30 October 2018
As Jewish European organizations committed to the elimination of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and all other forms of racism, we would like to voice our deepest concern regarding the organization of a conference in Brussels (6-7 November 2018), backed by the Israeli government, aiming to label legitimate criticism and protest against Israeli governmental policies as anti-Semitism. We ask the European institutions, including the European Commission, the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), and members of the European Parliament, and to shun attempts by the Israeli government to use false allegation of anti-Semitism to limit and criminalize work by civil society organizations, including those of diverse Jewish communities of Europe, to pursue peace and justice in Israel/Palestine.
The conference, co-organized by the European Jewish Association and two Israeli ministries, has as its goal to persuade all European political parties to sign up to “red lines” that declare legitimate calls for pressure on Israel, including through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) tactics, to be “fundamentally anti-Semitic.”
We reject their call. Antisemitism is a small but real and growing threat to Jewish populations in Europe – and elsewhere, as the recent outrage in Pittsburgh so tragically demonstrates. Conflating the real threat posed by anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the Israeli government and its policies is a dangerous step; it threatens to misdirect European efforts to combat anti-Semitism, turning these instead into a tool to erode the democratic principles of free speech and freedom of assembly, and to aid the Israeli government in its quest to limit Palestinian non-violent civil resistance to the Israeli occupation. These Israeli efforts do not represent the Jewish communities of Europe. The Israeli policies of siege in Gaza and racial segregation in the West Bank, of fatal attacks on civilians and of land expropriation for Jewish-only settlements – are not in our name. We reject attempts to equate opposition to these deplorable policies with anti-Semitism.
In the context of growing Israeli governmental ties with racist, sexist and xenophobic leaders, groups and political parties in Europe and the US (some of which with a past marked by blatant anti-Semitism), there is a real threat of emergent anti-Semitism. The Israeli governmental conference organized in Brussels is not searching for much-needed solutions to this threat. Sadly, it seeks instead to leverage anti-Semitism to maintain an untenable status-quo of occupation, oppression and fear in Israel/Palestine. We stand in opposition to their mission.
As Jewish organizations committed to the promotion of social justice and equality, we have expressed in several occasions the problematic nature of invoking allegations of anti-Semitism in attempts to silence voices opposing Israeli violations. More than 40 Jewish organisations have recently published an open letter expressing their “growing alarm regarding the targeting of organizations that support Palestinian rights in general and the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in particular” Adding that “These attacks too often take the form of cynical and false accusations of antisemitism that dangerously conflate anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israel’s policies and system of occupation and apartheid.”
The right to defend human rights, including Palestinian rights, should be safeguarded now more than ever. EU political parties have a responsibility to end complicity of their respective states with the Israeli violations of international law. It is time to act against anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and all other forms of racism. It is time to act against Israel’s decades-long occupation and racial segregation. Don’t lend a hand to the Israeli government attempts to stop us from doing both.
Een Andere Joodse Stem / Another Jewish Voice (Belgium)
Free Speech on Israel (United Kingdom)
UJFP – Union juive française pour la paix (France)
JFJFP – Jews for Justice for Palestinians (United Kingdom)
Een Ander Joods Geluid/A Different Jewish Voice (The Netherlands)
Judar för Israelisk Palestinsk Fred / Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (Sweden)
Jüdische Stimme für ein gerechten Frieden in Nahost / Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Near East (Germany)
Jøder for en retfærdig fred (Denmark)
EJJP – European Jews for a Just Peace (European Network)