Thursday, March 30, 2023
More than a hundred people, plus Members of the European Parliament, members of local governments, organizations and members of civil society came together in the European Parliament in Brussels to discuss and bring to light various ways in which antisemitism still shows up in European society.
Even though several years have passed since the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition was created and most EU member states have already adopted it, the speakers showed how antisemitic language and attitudes continue to be a reality in Europe. The purpose of this event was to raise awareness of this phenomenon, to share experiences of various legislators on how they approach fighting it and to propose ways in which the European Union can increase its role in addressing antisemitism.
Bert Jan Ruissen, MEP
Niclas Herbst, MEP
Josh Reinstein, Israel Allies Foundation President
Orianna Krueger, Combat Antisemitism Movement
Michael Freihlich, Member of the Federal Belgian Parliament
Other contributors: MEP Helmut Geuking, MEP Mirjam Lexman, MEP Charlie Weimers, MEP Cristian Terhes, MP Emanuel Zingiris (Lithuania, online), MP Darren Millar (Wales, UK), Lucio Malan, senator (Italy, online), Arsen Ostrovsky- International Legal Forum, Inga Bite, former MP (Latvia, online), Ruth Isaac- European Jewish Association, Risto Huvila- Vice-Chair Finnish Holocaust Remembrance Association, Patricia Teitelbaum- Chair IMPAC (International Movement for Peace and Coexistence), Jack van der Tang- Pillar of Fire, Jan Aage Torp- Norwegian Christian Coalition.
"Antisemitism is a threat not just for the Jewish people, but it is a poison for our society, our values and our democracy,” MEP Niclas Herbst from Germany told the audience at the opening of the event. “Many Europeans live with a distorted view of Jews and the Holocaust,” said MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen from the Netherlands, citing multiple surveys which show a lack of knowledge of the Holocaust among young people.
The various speakers named anti-Zionism as a new form of antisemitism; while in the past Jews were persecuted because of their religion or ethnicity, now they are being demonized for their desire to live in their land. In international and legal fora, Israel is almost always portrayed as the aggressor and occupier for claiming rights to its own land and settling there. It was emphasized that this shift in mindset and law interpretation amounts to institutional antisemitism. The members of European Parliament in the room pointed to the unwavering support given to the Palestinians by the European Commission while ignoring the antisemitic materials, language and attitude on display in Palestinian circles.
Oriana Marie Krüger, Combat Antisemitism Movement's Director of European Affairs, said antisemitism is not a problem for Jews only to fight, but for people of all faiths and backgrounds. She proposed education as a tool of making current and future generations aware of the existence and history of antisemitism and its genocidal consequences.
Josh Reinstein, the Israel Allies Foundation President, emphasized the benefits of faith-based diplomacy and encouraged all legislators and representatives friendly towards Israel's plea to advocate on their behalf from their positions in order to counteract the rising form of institutional antisemitism.