The fact that Egypt is now led by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood is cause for concern and has prompted Israel to increase its security along its southern border, Jonathan Davis says.
Newly elected President Mohammed Morsi has domestic concerns that will hopefully prevent him from dragging Egypt into conflict with Israel, Davis, vice-president for external relations and head of the Raphael Recanati International School at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, said during a recent trip to Toronto.
“[Morsi] needs to meet the needs of his country and feed his people. But at the end of the day, the Muslim Brotherhood’s mission statement is to impose sharia law,” he said.
“How democracy mixes with Islamic fundamentalism is a challenge. Egalitarianism under sharia law is a challenge. Life as we know it in the West is not possible under these [types of] regimes,” Davis added, noting that Hamas rejoiced after Morsi was elected.
He said the best thing Israel can do regarding Egypt is acknowledge Morsi as a new, democratically elected leader and neighbour to the south.
Davis – a former IDF paratrooper who is now a liaison officer in the IDF Spokesman’s Office and often briefs foreign journalists on Middle East security issues – was in Toronto to encourage pro-Israel students here to consider attending his school.
About 100 Canadians are currently studying at the IDC, out of a total student population of 6,500, a quarter of whom are international students. It has also formalized an exchange program with St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.
Davis is hoping for more collaboration with Canadian universities in the future.
In the meantime, the IDC recently launched a distance education course in counter-terrorism that he said is the first of its kind on the subject.
Talking about his recent North American speaking tour, which was all about “making the case for Israel,” Davis said he’s been telling Jewish Diaspora audiences that they must start paying more attention to western groups that delegitimize the Jewish state.
“In certain urban centres such as London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Toronto and San Francisco, [Israel’s supporters] must learn to deal with the delegitimizers,” he said.
“I don’t have the answers to all these challenges, but as a representative of IDC Herzliya, Israel’s first private, non-profit Zionist university, part of our job is to make the case for Israel, which we do through numerous activities on campus.”
He said IDC students learn how to respond creatively to anti-Israel activism and to become proactive about promoting the Jewish state to the public at large.
For example, Davis noted how IDC students took an active role during 2009’s Operation Cast Lead by blogging 24 hours a day to the world about Israel’s actions and defending the state online in a multitude of languages, including French, Swedish and Danish.
“They reached hundreds of thousands of people via Facebook, Twitter, blogs… Our students, both in Israel and abroad, were defending our soldiers on the electronic battlefield,” he said.
Davis had specific praise for Canada’s Jewish communities and how they understand Israel better than some other Diaspora communities.
Canadian Jews, are for the most part “very connected” with Israel.
“Part of it may be because [Israeli] immigration to Canada took place at later stages than it did in the U.S.,” he said. “But whatever the reason, you feel the warmth. You feel that the [local] leadership is hospitable. One sees that the Jewish community raises a lot of money for Jewish causes and for Jewish continuity in this country.
“The care for seniors. The Jewish summer camps. It’s all flourishing in Canada the way it was in the Golden Age of [Jewish communities] in eastern Europe. I feel that compared to some other communities I’ve visited, the Canadian one is more heimish.”
For more information on IDC Herzliya, visit http://idc.ca.il.