The European Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism (WGAS) met on November 7, 2017 hosted by its new Chair MEP Heinz Becker (EPP, Austria) and Vice-Chair MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar (S&D, Spain). Acting as the Secretariat of the Working Group and as a member of its Advisory Board, EJC was again at the forefront of Jewish activism in the European Parliament.
The roundtable discussion on “Implementation of the 2017 Resolution on Combatting Antisemitism” overlapped with EJC’s annual meeting of national community directors and aimed to find best strategies in order to effectively combat antisemitism and implement the resolution on the national level.
In his opening address, MEP Becker stated that the EP resolution is a crucial achievement which calls for vigilance and action. In this context, he stressed the importance of reliable data and called on Jewish communities to support the 2018 survey on perceptions of antisemitism by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency. Reporting from his recent visit to Israel, MEP Becker also emphasised the need to fully understand anti-Zionism and called the current manner in which European institutions handle relations with Iran, “unacceptable”.
European Commission (EC) Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism Katharina von Schnurbein updated the members of WGAS on the progress that the EC has made in implementing the policy calls of the EP resolution. Mike Whine, Director of Government and Institutional Affairs at the UK’s Community Security Trust (CST) and
Johanna Barasz, representing the French Interministerial Delegation for Combating Racism, Antisemitism and Anti-LGBT Hate (DILCRAH) shared opinions and best practices and called for more international collaboration on the issue.
Katharina von Schnurbein encouraged the use of the current momentum to adopt the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism at a national level and complimented the recent appointment of a special envoy for combating antisemitism by the Bulgarian government. Von Schnurbein stressed the importance of independent organisations working both with Jewish communities and police forces and highlighted that still half of all EU Member States do not record antisemitic incidents.
What began as the “defence engine” of the British community has turned into a non-governmental body, training activists from all communities and working closely with police forces. The CST never sought to replace law enforcement, but, according to Mike Whine, always tried to strengthen and support it. In doing so, they were able to create monitoring facilities and publish toolkits that are now being used all over Europe and have been taken as an example for the OSCE’s recently published practical guide, “Understanding Antisemitic Hate Crimes and Addressing the Security Needs of Jewish Communities”. According to Whine, it is important to understand that police forces themselves are often overwhelmed and need to be sensitised for hate crimes targeting religious communities.
Johanna Barasz presented the DILCRAH plan of action, which was re-organised after the antisemitic incidents of 2014 in order to coordinate ministerial actions on antisemitism. DILCRAH focuses on building alliances, legal approaches, combating hate speech online and educational programmes aimed at fighting antisemitism. With more than 600 supported initiatives, DILCRAH focuses on civil society engagement as well as on grassroots projects.
Following their individual addresses, all three speakers held an active exchange with MEPs, providing additional examples of successful strategies in order to combat antisemitism.
MEP Becker delivered great news from the Parliament’s ECON Committee that antisemitism had been added to the list of offences that allows for mutual recognition of freezing or confiscation orders.
In his intervention, MEP Miltiadis Kyrkos (S&D, Greece) underlined the importance of inter-religious dialogue and youth work in order to effectively build alliances and use non-formal education as a means to overcome barriers.
MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar concluded the meeting by stating that “antisemitism is an affront to human rights and human dignity. European society has finally come to realise that combating antisemitism is both a matter of principle and a matter of high priority.” Mr. Lopez Aguilar stressed the importance of von Schnurbein’s work on this matter and called the CST an exemplary initiative from which other European countries should learn. The partnership with Jewish communities is indispensable for these efforts, he noted. In his concluding remarks, he thanked the community directors for their presence at the meeting.