Dozens of Jewish lawmakers from around the world gathered in the Knesset Tuesday
morning to discuss global anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel as a
part of the International Conference of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP) on
The parliamentarians, hailing from 23 countries, filled a
Knesset conference room, where they were each able to address their peers and
discuss their efforts in combating anti-Israel and anti-Jewish prejudices, as
well as the Iranian threat.
Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, one of the
discussion’s moderators, called for the lawmakers to act against Iran in their
Cotler explained that Iran poses four threats – the
threat of a nuclear state, incitement to genocide, support of terrorists and
massive domestic repression – but today’s sanctions only target the Islamic
Republic’s nuclear ambitions.
“We must recognize the danger of
state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, a crime prohibited by the [UN] Genocide
Convention,” said Cotler, a former Canadian justice minister and expert in
Cotler offered what he said was one of “eight legal
remedies” to problems with Iran: “Any state party to the Genocide Convention can
initiate tomorrow an interstate complaint against Iran, which is also a state
party to the Genocide Convention.” The Canadian MP also warned about “a new
escalating, globalized, virulent and even lethal anti- Semitism,” calling for
parliaments to establish inquiries to combat anti-Semitism.
UK and Italy have such inquiries, with the UK publishing a report for the
government’s response, Cotler explained.
The Canadian parliamentarian
said that delegitimization is an “attempt to portray Israel as the enemy of all
that is good and the repository of all that is evil.”
Cotler said Israel
is “singled out” in the UN, referring to, among other examples, the 1975 UN
declaration that Zionism is racism, quoting then-US ambassador to the UN Daniel
Patrick Moynihan as saying the move “gave the abomination of anti-Semitism the
appearance of international sanction.”
Claims that Israel is racist are
especially dangerous, Cotler explained, because “Israel as an apartheid state
has no right to exist under international law.” Cotler also called for direct
negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, based on Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama’s conditions for talks,
including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and not negotiating with
If the parliamentarians at the ICJP recognize these terms, Cotler
said, “the Palestinians can’t say they’re against Netanyahu principles, because
they’ll be the principles of the international community.”
Fiamma Nirenstein, the parley’s second moderator, discussed the “very peculiar
and very special” experience of being one of the few Jews in her country’s
“The day [Italian President Silvio] Berlusconi asked me to be
an MP, they knew they were calling a Jewish woman.
That is my first
responsibility and characteristic, and it gives me particular duties,”
“You are responsible for Israel and the Jewish
people,” she told the Jewish lawmakers in the room. “You must be ready day after
day to answer all the questions and fight bias and prejudice against Israel.
This is the main task...
Being a member of parliament as a Jew gives you
an enormous amount of power,” Nirenstein added. “If we can put it all together,
we can be heard all over the world.”
Delegitimization and boycotts of
Israel are “like a black cloud,” she said, “and many of us don’t want to see
that black cloud around anymore.”
Nirenstein suggested that stopping a
declaration of Palestinian statehood and restarting talks could help stop these
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon told the conference
that Israel is “in the midst of a regional earthquake.”
“Iran is the
reason for the instability in the Middle East,” Ya’alon said. “There is no
linkage between the Shi’ite-Sunni conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian
There is no way to stabilize the Middle East without
targeting the Iranian regime,” he explained.
Ya’alon also called for a
slower peace process, saying that both sides need to be “patient and
Various Knesset members addressed the Jewish lawmakers,
presenting their differing views on the peace process.
MK Rachel Adatto
(Kadima) told a joke about a rabbi who built three synagogues on a deserted
island, saying “one Jew has three ideas. We are 120 MKs with 360 ideas on how to
“This is the only Jewish state, and we have to keep it,”
she told the ICJP members.
“This is the only place where we all belong.
How should we keep this place? That is where we’re split.” MK Shai Hermesh of
Kadima, the Knesset’s representative in the World Jewish Congress, presided over
the event, along with US Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY).
Hermesh called for
Jewish lawmakers to oppose a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian statehood
in September’s UN General Assembly.
“Although we have different positions
in Israeli society on what to do and how, we are united in the opinion that a
unilateral declaration would not be helpful to the peace process,” he
National Union MK Arye Eldad told the parliamentarians that
they should “look at any attack on Israel or Jews in the world as an attack on
your personal identity.”
“Just imagine the state of the Jewish people
before the State of Israel existed,” Eldad said. “Try to put yourself in this
situation, and make yourself better soldiers” in the fight against
MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) emphasized the importance of
educating young people about Israel and remind them that “this country is
legitimate and was established not because of guilty feelings, but because of
the legitimate rights of the Jewish people.”