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Anti-semitism

Spanish group fighting antisemitism launches campaign against anti-Semitic parties and presidential candidate in Madrid’s upcoming regional election

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Ahead of the regional elections in Madrid, ACOM, the leading organization in the fight against anti-Semitism in Spain, has called voters ‘’to voice their opposition to  antisemitic far-Left parties Unidad Podemos and Mas Madrid, as well as to presidential candidate Pablo Iglesias,” writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

The regional election in Madrid, scheduled to take place on May 4th, will elect the regional parliament, known as the Assembly of the Community of Madrid, and the regional government of six million citizens, including the largest Jewish community of Spain.

ACOM (acronym for Action and Communication on the Middle East) noted that Pablo Iglesias (pictured), until recently Spain’s radical Left deputy Prime Minister, leader of Unidas Podemos, who quit his position to run for the position of Madrilenian President, ‘’has a history of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements.’’ These statements include that “the great Wall Street companies are practically all in the hands of Jews”, “the Jewish lobby supports initiatives against the peoples of the world”, “the Holocaust was a mere bureaucratic problem”, “Israel is a criminal state” and “an illegal country”. He also worked for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s propaganda mouthpiece to the Spanish-speaking world Hispan TV.

“That the people of Madrid could elect a paid-propagandist of Iran who is an open anti-Semite should be unfathomable,” said ACOM President, Angel Mas.

“Voting for Iglesias and these two parties is voting for the discrimination of Jews and ostracization of Jewish life and the community in a city which is rebuilding itself after 500 years. Normalized Jewish life is at risk in these elections. We call on our neighbors who care about decency, non-discrimination and democracy to oppose these parties and those who provide them legitimacy by sitting in a government with them,” he said.

Mas mentioned that Podemos and Mas Madrid have tried to approve a motion in the Madrid parliament for the region to formally join the international anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment, Snctions) campaign ‘’as they successfully did in around 100 Spanish cities and regions.’’

"That would have made Madrid, the capital region of Spain and center of Spain’s social, political and economic relations, a ghetto that would have excluded the citizens of the Jewish state and any pro-Israel Spanish citizens from any type of commercial, social, cultural or civic relationship with the regional administration."

ACOM has so far successfully defeated Podemos BDS campaign across the country with over 70 court rulings declaring the pro-BDS resolutions discriminatory and unconstitutional.

According to a recent poll, Spain’s centre-right Popular Party (Partido Popular) looks set to comfortably win the  regional election.

Anti-semitism

Taking Williamson’s lead, the UK can spearhead the global fight against antisemitism

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Following two weeks of unabated and frankly terrifying attacks on Jewish people, Jewish buildings and indeed Jewish identity in the UK, last week Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (pictured) offered hope. Rather than simply condemning the huge spike in Jew-hatred, Williamson has gone a step further than perhaps any other leader by identifying a key remedy – Addressing antisemitism head on in schools. If Williamson’s justified concerns are translated into action, it could signal the UK taking a leading role in the European and indeed the global fight against the world’s ‘oldest hatred’, writes Robert Singer.

Thankfully, leaders have made clear that there is no place in the UK for Jew-hatred. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and London Mayor Sadiq Khan were among those across the political spectrum to unequivocally condemn the 600 per cent rise in antisemitic incidents, which have seen a rabbi physically assaulted, calls for “Jewish blood” and a sickening pledge to rape Jewish women.

Sadly, this worrying trend is far from confined to the UK. Time and again, in cities across the world, Jews have been targeted under the feeble pretense of criticizing Israel. In some countries, such as Germany and France, governments have taken short-term measures to alleviate the threat, banning demonstrations where necessary and using legislation to prosecute racists.

Williamson though, is demonstrating a more nuanced, long-term approach. In a letter to headteachers and school leaders, he made clear that schools are not only expected to deal properly with an “atmosphere of intimidation” for Jewish students and teachers. Crucially, Williamson also said that schools also have a responsibility to educate in an impartial and balanced fashion, rejecting materials or organizations that “publicly reject Israel’s right to exist”. In other words, Williamson understands that the disease of antisemitism flourishes in an educational void. The antisemitic violence and chaos on Britain’s streets was born out of ignorance, a lack of knowledge which can be remedied in the classroom.

He is perhaps the first leader not only in the UK, but internationally, to recognize this and call for a revised educational approach to combat antisemitism. In over a decade of work at World ORT, one of the world’s largest educational networks operating in five continents, I have witnessed first-hand how quality, balanced education can change lives and indeed the world. While legislation and law-enforcement are the immediate tools to keep Jewish communities safe, only education can guarantee their future.

Therefore, Gavin Williamson and the government he represents must not lose momentum. The UK has always played a unique role in fighting Jew-hatred. The country proudly stood almost alone at one point in the fight against Nazism. British soldiers were among the first to eventually liberate the concentration camps and uncover the horrifying depths to which antisemitism can descend. Should Williamson’s words be turned into action, then the UK can again become a standard-bearer in the fight against antisemitism.

To this end, the following three-point action plan for UK education can provide an effective framework. Firstly, headteachers and school staff must be able to define antisemitism. They must recognize what it is they are guarding against. Time and again in recent weeks, naked antisemitism has been dressed up as anti-Zionism. It is crucial to be able to distinguish where criticism of Israel ends and antisemitism begins. Fortunately, the globally recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism makes clear that “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” is antisemitic.

Secondly, headteachers and teaching staff must be equipped to identify how antisemitism manifests itself in the classroom, in the playground and among pupils on social media. They must also be given the tools to respond appropriately.

Thirdly, educating about contemporary antisemitism must become part of the school curriculum. While ongoing, impressive efforts in Holocaust education are crucial, young people must understand that antisemitism isn’t confined to history. As recent events have shown, it is very much alive and kicking. Quite rightly, hundreds of UK schools have adapted their curricula accordingly in the wake of the Black Lives Matter campaign. Tragically, the time has come for schools to teach that Jewish rights are equal too.

Quite simply, Jewish communities should never have to live in fear. Like so many others, Jews in the UK and across Europe are worried. Action is needed now, which can not only alleviate immediate concerns, but which will make clear that antisemitism won’t rear its ugly head again in the future. Education is the key to making this happen. Turning Gavin Williamson’s sentiments into concrete educational action would be a powerful statement that the UK is prepared to lead Europe and the world in finally consigning the ‘oldest hatred’ to history.

Robert Singer is a Senior Advisor of the Combat Antisemitism Movement, chairman of the Board of Trustees of World ORT and former CEO of the World Jewish Congress.

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Anti-semitism

At World Jewish Congress plenary assembly, EU Commission president outlines EU strategy to combat antisemitism

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told hundreds of Jewish community leaders from around the world that the European Union is committed to  combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, including through a forthcoming rollout of the first ever EU strategy to advance these goals, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Von der Leyen spoke to the delegates of the World Jewish Congress’ Plenary Assembly, which comes together every four years to address key issues affecting Jewish communities and set the organization’s policy for the years ahead.

“For decades, you have been at the forefront of fighting for the rights of Jewish communities around the world, to eradicate antisemitism and to make sure that the memory of the Holocaust is kept alive, and I am here to tell you Europe is with you in this fight,” she said.  “Because sadly, antisemitism is not confined to a distant past. It is still very present in Europe and across the world.”

She emphasized, “Antisemitic crimes and hate speech must be brought to justice.”

Von der Leyen discussed the frightening increase in antisemitic hatred in Europe, including  most recently violent anti-Israel demonstrations and graffiti in European streets and on synagogues. She highlighted the multi-pronged approach of EU’s new strategy, which will:

  • Strengthen the fight against antisemitism;
  • preserve the memory of past atrocities and ensure all European students learn about the Holocaust, “no matter their background, family history or country of origin”, and;
  • foster Jewish life in Europe.

The COVID-19 pandemic in particular, said von der Leyen, has shown how quickly antisemitic conspiracy myths can spread.

She contoinued, ”The duty to protect the future of the Jewish people starts with remembering the past, but of course it does not end there. Europe can only prosper when its Jewish communities prosper too. Seventy-six years after the Holocaust, Jewish life in Europe is thriving again in synagogues, in schools, in kindergartens and in the heart of our communities. And we must continue to protect it.”

The European Commission is the executive branch of the European Union, which proposes new European legislation and implements the decisions of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

Video.

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Anti-semitism

Commission vice president confirms: EU to present comprehensive strategy to prevent and combat antisemitism later this year

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Promoting our European Way of Life European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas (pictured), has confirmed this week that the European Union would adopt later this year a comprehensive strategy that will complement and support member states’ effort on preventing and combating antisemitism, educating on the Holocaust remembrance and fostering Jewish life in Europe, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Together with Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Schinas opened an high-Level Conference 'Protection from racial discrimination and related intolerance' hosted by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU Francisco André.

In a panel discussion, Katharina von Schnurbein, uropean Commission’s coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, addressed the issue of 'Countering hate speech: the role of human rights education, history teaching and the media in countering it online and offline'.

She stressed the need to find new ways of teaching about the Shoah in a multi-cultural, digital society and for all actors to work together – European legislation, national enforcement, platforms and users – to address hate speech, including Holocaust denial and distortion online.

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