European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor will press a reluctant European Parliament to pass a resolution condemning in strong terms the wave of anti-Semitism in Europe, during a meeting Wednesday in Brussels with the EU body’s president Hans-Gert Poettering.
On the same day, he will also present a proposal to European Commissioner Jacques Barrot, in charge of justice, freedom and security, to include a task force with representatives the Jewish communities within the Vienna-based Fundamantal Rights Agency (FRA).
This influential independent Vienna-based body of the European Union replaces the former European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia and is providing expertise to EU member states on fundamental rights issues.
The EJC, which represents Jewish communities in 40 European countries, has recently expressed its “extreme disappointment” with the European Parliament’s “inaction and refusal to openly denounce” the wave of anti-Semitic attacks that took place throughout Europe during the last two months.
European parliamentarians and parliamentary groups have apparently been reluctant to pass such a resolution last month in the belief that there is a “justified” causality between these anti-Semitic attacks and the Middle East conflict, despite a call by President Poettering on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day to “speak out clearly and reject any instances of anti-Semitism.”
“Several MEPs told us they couldn’t pass a resolution on anti-Semitism during the January plenary session of the European Parliament because of the presence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who addressed the parliamentarians in Strasbourg,” Nicolas Stofenmcher, a spokesman for the EJC, told EJP.
Socialists MEPs tried to include a mention on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in a resolution on Gaza but it was deleted in the final text. “Which is very good because the two situations are not linked,” Stofenmacher said.
“We think that it was dropped because there is a desire within the European Parliament to avoid any reference to something which would be considered as ‘less important’ than the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.”
Moshe Kantor will deliver both Poettering and Barrot with a full report on most anti-Semitic attacks that occurred in Europe during the last two months.
“We often have the impression that the parliamentarians are not necessarily aware of what’s happening and that they ignore that anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon and not just limited to some countries.”
A general phenomenon
“Our report shows that anti-Semitism is a general phenomenon even in the countries where there is no efficient monitoring system. There are countries where Jews are less visible and others were it is not popular for the governments to speak out against anti-Semitism, such as in eastern Europe,” the EJC explains.
According to the Jewish group, the total of anti-Semitic incidents in 2009 in certain European countries already totals half of the number of incidents monitored during all of 2008.
n four weeks, several western European countries, including France, Belgium and the UK, have witnessed an alarming rise of the number of anti-Semitic incidents, including extreme physical violence, vandalism, anti-Jewish graffiti and threats made against Jewish organizations and individuals.
Moshe Kantor will also propose to hold at the parliament premises an interreligious and intercultural “open day” of reflection on the topic of “living together in Europe”.
Religious leaders and leaders of communities around Europe would be invited to hear testimonies of people on the ground and discuss ways to combat anti-semitism and other racists attitudes.
“Many political leaders in Europe consider anti-Semitic attacks in Europe as purely tensions between Jewish and Muslim communities who have different political viewpoints on the situation in the Middle East,” says Nicolas Stofenmacher. “But for us this is not an issue of tensions between communities because on the Jewish side we don’t have Islamophobic incidents.”
“That’s what we want to explain the European parliamentarians.”