The Algemeiner noted our condemnation of the Belgian Constitutional Court's decision to uphold a ban on shechita — the Jewish method of slaughtering animals for kosher consumption. This is a painful blow to freedom of religion, as well as the Jewish and Muslim communities of Belgium.
Jewish advocacy groups were dismayed, if not surprised, by the decision of Belgium’s Constitutional Court on Thursday to uphold a ban on shechita — the Jewish method of slaughtering animals for kosher consumption.
The court issued a ruling affirming the legality of the Belgian ban, originally imposed in 2017, bolstered by the decision of the European Union’s highest court last December to permit EU member states to ban the slaughtering of animals without pre-stunning, despite the requirements of both Jewish and Muslim religious law on this matter.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) made its determination after Belgium’s Constitutional Court referred a lawsuit, filed by the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations (CCOJB), to determine whether the bans were lawful.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), said that while his group was “disappointed with today’s judgement, we are certainly not surprised as it upholds the status quo in Belgium.”
Goldschmidt added that the court ruling “confirms the ban religious slaughter and brings Belgium into line with those few other countries whose bans on shechita date from the Nazi era.”
In one of the earliest legislative acts of the Nazi regime in Germany, a ban was imposed on the slaughter of animals without pre-stunning in April 1933. Nazi propaganda films routinely depicted shechita as the barbaric practice of an alien people.
Other Jewish organizations issued similar condemnations of the Belgian court’s decision.
“The decision to curb this fundamental religious practice is a painful blow to the freedom of religion and belief of the Jewish — as well as Muslim — communities of Belgium,” said Daniel Mariaschin, CEO of the Washington, DC-based B’nai B’rith International (BBI), in a statement. “The country is home to one of Europe’s largest Jewish communities, which will now face exceedingly difficult hurdles to access kosher meat.”
Mariaschin observed that Belgium had now joined “a shameful growing list of countries putting in place barriers to religious practice.” He noted as well that the supportive ruling of the ECJ in the Belgian case “leaves room for other governments to follow suit.”
World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald Lauder said that Thursday’s court decision was “a continued maneuver to discriminate against Belgium’s Jewish and Muslim citizens.”
Said Lauder: “By prohibiting religious slaughter without stunning, the Belgium Constitutional Court has placed a potentially terminal obstacle to continued Jewish communal life in Europe.”
The Times of Israel published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International Director of EU Affairs Alina Bricman regarding the recent European Court of Justice ruling to allow member states to impose restrictions on ritual slaughter.
As a Jewish European, last week’s ruling to by the European Court of Justice to allow member states to impose restrictions on ritual slaughter was personal.
I say that as a secular Jew, one who does not eat kosher meat. I was raised in Eastern Europe, in Romania, where Communism nearly obliterated what was left of Jewish life after the Shoah. I was one of those Jews, who like many in the region had Christmas trees alongside their Chanukkiah. My parents – as their parents – are not well versed in Jewish liturgy. Our home – while deeply embracing our Jewish identity, was empty of regular Jewish practice.
Yet, Jewish religious freedom is personal to me; it’s personal to all Jews. We know the history of suffering and indignities that our ancestors have endured to preserve that freedom. And we know the richness of thought and culture, of philosophy and tradition that has stemmed and continues to stem out of Judaism, binding Jews of all stripes together worldwide, and shaping, without a shadow of doubt, the European ethos – it’s values and principles, as we know them today.
I, like most Jewish Europeans, love Europe. This is not merely anecdotal. Multiple surveys of Jewish Europeans confirm this attachment, which is often greater than that of non-Jewish Europeans. And how could that not be so? Post-WWII Europe is founded on a promise to safeguard Jewish life and to celebrate it as part of European life; a promise to nurture pluralism and diversity; a promise to protect fundamental freedoms. That is a Europe that the dwindling Jewish community after the war decided to embrace – that was our home, and in this new Europe we could bring forth a Jewish renaissance.
That is why today’s ruling bore down so heavily. The ruling grants EU countries the right to require further restrictions on religious slaughter of animals, a core tenant of Judaism – one that has animal welfare at its core. It comes on the back of a prior ruling in Belgium, that granted such restrictions, balancing religious freedom and animal safety and favoring the latter. Today’s ruling though, had to deal with another balancing act: this time, religious freedom was weighed against the member states rights and jurisdiction. This ruling too favored the latter. It went against the recommendations made by the Advocate General (AG) to the ECJ, that such a ruling would be a disproportionate infringement of fundamental rights. In both cases, the fundamental right to freedom of religion had a negligible weight.
At best, the decision shows an utter lack of understanding and empathy for the essential place that the preservation of certain religious laws – such as ritual slaughter – occupies in one’s religious expression, in one’s faith and sense of self, in one’s communal affiliation and feeling of belonging and of course, in the collective identity and manifestation of a community. At worst, it is a not-too-subtle message: “You don’t belong”, to Jewish as well as Muslim communities throughout Europe – ergo, to millions of Europeans.
The feeling I have today is one I’ve had too often – disappointment, otherness, frustration. Yet it is nothing compared to what practicing religious Jews are experiencing today. For them, Jewish life is, as of today, effectively limited. Families may choose to relocate. Their sense of safety in society will undoubtably be diminished.
Just the other week, the Council of the European Union produced a unanimous declaration reaffirming states’ commitment to safeguarding Jewish life in Europe. It’s worth repeating part of it here:
“Judaism and Jewish life have contributed considerably to shaping European identity and enriching Europe’s cultural, intellectual and religious heritage. We are grateful that 75 years after the Holocaust, Jewish life, in all its diversity, is deeply rooted and thriving again in Europe. It is our permanent, shared responsibility to actively protect and support Jewish life.”
If the Court of Justice ruling is to stand alongside the above declaration – we need a new framework for religious freedom in the EU.
JBS Coverage of B’nai B’rith Supporting EU Council Declaration on Mainstreaming the Fight Against Anti-Semitism
JBS covered our statement welcoming the EU Council Declaration on mainstreaming the fight against anti-Semitism across policy areas that was issued through unanimous agreement by EU member states. View coverage here (beginning at 3:42) or below.
The European Union started Passover on a sour note, announcing that the much-anticipated upcoming conference on combating rising anti-Semitism in Europe will not share equal billing with Islamophobia.
While B'nai B'rith International has been an outspoken global advocate of diversity and worked to combat prejudice and discrimination of all kinds, the concern is that adding other issues to the discussion of anti-Semitism allows government officials to avoid real action.
B'nai B'rith International Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield spoke on behalf of the organization to the Jerusalem Post, highlights of which can be found below:
Jewish organizations worldwide expressed shock and dismay over the weekend following the announcement that the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency is planning on holding a conference that implies an equivalence between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
It will focus on the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment and violence across the continent and the “growing evidence in many European countries, especially in the past two years, of very high rates of anti-Muslim incidents, including acts of verbal and physical violence,” according to the organizers.
Jewish community leaders in Europe and elsewhere told The Jerusalem Post that despite being largely supportive of the FRA’s work, they believed it inappropriate for it to juxtapose hate directed against Muslims with anti-Semitism as if both were one and the same.
“The challenge of combating anti-Semitism would be better served by a stand-alone colloquium fully focused on the problem,” said Eric Fusfield, the legislative affairs director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy.
“Opponents of anti-Semitism have tried for years to promote greater understanding of anti-Semitism as a distinct phenomenon with unique dimensions sometimes requiring unique solutions,” he said.
“It is true that some strategies for combating anti-Semitism may apply to other forms of intolerance as well, but the fact is that, for too long, the tendency of governments and international organizations to conflate anti-Semitism with other social illnesses has served as a means of avoiding the problem rather than addressing it head on, even as the crisis facing Jewish communities has intensified in Europe and elsewhere,” he added.
I travelled to Brussels, Belgium to attend a seminar at the European Union on activism, lobbying, and key political/social issues in the EU. I was sponsored to go entirely for free to the seminar, which was co-hosted by EUJS (European Union of Jewish Students,) DoJAS (Delegation of Jewish American Students,) and B’nai B’rith International .
We delved into pressing issues like human rights, terrorism, access to education, and Anti-Semitism. After experiencing such an impressive blend of international culture in Brussels I’m inspired to keep seeking out more diversity both here in Spain and back at TCNJ.
This made me realize how accessible and real these influential foreign officials can be, given some personal drive and a few connections. In what felt like a matter of minutes I went from TCNJ, to Spain, to Brussels, to speaking in a foreign language with a high-level European government official about an issue I’m passionate about.
B'nai B'rith France was a key contributor to the first-of-its-kind European Parliament discussion on anti-Semitism, presenting to the delegation for relations with Israel.
The delegation is headed by Italian MEP Fulvio Martusciello, who made his first visit to Israel as a guest of B'nai B'rith International last October.
The delegation discussed the disturbing rise in violence and rhetoric against European Jewish communities since Operation Protective Edge brought defensive conflict to Israel in the summer of 2014.
Read excerpts from an article written in the European Jewish Press, below:
Other speakers included Stéphane Teicher, Vice- President of B’nai B’rith France and Jane Braden-Golay, President of the European Union of Jewish Students.
"The fact that anti-Semitism becomes ordinary to the eyes of the civil society is a matter of concern," said Teicher, who noted the indifference of the population. "There was no mass reaction in France following grave anti-Semitic developments of protests in Paris during last summer Israeli Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza."
But he sees also matters of hope, citing the "very strong commitment of the French government not to tolerate anti-Semitism and its actions," the fact that the January attacks in Paris against a kosher supermarket and in Copenhagen against a synagogue "clearly showed the clear link between radical Islamism and anti-Semitism."
"Muslim leaders understand that the French Muslim community is under threat too," Teicher added
B'nai B'rith International kicked off February with a European Union Activism Seminar for college students, co-hosted with B'nai B'rith Europe, DOJAS and EUJS. The 20 participants came from a diverse background and geographic area, traveling from 19 different countries on four continents.
The primary goals of the seminar were providing an overview about how the EU works, building skills of advocacy with EU institutions and discussing issues that matter to the Jewish community.
B'nai B'rith organized panels with civil servants, diplomats, elected members of the European Parliament, lobbyists and staffers to show the participants how policy is made in the EU, from both an inside and outside perspective.
Jeremy Levin was a participant in the week-long seminar and left inspired to do more to advance Jewish causes in the EU.
"Last week was a phenomenal week, and I wanted to thank you for organizing the panels, meals, housing, and more for the EU Activism Seminar," Levin said. "I learned much more than I could have imagined, and have already begun to share my findings with friends and family, both within the EU and all over the world.
"Handfuls of people have contacted me with an interest in learning about our seminar, in addition to the great organizations that put on the event. I am gladly sharing what I gained while in Brussels."
Leeor Groen took advantage of the networking opportunities and is pursuing an internship to delve deeper into the world of Jewish advocacy.
"I am really appreciative of the unique opportunities we had and the things we got to see and do," Groen noted. "I took a particular interest in the work [Head of International Affairs in the Italian Ministry of Economic Development] Pasquale De Micco was doing, given that this is my field of study.
"I am very open to any opportunities and would really value the opportunity to come back."
View a slideshow from the event, below (all photos courtesy of EUJS):
Last week's announcement that the European Court of Justice had ruled that the terrorist group Hamas be removed from the European Union terror list on “procedural grounds,” was met with staunch opposition from B'nai B'rith International.
The court's assertion is that Hamas was placed on the list because of "factual imputations derived from the press and the internet," instead of the actions of the organization.
B'nai B'rith was featured in Spanish-speaking publication Vis-a-Vis. Read the article, below (Spanish):
La B`nai B`rith internacional lanzó un comunicando expresando su descontento por la decisión que tomo el Tribunal Europeo de Justicia, y expresó que sí no se hace ningún esfuerzo por colocar a Hamás en la lista de organizaciones terroristas, "sería otro ejemplo flagrante de la manera hipócrita y profundamente destructiva en la que Israel es tratado a menudo en la Unión Europea". A continuación el comunicado
B'nai B'rith Internacional expresa su indignación por el dictamen del Tribunal Europeo de Justicia que indicó que el grupo terrorista Hamas debe ser retirado de la lista de organizaciones terroristas de la Unión Europea. El tribunal basó su decisión de eliminar Hamas de dicha lista en " razones de procedimiento ", En un comunicado manifestó que el organismo europeo no colocó a Hamas en la lista después de examinar las decisiones y acciones del liderazgo de la organización , sino a causa de " imputaciones de hechos derivados de la prensa y la internet ".
A pesar de que esta sentencia ha sido declarada una cuestión técnica por el Servicio Europeo de Acción Exterior (SEAE ) inaceptablemente abrirá la puerta al cuestionamiento de la existencia de Hamas como un grupo terrorista . No debe haber ninguna duda de que Hamas es una organización cuyo mandato es el terror y que en repetidas ocasiones ha declarado su compromiso con la destrucción de Israel. La conclusión a la que arriba el tribunal de que Ha mas fue colocado en la lista de terroristas simplemente debido a informes de los medios es absurda.
B'nai B'rith insta a todas las partes afectadas por esta decisión a actuar con rapidez para considerar a Hamas como una organización terrorista. El tribunal decidió continuar con el embargo de activos de Hamas en Europa , así como otras restricciones impuestas al grupo terrorista por un lapso de tres meses para permitir una apelación u otra acción por parte de la Unión Europea. . B'nai B'rith alienta al SEAE a actuar en consecuencia , y con urgencia, con el fin de ayudar a que el Tribunal Europeo de Justicia pueda resolver este tema . Si no hay ningún esfuerzo para volver a colocar a Hamas en la lista de organizaciones terroristas, sería otro ejemplo flagrante de la manera hipócrita y profundamente destructiva en la que Israel es tratado a menudo en la Unión Europea.
The European Union's new Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini will make Israel her first destination in office.
This comes one week after B’nai B’rith International hosted the EU’s Israel Relations Chair Fulvio Martusciello at the World Center in Jerusalem.
According to an article in the Times of Israel, this is a return trip for Mogherini, who visited the country as Italy's foreign minister during the height of Operation Protective Edge this summer.
Read more about her visit and views in the article's highlights, below:
On November 1, Federica Mogherini will succeed Catherine Ashton as the union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. Less than a week later, she is scheduled to arrive in Israel for her first official visit, sources in Jerusalem confirmed Tuesday.
Mogherini — currently Italy’s foreign minister — will arrive in the region on November 7 and stay for two days. She is expected to also visit senior Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah.
“It’s very important that Ms. Mogherini comes to Israel on November 7. It’s her first official visit,” said Fulvio Martusciello, a member of the European Parliament from Italy and the new president of its delegation for relations with Israel.
Having known her for a while, he believes she understands Israel’s many predicaments, he added, but refused to elaborate.
“I hope we will be able to work together,” Martusciello, who is currently visiting Israel at the invitation of B’nai Brith International, told The Times of Israel Tuesday during an interview in the Knesset.
Mogherini is a member of Italy’s center-left government led by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is known to be generally friendly toward Israel and tough on Iran’s nuclear program.
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