Jewish lawmakers discuss ways to fight delegitimization

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June 28, 2011 23:14

Ya’alon tells ICJP panel at Knesset: "Targeting" regime in Tehran key to regional stability.

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ICJP Conference

ICJP Conference 311. (photo credit: marc israel sellem)

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 Tuesday.

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.

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Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, one of the discussion’s moderators, called for the lawmakers to act against Iran in their respective countries.

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 international law.

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.

Canada, the 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 Hamas.

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.”

Italian MP 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 parliament.

“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,” Nirenstein explained.

“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 phenomena.

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 conflict...

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 realistic.”

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 solve problems.

“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 explained.

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 delegitimization.

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.”


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