It is a pleasure to see policy makers, European and World umbrella Jewish organizations respond so positively to the UK Jewish Community’s Manifesto for the upcoming European Parliament elections.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews’ manifesto was written with widespread input from elected deputies and communal stakeholders in the UK and abroad. It covers a range of topics with the headlines being Religious Freedom; Extremism, Racism & Anti-Semitism in Europe; Post-Holocaust Issues; and EU-Israel Relations.
The document informs candidates about the key aspirations that our community, broadly speaking, desires from MEPs on these topics. The document further seeks to provide vital information to political parties and their candidates around Jewish peculiarities and areas of particular interest. These include conveying why certain issues are of such integral importance to Jewish life flourishing in Europe.
The document has a series of key tasks that we encourage our community members to take to their candidates. These include: 1) Protecting the right to male circumcision and religious slaughter; 2) Advancing the cause of human rights across the world; 3) Acting on the findings of the FRA report into anti-Semitism; 4) pledging to support effective Holocaust education in every EU state, taking up the issue of restitution of Jewish communal property, and assisting in the search for unmarked graves; 5) Promoting peace, security, prosperity and equality for Israelis, Palestinians and the wider Middle East.
This latter section has an emphasis on the EU helping to create an atmosphere that is conducive to peace through promoting engagement and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, both at the leadership and grassroots’ levels. There is a call to MEPs to oppose BDS (the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement) and to be active in combating security concerns to the region. There are so many ways in which the EU and Israel can benefit from a closer relationship, and the manifesto looks to the increasing development of trade and cultural relations with encouragement.
An exciting and significant consequence of the manifesto is the galvanizing effect it is having on many parts of the Jewish community.
The manifesto is proving to be a catalyst in empowering and mobilizing local Jewish communities to engage in the political process and directly connect with their MEP candidates.
Synagogues and communal platforms from across the country are organizing hustings, and are using the manifesto as the basis to speak about the issues that matter to our community.
For us at the Board of Deputies to see this type of response is extremely exciting. The EU makes up to 50 percent of the laws enacted in the UK, and is responsible for an annual budget of €150 billion. While the on-going collapse of the far-right and fascist parties in the UK is reassuring, we can never be too vigilant.
There are fears that these elections will see the largest ever number of far-right MEPs elected.
The key to ensuring extremists do not prosper, is to encourage a high-voter turn-out and to actively campaign against extremism.
For this reason and all the above, it is vital that the Jewish community in the UK and across the EU steps up and participates.
The author is public affairs international officer of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.