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Anti-semitism

European Parliament passes resolutions condemning Palestinian failure to stop hate in school textbooks

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The resolutions were adopted as amendments by the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control by MEPs across the EU political spectrum including members of the three largest political groups, the Center-Right European People’s Party (EPP), the left leaning Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the liberal Renew Europe (RE) party. The resolutions were passed by over 60% majority of the European Parliament, writes  

The European Parliament passed three resolutions which condemn the Palestinian Authority (PA) for continuing to teach hate and violence in its school textbooks and which oppose European Union aid to the PA being used for this purpose.

The legislation notes that problematic material in Palestinian school textbooks has still not been removed, points to the continued failure to act effectively against hate speech and violence in Palestinian textbooks. It calls on the European Commission to ensure that salaries of teachers and education sector civil servants financed by the European Union are used to teach curricula that reflect UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, coexistence and non-violence.

The resolutions were adopted as amendments by the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control by MEPs across the EU political spectrum including members of the three largest political groups, the Center-Right European People’s Party (EPP), the left leaning Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the liberal Renew Europe (RE) party. The resolutions were passed by over 60% majority of the EU Parliament.

One of the resolutions relates particularly to Palestinian school textbooks and to the PEGASE fund, the main source of EU funding to the Palestinian Authority’s Education Ministry, which is responsible for drafting, writing, teaching and implementing the new PA curriculum.

German MEP Niclas Herbst of the European People’s Party stressed that ‘’EU funds should be spent on peace and mutual understanding. Paying teachers to teach Antisemitism and incitement to violence through Palestinian schoolbooks should never be subsidised by EU-money. The result of votes today is a strong signal on this regard.’’

Impact-se CEO Marcus Sheff: "This parliament, which oversees the spending of the European Commission, is clearly exasperated by the continued payment of massive grants to the Palestinian educational sector, which is then promptly turned into one of the most hate-filled, violent and extreme curricula worldwide."

Romanian MEP Christian Ghinea of Renew Europe insisted that ‘’no funds should be used for drafting and teaching curricula which includes support for intolerance. I believe that, under no circumstances, should European money contribute, even indirectly, to encouraging a logic of violence.’’

Swedish MEP Charlie Weimer of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party said: "Terrorism, extremism and hate can never be the answer and should under no circumstances ever be funded by EU taxpayers." He added: "I fully welcome that the European Parliament voted in favor of keeping the strong language stating that incitement and support for terrorism in Palestinian schoolbooks is unacceptable. Peace needs to be promoted in the Palestinian curricula as to achieve a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

IMPACT-se, a Jerusalem-based watchdog that monitors peace and cultural tolerance in school education, initiated the resolutions and adoption of these measures, keeping the Palestinian curriculum a hot-button issue in the European Union Commission and Parliament.

Marcus Sheff, CEO of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), noted that EU officials told the group that its report on Palestinian curriculum will be classified. ‘’There now must be a moment of truth for the European Union. Will it continue to ignore the parliament that oversees its spending? Will the Commission now publicly release the freshly- minted report on the Palestinian Authority’s textbooks? Governments, legislators and over a million Palestinian children know what’s in the textbooks. Classifying the report is senseless and frankly, seems highly suspicious,’’ he said.

Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the American Jewish Committee Transatlantic Institute, praised the European Parliament for condemning the Palestinian Authority’s failure to act against incitement in text books. ”By putting both Ramallah and the EU Commission on notice, lawmakers took a clear stand against EU funds being misused to poison the minds of young Palestinians. Palestinian incitement remains one of the main obstacles to a negotiated two-solution with Israel.”

Anti-semitism

Austria presents its ‘comprehensive national strategy to prevent and combat all forms of antisemitism’

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Austrian European Affairs  Minister Karoline Edtstadler (pictured) stressed Austria’s responsibility to fight anti-Semitism regardless of whether it comes from the far right, leftists, immigrants or anybody else, writes .

The strategy presented is based on six pillars: education, security, law enforcement, integration, documentation and civil society.

The Austrian government presented on 21 January its strategy to fight anti-Semitism which includes enhanced protection of synagogues, improved education about Judaism and stricter prosecution of hate crimes against Jews.

Austrian European Affairs  Minister Karoline Edtstadler stressed Austria’s responsibility to fight anti-Semitism regardless of whether it comes from the far right, leftists, immigrants or anybody else.

The new measures intend to battle anti-Semitism in all its forms and wherever it expresses itself — from online chat groups to hate speech in corner bars or expressions of hatred against Jews at public protests such as the current rallies against coronavirus regulations, Edtstadler said.

During the Austrian Council Presidency in 2018, the EU Interior Ministers adopted a joint declaration against anti-Semitism which, among other things, obliged states to develop national strategies. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called for a European declaration to ensure a clear and unambiguous position against anti-Semitism.

The strategy presented is based on six pillars: education, security, law enforcement, integration, documentation and civil society. A total of 38 concrete measures were announced, such as the creation of a separate documentation center for anti-Semitic incidents and a new staff unit for coordinating the fight against anti-Semitism. Austrian also wants to work more closely at the European level, for example by making data on incidents comparable, as the EU declaration also called for.

This strategy is “a milestone in the fight against anti-Semitism”, said the Karoline Edtstadler during the presentation. “We have to protect Jewish life and make it visible. May it succeed.”

At the same press conference, Oskar Deutsch, President of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien, the Jewish community of Vienna, thanked the minister for her work. “The best answer to anti-Semitism is Jewish life,” he said. ‘’But the political plans now have to be filled with life,’’ he added.

Katharina von Schnurbein, the European Commission’s Coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, praised the Austrian strategy announcement and welcomed the fact that the Austrian documentation center will ensure that data material that is comparable across Europe is collected.

The strategy is “ambitious”, said von Schnurbein.

Anti-Semitic incidents are rising across Europe, including Austria. During Corona demonstrations one can see banners with anti-Semitic symbols. Last August, the president of the  Jewish community of Graz survived an attack. The anti-Semitic background to the terrorist attack in Vienna in November has not yet been officially confirmed, but the perpetrator’s early shots were aimed at the Jewish city synagogue. This is probably one of the reasons why the Austrian government is tripling its investments in protecting Jewish institutions to four million euros.

“Jews are always the first ones who are affected by discrimination,” Deutsch warned, adding that the fight against anti-Semitism needs to be an effort by the whole of society, not just the Jewish community.

In 2019, Austria recorded 550 anti-Semitic incidents, Edtstadler said.

“That is twice as much as five years ago,” she added

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Anti-semitism

Fighting antisemitism: Commission and International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance publish handbook for the practical use of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism

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The handbook for the practical use of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism has been published. This document was commissioned by the European Commission and published jointly with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, with support from the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The IHRA working definition for antisemitism, while not legally binding, has become a widely used tool around the world to educate people about antisemitism, as well as recognise and counter its manifestations.

Based on the comprehensive research carried out by the Federal Association of Departments for Research and Information on Antisemitism (Bundesverband RIAS), the handbook provides an overview of good practices by international organisations, national administrations, civil society and Jewish communities from across Europe. The 35 good practices are ranging from training for law enforcement to incident recording and reporting. Furthermore, the handbook includes 22 sourced incidents of antisemitism in Europe that highlight the relevance of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism when assessing manifestations of antisemitism.

Vice President Schinas said: “We need to fight antisemitism whenever we encounter it. Jewish life is part of our societies and we are determined to protect it. This new handbook makes it easier for all to fulfil this commitment. It responds to our member states' requests for better knowledge-sharing on the use of the IHRA definition. The handbook will become another valuable tool for member states to effectively implement the landmark Council Declaration on combating antisemitism.”

The Commission plans to adopt a comprehensive EU Strategy against antisemitism this year. More information on the Commission's work to tackle antisemitism can be found here.

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Anti-semitism

Vice Presidents Jourová and Schinas speak at 4th meeting of Working Group on Antisemitism

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On 8 December, Vice-President Věra Jourová and Vice-President Margaritis Schinas participated in the 4th meeting of the Working Group on combating antisemitism. Vice-President Schinas opened the meeting with remarks on stepping up the fight against antisemitism, while Vice-President Jourová will deliver closing remarks in the afternoon. The meeting was focused on the development of national strategies against antisemitism, the practical use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, and fighting against antisemitic prejudices as part of civic orientation measures based on the EC Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion.

Values and Transparency Vice-President Věra Jourová said:  ‘It is more important than ever to think critically, to not believe immediately what you read and hear. Countering disinformation and promoting democracy are crucial principles to our democratic societies and to the functioning of the European Union.”

Vice President Schinas said: “In 2021 we will present with our first comprehensive EU strategy on combating antisemitism. Our message is clear: Europe is determined to win this fight. Europe is proud of its Jewish communities and stands by its Jewish communities.”

The European Commission created the ad-hoc Working Group on antisemitism within the existing high-level member states expert group on racism and xenophobia to help member states in the implementation of the Council Declaration on the fight against antisemitism and the development of a common security approach to better protect Jewish communities and institutions in Europe of 6 December 2018. More information on the Commission's work to tackle antisemitism can be found here.

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