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Anti-semitism

Commission presents first-ever EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life

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The European Commission has presented the first-ever EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life. With antisemitism worryingly on the rise, in Europe and beyond, the Strategy sets out a series of measures articulated around three pillars: to prevent all forms of antisemitism; to protect and foster Jewish life; and to promote research, education and Holocaust remembrance. The Strategy proposes measures to step up cooperation with online companies to curb antisemitism online, better protect public spaces and places of worship, set up a European research hub on contemporary antisemitism and create a network of sites where the Holocaust happened. These measures will be reinforced by the EU's international efforts to lead the global fight against antisemitism.

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today we commit to fostering Jewish life in Europe in all its diversity. We want to see Jewish life thriving again in the heart of our communities. This is how it should be. The Strategy we are presenting today is a step change in how we respond to antisemitism. Europe can only prosper when its Jewish communities feel safe and prosper.”

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas added: “Antisemitism is incompatible with EU values and with our European way of life. This strategy – the first of its kind - is our commitment to combat it in all its forms and to ensure a future for Jewish life in Europe and beyond. We owe it to those who perished in the Holocaust, we owe it to the survivors and we owe it to future generations.”

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Towards a European Union free from antisemitism

The Strategy sets out measures focusing on: (1) preventing and combating all forms of antisemitism; (2) protecting and fostering Jewish life in the EU; and (3) education, research and Holocaust remembrance. These measures are complemented by the EU's international efforts to address antisemitism globally.

Some of the key measures in the Strategy include:

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  • Preventing and combating all forms of antisemitism: Nine out of ten Jews consider that antisemitism has increased in their country, with 85% considering it a serious problem. To address this, the Commission will mobilise EU funds and support Member States in designing and implementing their national strategies. The Commission will support the creation of a Europe-wide network of trusted flaggers and Jewish organisations to remove illegal online hate speech. It will also support the development of narratives countering antisemitic content online. The Commission will cooperate with industry and IT companies to prevent the illegal display and selling of Nazi-related symbols, memorabilia and literature online.
  • Protecting and fostering Jewish life in the EU: 38% of Jews have considered emigrating because they do not feel safe as Jews in the EU. To ensure that Jews feel safe and can participate fully in European life, the Commission will provide EU funding to better protect public spaces and places of worship. The next call for proposals will be published in 2022, making available €24 million. Member States are also encouraged to make use of Europol's support regarding counter terrorism activities, both online and offline. To foster Jewish life, the Commission will take measures to safeguard Jewish heritage and raise awareness around Jewish life, culture and traditions.
  • Education, research and Holocaust remembrance: Currently, one European in 20 has never heard of the Holocaust. To keep the memory alive, the Commission will support the creation of a network of places where the Holocaust happened, but which are not always known, for instance hiding places or shooting grounds. The Commission will also support a new network of Young European Ambassadors to promote remembrance of the Holocaust. With EU funding, the Commission will support the creation of a European research hub on contemporary antisemitism and Jewish life, in cooperation with Member States and the research community. To highlight Jewish heritage, the Commission will invite cities applying for the title of European Capital of Culture to address the history of their minorities, including Jewish community history.

The EU will use all available tools to call on partner countries to combat antisemitism in the EU neighbourhood and beyond, including through cooperation with international organisations. It will ensure that EU external funds may not be misallocated to activities that incite hatred and violence, including against Jewish people. The EU will strengthen EU-Israel cooperation in the fight against antisemitism and promote the revitalisation of Jewish heritage worldwide.

Next Steps

The Strategy will be implemented over the period 2021-2030. The Commission invites the European Parliament and the Council to support the implementation of the strategy and will publish comprehensive implementation reports in 2024 and 2029. Member States have already committed to preventing and fighting all forms of antisemitism through new national strategies or measures under existing national strategies and/or action plans on preventing racism, xenophobia, radicalisation and violent extremism. National strategies should be adopted by the end of 2022 and will be assessed by the Commission by end of 2023.

Background

This strategy is the EU's commitment to a future for Jewish life in Europe and beyond. It marks the Commission's political engagement for a European Union free from antisemitism and any form of discrimination, for an open, inclusive and equal society in the EU.

Following the Fundamental Rights Colloquium on antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred, in 2015, the Commission appointed its first-ever Coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life. In June 2017, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on combating antisemitism. In December 2018, the Council adopted a Declaration on the fight against antisemitism. In December 2019, the fight against antisemitism became part of the portfolio of the Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, signalling the intention to address it as a crosscutting priority. In December 2020, the Council adopted a further Declaration centered on mainstreaming the fight against antisemitism across policy areas.

Many of the policy areas linked to combating antisemitism are primarily national responsibilities. However, the EU has an important role in providing policy guidance, coordinating actions by Member States, monitoring implementation and progress, providing support via EU funds, and promoting the exchange of good practice between Member States. To this end, the Commission will make its existing ad hoc Working Group on combating antisemitism into a permanent structure, bringing together Member States and Jewish communities.

For More Information

EU Strategy on Combatting Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life

Factsheet on EU Strategy on Combatting Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life

Questions & Answers

Combatting antisemitism website

Coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life

Anti-semitism

Parliament Committee approves funding cut to PA over incitement to hatred and antisemitism in Palestinian school textbooks

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The European Parliament committee on budgets adopted on Tuesday (28 September) an amendment to the 2022 EU budget to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority (PAà and to UNWRA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East, over hateful, violent and antisemitic content in Palestinian school textbooks, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

The amendment withholds €20 million to Palestinian education until the PA and UNRWA make immediate revisions to textbooks used by Palestinian students by the next school year.

The textbook changes must include improvements that promote coexistence with and tolerance towards the Jewish-Israeli other and education about peace with Israel. If there is no change, the reserve will be used to fund NGO’s that  promote tolerance, coexistence, and respect for the Israeli other in school settings.

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The amendment was tabled by the Committee on Budgets Vice-Chairman, Belgian MEP Olivier Chastel of the center-liberal Renew Europe political group with the support of committee co-Vice Chairman, German MEP Niclas Herbst of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group in the parliament.

“Many Palestinian textbooks continue to violate UNESCO standards for peace, tolerance and non-violence in education. They spread hatred against Israel and anti-Semitism. If the textbooks are not revised, the withheld funds should go to NGOs that adhere to UNESCO standards. Parliament approved this proposal today. With 20 million euros, more than 5 percent are withheld. This is a great success and the right signal that the books must finally be revised! No hatred against Israel should be taught,” Herbst stated.

The committee is now set to pass the ratified 2022 budget to plenary in two weeks, where it will be voted upon.

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EU Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, who oversees bilateral relations and distributes aid to the PA and UNRWA, has repeatedly suggested that the EU may choose to cut funding to the Palestinian education sector over the misuse of European donations.

A recent report commissioned by the EU found that the PA curriculum contains antisemitism, violence, glorification of terrorism, and other content which violates international UNESCO standards for peace and tolerance in education. The study was spurred by IMPACT’s research and briefings about the issue.

Earlier this month, MEPs stated their opposition to funding hate in the PA education system in three separate parliamentary meetings; in the foreign affairs committee, the head of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini,  acknowledged that his organization identified antisemitism and glorification of terror in the books used by UNRWA students.

But several members of the committee questioned him on continued teaching of hate, violence and antisemitism in the textbooks and UNRWA materials, citing a recent report by IMPACT-se,  an organization that analyzes schoolbooks and curricula for compliance with UNESCO-defined standards on peace and tolerance. on the textbooks.

IMPACT-se played also a role in the initiation and adoption of the PA funding cut  adopted on Tuesday.

‘’This is a crucial measure which speaks volumes about the ongoing frustration felt by European lawmakers, who are simply no longer prepared to fund the teaching of hate in Palestinian classrooms,’’ said Marcus Sheff, IMPACT-se CEO.

He added, ‘’They are rightly demanding that Palestinian children are taught about tolerance, coexistence, and respect. Sadly, this does not look likely: just last week, Palestinian President Abbas made it crystal clear in his United Nations General Assembly address that the PA will not change the textbooks. He must know that has a price and that he cannot expect donors to pay and pay while they insist on their right to teach hate.’’

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Anti-semitism

UNWRA chief acknowledges antisemitism and glorification of terrorism in Palestinian textbooks

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The head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, acknowledged that Palestinian textbooks contain problematic material, while still insisting that the agency takes steps to prevent it from being taught, without showing that how this is actually accomplished, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

He stated, in a hearing before the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee (AFET),  that antisemitism, intolerance glorification of terrorism is present in PA textbooks in UNRWA schools and affirmed that his agency had revised the textbooks used in its schools following allegations of antisemitic content.

But several members of the committee questioned him on continued teaching of hate, violence and antisemitism in Palestinian Authority (PA) textbooks and UNRWA materials, citing a recent report by IMPACT-se,  an organization that analyzes schoolbooks and curricula for compliance with UNESCO-defined standards on peace and tolerance. on the textbooks.

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The EU is UNRWA’s largest and most consistent institutional donor.  In June, European Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, whose department covers aid to UNRWA, issued statements calling to consider conditioning aid to the Palestinian education sector on “full adherence to UNESCO standards of peace, tolerance, co-existence, non-violence” and a “need for Palestinian education reform”.

Also in June, a cross-party group of 26 EU Parliament from 16 countries and from the largest political groups sent a letter to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres,  calling for disciplinary action and investigation of UNRWA over hate teaching.

In April, the EU Parliament passed an unprecedented resolution condemning UNRWA, becoming the first legislature to censure UNRWA over teaching hate and incitement to violence using Palestinian Authority textbooks. The adopted text demanded that hateful material be “removed immediately” and insists that EU funding “must be made conditional” on educational material promoting peace and tolerance.

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At the AFET meeting, Lazzarini stated that “we largely agree with the conclusion that there are a number of issues needing to be addressed.”

But he was challenged by several parliamentarians. German MEP Dietmar Köster, a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), questioned Lazzarini on the textbooks. “UNRWA admitted that between March and November 2020, its own education directors produced educational material branded with UNRWA logo that incites to violence, calls for jihad and rejects peacemaking as identified in IMPACT-se report.

I have serious concerns regarding the textbooks. In view of UNRWA’s serious shortcomings in recent years, I believe the European Parliament has no other choice but to discuss the question of whether we need stricter oversight over the agency. Please explain,” he said.

Spanish MEP Jose Ramon Bauza Diaz, of the liberal Renew Europe group posed a similar question. There are mentions of terrorism in certain texts and of course various countries in the EU have decided to block their contributions to this agency. For this reason, it would be very serious for the money of European taxpayers to pay for encouragement of terrorism or to foster corruption.”

Slovak MEP Miriam Lexmann, from the European People’s Party, the largest political group in the EU parliament, challenged Lazzarini when she asked: “What concrete steps have been taken? What has been done to collect these materials back from 320,000 students? We know if these books remain with the students, they will create further damage.’’

She mentioned the fact that the U.S. State Department accountability office (GAO) report on UNRWA said that UNRWA teachers ”have refused to take part in training for tolerance and conflict resolution.’’

Dutch MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen, from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, said: “We need to look at the recent IMPACT-se report….it shows that in the new textbooks of UNRWA there is daily mention of violence and rejection of peace and denial of the legitimacy of Israel in terms of presence in the region. I think there is a question of how long we can tolerate this.  What have you done about our concerns expressed in relation to school textbooks?”

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Anti-semitism

Progressive discourse is ‘cancelling’ the fight against antisemitism

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The explosion of antisemitism across the world during the last two months has been hugely concerning for Jewish communities. The facts speak for themselves. Synagogues, cemeteries and Jewish property have been vandalized, while Jews have been verbally harassed and physically attacked across Europe and in the United States, with many more targeted online. In the UK, a 250% rise in antisemitic incidents was recently recorded. Similar spikes were documented in other European countries and in the United States, writes Brig. Gen. (Res) Sima Vaknin Gill.

The sheer intensity of antisemitic incidents has abated, but nobody should be lulled into a false sense of security. Far from it. In fact. progressive circles are in danger of accepting a pernicious ‘new normal’ in which the battle against Jew-hatred is being ‘cancelled.’ As a result, they are fanning the fire of antisemitism.   

There are many painful questions to be asked. Why did Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza, unlike any other conflict in the world, become a green light to intimidate and attack a minority community? Why are Jews and Jewish communities uniquely ascribed responsibility for actions in a decades-long, geo-political dispute thousands of miles away? Perhaps the most disheartening question of all, is why Jews were left feeling abandoned in their hour of need by the very progressives who preach tolerance and social justice?

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Part of the answer can be found in the dangerously simplistic binary world view which has gripped progressive circles. This lens sees only privileged and under privileged (based on race not wealth), oppressors and oppressed. In this context, Jews are unjustifiably viewed as white and privileged, while Israelis are automatically seen as wicked oppressors. Jews and Israel have found themselves on the ‘wrong’ side of the progressive fence, thanks to a manufactured and frankly antisemitic stereotype.

We are now witnessing the very worrying consequences of this deeply flawed group think. The last two months has seen not only an indifference to Jewish fears among progressives, but a hostility towards them. Too often, voicing concerns over antisemitism is treated as an affront, something of a threat to other minority groups.

At the end of May, chancellor of Rutgers University, Christopher J. Molloy, and provost, Francine Conway, issued a brief message expressing sadness and deep concern over “the sharp rise in hostile sentiments and anti-Semitic violence in the United States.” It also referenced the overall racial injustices in the United States, mentioning the murder of George Floyd and attacks on Asian American Pacific Islander citizens, Hindus, Muslims and others. Incredibly, just a day later, Molloy and Conway made an apology, saying “it is clear to us that the message failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members. We sincerely apologize for the hurt that this message has caused.”

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Similarly in June, April Powers, a black Jewish woman and head of diversity and inclusion initiatives in SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) issued a simple and patently uncontroversial statement, saying “Jews have the right to life, safety and freedom from scapegoating and fear. Silence is often mistaken for acceptance and results in the perpetration of more hatred and violence against different types of people.” Lin Oliver, the organization’s executive director soon backtracked, saying “On behalf of SCBWI, I would like to apologize to everyone in the Palestinian community who felt unrepresented, silenced, or marginalized,” while Powers resigned over the ‘controversy’.

In a logic twisted beyond belief, to raise concerns over antisemitism, or to express sympathy for Jews facing intimidation and attack, is deemed offensive. We find ourselves in a progressive world turned on its head. Those concerned with equality and social justice should proudly demonstrate solidarity with any minority under threat. Increasingly, what they are doing is worse than simply ignoring antisemitism. They are censoring, ‘cancelling’ attempts to stand with Jews facing hatred and fearing for their safety.

Those who genuinely do care about the welfare of Jewish communities, who are appalled by the prevalence of antisemitism, are too often silenced or bullied into ‘fixing’ their ways. It amounts to a progressive ‘totalitarianism’ which censors the boundaries of acceptable thought. In a world of black and white, this outlook dictates that Jews and Israel must be placed on the dark side of history.

Unless progressives wake up to the dangers of such self-censorship, they will be facilitating a potent long-tail antisemitism. While paying lip service to the cause of equal rights, they are instead singling out one sole minority undeserving of solidarity and protection. In doing so, progressives are doing the work of the racists for them. They are leaving the door wide open to an antisemitism which they claim to abhor.   

Brig. Gen. (Res) Sima Vaknin Gill is the former Director of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, co-founder of Strategic Impact consultants and a founding member of the Combat Antisemitism Movement.

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