Here are our top 12 public figures/personalities that defended Israel and/or the Jewish people in 2016.
12. John Mann MP
John Mann was among a number of Labour MPs that spoke out during the year against anti-Semitism within the Party. Who can forget his extraordinary public outburst at Ken Livingston after the former Mayor claimed Hitler supported Zionism. The MP accosted the former London Mayor outside TV studios in Westminster, accusing him of being a ‘Nazi apologist’ . The scene was caught on camera and went viral, but not everyone appreciated the confrontation as Mann was subsequently summoned by the Party. However, his bold and outspoken protest definitely sent a message that anti-Semitism should be never be tolerated.
11. Dame Helen Mirren, Actress
Oscar-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren testified at the US Senate in June about the slow pace of restitution of looted Jewish art. Dame Helen told the Senate: “When the Jewish people were dispossessed of their art, they lost heritage. Memories were taken along with the art and to have no memories is like having no family. And that is why art restitution is so imperative. Also in June, she told an audience at an awards ceremony in Israel that she is a “believer” in Israel and rejected efforts to boycott it.
10. John Magufuli, President of Tanzania
Tanzanian President John Magufuli told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in July that the country plans to open an embassy in Israel for the first time. Bilateral ties between Israel and Tanzania were severed following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It represents a year of strengthening ties between Israel and African states and followed a successful tour of Africa by Netanyahu in which he called a summit of African leaders a “milestone,” marking “monumental change in the relations between Israel and Africa.
9. Ashton Kutcher, Actor
American actor Ashton Kutcher confronted an anti-Israel activist on stage after she stormed on to protest against Airbnb for allowing individuals in West Bank settlements to advertise their homes using the service. The actor explained to her and the audience how the company is bringing people together. Kutcher has visited Israel previously in 2013 where he said that Israel was close to his heart and that “coming to Israel is sort of coming back to the source of creation.”
8. Michael Gove MP
Michael Gove was a key figure this year in the EU Referendum campaign, but he is perhaps less recognised for his stand with Israel.
In an article in The Times in December, Michael Gove MP labelled anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and called upon the British government to move the UK embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and said the queen could open it on her first official visit.
7. Hany Baransi, Restaurant owner
An Ohio restaurant owned by an Arab-Israeli Christian reopened days after four patrons were injured in a machete attack in February
Hany Baransi says he has always been outspoken about his Israeli identity, and so when his restaurant was attacked by a machete-wielding man, he believed it was no coincidence.
“I am a very outspoken Israeli, and I have an Israeli flag in my restaurant. When people [from the Arab community] ask me where I am from, I tell them I am Israeli, I am an Israeli Christian Arab, it’s not like I am Palestinian, and then they start arguing and fighting with me.”
When asked whether he would consider removing the Israeli flag seen from his restaurant’s entryway as a precaution, he responded: “Actually I have another flag, and I am going to get a bigger flag.”
Sadly business took a turn for the worse since the attack and the restaurant has been forced to close.
6. Theresa May, Prime Minister of the UK
British Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced in December that the Government is adopting an official definition of anti-Semitism. She becomes the first PM to do so and follows calls from CUFI and other pro-Israel organisations for a tougher stand against anti-Semitism. In the same speech, May affirmed the Government’s support for Israel and told the COonservative Friends of Israel audience that the country will be marking the “Balfour anniversary” with pride, despite calls from anti-Israel activists in the UK to apologise for the Declaration.
5. Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General
UNESCO chief Irina Bokova has received “death threats” after expressing reservations about an Arab-backed resolution denying Israel’s history in Jerusalemin October.
“These threats were made after her criticism” of two resolutions adopted last week at committee stage ahead of a final vote, HaCohen said, accusing Arab countries of “appalling conduct” over the drafts.
Bokova distanced herself from the resolutions in a statement, saying “nowhere more than in Jerusalem do Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage and traditions share space.”
4. Priti Patel MP
In what was probably the most positive UK decision of the year relating to Israel, Priti Patel, International Development Secretary, instructed her department in October to freeze the payments, a third of the total the UK sends to the PA, pending an investigation. A Mail on Sunday report in March reported that millions of pounds of UK aid funding was being handed over by the PA to the PLO, which was paying stipends to the convicted murderers of Israeli civilians.
3. Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee
After 44 years, the memory of the the 11 Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre was commemorated in an official ceremony in Rio in August, organised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
A long campaign led by Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, widows of two of the murdered Israeli athletes, demanded that the IOC commemorate the Israelis in the opening or closing ceremony, but their pleas had fallen on deaf ears until the appointment of German Thomas Bach (Pictured left) as IOC President in September 2013. Bach led a minute of silence during the inauguration of a “place of mourning” in the athletes village in Rio de Janeiro. With his voice cracking with emotion, Bach read out of the names of each of the 11 Israelis and the German policeman who died after a raid by Palestinian gunmen in the athletes’ village in Munich, the worst terror attack in Olympic history.
2. Donald Trump, US President-Elect
Donald Trump has certainly divided opinion around the world, but he has expressed strong support for the State of Israel. Our video of what he has said about Israel and the Jewish people has reached over 3 million views. He describes himself as a “lifelong supporter of Israel and true friend of Israel” and has spoken out strongly this year against the deal with Iran and funding of Palestnian terrorism. Significantly, Mr Trump has promised to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which has already prompted wide discussion over the possibility. Next year, 2017, will be the test to see whether Mr Trump keeps his commitment.
And finally, our number 1…
1. Andres Roemer, former Mexico representative to UNESCO
Andres Roemer literally lost his job for standing with Israel. He was Mexico’s representative to UNESCO at the time of the notorious resolution passed by the UN body which ignored the Jewish connection to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and Western Wall. He walked out of the vote in a personal protest against it, then attempted a last ditch effort to force a revote and change Mexico’s vote. However, Mexico eventually withdrew its motion, and instead issued a statement that it wished to change its vote from “support” to “abstain.” Consequently, Roemer was dismissed by the Mexican government.
Roemer said, “Given what’s happened, I’m simply no longer the envoy, This resolution was a combination of ignorance or anti-Semitism and anti-Israel policy. It’s considered politically correct to vote against Israel over the situation [the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process], and it’s like that all over the world. Anti-Semitism is based on great ignorance. … We need education to fight it.”
Christians United for Israel UK