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Ben Gvir asks police to 'protect Jewish communities outside of Israel'

Far-right minister wants emergency security response squads to aid Jewish people and institutions around the world
Israeli far-right minister Itamar Ben-Gvir in the southern town of Kiryat Malakhi on 16 February 2024 (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Israeli far-right minister Itamar Ben Gvir in the southern town of Kiryat Malakhi on 16 February 2024 (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Israel's far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has asked police to draw up plans to create emergency security response teams to protect Jewish communities and institutions around the world. 

"Diaspora Jews are currently suffering from a harsh wave of antisemitism in communities and on campuses in the US, Europe, and around the world," Ben Gvir said, according to a report in Israeli media network Arutz Sheva on Wednesday.

"I asked the police commissioner to draft a plan to aid in the creation of local response teams that will protect Jewish communities and institutions overseas, through professional tutelage, including a training program and technological solutions for security." 

He added that the plans would be "in cooperation with the local police and relevant authorities". 

"Our Jewish, national, and moral obligation is to help them," Ben Gvir added.

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There has been a marked rise in antisemitic incidents in Europe since war broke in Gaza on 7 October.

In the UK, incidents had risen more than fivefold, according to a report by monitoring group the Community Security Trust (CST) published in February.

Ben Gvir's comments came as student encampments demanding divestment from companies involved in Israel's occupation of Palestinian land and its war on Gaza swept across campuses in the United States. 

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Last week, at least 108 students from Columbia University were arrested, when the university's administrator, Nemat Minouche Shafik, called the New York Police Department to enter campus and break up an encampment on the main lawns.

In response to the police crackdown at Columbia, solidarity camps were set up in major campuses across the US, including at Harvard, Berkeley and University of Southern California.

US President Joe Biden registered concerns about antisemitism on campuses, amid the protests and encampments. 

"Silence is complicity," Biden said in a written statement on Sunday. "Even in recent days, we’ve seen harassment and calls for violence against Jews. This blatant antisemitism is reprehensible and dangerous – and it has absolutely no place on college campuses, or anywhere in our country."

Jewish pro-Palestine students involved in the campus actions have denied there are threats to Jewish students at the protests.

Jared Kannel, a Jewish student at Columbia, told the TRT news outlet: "I am perfectly safe here. And this has all been a distraction because they don't want us talking about the nonstop massacre of Gaza, of Palestinian civilians, being taken out by the IDF [Israeli army]."

Anti-Zionist group, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), said Jewish students speaking up for Palestine were being targeted by university administrators at Columbia. 

"Columbia University has actively created a hostile environment for students who are Palestinian or who support Palestinian freedom. Additionally, the administration’s actions have made the campus much less safe for Jewish students," the group said in a statement.

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