Thursday, February 21, 2019 8:00 to 9:30
The Rise of Anti-Zonism: Countering the Threat to Jewish Life in Europe
The AJC Transatlantic Institute co-organized with a cross-party group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) - Lukas Mandl (EPP), Doru-Claudian Frunzulică (S&D), and Ilhan Kyuchyuk (ALDE) - a breakfast discussion in the European Parliament entitled "The Rise of Anti-Zionism: Countering the Threat to Jewish Life in Europe.” The audience of over 50 included several MEPs, EU officials, diplomats, civil society representatives, and faith leaders.
- Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl praised in his opening remarks the EU Council’s historic declaration, which on 6 December 2018 endorsed the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The Austrian EU presidency had prioritized the issue in its six-months leadership of the bloc and had spearheaded the statement that the European Council re-affirmed on 17 December 2018.
- Bulgarian MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk underlined the importance of protecting Jewish life in Europe: “First, we should not make a difference between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism. We have to be clear. Hate is hatred, no matter its nature, ethnicity or religion. And unfortunately, nowadays we are witnessing the resurgence of Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism in whole Europe.”
- Romanian MEP Doru-Claudian Frunzulică outlined the current Romanian presidency’s determination to protect Jewish life in Europe and called for more concerted efforts in Brussels: “Europe, the European Parliament, and the Council of the EU should come together with legislation to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism at the level of the European Union – mandatory for all Member States.”
- Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Ambassador of Israel to the EU and NATO, emphasized that it is of course legitimate to criticize Israel, just like any other state, but there is a line where it can cross into anti-Semitism. The ambassador also highlighted that in his 3-year experience in Brussels, he considers the European Parliament to be friendly to the State of Israel.
In the discussion moderated by Oliver Grimm, Brussels Correspondent for the Austrian newspaper Die Presse, Hannah Rose, President of the Union of Jewish Students of the United Kingdom and Ireland, explained how the deeply rooted anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party ultimately led her to resign from the party. In addition, Rose underlined that the Jewish Labour Movement is the principal representative body for Jewish Labour members and that – by contrast – the “Jewish Voice for Labour” is a fringe group.
Yohan Benizri, President of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium (CCOJB), said that nobody questioned the anti-Semitic nature of the October 2018 attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, but that the same wasn’t true for the 2014 attack on the Brussels Jewish Museum. The event traumatized the Belgian Jewish community, which recalls it as its own 9/11. Making matters even worse, the attacker’s lawyers invoked during the trial classic anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories, blaming the Mossad for his client’s heinous act. In Benizri’s assessment, anti-Zionism has not only become a justification for anti-Semitic crimes – but now even its defense.
Finally, Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute, advocated for European governments to promote democratic values and not shy away from tackling politically sensitive issues. Schwammenthal stressed that ‘political correctness’ often stood in the way of even acknowledging such problems, including anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist attitudes in Muslim communities.