.
However, this industrial zone of co-existence was the site of a terror attack in October of last year. Lawmakers were able to hear from the bereaved parents of the two young people who worked at the site and were murdered. The parents urged members of the audience to get their governments to stop funding terror. Member of Knesset Miki Zohar held up a photo of Kim Levengrond Yehezkel z"l and Ziv Hajbi z"l as he addressed the delegation.
"We will not stay silent while Europe once again labels Jewish goods," said Josh Reinstein, president of the Israel Allies Foundation after the declaration was signed. "Here in this industrial zone is where real peace is being made."
During lunch at the Kabir Winery, Leah Goldin, mother of Hadar Goldin z"l, described her more than 5 year ordeal to get her son's body back from Hamas in Gaza. Two hours after the 2014 proclaimed ceasefire, against all humanitarian and international military rules of conduct, her son was killed and his remains are still being held captive.
Driving toward Shiloh after lunch, the bus passed numerous roads marked with red signs forbidding Israelis from entering the Arab villages. On and off all day the visitors had periods of clear weather and heavy rain. At Shiloh, it started raining as most of the delegation started up the hill to see the new Shiloh Visitor Center and the movie hologram of the Mishkan. For 369 years ancient Shiloh was the holiest site of the Jewish people before Solomon built the First Temple in Jerusalem.
After the long, often cold and wet, day of touring, the Psagot Winery Visitor Center was the final stop for dinner - served with a choice of Psagot excellent wines. The Psagot Winery was founded by Na'ama and Yaakov Berg, who started planting vineyards around twenty years ago when people said they were crazy and nothing would grow in the barren area. Berg, who immigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union, is the CEO. Investor Simon Falic and Berg spoke of their determination to continue fighting the EU labeling of their wine and other Israeli products. There are two hundred locations in territorial dispute today, but only Jewish Israelis have been singled out to have special labels. The international parliamentarians were urged to respond to BDS boycott efforts in their countries.
After dinner Mordechai Yerushalmi, a Holocaust survivor born in Budapest spoke of his difficult times as a seven-year-old child alone in the world taking care of a one-year-old sister. After his horrible experiences during the Shoah, he was able to make aliyah in 1950. Ending his remarks, he spoke of a famous image of Jewish children marching, forced to hold their hands up in the air at Nazi gunpoint. Today he concluded, he is proud to have family members serving in the IDF, as soldiers in the Israeli Defense Force. Some with tears in their eyes, everyone who had listened intently in the dining room, stood and clapped their hands in appreciation.
On Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, met with the delegation led by IAF President Reinstein. The visitors presented their signatures against the EU court decision to label products from the Golan Heights, eastern Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria.
In response, the Prime Minister said, "There are two kinds of friends – friends of interest and friends of values. Sometimes they intersect as well. What is important about this group is that it is, first of all, based on common values.
Even though Israel is denigrated and vilified, you know the truth. There is no substitute for speaking the truth in the face of lies."
Answering a question about the American administration's statement on the legality of the settlements, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that it was very important because it reflected historical fact. He noted that we are not conquerors of a foreign country, declared that this has been our homeland since the patriarch Abraham came here 3,500 years ago and reminded the parliamentarians that the word 'Jew' comes from 'Judea'. The Prime Minister added that while we are not trying to expel anyone, neither will anyone expel us. Therefore, he said, President Trump's statement was a very important contribution to the truth. He urged the visitors to stand alongside Israel and the truth.
The three-day conference included briefings by MK Moshe Ya'alon, MK Yair Lapid and MK Gideon Sa'ar. Speakers also included President-elect of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei and Rep. Alan Clemmons of South Carolina, who initiated the first successful legislation against BDS in the US and was active in having similar legislation passed in a majority of other states. Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Juilo Borges was among the participants, as was Rabbi Pynchas Brener who served for over 40 years in Venezuela. Countries represented ranged from Australia to Zambia.
The Israel Allies Foundation, established in 2007, is an umbrella organization overseeing the activity of more than 40 pro-Israel parliamentary caucuses around the world. Previous fact-finding missions and conferences to Israel have helped its leaders to gain valuable firsthand information in fighting boycotts.