The EJA is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Romano Bolkovic as our Chief Co-ordinator for Southeast Europe on our Committee for Combatting Antisemitism.
Mr Bolkovic is a great friend of the Association and well known to anybody in Croatia where his journalistic talents, as well as wide network of contacts in political, cultural and economic life, are exemplary and without compare.
He is an editor and journalist at Croatian Television where he hosts a weekly prime-time interview called “Romano Bolković – 1 on 1”, whose guests include Presidents and Prime Ministers of European countries, as well as those engaged in the social, cultural and political life in Croatia, the region and across Europe.
He wrote for leading Croatian newspapers such as “Globus”, “Jutarnji list” and “Večernji list”, and is a regular columnist for “Objektiv” and “Storybook”. A member of the Croatian Writers’ Association and of the presidency of the Croatian Social Liberal Party, he is also a Commander of the European Order of St. George of the House of Habsburg-Lothringen. He lives in Zagreb and Berlin.
BDS Founder Omar Barghouti honored at EU event hosted by MEP Ana Gomes, calling Israel an ‘apartheid’ state and justifying his actions.
European Parliament Member Ana Gomes on Tuesday hosted an event titled “The Israeli settlements in Palestine and the European Union” and focused on slamming Israel and legitimizing BDS.
The event was held at the European Parliament, and speakers included BDS movement founder Omar Barghouti, Palestinian Authority representative to the EU, Belgium, and Luxembourg Abdalrahim Alfarra, and Institute of International and Development studies in Geneva researcher Tom Moerenhout.
European Parliament President Tajani after complaints from MEPs and Israel advocacy groups, expressed his reservations about the meeting, although he could not technically stop it from taking place. The Socialist Group, of which Gomes is a member, asked for any of their logos or party insignia to be removed from the event
The event took place despite numerous representations against it because of the presence of Barghouti, whose anti-two state solution comments, boycott calls and veiled anti-Semitism comments run counter to stated EU policy.
Gomes began her remarks by saying she was happy that the meeting was taking place despite the efforts of the ‘perverse’ Israel lobby. She then went on to chastise the EU for complicity in not doing enough to tackle settlement construction, a phenomenon she referred to as a cancer affecting the peace process. Alfarra listed a litany of views related to the occupation and urged more EU states to recognize “Palestine.”
Barghouti then outlined his perceived justifications for BDS’ actions, repeatedly calling Israel “apartheid” and accusing the government of far-right tendencies. Finally, the researcher outlined the legal case for boycotts and claimed the EU was in breach of legal obligations when trading with Israel.
The event was then opened to questions, mainly from Jewish and Israel advocates who called for a retraction from Gomes due to her un-parliamentary language, and calling out BDS as anti-peace process.
European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Marglin noted that BDS ultimately harms Palestinian Authority Arabs, since it harms the factories providing them with jobs.He also asked Barghouti to state whether his true intention was to help “Palestinians” or whether BDS’ policy is simply a result of “hating Jews no matter where they live.”
Both the event’s organizers and Barghouti had charges of anti-Semitism leveled against them.
In their responses, Gomes refused to retract, said she was not anti-Semitic. Barghouti called those accusing BDS of being anti-Semitic of being anti-Semitic themselves, said accusations of harm against Palestinian Authority were “patronizing,” claiming his actions were entirely justified.
The event was not well attended by MEPs, and perhaps 5 in total attended, all of whom are anti-Israel from the left political fringes, including Italian communist radicals.
Four men have appeared in court charged with shouting antisemitic abuse from a convoy of cars in north London earlier this year.
Mohammed Iftikhar Hanif, 27; Jawaad Hussain, 24; Asif Ali, 25; and Adil Mota, 26, were seen covering their faces as they arrived and left Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
They are charged with using threatening, abusive or insulting words, or behaviour with intent likely to stir up racial hatred.
All four men from Blackburn entered not guilty pleas, with Mr Mota’s lawyer telling the court that his client was travelling as part of the convoy but wasn’t involved in the incident.
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KRAKOW, Poland — A Polish opposition politician expressed regret at the passage of a law this summer that limited Holocaust restitution efforts, and said he hopes ties between Poland and Israel — put in deep freeze by the legislation — will be repaired soon.
“I personally, from the very beginning, was opposed to both legislations that made so much damage to Polish-Israeli relations,” Michał Kaminski, a Polish senator and a deputy marshal of the Senate with the opposition Union of European Democrats, told The Times of Israel during an interview earlier this week. “Those legislations I opposed in both chambers, they are very unfortunate.”
Kaminski was referring to not just the legislation from July regarding Holocaust restitution, but also a 2018 law that criminalized statements implying the Polish nation played a role in victimizing Jews in the Holocaust. The law was later amended to remove the possibility of criminal charges, but the legislation caused major diplomatic tension between Warsaw and both Israel and the United States.
Three years later, a law that effectively prevents future restitution to the heirs of property seized by the Nazis during the Holocaust led to a downturn in ties between Israel and Poland that has remained in effect since the summer. Each nation recalled its ambassadors, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the law “antisemitic and immoral.”
Poland “turned into an anti-democratic, illiberal country that doesn’t respect the greatest tragedy in human history,” Lapid charged. Poland responded by accusing Israel of “baseless and irresponsible” behavior.
Kaminski — a former minister and former member of the European Parliament — suggested that ties between Israel and Poland would not be irreparably harmed, and claimed that support for Israel was a bipartisan issue in Warsaw.
“In terms of supporting Israel on the international stage, Polish opposition is absolutely on the same side as the Polish government,” he said. “We are supporting Israel as a state, we are supporting Israel’s fight against terrorism, and we are supporting Israel as a stable democracy in the Middle East.”
Kaminski noted that Poland was still among the strongest supporters of Israel within the European Union, and suggested that the rift was motivated by domestic political needs on both sides, which he called “very unfortunate.”
Three months after the freeze in ties between Jerusalem and Warsaw, there were few signs of thaw at the confab in Poland, yet cautious optimism that it was on the horizon.
A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry told The Times of Israel that any improvement in ties “is basically up to Poland,” adding: “The crisis is because of the law. In order to fix the problem, they should address it.”
While politicians, ministers and parliamentarians from a wide range of countries attended the conference, including the UK, Germany, France, Hungary, Slovenia, the Netherlands and even the Congo, not a single representative of Israel’s government or parliament was present. The only Israeli on the conference agenda was Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the former chief rabbi and current chairman of Yad Vashem.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sent a video message that was played at the conference’s gala dinner, where he stressed that “Jews should not be fighting antisemitism alone,” and declared that anti-Zionism is the “modern manifestation” of antisemitism.
A representative for Poland’s government — Wojciech Kolarski, secretary of state in the chancellery of the president — was originally slated to attend the conference but canceled for unspecified reasons. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
Instead, an adviser to President Andrzej Duda read a letter from the president at the conference, which emphasized the need to remember “all Poles” alongside Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and stressed that “contemporary Poland is a safe and friendly country” to Jews.
EJA officials said they invited Israeli Culture Minister Chili Tropper to attend, but he declined. Tropper’s office said he was unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.
Conference organizers suggested that Israeli government representatives were unwilling to commit to attending the conference due to the uncertainty over the timing of critical budget votes, which wrapped up late last week.
Alex Benjamin, the director of the EJA, told The Times of Israel that the crisis in ties between Israel and Poland likely “would have been [part of the] equation” for Israeli officials choosing not to attend.
But, he said, “there are some things that transcend political disagreements,” and asserted that for Israel, “such consideration and such diplomatic rows fade into insignificance when it comes to honoring the dead in Auschwitz. There are some things that transcend political disagreements,” he added. “And visits to Auschwitz and talking about antisemitism is one of those.”
Kaminski spoke to The Times of Israel immediately after he addressed a gala dinner at the EJA gathering in Krakow on Monday. Feted as a close friend of Israel and of Europe’s Jewish community, Kaminski’s public remarks echoed Bennett’s equation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism: “Fighting antisemitism and standing with Israel and with its people — we are fighting the same fight.”
The Polish senator told The Times of Israel that while he understands Jewish and Israeli outrage over the restitution legislation, he does not believe it was aimed specifically at cases of Holocaust survivors and victims.
“The legislation about the property rights is directed in 85-90% of the cases, not against Jews, it’s directed against the Polish citizens,” he said. “I understand the anger of Jewish people, of Israeli politicians, on one side, I voted against the law. But to be honest, this law is not directed against the Jews as such.”
Warsaw says the law will bolster legal certainty in the property market, but opponents say that it is unjust to those with legitimate claims, including Holocaust survivors and their families.
The legislation places a 10-to-30-year cutoff date on contesting past administrative decisions on restituting property lost during World War II. Critics of the law argue that it will effectively cut off the ability of Jews to reclaim property that was seized before and during the Holocaust.
Poland is the only country in the European Union that has not passed comprehensive national legislation to return, or provide compensation for, private property confiscated by the Nazis or nationalized by the communist regime.
Artur Hofman, president of the cultural group TSKZ, the largest Polish Jewish organization, told The Times of Israel that while the law is problematic, the outrage ignores more local issues.
“I know that everybody in the world, in Israel, in the USA, is asking about money from property in Poland,” Hofman said. “But Polish Jews are like toys in this game. Nobody asks us.”
Hofman said that cultural buildings that once belonged to the Jewish community in Warsaw were seized by the government and never returned.
He claimed that restitution funds sought by organizations in the US and Israel are rarely distributed to Holocaust survivors, and that the money should instead remain in the Polish Jewish community and go toward remembrance and education projects.
It’s a challenging time for Jewish communities in Europe. Anti-Semitism is on the rise as populism and the politics of the lowest common denominator are gaining traction. Our communities often need round the clock protection and our practices and customs such as keeping Kosher are under pressure from increasing political interference.
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