Jewish organizations reacted harshly to last week’s failure by the European Parliament to establish a task force on anti-Semitism despite initial support by a significant number of legislators.
Last week the Jewish Chronicle reported that over 100 MEPs had expressed their support for such a body, which would deal with the precipitous rise in Jew-hatred across the continent in recent years.
While a task force dealing with racism and diversity in a general sense was established, Jewish leaders this week indicated that they believe it will prove insufficient in dealing with Europe’s rise in anti-Semitism.
“Anti-Semitism is an abomination which has been around for a very long time.
It has its specific roots and specific driving forces, not to mention the horrible results it produced in Europe – more so than anywhere else,” said Stephan Kramer of the American Jewish Committee’s European Office on anti-Semitism.
“Therefore, combating anti-Semitism in as efficient a way as possible would have been aided by a special framework designed to do just this. I think that most of those who voted the proposal down realize this. Therefore we have to assume that they succumbed to a warped political correctness which frowns upon calling anti-Semites anti-Semites.
This is a terribly wrong signal.
I am afraid that it will be interpreted by more than just a handful of people as a wink that hating Jews is, sort of, acceptable.”
Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich went even further, telling The Jerusalem Post that the decision not to form a task force “shows a politicization of fighting anti-Semitism to an unprecedented level of cynicism.”
“The decision by the European Parliament to disregard the need for an intergroup task force focused on the growing threat of anti-Semitism in Europe is another failure of European leadership to recognize and understand their responsibility to assure the Jews of Europe a future of safety and dignity. At the very moment when bold measures are called for to meet the challenges to Jewish life in Europe, the European Parliament has said ‘we really don’t care,’” said Anti-Defamation League chief Abraham Foxman.
“Coming just days after the adoption of a resolution urging recognition of a Palestinian state, this decision may well be another example of how the Middle East conflict is used by European leaders as an excuse to do little or nothing about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.”
Eli Ringer, the immediate past president of Belgium’s Forum der Joodse Organisaties, recalled demanding this past summer, as anti-Semitic riots broke out across Europe, that “in the new Commission of Europe a commissioner should be appointed handling the problem of racism and specifically on anti-Semitism.”
“We feel very much disappointed that the new president of the European Commission did not take notice of this demand. We have the feeling that Europe does not have any more interest in real values, but, [rather,] all the importance is put on economic issues. Europe does not understand the danger of anti-Semitism and has a short-term memory.... We do not pretend that we are in the same situation like before the war concerning anti-Semitism, but the danger of spreading exists, and all Europe could become victims – Jews and non-Jews alike,” he told the Post.
Speaking at a ceremony organized by the Brussels- based European Jewish Association (EJA) in June, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders echoed Ringer’s call and said that the security of the Jewish community should be dealt with at the European level.
Following this summer’s shooting at the Jewish Museum of Brussels, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo told the World Jewish Congress that Europe-wide cooperation in the fight against anti-Semitism is a necessity.
European leaders have made strong statements against the rise of anti-Semitism in their countries, with the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy harshly condemned pro-Palestinian demonstrators, vowing to make use of “all legal measures” to maintain public order over the summer.
In a joint statement from Brussels, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Laurent Fabius and Federica Mogherini denounced “the ugly anti-Semitic statements, demonstrations and attacks of the last few days,” declaring that “nothing, including the dramatic military confrontation in Gaza, justifies such actions in Europe.”
The day before the ministers issued their statement, David Harris of the AJC had called on European Union ministers to convene a special meeting on anti-Semitism.
“Ministers responsible for security and combating anti-Semitism should meet urgently to deal with this poisonous hatred that threatens not only Jews but the very societies that comprise the EU,” Harris said.
EJA general-director Rabbi Menachem Margolin expressed disappointment with the decision but pointed to recent remarks by Mogherini – who serves as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy – to members of his organization as a cause for optimism.
“Anti-Semitism across Europe is rising and needs to be dealt with and fought against decisively,” Mogherini told Margolin.
“We are constantly working in order to demonstrate to our friends in the European Parliament that there is a big difference between anti-Semitism and general racism,” Margolin said, adding that there were “pledges from a significant number of heads of states and ministers of interior and education of the various EU member countries” to eradicate anti-Semitism, and that he “hoped that their moral judgment will overcome the ignorance of some of the EU Parliament members.”
According to Yardena Lande, director of the Interpariliamentary Coalition for Combating anti-Semitism, it was surprising that such a task force was not established, given the pledges of support she had received by a significant number of MEPs.
Moreover, she said, another opportunity to establish such a task force will come only after the next European elections, meaning that for the next several years there will be no such body dealing directly with such issues.