European leaders need to take a tougher stand against the rise of the nationalist Right, the leader of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem during the group’s annual Israeli Mission, Conference executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein warned that if not stopped, ultra-nationalists could gain up to 30 percent of the seats in the European Parliament in upcoming elections.
Ultra-nationalist parties with anti-Semitic overtones and overt Nazi sympathies have made electoral gains in Hungary, Greece, Ukraine and Bulgaria in recent years.
Greece has set a model because they faced up to Golden Dawn, unlike [Hungary and the anti-Semitic] Jobbik” party, Hoenlein said. “They faced up to it and moved against the leaders and took decisive action.”
“A society isn’t judged by whether it has anti-Semites or haters, every society has them.
The US has them. The question is how do they deal with them. Do they really face up to it,” he asked.
“When 17,000 people can march in France” and state that “Jews do not have a place here,” this is “a sign of the illness in Europe today rising again,” Hoenlein said. “I think that what we have to watch is the European Parliament elections that are coming up. Our fear is that the far-right parties will somehow create a bloc within that European Parliament that will be of great concern. It’s not because of the power but because of the message this will send. We heard predictions from European leaders that up to a third of the seats could go to extremist parties.”
“We hope that this is not true but the only way it will not be true is if governments act decisively and say that these are beyond the pale of free discussion and free speech,” he said.
Hoenlein told reporters that it is a matter of individual conscience to refrain from boycotting Israel or the West Bank but that organizing a mass boycott of Israel, especially as civilians are massacred next door in Syria, is explicit anti-Semitism.
“The West Bank becomes the cover for much broader decisions and actions,” he said of those who use Israel’s presence in the disputed territory as their rationale for boycotting Israeli goods.
“This is not a legitimate way,” Hoenlein continued. The BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement is a “21st century manifestation of 20th century anti-Semitism, except attacking the collective Jew instead of the individual Jew.”