The 2021 American Jewish Committee (AJC) Virtual Global Forum opened today with remarks by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, whose seven-year term ends in July.

“For many years, AJC has played a central role as an advocate for the Jewish people, combating antisemitism, BDS, and supporting Israel’s fight against terror,” said Rivlin. He thanked AJC for its “work to promote Muslim-Jewish relations and ties between Israel and Arab states, and for all you do for Israel and the Jewish people.”

Addressing a worldwide audience of thousands participating in the AJC Virtual Global Forum, Rivlin spoke about rising antisemitism, libelous attacks on Israel, U.S.-Israel relations, and challenges to building a cohesive Israeli society.

“We expect world leaders to show zero tolerance for all forms of antisemitism, hatred and racism, and to use all the tools at their disposal, from physical security, to law enforcement, to education, and adopting the IHRA definition, in order to combat those threats,” said Rivlin. He expressed appreciation for one leader by name, President Joe Biden, for his statements condemning antisemitism.

“The United States has always been our closest ally, based on shared values,” said Rivlin. “The unique ties between our two countries have always been based on open discussion, transparency, and real time coordination.”

For Rivlin, equally dangerous to the precipitous rise in antisemitism is the spread of anti-Israel libels.

“Criticism of Israeli policies is legitimate, but it should be criticism based on knowledge, not based on ignorance,” stressed Rivlin. “We must preserve the ability to understand the situation in Israel on its own terms rather than falling into the trap of using concepts taken from other contexts and countries.”

Expressing hope that the ceasefire which ended the 11-day Hamas-launched conflict with Israel will hold, the president declared that “the State of Israel will take all steps necessary to ensure that our citizens can live in peace and security.” 

He also spoke about the violence between Israeli Arabs and Jews that erupted during the conflict last month and its repercussions.

“I have made building partnerships and cooperation with all the communities in Israel one of my key goals as president,” said Rivlin, who has been outspoken since 2015 about the division of Israeli society into four tribes -- secular Jewish, religious Jewish, ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish, and Arab.

“We must always remember that we are not doomed to live together. We are destined to live together, and we must walk together down the path of understanding and cooperation,” he told the AJC Virtual Global Forum.

In June 2018, Rivlin addressed, in Jerusalem, the AJC Board of Governors on the eve of the AJC Global Forum, which convened that year for the first time in Israel. “It has been a pleasure to host AJC delegations, and I deeply appreciate the solidarity delegation which came to Israel during the last conflict (in May),” he said.