EU urged to act on rise in anti-Semitism

Written by Rajnish Singh on 15 February 2017 in News
News

An Israeli minister has urged the EU to act on the rise in anti-Semitism.

Holocaust Day European Parliament

An event was held in the European Parliament to commemorate World Holocaust Day | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual


Commemorating World Holocaust Day in late January, the European Network against Racism (ENAR) highlighted how anti-Semitism was on the rise in Europe.

According to ENAR, 1300 anti-Semitic crimes were reported in 2015 in Germany, while in the UK, the Jewish charity the Community Security Trust recorded 557 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of 2016, an 11 per cent rise compared to 2015.

ENAR also highlighted how Bjoern Hoeck, a leading member of the right wing anti-immigrant populist party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), criticised Berlin's Holocaust memorial and questioned the need for his country to dwell on the genocide as an aspect of its history.

Israeli social equality minister Gila Gamliel said, "We are indeed seeing a troubling rise in anti-Semitism throughout Europe."

Gamliel, who was speaking at the event in Parliament, believed that anti-Semitism in Europe was now "couched in anti-Israeli activity", where mainstream political parties were also contributing towards the "vicious rhetoric".

"We had hoped that just seven decades after the Holocaust, the lessons of the past would not be forgotten. But it seems that some of the worse demons of the past are with us."

Gamliel added, "I believe all parties on the right, left or centre need to speak out against the dangerous phenomenon of anti-Semitism and hatred of the other."

She wanted to see the EU and member states make more effort to educate younger and future generations. "I would like to see more students and young people visit Israel, to break stereotypes, prejudices and preconceived notions.

It is our moral duty to ensure that when we pledge 'never again', we mean it."

The Israeli minister was also very keen to point out how her country strove to ensure that its Arab population, which makes up around 20 per cent, of the country's population, had the same rights as its Jewish citizens.

"Our declaration of independence guarantees equal rights for all citizens - regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion."

She highlighted how her government had earmarked US$1bn to reduce social differences, and improve the living conditions of its Arab and other minorities.

For Gamliel, rising living standards and better opportunities for Israel's Arab and minority groups not only meant communities were better off, but also a "stronger and better Israel."

When asked about her reaction to the increasing pressure on the EU to apply boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), on goods produced in the disputed territories, Gamliel pointed out that thousands of Palestinians worked in Israeli factories or for joint Israeli-Palestinian enterprises, and would be the first to lose their jobs.

"You can just ask the Arabs who work. They will be the first ones to tell you that a boycott will hurt them first.

"The larger point here is to single out Israel - the only democracy in the Middle East-– for boycott is unquestionably anti-Semitic."

However, given that the Israeli government has just passed a controversial law  retroactively legalising the building of more than 3000 homes on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, Gamliel was asked if her government still believes in a two state solution to the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Gamliel said, "Israel has always been seeking peace. For years we have been holding on-off negotiations with the Palestinians over a peace agreement.

Twice in the last decade, Israel has made generous offers to the Palestinians which could have ceded most of the land in dispute to them. But both times, the Palestinian leadership first led by Yasser Arafat and then Mahmoud Abbas stunned the international community by turning down these offers."

According to the minister, the settlements will be built near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem "which negotiators on both sides acknowledge will always be part of Israel in any resolution to the conflict."

For Gamliel, the current controversy over settlements was about the wider issue of Israel's right to exist as a country in the Middle East, and whether the current Palestinian leadership were serious about reaching a peace deal.

"The question is: is there a partner on the other side for peace? We have to deal with a Palestinian leader Abbas who want to sue the UK for the 1917 Balfour Declaration (where the UK government promised the establishment of a national home for Jewish people in Palestine.) This is our partner for peace?

"And I'm not even talking about Hamas which runs Gaza and calls for Israel's destruction. This is the reality of our world."

However, the Chair of Parliament's delegation to Palestine, Neoklis Sylikiotis, called on the EU to condemn the further building of settlements, describing it as "the theft of private Palestinian land for settlements.

"Members of the European Parliament have made it clear to the Knesset last December their opposition to the law. We said-and I reiterate-this law amounts to an illegal land grab."

Sylikiotis called on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to not only impose sanctions "but strengthen its differentiation policy between the territory of the state of Israel and the Occupied Territories before the situation becomes irreversible."

About the author

Rajnish Singh is commissioning editor of the Parliament Magazine

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