To be antisemitic is to be anti-European, parliament head tells Knesset

"Every day we still witness attacks on Jews, on synagogues," said European Parliament head Roberta Metsola. "We are committed to breaking the cycle."

 European Parliament head Roberta Metsola visiting the Knesset, May 23, 2022. (photo credit: NOAM MOSKOVITZ/KNESSET)
European Parliament head Roberta Metsola visiting the Knesset, May 23, 2022.

Europe backs Israel's right to exist and stands strong with it against rising antisemitism, head of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola told the Knesset during a special address on Monday.

"It is, to many outside of Israel, inconceivable that Israel’s right to exist is still put into question," Metsola said to applause from the plenum. 

Let me be clear: Europe will always back Israel’s right to exist.

European Parliament head Roberta Metsola

Her three-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories that began on Sunday, is the first one the Maltese politician has made outside of Europe since taking office in January.

"This is my first visit – it will not be my last – and I wanted to come early in my mandate to send a signal of our willingness to engage," Metsola said.

 European Parliament head Roberta Metsola visiting the Knesset, May 23, 2022. (credit: NOAM MOSKOVITZ/KNESSET) European Parliament head Roberta Metsola visiting the Knesset, May 23, 2022. (credit: NOAM MOSKOVITZ/KNESSET)

The European Parliament's past 

The 705-member European Parliament has in the past been criticized for taking anti-Israeli stands. 

Metsola said that the parliament was committed to strengthening its ties with Israel, including in culture, science, trade, education, arts, research and technology. It does so at a time of rising antisemitism, she said. 

We know that this [antisemitism] is a warning sign for humanity. And it matters to all of us. 

European Parliament head Roberta Metsola

"I will not be ambiguous: To be antisemitic is to be anti-European. And every day we still witness attacks on Jews, on synagogues. Places of peace, of God, of worship, still remain targets," she said.

"The European Parliament is committed to breaking the cycle. To combat antisemitism. To ensure that we remember the devastation of history and that the lessons of the past will never be forgotten."

Metsola said that Europe and its parliament firmly support a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a "secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security."

The Abraham Accords, she said, showed that progress was possible and that the cycle of violence could be broken.

"Violence has never been a solution. Terrorism is never justified. There are no excuses for [the] terror. People deserve to go about their lives, send their children to school, [and] walk down the street free from fear," Metsola said. 

Terror has not and will not break that spirit.

European Parliament head Roberta Metsola

She also strongly spoke out against Russia's war on Ukraine, explaining that the world must unite to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from using nuclear weapons and from harming global food security. 

"This is why the international community must remain steadfast and united in ensuring that sanctions on Russia are effective, allowing no loophole to be exploited," Metsola said.

"In the past months, I have had to talk about [the] war. Yet, both the basis and the ultimate objective of the European project is peace. Peace, democracy and liberty — objectives central to the future of Europe, of Israel and of this region."

Israel's political ends disagree

She was heckled during her speech both by MKs Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) and Itamar Ben-Gvir (Religious Zionist Party).

Tibi later tweeted: "It’s very telling yet shameful that @EP_President would address the Israeli parliament without even mentioning the occupation as if nothing had happened with #ShireenAbuAqleh. Today’s speech was a green light for further crimes [and] violations."

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levi told the media that when he met with Metsola during the day, he asked her to help ensure that European Union funding to the Palestinian Authority was contingent on an end to incitement and antisemitism in its textbooks.

“The recent terror wave Israel is experiencing is the result of the antisemitic incitement that erases Israel’s existence in the Palestinian Authority’s textbooks, spreads flammable lies on social media as if Israel harms the holy places, and pays terrorists' salaries for murdering innocent Israelis, while the Palestinian Authority gets donations from the European Union," Levy said.

'Israel expects the European Union to stand by its side against these disgusting phenomena."