Videoconference brings Minister and community together


17 February 2010 Videoconference brings Minister and community together World ORT has used its technological know-how to facilitate a meeting between Israels Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon and Britains Jewish community with a videoconference hosted by British ORT and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Mr Yaalon avoids travelling to the United Kingdom because the abuse of universal jurisdiction legislation by anti-Israel activists means he could face arrest on spurious war crimes charges. However, the expertise World ORT has accumulated in establishing a videoconferencing network for its students in 11 countries meant that Mr Yaalon, who is also Minister for Strategic Affairs, could enjoy a relaxed, face-to-face meeting with more than 30 community activists who had gathered at ORT House, London. Speaking from his Jerusalem office, Mr Yaalon described the threats facing Israel, from Islamist terrorism to Iranian nuclear ambitions. Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon addresses members of the British Jewish community assembled at ORT House, London. You are the people who can best confront the biggest strategic threat, which is the attempt to delegitimise and dehumanise the State of Israel, Mr Yaalon told the packed multimedia laboratory. You can do it through your communities and through your contacts, by writing letters to editors and through the internet. But, he added, such public diplomacy faced a formidable challenge because anti-Israel campaigns were benefiting from large injections of money from various sources . Last month, the Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, briefed World ORT lay leaders simultaneously in several countries via a teleconference arranged by World ORT. He also spoke to Romes Jewish community last month thanks to World ORTs videoconferencing technology. World ORT Director General and CEO stressed the organisations non-political credentials. World ORTs interest is not in the message itself but in bringing Jews together from around the world to discuss matters of mutual interest in an environment free of the intimidation and hatred increasingly experienced at public gatherings, Mr Singer said. Antisemitic incidents are at record highs in Europe and World ORTs values of tolerance and education obligate us to ensure that people committed to understanding and mutual respect have access to each other. This month has seen 11 students arrested for repeatedly interrupting a talk by Israeli Ambassador to the USA, Michael Oren, at the University of California, Irvine, and British police investigating an incident at Oxford University in which a student allegedly shouted slaughter the Jews in Arabic at Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Mr Yaalon, who studied at the Joint Services Command and Staff College in Camberley, England, in 1986, and whose father served in the British army during World War II, said it was a pity that he had to avoid visiting Britain in person because of the threat of political embarrassment should he be arrested for what he said were false accusations. But the former IDF Chief of Staff assured the meeting that while terrorist groups like Hamas use their own civilians as human shields the Israeli militarys Code of Conduct requires its soldiers to avoid harming civilians as much as possible. Israel needs no lectures on morality and the sanctity of life, he said. He said Israel would do everything in its power to defend itself and said all options had to be considered to prevent Iran from realising its nuclear ambitions. Despite the threats facing Israel, Mr Yaalon said he was optimistic. My confidence comes from the achievements of the Zionist movement over 120 years, he said. I gain confidence from what Israel has achieved in 62 years. I gain confidence from knowing the young generation in Israel which I commanded for 37 years. Israel is a small country with a small population. We dont have oil or gold, were even short of water we have two lakes and one of them is dead. But we enjoy good people with good brains and good hearts. This is our secret in security, the economy, science, technology and culture. And with your spirit I believe that we will prevail. The President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Vivian Wineman, said the Minister had shown himself to be well informed and intelligent and had given good responses to the questions he had been asked. And Mr Wineman praised the videoconference format. I think its a great idea, he said. It has given members of the community the chance to hear the Israeli Minister in person. However, it is not a substitute for having the Minister here in person. We want to see the law on universal jurisdiction changed.