Last week, I joined over 1,000 activists, Jewish leaders and experts from around the world, together with European lawmakers, Knesset members and Israeli officials, to participate in the fifth Global Forum on Combating antisemitism, held in Jerusalem under the auspices of Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Foreign ministries.
This forum was convened 70 years after the Holocaust. Yet just last year saw the highest number of recorded anti-Semitic incidents since the end of the darkest chapter in Europe’s history. Brussels, Paris, Copenhagen, London, Berlin … virtually no part of Europe is free from this indomitable evil.
The only difference today is that it is not only attacks on Jews as individuals, but also attacks and vilification against Zionism and the State of Israel. It is perhaps just a more “socially acceptable” way, especially in some European circles, to express one’s hatred and dislike of Jews, and by extension, the State of Israel.
The forum was divided into 12 separate working groups, each representing a different strand of antisemitism. I participated, on behalf of the Israeli-Jewish Congress, in the “Antisemitism in the Guise of Delegitimization and Anti-Zionism” working group.
Let there be no ifs, buts or maybes about this — the assault on Israel’s legitimacy as the nation-state of the Jewish people, including by the use of false claims and malicious distortions of truth disguised as acceptable criticism of Zionism and Israel, is the modern-day manifestation of antisemitism.
The facade has well and truly been lifted.
As French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in the wake of the violent attacks against French synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge: “There is an incontestable link between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.”
At the same time, we saw calls of “Death to Jews” interchanged with “Zionists burn in hell,” and even in Switzerland a protester rushed the largest synagogue in Geneva with a placard saying, “Every synagogue is an embassy of the State of Israel.”
Jew or Israeli, on the streets of Europe, for many today there is no distinction. They are one and the same.
So, what can be done to combat this pernicious and unrelenting assault against both the Jewish state and the Jewish people?
1. For starters, we need to delegitimize the delegitimizers, by singling out, exposing and shaming this group of haters, including all those who support and fund them.
2. Europe must legislate a comprehensive binding definition of antisemitism, taking into account that delegitimization of Israel, which goes beyond legitimate criticism, is a form of antisemitism.
3. Regarding the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, the darling of the delegitimization movement being waged by a dangerous union of the far Left and radical Islamists, we must make it explicitly clear that if you are pro-BDS, you are against peace and the two-state solution.
European states may also consider taking the lead from France, which has deemed BDS illegal, labeling it both a criminal and racist act, with a number of successful prosecutions.
4. We need to mobilize parliamentary support in Europe, including having pro-Israel parliamentarians promoting resolutions against BDS and discrediting their colleagues who attack Israel, while at the same time strengthening bilateral relations with the Jewish state.
As the same time, it is important to recognize that resort to legal tools alone cannot help defeat the delegitimization movement.
5. We also need to reframe the debate and broaden the conversation on Israel. Most Europeans view Israel primarily through the prism of the conflict with the Palestinians, which has been exported to the continent by extreme propaganda led mostly by radical Muslim immigrants, and now taken on as a cause celebre by many European elites. Many others are just simply resistant to hard facts.
So, let us broaden this conversation by talking more about Israel’s positive achievements (including in high-tech, innovation, cultural fields) and the potential gains for Europe by strengthening this relationship.
Israel advocates will always still need to defend Israel, but let us also be more pro-active, anticipate trends and focus on the positives as well.
6. Greater support must also be afforded to the business community in Europe and Israel against BDS attacks and the promotion of further business and research ties.
7. One large elephant in the room continues to be EU funding of nongovenmental organizations that openly attack and delegitimize Israel. There must be greater EU monitoring and accountability on where EU taxpayer dollars go.
8. It is also critical for pro-Israel and Jewish organizations to build bridges and create alliances with other minorities, NGOs and religious groups, including moderate Muslims and churches, as well as civil society, to help fight common causes, and who can also speak up on our behalf against this hatred.
It would seem that we have been talking about the delegitimization of Israel as the “new antisemitism” for so long now, that it is no longer actually new. Today, it is time to connect the dots and take action against this hatred.
:: Israel Hayom