Concerns about politics

March 22, 2021

Diary March 18
Concerns about politics.
One of the prominent figures of the Jewish Netherlands, who is apparently occasionally
tormented by the disease called jealousy, approached me with the comment that he had
heard that I will be speaking next Sunday for the NIK on Zoom because of Pesach and
expressed the hope that I would not speak about anti-Semitism again and would not have
my message / lecture included with 'those Christians'.
Of course I don't have to justify myself and I can do whatever I want, but it bothered me
anyway. Because with "those Christians" professional recording equipment was available
and "those Christians" were willing to make a good recording completely free of charge, I
had made my NIK Hanukkah presentation with and by "those Christians".
Some years ago I had received a similar comment, from that same person, about "those
Christians." I needed to have less contact with them. I understand that setup. What I did not
fully understand, however, was that the same critic then went to "those Christians" to ask
for financial support for his, otherwise fine, projects.
Nothing new under the sun. I remember speaking to an eminent physician some time ago.
This ‘eminence’, he told me personally, was not so much down to his expertise in his field,
but as a much about his political qualities. No, he was not in politics, he was referring to
politics at the top of his university hospital. When I heard a little bit of that politics I
immediately thought of the rabbinic world! (Just kidding, because rabbis don't do politics!)
Because there is politics everywhere. Especially in the real and necessary democratic
politics: The elections!
I haven't been able to sleep all night. When I looked at the new composition of the House of
Representatives, I was overcome with concern. I hope and pray that I misjudge it
completely, but I fear it. Of course, there can be criticism of Israeli Politics, that does not
have to be a sign of anti-Semitism.
But if there is only talk about Israel and not a word is mentioned about the feudal
dictatorships of the countries around Israel, then I do not understand.
I understand and accept that one of our prominent mayors in a speech at #
MayorsAgainstAntisemtism # claims that criticism of Netanyahu is allowed, as well as
criticism of Rutte. But that's not the problem. Criticism of Netanyahu is allowed, 50% of
Israel criticizes him and that does not degrade them to anti-Semites.
The problem is that there is almost exclusively criticism of Israel. That Israel is by far at the
top of the list for UN Resolutions. The role of a mayor should be in trying to connect his
townspeople, and that does not happen by importing sensitive foreign conflicts. Do I think
this mayor is anti-Semitic? Absolutely not! Do I think this mayor should be allowed to
criticize Netanyahu? Sure! But what I regret is that criticism of Israel unfortunately and
often unintentionally leads to anti-Semitism.
How often am I not allowed to explain that I speak Dutch, although I am a Jew but not born
in Israel. The superficial one-sidedness in the experience, however nuanced a mayor may
present it, causes anti-Semitism here in our country. And so: if the mayor believes we
should keep the Middle East problem out of the city, then criticize Israel, Jordan, Yemen,
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, North Korea, China, on… and on…. But even better: let the mayor try to
bind the various population groups within the city limits and call them to develop activities
that unite together. And then, if connections and friendships have arisen, then, despite the
diversity, the friendship itself can look at bottlenecks and differences of opinion that
seemed unmentionable. Do you think that can succeed? Often not, but sometimes it does.
And sometimes I cherish that, because I have sometimes been able to experience this often!
And to the prominent Jewish Dutchman I would like to say: next week it is Pesach and Jews
all over the world read the Hagadah, which describes the Exodus from Egypt at that time.
And what do we read there about the present and now? "Because in every generation we
are rebelled against us to destroy us," literally. And then the text continues and says that
G-d will save us in the end. The Jewish people live and survive, but all kinds of things happen
along the way. We must know, prevent and combat that, but not deny it! I hope that the
new House of Representatives will want to fight that battle with us and will want to exercise

Additional Articles

The ordinariness of Auschwitz

As a dear colleague put it, “Where is the monster? It would be easier to deal with if there was a monster here.”

I’m just back from a delegation that we at the European Jewish Association organized to Auschwitz for around 150 ministers and parliamentarians from across Europe. In the days leading up to Holocaust Remembrance Day and the poignant 75th anniversary of the liberation of the most infamous death camp of all, we read the harrowing statements of the last few witnesses, and pledges from the great and the good “never again.”
I’m still trying to process what I saw, to reconcile what in my mind Auschwitz means with what it actually is when you walk through the gates. The word that best sums it up, the word that makes me sick in the very deepest pit of my stomach, is how ordinary it is.
I don’t know what the gates of hell should look like, but if you, like me, try to imagine it, you don’t picture bucolic countryside surrounding it, a McDonald’s drive-thru close by, parents pushing their children up the street, kids loitering around bus stops trying to look cool, and old people chatting outside the shops.
As a dear colleague put it, “Where is the monster? It would be easier to deal with if there was a monster here.”
That perfectly encapsulates what is so scary and upsetting about the place: There’s no monster.
The gates of hell have a parking lot, a pizzeria over the road, and students in tight jeans and Ugg boots chewing gum while waiting to have a look inside. Our Jewish ground zero, literally the sight of our worst nightmare, the scar that each and every one carries in our heart, is an ordinary place.
Now I have to tell you that the staff there are incredible people. Our guide Michal believes with every ounce of his being that it is his duty as a resident to tell the story and history of the place. His knowledge is terrible and devastating. He paints a visual Guernica with his words: the 7 tons of human hair that they found packed and ready to be stuffed into God knows what; the fact that they found traces of Zyklon B in the hair; the number of people who shoveled bodies into the crematoria. I could go on but I won’t.

A few hundred meters from Auschwitz is Birkenau. If Auschwitz is hell’s waiting room, Birkenau is where the doctor, quite literally, would see you. Selection, and then into the flames. Gone for eternity.
And yet again, so close by, you find houses with swings in the yard, bored dogs barking at cars, the half-constructed BBQ made of bricks that was never quite finished (maybe next year when the rain lets up).
Auschwitz is so terrifying to me, not because of what happened inside those gates. I know the horrors, I’ve been raised on them. No, it’s so terrifying because of what goes outside of them, so close, so palpably close. A town where life 80 years ago continued its slow, mundane pace.
While the crematoria burned and the latest shipment of Greek Jews arrived to be murdered, two old men sank a pint in the nearby pub. A baby cried because its toy broke. Teenagers fumbled awkwardly away from watching eyes.
I can’t reconcile at all how ordinary life could continue. And worse, I’m scared. I’m scared that people can tuck into their Margherita pizza after the tour is over, the same way that you can swim with Jaws at Universal Studios then tuck into wings and fries.
I’m scared too that surrounded by this ordinariness, just as it was all those years ago, antisemitism can keep rising and keep rising while tourists keep on going through those gates having learned nothing, and worse, get back to the football and order another drink while the kindle for the fires of hell is slowly being gathered again, right under their noses, and ordinary life continues.
The writer, Alex Benjamin, is the director of public affairs at the European Jewish Association.
The article was published by the JPost

כנס הארגונים היהודיים בהונגריה: מנהיגי הקהילות הציעו להגן על היהודים

כ־300 מנהיגי הקהילות החברות באיגוד הארגונים היהודיים באירופה התכנסו בבודפשט תחת אמצעי ביטחון קפדניים, בנוכחותם של נציגים בכירים וחברי פרלמנט ממדינות האיחוד האירופי, כדי לדון בנושאים דחופים המעיקים על יהודי היבשת.

בין הנושאים: המצב שיצרה המלחמה באוקראינה וחופש הפולחן הדתי המאוים על ידי איסור השחיטה הכשרה כפי שקרה בבלגיה, שבה בוטלה הגזירה באזור בריסל בלבד, התגברות האנטישמיות ועוד.

משתתפי הכנס פנו בהצעות מעשיות לממשלות האיחוד האירופי על בסיס סקר ראשון מסוגו שבחן את איכות חיי היהודים וביצועיהן של 12 ממשלות באירופה בפרמטרים המרכזיים הנדרשים לקיום חיים יהודיים, ובהם פעילות נגד אנטישמיות, אבטחת ביטחון וחופש דת והצבעות בעד או נגד ישראל באו”ם. לפי הסקר, המדינות הידידותיות ביותר ליהודים הן איטליה, הונגריה ודנמרק. בתחתית הרשימה: צרפת, פולין ובלגיה.
בתחום הביצועים המעשיים למען הקהילות ניצבות בראש הדירוג גרמניה, אוסטריה וצרפת, שלמרות תחושת חוסר הביטחון של היהודים בשטחה, היא עושה הכל לחיזוקו. בתחתית: דנמרק, ספרד ובלגיה.

לדברי נשיא איגוד הארגונים היהודיים הרב מנחם מרגולין, אין כוונה להתנגח במדינה זו או אחרת, אלא ליצור תשתית של השוואה שתאפשר למדינות ולקהילות נקיטת צעדים מעשיים. סגן ראש ממשלת הונגריה זסולט סמיין הדגיש את פעילות ממשלתו להגנת הקהילה היהודית המקומית ולמלחמה באנטישמיות ובהכחשת השואה, כולל פעולה נגד הגורמים הניאו־נאצים שעורכים מדי פעם הפגנות.

לדבריו, הונגריה בלמה לחלוטין את האנטישמיות, כשמנעה את האסלאם הפוליטי הקיצוני בכך שהקימה חומה ואסרה על הגירה בלתי חוקית. הונגריה גם תומכת בשחיטה הכשרה ומספקת בשר כשר למדינות אחרות.

סמיין אמר ל”מעריב” כי בכוונת ארצו להמשיך למנוע החלטות ומדיניות נגד ישראל באיחוד האירופי, ואף להתנגד למימון ארגוני טרור על ידי אירופה. במקביל היא תפעל ליישום ההסכמים הכלכליים עם ישראל, שהאיחוד הקפיא בשנים האחרונות, ותמשיך לפתח את יחסיה הכלכליים עם ישראל – שנמצאים כבר עכשיו בדרגה גבוהה.

הונגריה מכירה בירושלים כבירת ישראל אך לא תעביר את שגרירותה לשם, בכפוף למדיניות האיחוד האירופי. הוא גינה את השימוש בתירוץ ה”דנציפיקציה” על ידי רוסיה בפלישה למדינה ריבונית כמו אוקראינה, למרות קיומם של חוגים ניאו־נאצים במדינה והמעשים שביצעו אוקראינים בתקופת השואה, ולמרות דיכוי שפות המיעוטים כמו רוסית והונגרית.

סגנית נשיאת הפרלמנט האירופי ניקולה באר, העומדת בראש הקבוצה נגד האנטישמיות, סיפרה למתכנסים על הצעדים הננקטים בנושא זה, וסגן שר הפנים היווני סטברוס קלפטיס הודיע על הקמה של מוזיאון שואה בסלוניקי, שיהיה מן הגדולים בעולם.

Proposed animal welfare bill in Poland is 'of deep concern to European Jewry'

Rabbi Menachem Margolin: “This draft law puts unproven and unscientific claims about animal welfare above freedom of religion, breaching a central pillar of the EU’s charter of fundamental rights.”

A proposed legislation in Poland to ban religious slaughter of animals for export “is of deep concern to European Jewry,” said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European  Jewish Association (EJA) on Thursday (1 October), writes Yossi Lempkowicz.
The so-called animal welfare bill, proposed by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), has passed the Chamber of deputies or Sjem and now seeks approval in the Senate.
It could have massive ramifications for European Jewish communities as it would see a central and vital part of a Jewish practice, the shechita,  that has taken place for millennia trampled on and effectively wiped out – the access to and supply of kosher meat.
For European Jews, the legislation also carries with it multiple red and flashing alarms. History has repeatedly shown that the opening salvo in attempts to punish, ostracize, marginalize and ultimately destroy Jewish communities always starts with bans on central tenets of Jewish faith such as kosher laws and circumcision, before moving into much darker territory.
Animal welfare activists oppose the slaughter of animals for kosher meat because it precludes stunning before the animals’ throats are cut. Proponents of the practice reject claims it is cruel and say it induces a quick and humane death for the animal.
“This draft law puts unproven and unscientific claims about animal welfare above freedom of religion, breaching a central pillar  of the EU’s charter of fundamental rights,’’ said Rabbi Margolin in his statement.
In its Article 10, the charter states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion, belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
 The bill, noted Margolin “so alarmingly seeks to control and put a headcount on Jewish practice by giving the Minister of Agriculture the power to determine the qualifications of persons performing religious slaughter”.
The ‘schochet’, the person who is tasked with performing the slaughter undertakes years of ongoing training and is committed to, under strict Jewish law, ensuring that the animal undergoes the least suffering and stress as possible leading up to and during the slaughter itself, the rabbi explained.
He continued: “The draft law will also require a determination of the quantity of kosher meat needed by the local Jewish community. How is this to be done? by creating and supervising  a list of Jews in Poland”? This law, if passed, carries with it a dark and sinister undertow for Jews, a harking back to occupation, where practice and belief were initially targeted as first steps on the road to our eventual destruction.”
Poland is one of the biggest European exporters of kosher meat.
“European Jewry has enjoyed a fruitful and cooperative relationship with Poland as a principal supplier of kosher meat to our communities. Poland, in fact, is a central supplier to our needs. The question has to be asked, why now? To what end?” asked Rabbi Margolin, who urged  the Polish government, its parliament, its Senators and the Polish President to stop this law.
“Not only to uphold the values enshrined in the European Charter of fundamental rights protecting freedom of religion but to give a clear statement of solidarity that it will stand with and support European Jewry as an intrinsic part of Europe’s social fabric, and not sacrifice us, our beliefs and practice on the altar of politics,” Rabbi Margolin concluded.
The article was published on eureporter

Bootcamp in Madrid - Day 1

This afternoon the EJA, and our partners the ECJS and Concert started our latest 3 day ‘bootcamp’ in Madrid for young activists from all over Europe. Respected Arab Israeli journalistic Khaled Abu Toameh kicked off proceedings with an engaging opening session on normalisation, followed by a lengthy q&a session and discussion for participants, later for dinner we were proud to have a visit from the president of the Madrid Jewish community, Mrs Estrella Bengio who welcomed us warmly to her city and gave us all a great motivational speech about all working together for the betterment of European Jewry and the state of Israel.

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