Azeri.Today ran a Q&A with our Director of European Affairs Benjamin Nägele, discussing anti-Semitism in the European Union and what Brussels, civic organizations and Jewish communities are doing to combat it.
Scroll down to read or click below to read it on Azeri.Today.
Azeri.Today interviews Director of European Affairs, B'nai B'rith International Benjamin Nägele.
- The European Parliament (EP) approved by a majority of votes the working definition of anti-Semitism, developed by the International Alliance in memory of the Holocaust. According to the adopted working definition, anti-Semitism is "a special kind of attitude towards Jews, which can be expressed in hatred towards them." What new opportunities will this decision of the European Parliament open for European Jews?
- The reference to the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism is part of a comprehensive EP resolution on the state of anti-Semitism in Europe.
The resolution calls for three major steps:
The need for the use of the IHRA working definition on anti-Semitism and its adoption on the national level, the creation of special national envoys and all-parliamentary groups dealing with anti-Semitism and a bigger financial support by the Member states for security measures of their respective Jewish communities.
B’nai B’rith International has been closely following and supporting both the drafting and the vote on the recent resolution on anti-Semitism in the European Parliament.
Our organization had been pushing for such a definition for years, since the European Fundamental Rights Agency had decided to withdraw the use and reference of an identical definition on anti-Semitism on its website.
Addressing and combatting the problem of anti-Semitism is impossible without a clear definition. Having an official reference by the European Parliament to IHRA’s definition that also highlights crucial examples and clearly defined lines, when Israel-criticism becomes anti-Semitic, will be extremely helpful both for government officials, organizations but also victims of anti-Semitism, to properly assess and tackle the issue.
We hope that the cross-party support and adoption with a vast majority will translate into implementations of these three major points on the national level, therefore helping Jewish communities around Europe.
- How did the countries of the European Union react to this decision of the European Parliament?
The European Union member states had supported the IHRA definition already in two separate occasions in the last year prior to the European Parliament Resolution:
All 28 EU member countries had voted for this definition during the annual OSCE conference last December in Hamburg, and out of its 31 IHRA members, all 24 European countries had unanimously supported the adoption of the definition on 26 May of 2016.
This, combined with the strong majority support from all EU parliamentarians, indicates a clear support of this definition across the member states that will hopefully also translate into further adoptions on the national level.
- Is there any hope that the European countries will adopt a new definition of anti-Semitism and will apply this vital tool in practice?
We already have three European Member States that have adopted and use this definition on anti-Semitism: UK last December, Austria this April and Romania in May of this year.
I very much hope that the recently adopted European Parliament Resolution, that explicitly calls for an adoption on the national level, will encourage other member states to follow.
As an organization not only working on the European level here in Brussels but also being represented in the EU member states, we closely follow the national efforts and are in contact with national governments and ministries to push for an adoption in further European countries.
- With the adoption of the Berlin Declaration of 2004, OSCE participating States committed themselves "to develop and disseminate educational programs aimed at combating anti-Semitism, to promote the preservation of the memory of the tragedy of the Holocaust, as necessary, insisting on the need for respect for all ethnic and religious groups. Is this commitment being fulfilled by the OSCE participating States?
- Unfortunately the OSCE commitment to educational programs on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust has not translated into the desired outcome: Anti-Semitism has drastically increased in many member states, with more and more Jews from OSCE member countries suffering from anti-Semitic attacks. The rise of anti-Jewish hatred has also resulted in a proliferation of anti-Semitic propaganda, much of which is directed against the State of Israel. Tragically, the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state has become a daily occurrence, as Israel’s enemies repeatedly accuse it of being a Nazi-like occupier and an apartheid state that disenfranchises the Palestinians.
OSCE member-states must fulfill their reporting requirements with respect to hate crimes data. Far too few governments have done so until now. Failure to adequately monitor and document the problem is a barrier to developing comprehensive approaches to combat it.
The OSCE member states have unfortunately also failed to adopt a working definition of anti-Semitism. An attempt to secure a consensus on such a document at the OSCE Hamburg Ministerial last year fell short.
We hope that the momentum of the European Parliament resolution will translate into another attempt this year, led by the Austrian OSCE chairmanship.
- How do you assess the level of anti-Semitism in Europe?
- Jewish communities around Europe are facing an increased amount of anti-Semitism that unfolds itself in many different forms:
Anti-Semitic hate speech on- and offline, physical threats and violence on the streets, but first and foremost deadly terrorist attacks against European Jews and Jewish institutions such as in Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen or Toulouse.
The Fundamental rights agency FRA has conducted in its anti-Semitism report a worrying increase in anti-Semitism, with 21% of Jews in Europe having experienced at least one anti-Semitic incident in the last 12 months alone. On average 29% of European Jews have considered emigrating to Israel as a result, in Hungary, Belgium and France the number is at a shocking 40-48%.
Nevertheless we still lack a comprehensive evaluation with detailed data from all European member states, which is based on clearly defined parameters. This is why the IHRA definition and the EP resolution with its reference to the definition are so crucial.
- What steps are being taken by Jewish communities and European organizations to combat anti-Semitism?
-On the EU level B’nai B’rith International is an advisory board member of the European Parliament Anti-Semitism working group and works closely with the cross-party Members of Parliament that chair this working group and have also been responsible for the drafting and adoption of the anti-Semitism resolution.
The group regularly holds conferences and meetings inside the European institutions on ways to combat anti-Semitism. A security tool kit for Jewish communities, developed by the OSCE ODIHR, has recently been introduced at our anti-Semitism working group meeting.
BBI also works closely with the European Commission and Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova and her team as well as the Commission’s Fundamental rights unit and Coordinator on Combatting Anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnurbein, who are focusing among others on combatting anti-Semitism online, especially in social media platforms.
As a member of the EU’s High Level Group on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, B’nai B’rith is supporting the Code of Conduct, which tackles specifically the online environment and the responsibility of social media providers to combat anti-Semitism online.
Due to the terror attacks and increase of physical threats the Jewish communities around Europe also had to significantly increase their security measures around community centers and synagogues.
We strongly believe that the issue of anti-Semitism in Europe needs to be tackled via coalition building and cooperation between the Jewish communities, its umbrella organizations in close exchange and cooperation with national governments and its European institutions.
But only by having a clear-cut definition of anti-Semitism the issue can be assessed and thereby tackled properly, both in the online and offline environment.
This will also be the main focus of our upcoming international B’nai B’rith convention in Prague this November, which will have several panels dedicated to this issue and will host high-level speakers such as Commissioner Jourova and anti-Semitism coordinator Ms. Von Schnurbein to discuss ways to further increase the good cooperation in this regard.
With its 150.000 members worldwide, B’nai B’rith international is uniquely equipped to represent the concerns and needs of its Jewish communities and develops the tools to combat anti-Semitism in close cooperation with governments and international organizations.
- What do you know about life of Mountain Jews in Azerbaijan?
- Azerbaijan has a unique and rich Jewish history spanning over 3 decades and reaches back to the times of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king. The Jewish community is well-integrated and accepted in Azerbaijan society. Jews in Azerbaijan can be seen as a role model of integration, but also advocacy for the strong relations of their country with Israel, which has developed into a fruitful cooperation and trade agreements in the areas of technology and especially energy since the early 90s.
Algemeiner quoted our statement welcoming the U.S. Department of State’s plans to appoint a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
When it appeared the position was on the chopping block, we spoke out forcefully against its elimination. In June, we, along with five other Jewish organizations, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him not to eliminate the position.
Scroll down to read the story or click below to read it on Algemeiner.com.
US Jewish groups reacted with praise and relief on Tuesday to the news that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is to fill the post of special envoy for the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, ending months of uncertainty over whether the position – originally established by the George W. Bush Administration in 2004 – would be retained under President Donald Trump.
Tillerson made the announcement on Monday in a letter to Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The office of the envoy will be housed in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, with two positions and $130,000 in funding, Tillerson told Corker.
B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said they were “pleased” by Tillerson’s announcement.
“B’nai B’rith has long spoken out about the vital nature of this position,” their statement said. “The impact of the United States government placing its power and prestige behind the issue of anti-Semitism and combating it, cannot be overstated.”
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said he commended “the US administration for its encouraging decision to prioritize the appointment of a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.”
Said Lauder: “America’s Jewish community is undoubtedly among the safest in the world, but the demonstrations of blatant antisemitism, bigotry and racism that we have seen of late make the importance of such an envoy ever clear.”
American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO David Harris commented: “The Administration’s decision to keep the position of Special Envoy comes as welcome news. As antisemitic expressions and acts multiply in many parts of the world, the work of this office only becomes more important and offers a model for other likeminded countries to emulate.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said that the envoy’s position “has been an essential diplomatic and political tool in fighting antisemitism around the globe.”
“At a time when there is a growing prominence to anti-Jewish movements and actions, the special envoy to combat anti-Semitism continues to be essential,” Greenblatt said. “We urge the State Department to refrain from eliminating other special envoy roles which are vital to promoting American values of democracy, tolerance and religious freedom across the globe.”
We spoke out in dismay over the cancellation of an event marking the 70th anniversary of the passage of the United Nations General Assembly resolution that endorsed the establishment of a Jewish state at the Queens Museum.
After widespread outrage over the decision, the Queens Museum has reversed course and will host the event.
The Times of Israel has the full story, including a mention of our condemnation of the event's original cancellation. Click below to read it or scroll down.
Queens Museum, housed in building where General Assembly voted to partition Palestine, had canceled 1947 anniversary event under Palestinian pressure
The museum, run by the New York City borough of Queens, is housed in the same building where the General Assembly vote partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab states took place on Nov. 29, 1947. Israel’s mission to the United Nations reserved space in June to mark the event’s 70th anniversary and invited senior U.N. dignitaries.
But on Wednesday, the Israeli mission announced that the museum had canceled the event due to political sensitivities and pressure from Palestinian supporters. The mission’s statement noted that the museum’s director, Laura Raicovich, edited a collection of essays that included a call for BDS — or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — against Israel.
Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon slammed the decision and called for Raicovich to be fired.
“We will not accept this blatant discrimination against the State of Israel and we will not let this decision stand,” Danon said in a statement. “Celebrating the momentous decision of the UN recognizing the right to a Jewish state in our homeland is not a political event, but rather an expression of the historical and legal rights of our people.”
The cancellation drew quick condemnation from B’nai B’rith International, as well as Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., who represents Queens in Congress.
“The decision by the Queens Museum is puzzling and it’s bizarre that such an outstanding facility in our borough would pull the plug on a project to celebrate not just the establishment of Israel, but a key piece of Queens history,” Meng said Wednesday in a statement. “How is commemorating a major world event that took place in Queens and the U.N.’s establishment of one of America’s closest allies political?”
Later Wednesday, the Israeli mission announced that the event would be happening after all. The museum told JTA in a statement that it reinstated the event after a “productive conversation” with Danon.
“We are deeply committed to all the communities we serve through our meaningful arts programming and we are looking forward to making this a successful event,” the statement said.
Algemeiner: Queens Museum Reverses Decision to Cancel Anniversary Celebration of UN Resolution Establishing State of Israel
When the Queens Museum decided to cancel an event marking the 70th anniversary of the passage of the U.N. resolution that endorsed the establishment of a Jewish state, we spoke out.
The museum then decided the commemoration will go on.
Algemeiner has the full story, including a quote from B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin.
Click below to read it on Algemeiner.com or scroll down.
The news of the abrupt reversal on Wednesday of the Queens Museum’s decision to renege on a deal to host an upcoming event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the passage of the General Assembly resolution establishing the State of Israel was warmly received by the Jewish state’s UN envoy.
“We welcome this step by the museum to rectify their earlier unfortunate decision,” Ambassador Danny Danon said. “Any attempt to discriminate against Israel is completely unacceptable and we will continue to fight against such injustices. We look forward to proudly celebrating this historic UN decision.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Danon had demanded the dismissal of the director of the museum after it backed out of an arrangement reached to host the event. The Israeli UN Mission explained in a statement that it had planned to hold the Nov. 29 event in the hall where the vote on Resolution 181 — which partitioned British Mandate Palestine into Jewish and Arab states — took place. The site, owned by New York City, now houses the Queens Museum, but served as the UN’s headquarters between 1946-50.
“In June, a museum official informed Israel’s Mission to the UN that they had reserved the appropriate hall and were looking ‘forward to a wonderful and meaningful event in its natural setting,’” the statement said. “Preparations for the event commenced with the senior UN officials, ambassadors and key dignitaries invited, and over a dozen pro-Israel organizations deciding to partner with the Israeli Mission.”
“Then, as word of the event became public, the same museum official expressed concern about feedback they received from ‘Palestinian friends of the museum,’” the statement continued. “After weeks of ceasing to communicate with the Israel Mission, the President and Executive Director Laura Raicovich notified Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon that she was reversing the decision and would no longer agree to host the event. Ms. Raicovich cited a board decision not to hold a ‘political event.’”
Raicovich, the statement noted, is one of the editors of a book titled Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency and Cultural Production — which includes a chapter that “justifies and endorses” the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
“We will not accept this blatant discrimination against the State of Israel and we will not let this decision stand,” Danon had said after learning that the museum would not host the event. “Celebrating the momentous decision of the UN recognizing the right to a Jewish state in our homeland is not a political event, but rather an expression of the historical and legal rights of our people.”
“It is unacceptable for BDS activists to single out Israel and ban our event,” Danon went on to say. “I call on the Board of Directors of the Queens Museum to dismiss Ms. Raicovich from her position immediately and honor their commitment to hold this important event.”
New York City Council Member Rory I. Lancman and New York State Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz had issued a joint statement on Wednesday, saying, “The decision by the Queens Museum to cancel the Israel Independence Commemoration is a disgrace and a violation of law. It is a clear example of anti-semitism, and we will not stand for it. We demand the Queens Museum board reinstate this important ceremony.”
“We are deeply troubled that the museum’s executive director and president, Laura Raicovich, let her own personal support for the BDS movement infect her decision making in this matter,” they continued. “The celebration of the vote establishing the State of Israel is a recognition of a historic turning point at the site of the Queens Museum, and is profoundly meaningful to New York’s Jewish community. She has abused the trust placed in her by the people of the City of New York, who fund the museum as a cultural representation of Queens, the most diverse county in the United States.”
“We call on the NYC Human Rights Commission to fully investigate this decision and take appropriate action to ensure that such discriminatory and unlawful conduct never happens again,” Lancman and Simanowitz concluded.
B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin had expressed “dismay” over the cancellation.
“We urge the Board of Trustees of the Queens Museum to rectify this situation and reverse this discriminatory decision immediately,” they wrote in a letter on Wednesday to Mark J. Coleman, the chairman of the board.
Congresswoman Grace Meng — who represents Queens — had called the cancellation “puzzling” and “bizarre” and joined the calls, which were eventually answered, for the decision to be reversed.
Algemeiner: American Jewish Groups and Leaders Unite in Condemnation of White Supremacist Violence in Charlottesville
Algemeiner ran a story on reactions in the Jewish community to the white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., and included a B'nai B'rith International's statement.
Click below to read it on Algemeiner.com or scroll down.
The violence perpetrated by white supremacist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend has drawn across-the-board condemnation from prominent American Jewish groups and leaders.
“It is utterly distressing and repugnant that such hatred and bigotry still run rampant in parts of this country,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said in a statement. “There is no place in our democratic society for such violence and intolerance. We must be vigilant and united in our opposition to such abhorrence.”
The Anti-Defamation League urged President Donald Trump to “clearly denounce white supremacy in all forms.”
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt stated, “This is a moment that demands moral leadership. President Trump should acknowledge that this is not a matter of equivalence between two sides with similar gripes. There is no rationalizing white supremacy and no room for this vile bigotry. It is un-American and it needs to be condemned without hesitation.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center said Saturday’s car-ramming attack in Charlottesville — in which one counter-protester was killed and 19 were injured — “should be treated as a deliberate act of terrorism.”
“We call upon all American leaders, whatever their political affiliations, led by President Trump, to specifically condemn the extreme alt-right and white nationalists who sow seeds of hate, distrust and violence,” Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper — the dean and associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center — stated. “They and all other extremists, left or right, have no place in the mainstream of our nation.”
The American Jewish Committee tweeted, “Appalled by white supremacists & neo-Nazis in #Charlottesville preaching #racism, spewing #antiSemitism & #homophobia & glorifying violence.”
In a second tweet addressed to Trump, the American Jewish Committee said, “Time for moral clarity. Condemning ‘hatred, bigotry & violence on many sides’ blurs truth & gives pass to neo-Nazi perpetrators.”
B’nai B’rith International stated, “From each individual through neighborhoods, communities, towns, cities, states and the nation as a whole, all Americans of good conscious must reject divisiveness and strive to embrace tolerance and unity.”
The University of Virginia Hillel said in a Facebook post, “It has been a difficult 24 hours in Charlottesville. The violence, loss of life, and hatred displayed here today is heartbreaking.”
“The Jewish Leadership Council [an umbrella organization of Jewish student groups at UVA] strongly condemns the violence and hate that has taken place within our community this weekend,” the post continued. “The white supremacist groups who have come to rally in Charlottesville stand for exclusion and inequality, and those things have no place in our community.
“We stand firmly on the side of love and acceptance; it is the diversity at our University and in the city of Charlottesville that makes it such a wonderful place to be. We believe in creating a place where no person feels unsafe or unwelcome, both here in Charlottesville and throughout the United States. No individual should feel unsafe or unwelcome anywhere based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else that makes them who they are as a human being.”
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