29 June 2015 – Brussels – The AJC Transatlantic Institute welcomes that the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee today held a hearing on rising anti-Semitism in Europe.
“We are pleased that the Committee convened this hearing and hope this will be only a first step in the Parliament’s renewed efforts to combat anti-Semitism, which is not only a threat to Jews but an assault on Europe’s core values," said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute.
“Even before the recent spate of murderous terror attacks on Jewish targets, we have urged the Committee to investigate the sources of this resurgent hatred and identify policy options to combat it,” Schwammenthal said.
On May 5th, AJC held a high-level Strategy Conference on combating anti-Semitism in Europe, which brought together lawmakers, diplomats and experts from over 30 countries and presenting its own AJC Call to Action. Among the speakers on the panel was Jonathan Biermann, a prominent member of the Brussels Jewish community and Deputy Mayor of Uccle. Biermann told Members of Parliament that many Belgian Jews he knows are actively researching possible countries for emigration. "Europe must act now," Biermann said, urging governments to provide for the physical security of Jewish communities and appoint a special envoy and task force on anti-Semitism.
Robin Sclafani, Director of CEJI, highlighted the nexus between radical Islam and anti-Semitism. "Violence against Jews in Western Europe is mostly perpetrated by Muslims," Sclafani testified. "We need to draw the line between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism," she added, pointing out that when Israel is demonized, delegitimized or treated with a double standard, the line has been crossed.
There were many positive contributions from Committee members. Specifically noteworthy were the calls by MEPs for an open and honest discussion on the sources of anti-Semitism. Cecilia Wikström, Vice Chair of the European Parliament's Working Group on Anti-Semitism, said Europe needs to address "the rise of anti-Semitism in some Muslim communities."
Given the specific problem of jihadism and anti-Semitism within elements of the Muslim community, the discussion would have been even more productive had the panel included a reformist Muslim voice. “There are many courageous European Muslims whose testimony on the dimension of the problem and advise on concrete policy steps to counter radicalization would have been of great value,” said Schwammenthal.
One such important Muslim thinker, Haras Rafiq, Director of the Quilliam Foundation, spoke on a following panel officially dealing with anti-Muslim hatred. "Anti-Semitism is the opium of Islamism," he told lawmakers. AJC has also long maintained that the frequency and severity of anti-Semitic incidents would have warranted a single-focused hearing on anti-Semitism. Instead, while Parliament opened the hearing with a discussion of anti-Semitism, two separate panels followed, one dealing with anti-Muslim discrimination and the other with hate speech in general.
“The sources, manifestations and ideological background of anti-Semitism differ significantly from racism and discrimination against other minorities,” Schwammenthal said. “Separate hearings on these issues would have allowed Members of Parliament to develop a deeper understanding of each problem and to spend more time on specific policy recommendations.” Since the Toulouse attacks in 2012, Islamist terrorists have murdered 13 people in anti-Jewish attacks in France, Belgium and Denmark. Anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise throughout much of Europe, doubling last year in France and the U.K. from already high levels.