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Ahead of Fence Hearings, Students Plan Trip to Hague to Defend Israel

The largest international Jewish student organization has announced that it will send protesters when the International Court of Justice considers the legality of Israel’s West Bank security fence later this month.

The Jerusalem-based World Union of Jewish students, which represents hundreds of thousands of Jewish students worldwide, is coordinating a “silent protest march” on Feb. 23, the day of the fence hearings at The Hague, “to speak about our views,” WUJS President Peleg Reshef told JTA in a telephone interview Thursday.

The Brussels-based European Union of Jewish Students has begun calling member organizations to galvanize support for the protest. In Berlin and London, Jewish student groups are calling on members to fill buses for the event.

“The point we are trying to make is if you bring the fence to the international court in the Hague we think you should speak about and bring to justice and trial the situation of terror and the horrific reality that Jewish people are experiencing in Israel,” Reshef said, adding that he had been in touch with Jewish student groups in Europe to help coordinate the action. “We feel that Jewish students today have a lot to say and a lot to contribute to these events.”

At the headquarters of the EUJS, project director Adam Mouchtar, 27, has been busy for two days, calling Jewish student groups in Belgium and Germany to coordinate buses to The Hague. There are some 175,000 Jewish students in Europe, he estimated.

Uriel Kashi, 28, director of EUJS’ German branch, told JTA that at least six buses would go to the protest from across Germany.

“If you talk about the wall, you have to talk about the terror as well,” he said.

Yet he said he was “of two minds” about Israel’s recent decision to make images of a recent suicide bombing available on the Internet.

“If you ask me, it is a moral decline” to show dead victims, he said. “After Sept. 11, there was a decision not to show any bodies. It is against Western ethics.”

But he said that if the Palestinians use victims for propaganda purposes, Israel also should do it.

Mark Ross, chairman of the Union of Jewish Students of the United Kingdom and Ireland, said he hopes some 100 members of the group will head for The Hague.

“It’s not easy for us,” he said, noting that the date coincides with exams and final course work.

“I think it’s very important to point out that the protest is not in defense of a particular Israeli policy, but in support of Israel and making sure that both sides of the story are heard,” Ross told JTA in a telephone interview from London, adding that Jewish students have had to respond increasingly to anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on British campuses.

Ross had just come from a meeting about how to respond to three upcoming events on British campuses: an anti-Israel demonstration, a motion against Israel and a lecture by a speaker linked to Hamas.

“Each requires a different kind of response,” Ross said. “We try to mobilize Jewish students,” he said, “not necessarily to demonstrate, but to make sure a more balanced view is put across.”

The student group is one of many Jewish organizations planning activities in The Hague. Others include B’nai B’rith International; the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Zaka, Israel’s emergency services group; and Amcha Coalition for Jewish Concerns. Numerous other Jewish organizations are planning supportive action as well.

Echoing the concerns of other Jewish leaders, Reshef, 30, who attended the U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001, expressed worries that The Hague hearings would become a similar display of anti-Semitism.

“At the end of the day, all the media focus” at Durban “was against Israel or against Jews. We have the feeling that in The Hague it is going to be used for these purposes as well,” Reshef said. “People should understand that we live under the reality of terror, and it is not being discussed that the fence — which is supposed to be against terror — is on trial.”

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