B’nai B’rith Co-Hosts “After Halle - From Words to Action Against Anti-Semitism” Summit With President of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen
(Washington, D.C., Dec. 11, 2019)--“Words should be weighed, not counted.” President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen commenced her speech this way at this week’s high-level conference jointly hosted by the European Parliament Working Group on Anti-Semitism, the European Jewish Congress and B’nai B’rith International.
“There are no speeches...that can take away the pain of what happened in Halle,” she continued, announcing that in response, she will dedicate an entire team under Vice President of the Commission Margaritis Schinas to work together with European Commission Coordinator on Combatting anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnurbein.
The conference brought together numerous members of the European Parliament, officials of permanent missions to the EU, Jewish community representatives and civil society representatives. The summit began with an early Hanukkah reception.
Powerful witness testimony was submitted by Anastassia Pletoukhina, an activist and educator in the Jewish community of Berlin, visiting Halle on this year’s Yom Kippur service. Pletoukhina recalled "for me and my family, who chose to live in Germany, it was very devastating to know that we are not as protected as we actually wish for."
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, addressed the need for a moral reconvergence of world leaders and called attention to the opportunity presented by the upcoming World Summit ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day organized at Yad Vashem by the World Holocaust Forum and President Reuven Rivlin. He warned that "the crisis of anti-Semitism is a slippery slope to a global catastrophe.”
B’nai B’rith International Director of EU Affairs Alina Bricman drew on the event taking place on Dec. 10 - the anniversary of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “The declaration mandated that all people have the right to live securely. Today we fall short of this fundamental promise, and thus policy makers have a special responsibility to act. We are grateful to have such strong cross-party allies in the Working Group to make this finally a reality.”
Perspectives on contemporary anti-Semitism were shared on an expert panel moderated by Bojan Pancevski, Germany correspondent, the Wall Street Journal; Günther Jikeli; Jean-Yves Camus; and Marina Chernivsky. Each shared their insights into current manifestations of anti-Semitism, their effect on the Jewish community and the way they fit into broader socio-political trends seen in the world today.
The bureau of the European Parliament Working Group (MEP Karoline Edtstadler, chair; MEP Juan Fernando Lopez-Aguilar, vice-chair; and MEP Sergey Lagodinsky) outlined the political and policy avenues they identified in tackling anti-Semitism within the EU institutions.
The conference was concluded by Vice President of the European Parliament Nicola Beer from Germany, who also serves as vice chair of the Working Group on Anti-Semitism.
We look forward to seeing policy-makers and relevant stakeholders engaged year-long on a proactive and engaging agenda put forward by the working group.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit www.bnaibrith.org
B’nai B’rith International welcomes the announcement by the European Commission that it will name a coordinator for combating anti-Semitism. The new official will report to Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans, who will serve as special envoy for countering anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
B’nai B’rith and other civil society groups had urged the European Union to appoint an official to oversee the effort to fight anti-Semitism.
The continued growth of anti-Semitism across Europe requires an EU-wide approach to dealing with the problem. The appointment of a special envoy and coordinator on anti-Semitism is an important step in this direction.
We pledge to work closely with EU officials to ensure that the work of the Commission and the European Parliament yields positive results in tackling anti-Semitism.
B’nai B’rith International is disappointed the European Parliament has passed a resolution that will allow European governments to label products made in the West Bank, a policy that will cause great economic and political harm to the Jewish state.
The resolution, which passed by a vote of 525-70, is an affirmation of the discriminatory goals of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Such a misguided policy is destructive to the peace process and gives momentum to opponents of Israel who seek to delegitimize the Jewish state by weakening its economy and isolating it politically.
We call on European governments to reject this biased and counterproductive resolution.
B’nai B’rith Hosts New Chair of European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Israel on First Visit to Jewish State
Member of the European Parliament and newly appointed Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Israel Fulvio Martusciello, a Christian Democrat from Italy, visited Israel this week for the first time at the invitation of B’nai B’rith International. Joining Martusciello on the trip was MEP and previous delegation chair Bas Belder, a European Conservative from the Netherlands.
The two day visit was prepared in tandem by the B’nai B’rith International EU Affairs Office in Brussels and the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem. The delegation met with the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi; MK and Chair of the Economic Affairs Committee Avishay Braverman; MK and Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Zeev Elkin; and MK and Chair of Knesset Lobby for the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism Shimon Ohayon. The delegation also met with the Head of the Bureau of the European Division of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Shmuel Revel. Major issues raised during the meetings included EU-Israel relations, the Iranian threat and the latest on anti-Semitism throughout Europe.
The delegation also visited Yad Vashem and the Old City of Jerusalem.
“Unfortunately people don’t know what they are talking when they talk about Israel,” Martusciello said. “This visit was an eye opener for a country that I always have the will to visit.” During the meetings Martusciello mentioned the importance of Holocaust education in Europe and, in particular, the need for accurate information about the real situation in Israel.
World Center Director Alan Schneider and Director for EU Affairs Nuno Wahnon, who accompanied the MEPs on the visit, noted the importance of having leading EU political figures dealing with EU-Israel relations visit Israel early in their tenure. The visit laid the foundation for a future cooperation between B’nai B’rith and the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Israel.