EJA Statment on the Council Declaration on Anti-Semitism

December 6, 2018

EUROPEAN JEWISH CHIEF WARMLY WELCOMES COUNCIL DECLARATION ON ANTI-SEMITISM BUT SAYS TWO VITAL PIECES ARE MISSING
Brussels 6 December 2018. The Chairman of the European Jewish Association (EJA) today welcomed the Council of the European Union unanimous adoption of a declaration in the fight against anti-Semitism as a significant step forward, but said that the document misses two key points and arguably the two most important factors affecting anti-Semitism – ongoing efforts to curb Freedom of Religion and practice, and anti-Zionism as typified by the BDS movement.
Urging Europe’s leaders to sign up to the “Jewish red lines” ratified by the members of the European Jewish Association at their conference in Brussels in November, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, whose EJA represents thousands of Jews across Europe and is headquartered in the Belgian capital, said in a a statement:
“The EJA can only welcome the declaration and the commitment by the Council of the European Union to fighting anti-Semitism and better protect Jewish Communities and Institutions in Europe. I am particularly grateful to First Vice-President Timmermans, Commision Jourova, and Katharina Von Schnurbein, the EU’s special envoy on combatting anti-Semitism, for their on-going commitment to safeguarding European Jewry. This triumvirate is making a real difference and putting our concerns front and centre across the EU. The European Jewish Association and its many thousands of members and supporters is deeply appreciative of their efforts, and those of the council members who adopted this declaration unanimously.
“There are however, two vital and missing pieces in the declaration, and these two pieces form the root of much of the anti-Semitism felt by Jews in Europe: on-going efforts by some European countries to target Jewish freedom of religion and practice through legislation on circumcision and religious slaughter for instance, and Anti-Zionism typified by the BDS movement.
Taken together, and notably absent from the declaration, they represent  to European Jewry the touch-paper issues of anti-Semitism, attacks on Jews and their communities, and their way of life.
“Therefore, it is clear to me as Chairman of the European Jewish Association, that any declaration on tackling and fighting anti-Semitism that doesn’t include these two key factors is a declaration that can never be a complete declaration when it comes to tackling anti-Semitism properly and meaningfully.”

Additional Articles

Greece’s top court bars ritual slaughter, after recent EU ruling upholding bans

The highest court in Greece has ruled against allowing ritual slaughter, fulfilling fears that some Jewish leaders voiced last year after the European Union’s top court ruled in support of such bans.
Last December, the EU’s highest court upheld the bans imposed in regions of Belgium against slaughtering animals for meat without stunning them first. The ruling meant that slaughter in accordance with Jewish law, which requires animals be conscious when their necks are cut, would be prohibited in those regions, as it is in some other parts of Europe.
Greece’s top court doesn’t cite that ruling in its decision on a petition filed by the Panhellenic Animal Welfare and Environmental Federation, according to the Greek news site Protothema. But Jewish watchdogs who have been monitoring bans on ritual slaughter across the European continent say the connection is undeniable.
“We warned in December about the downstream consequences that the European Court of Justice ruling carried with it, and now we see the outcome,” says Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European Jewish Association. “Jewish freedom of religion is under direct attack. It started in Belgium, moved to Poland and Cyprus and now it is Greece’s turn.”
The Greek court says there should be ways to meet the demands of animal rights advocates and the needs of Jews and Muslims who follow the laws about food in their traditions.
“The government should regulate the issue of slaughtering animals in the context of worship in such a way as to ensure both the protection of animals from any inconvenience during slaughter and the religious freedom of religious Muslims and Jews living in Greece,” the court says, according to Protothema.
https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/greeces-top-court-bars-ritual-slaughter-after-recent-eu-ruling-upholding-bans/

Jewish headstones smashed at Greek cemetery

Jewish Community of Athens spokesman says: “the scene is repulsive and our disappointment is great” after vandals carried out attack during early hours of Shabbat

 A Jewish cemetery near Athens that was desecrated with neo-Nazi symbols two years ago has once again be vandalised.
A press release by the Jewish Community of Athens said: “On Saturday, the most holy day in Judaism, it is imperative and we are accustomed to abstain from everyday activities and, of course, from announcements. In the context of this almost absolute rigor of observance of the Sabbath holiday, there are exceptions that have to do with dealing with the threat of a life or a great pain.
“Such is the pain that caused us, today, on Saturday, May 5, 2018, the revelation of a new wave of vandalism in the Jewish Cemetery of Athens. Unknown vandals entered our Cemetery during the night and destroyed nine commemorative marble struts kicking them with fury, leaving them to peel off their bases and crushing them on the ground. These marble slabs are used to mark the sectors of our Cemetery and are dedicated to the memory of the dead by their families.
“The scene is repulsive and our disappointment is great. This is not the first time we see the result of a degrading act at our Cemetery but it is the first time we see such act was organised and planned in part of the Cemetery that is not visible from the neighboring houses and with incredible fury. The view of the results of this abominable act causes us deep sorrow and anger.
“The Jewish Community of Athens will exercise all the legal means at its disposal, the first steps have already been taken by the police authorities that immediately came to the collection of clues.
“But besides the Law, we call upon all the institutions of the State and the City, the Justice, the Religious and Spiritual Authorities of the country and the Civil Society, to condemn unambiguously and without reservation this desecration and to stand with absolutely zero tolerance against such phenomena of violence and intolerance. There is no worse sign of a society’s moral decline than desecration of a Cemetery and disrespect for the dead.
“It is not just an act that concerns only our Community and is recorded as one of the most violent and significant anti-Semitic events of recent years in Greece. It is about an act that brutally affects the whole of society, the values and principles of a favored state.
For these reason, we ask everybody to exhaust every effort to never allow such acts against anyone.”
In October 2015, parties who have not been identified wrote in black paint on the entrance to the same cemetery south of the Greek capital the number 18 – a neo-Nazi code for Adolf Hitler — and the word “raus” – German for “out.” In Nazi Germany, the phrase Juden raus, “Jews out,” was a common slogan among anti-Semites. They also painted a swastika on the cemetery’s gate.
Greece’s Golden Dawn party is widely considered one of Europe’s most virulent neo-Nazi movements with representation in a national parliament. It holds 16 seats out of 300 in the Greek parliament.
The Nikaia Jewish cemetery is an active and relatively new place of burial. The community has been burying its dead there since shortly after World War II, when city authorities allocated the land to the community for this purpose.
The article was published on the Jewish News Online

Protesters mass in France, Israel, UK to demand justice for Sarah Halimi

In France, some 25,000 demonstrate against court decision that Jewish woman’s killer was too stoned to be held criminally responsible
Protesters gathered in Paris, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and London on Sunday to demonstrate against the ruling of France’s highest court that the killer of a Jewish woman in the French capital was not criminally responsible because he had smoked marijuana before the crime.
Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman, was pushed out of the window of her Paris flat to her death in 2017 by neighbor Kobili Traore, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic).
But in a decision earlier this month, the Court of Cassation’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld rulings by lower tribunals that Traore cannot stand trial because he was too high on marijuana to be criminally responsible for his actions.
Some 25,000 protesters, many of them Jewish, gathered in Paris to demand justice for Halimi.
Under the banner of “Justice for Sarah Halimi,” the rally at Trocadero Square overlooking the Eiffel Tower reflected the widespread indignation of many French Jews at the April 14 ruling by their country’s highest court.
It was held under tight security arrangements in a cordoned-off enclosure where the Jewish umbrella group CRIF played a video on a giant screen in which French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia demanded another “trial of facts,” even if it ends without sentencing of Traore.
The rally Sunday was the first time in decades that a large number of French Jews gathered to protest against organs or actions of the French state.
“The clamor has risen and hope has returned. That hope is all of you here,” Halimi’s brother William Attal told a crowd of several thousand at the Trocadero esplanade in Paris.
The MP who leads Macron’s Republic on the Move party, Christophe Castaner, addressed the protest, which was also attended by opposition leaders and by several well-known actors.
Jacques Essebag, a French-Jewish comedian who is known by the stage name Arthur, in a video message said he has “decided to start using drugs because in France you can do whatever you want, even kill your neighbor if you don’t like her, if you use drugs.” He then added: “What has become of this country?”
Former French first lady Carla Bruni, wife of Nicolas Sarkozy, also appeared at the Paris rally, as did Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who said the city would soon name a street in Halimi’s memory.
“It will also be a way of doing her justice,” Hidalgo said.
However, the video message from Hidalgo, a Socialist politician, provoked whistles and booing from many protesters at the event, which did not feature live speeches due to COVID-19 measures.
Organized by the CRIF umbrella of French Jewish communities, the rally was called “to show our astonishment at a decision that conforms to the law, but not to justice,” CRIF said.
The event featured many French and Israeli flags, and those of the far-right Jewish Defense League.
More than 20,000 people demonstrated in Paris, and up to 2,000 took part in a march in the Mediterranean city of Marseille, police said, while around 600 gathered outside a synagogue in the eastern city of Strasbourg.
Three protests were also held in Israel, all taking place at 3 p.m. in order to coincide with the demonstration by the Jewish community in Paris. The main demonstration was in front of the French Embassy on Herbert Samuel Street in Tel Aviv.
The Jewish community in the United Kingdom also demonstrated in front of the French Embassy in London on Sunday at 1 p.m., in solidarity with the community in France. Attendance was limited because of COVID-19 restrictions.
In addition to the rally in Paris, protest rallies were planned to take place on Sunday in Marseille, Strasbourg and Lyon. Abroad, rallies were scheduled to be held in Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Miami in the United States as well as in Rome, Italy.
Some Jewish organizations have used harsh language about the case, including the conservative Europe-Israel group, which called it “the new Dreyfus Trial.” It’s a reference to the anti-Semitic treason charges leveled at a French-Jewish soldier in 1894, and which many to this day believe showed that French society and European societies, in general, were too anti-Semitic to allow Jews to truly integrate.
Israel blasted the decision of the French court last week.
“Sarah Halimi was murdered for clearly anti-Semitic motivations, for the sole reason that she was a Jew,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Hayat told The Times of Israel. “This was a despicable murder that harmed not only the victim herself and her family, but also the entire Jewish community’s sense of security.”
“The way to confront anti-Semitism is through education, zero tolerance, and heavy punishment,” Hayat continued. “This is not the message that the court’s ruling conveys.”
Sarah Halimi was beaten before she was thrown off her Paris apartment building’s roof in April 2017. (Courtesy of the Halimi family)
Critics of the ruling cited apparent composure by Traore, an immigrant from Mali who was 27 when he killed Halimi, a physician in her 60s. Traore, whom a lower court said targeted Halimi because she was Jewish, called her a demon as he pummeled her in her third-story apartment, which he entered by force.
He then threw her out the window and shouted: “A lady fell down from the window!” to cover up his actions, witnesses said. He left the scene, allegedly to escape it, and was arrested on a nearby street.
Others argue that even if Traore was psychotic, he was criminally liable when he took the drugs that made him psychotic and should therefore stand trial. He has no documented history of psychiatric problems.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said he would advance legislation to prevent criminals from avoiding trial by using an insanity defense for actions committed under the influence of drugs.
Read more

Why Israeli Politicians Aren’t Talking About America’s anti-Semitism Crisis, Even After Monsey

Many are fearful of saying the wrong thing, with Netanyahu and Bennett’s tone-deaf approaches to previous Diaspora attacks seemingly serving as warnings

As news of the horrific knife attack in Monsey was breaking on Saturday – the police still in pursuit of the perpetrator, the injured victims being rushed to hospitals – the CNN anchor turned to the network’s correspondent in Jerusalem for reaction.

It’s hard to imagine how, in any other circumstances, a violent crime in the heart of the United States would cause a network to turn to a foreign nation for comment. But the spate of anti-Semitic attacks on American Jews over the past few months, culminating in this month’s Jersey City and Monsey attacks, sent them to what they assumed would be a logical address for the most immediate reaction to Jewish persecution: the Jewish state.

In reality, though, Israeli leaders are now often hesitant to be among the first to speak out against anti-Semitic violence in the Diaspora. It isn’t because they aren’t deeply concerned by the phenomenon, which is being covered thoroughly in Israel, but because the odds of saying the wrong thing are high.

The degree of difficulty in devising the appropriate response has also risen in an era where anti-Semitism has become a political weapon. Israel’s leaders are justifiably fearful that the slightest slip of the tongue will be transformed into ammunition in the left-right political wars overseas, and then fired against the Jewish state itself.

That caution was evident in the defensive tone of the very first official response to the attack, provided by President Reuven Rivlin. “Anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem, and certainly not just the State of Israel’s problem,” Rivlin stated. “We must work together to confront this rising evil, which is a real global threat.”

Rivlin’s words set the tone for other Israeli officials. They walked a tightrope between Israel’s commitment to defending Jews around the world, refusing to stand by passively as they suffer and die at the hands of attackers, while avoiding the appearance of treading on the internal political and security matters of another country.

It took until Sunday for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to issue his carefully worded reaction at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “Israel strongly condemns the recent displays of anti-Semitism, including the vicious attack at the home of a rabbi in Monsey, NY, during Hanukkah,” he said. He also expressed willingness to “cooperate however possible with the local authorities in order to assist in defeating this phenomenon. We offer our assistance to every country.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, meanwhile, vowed to “work tirelessly to restore the sense of personal security each and every Jew deserves,” lacing his statement with a pro-Israel advocacy message, saying that “the delegitimization and anti-Semitism we face every day has raised its ugly head once again.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, pushed a bit harder, calling for unspecified “action” against violent anti-Semitism, declaring that “This is a time for action, not words. ... This is a time for enforcement that deters the perpetrators of hate, whoever they may be.”

Only one Israeli official – Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman – offered up the traditional Zionist response to anti-Semitic violence in the Diaspora: Suggesting Jews could only be truly safe in their own state. “Again and again, we are witnessing the dire consequences of anti-Semitism,” he wrote. “Alongside the deep grief and best wishes for the injured, it is important to know that the main solution to such phenomena is immigration to Israel.”

Maybe it is because Lieberman is not currently serving as a government minister, or perhaps because he made his call for embattled Diaspora Jews to move to Israel in Hebrew, that the blowback was minimal.

In contrast, when Netanyahu sent the same message in 2015, following the murderous attack on a kosher grocery store in Paris, France’s Jewish community was infuriated.

Two days after the attack took place on January 9, Netanyahu responded by forming a special ministerial committee to discuss steps to encourage aliyah from France (and Europe in general), stating: “I wish to tell all French and European Jews – Israel is your home.” He reiterated that message when he visited a synagogue full of Parisian Jews shortly afterward, pointing out that “Jews these days have an opportunity that did not exist in the past: to live freely in the only Jewish state, the State of Israel.” He added that “any Jew who chooses to come to Israel will be greeted with open arms and an open heart. It is not a foreign nation, and hopefully they and you will one day come to Israel.”

There was a fierce negative reaction from France’s chief rabbi, Haïm Korsia, and other representatives of French and European Jewry. Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association, said Netanyahu and others “must cease this Pavlovian reaction every time Jews in Europe are attacked.”

He complained that “after every anti-Semitic attack in Europe, the Israeli government issues the same statements about the importance of aliyah, rather than employ every diplomatic and informational means at its disposal to strengthen the safety of Jewish life in Europe.” Margolin added that “every such Israeli campaign severely weakens and damages the Jewish communities that have the right to live securely wherever they are.”

France’s then-prime minister, Manuel Valls, also rejected Netanyahu’s call, stating that if 100,000 Jews left the country, “France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”

Whether because Israel’s government leadership learned a lesson from the 2015 experience, or due to its general caution around American Jews, there has not been a hint of a call for American Jews to consider emigration to Israel – even after the most shocking recent anti-Semitic attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway in October 2018 and last April, respectively.

After those incidents, the official Israeli response ran into a different kind of trouble: the perception of political partisanship. Israeli officials were criticized for taking sides in the bitter round of finger-pointing that followed the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, after supporting President Donald Trump and defending him against those who felt he had fanned the flames of white supremacism.

Then-Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, who visited the United States following the Pittsburgh shooting, insisted in an interview that “using the horrible anti-Semitic massacre to attack the president is unfair, it’s wrong,” adding that Trump was “a great friend of Israel and of the Jews.” And at a public event, Bennett indicated that the reaction to the massacre was overblown, saying: “This is not in any sense Germany of the ’30s, it doesn’t resemble that in any possible way.”

Bennett was slammed for stepping out of line – for lecturing, instead of listening to the pain of American Jews trying to cope with the threat of anti-Semitism. The minefield of U.S. identity politics has only grown more treacherous since, with an intensification of what pundit Benjamin Wittes calls “selective outrage” around anti-Semitism.

Increasingly, those on the right and left are pointing fingers at each other depending on who the perpetrator of an anti-Semitic attack may be, refusing to acknowledge that hatred of Jews “does not align with any simple political narrative,” Wittes wrote in The Atlantic on Sunday.

And so it is little wonder that Israeli leaders – particularly while they are consumed with their own country’s domestic political turmoil – are choosing the path of issuing carefully worded statements about Monsey and other attacks, and then, for the most part, staying out of the fray. They have much to potentially lose, and little if anything to gain.

As The Forward’s opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon pointed out Sunday in an op-ed titled “Why no one can talk about the attacks against Orthodox Jews,” “At a time when ideology seems to [reign] supreme in the chattering and political classes, the return of pogroms to Jewish life on American soil transcends ideology. In the fight against anti-Semitism, you don’t get to easily blame your traditional enemies – which, in the age of Trump, is a nonstarter for most people.”

Including, it seems, Israel’s political leaders.

The article was published on Haaretz

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