Europe needs to take back its fight against anti-semitism. Intervention by Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata

Israel, a country that is an integral part of Europe and its values, has taken the initiative to present to the European Parliament a complaint report on what has been hiding for years “Behind the Mask” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, explaining how this kind of campaigns act as soil for the plant of anti-Semitic hatred, radicalization and even terrorism to grow. This the analysis by Giulio Terzi from Sant’Agata for Formiche.net (in Italian)

Through the form of representative democracy, typical of all the EU states, the European Parliament expresses the totality of those political wills, values, identities and interests that concern all the European citizens. It is not to lessen the other main EU institutions to see how it is especially within the EP – where the “voices” of the European peoples rise to spur their governments, political forces and civil societies – that we find a particular attention and an appeal towards human rights, freedoms and the rule of law.

As constantly affirmed by Treaties and by European Councils during this last six decades of integration, the protection and the promotion of the founding principles of the Union are a clear responsibility for the Member States. It is, therefore, in the European Parliament that they must effectively respond to the mandate received from the voters, even more in recent years in face of the concern of these values being under attack. For every European citizen, freedom and human dignity feel as imperatives and establish a “ground norm” – an essential norm described by Emmanuel Kant as “the moral law in me” – crucial for each of us.

By denying and offending it, anti-Semitism strikes Europe in its heart, violating our identity and humiliating it to subdue and destroy. The fight against anti-Semitism and the phenomena connected to it, that generate and feed it is, therefore, a vital mission for the Union. It is not just a matter of preventing and suppressing radical and violent extremism of anti-Semitic governments and organizations whose objectives certainly are not of peace, but of suppressing the Jewish state of Israel. We are faced with a precise plan that aims at the resurrection of discrimination and racist hatred against Jews on a large scale. When we are faced with this challenge, for us Europeans it is not just a question of tackle violence.

As stated by the President of the World Jewish Congress, Roland Lauder, in a conference in San Miniato on the 25th of April “anti-Semitism is a matter of violence and above all of indifference”. In Italy particularly we feel the danger of this indifference. For several years we have seen how the younger generations are poorly informed about the Shoa and shabbily educated in the teaching of History and Civic Education, an insufficient knowledge to embed in them a spirit of tolerance, dialogue and respect for religious freedom.

What is particularly worrying is that the younger generations are almost powerless against the anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli exploitations that we suffer every day from false or distorted news coming from governments like the Iranian one or from fundamentalist political, cultural and religious associations; and from a network where anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists proliferate among the users of the virtual world. It is appreciable that Israel, a country that is an integral part of Europe and its values, has taken the initiative to present to the European Parliament a complaint report on what has been hiding for years “Behind the Mask” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“Behind the Mask” explains with an integral and in-depth approach how movements such as the BDS campaigns are the soil from which the plant of anti-Semitic hatred, radicalization and even terrorism grows. Already in 2018, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Security of Israel had revealed in a report a series of connections and deep ties between some internationally recognized terrorist organizations, particularly Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, with activists and organizations that promote BDS. All this is further supported today through the analysis of 100 cases concerning BDS promoters. Their actions on social media, their public statements and the propaganda they spread fall exactly into the definition of “Anti-Semitism” of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). An alliance which was adopted by the European Parliament and that in the last three years has been formally embraced by many European Union countries. These are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia.

In this broadly shared framework it seems surprising that the Italian government, which had always been very sensitive and active in supporting multilateral and national anti-Semitic initiatives, has not considered until now to adopt this fundamental definition, whose effects would make a significant contribution both to Europe’s actions in this field, and to the prevention and sanction of the growing and alarming manifestations of anti-Semitism on an internal level. What can we expect from the new government led by Conte and the parties that support it? A prompt decision would be extremely desirable.

For fifteen years Israel has been defying the BDS campaign. It has the specific objective of affecting Israeli businesses financially, as well as affecting their relations with universities and scientific and cultural cooperation. This is an assault to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state (as its founder Omar Barghouti states), and to the right to defend itself. The Report reads: “Israel finds itself in an unprecedented situation where a nation undergoes an assault to its self-determination rights intending to cause changes not only to its politics but to put an end to the state’s very existence”.

The BDS deceptively presents itself as a promoter of peace and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, while being exactly the opposite. The commitment of its promoters is aimed at “demonizing”, “delegitimizing“, and imposing “double standards” towards Israel and the Jews. These are the “3 Ds” that Natan Sharansky has been proposing for the last twenty years as a decisive “test” of what’s anti-Semitism. For millennia, Sharansky recalled, the Jews had been persecuted with the demonizing accusation of poisoning wells, drinking children’s blood and controlling global finance. During many historical periods, their faith has been de-legitimized and their aspiration to be recognized as a nation has been denied. The double standards instead were practised through “special laws” that discriminated them, from the Middle Ages to imperial Russia, up to Nazi Germany.

The “3 Ds” test is always valid. It shows, through a careful analysis of the trends and the facts contained in the report, how “old anti-Semitism” has regained impulse under the dangerous dissimulation of the “Boycott, Disinvesti, Sanction” movement. The presentation of “Behind the Mask” at the European Parliament should, therefore, be the occasion to launch a new European Action Plan on anti-Semitism, involving all Member States. Distraction and indifference are no longer acceptable.

La definizione del fenomeno e la sua applicazione giuridica, il divieto di finanziare ONG (con i soldi dei contribuenti europei), note per posizioni e dichiarazioni antisemite, la rimozione dal web di contenuti che promuovano radicalizzazione e fondamentalismo, sono sin d’ora le linee sulle quali le Istituzioni Europee e gli Stati Membri devono muoversi rapidamente. Ricordiamo che un sondaggio in 12 Paesi EU ha recentemente rilevato la percezione di un netto aumento dell’antisemitismo da parte dell’89% di 16.000 europei di religione ebraica, mentre nella Repubblica Ceca un analogo sondaggio dello scorso luglio riferiva un aumento del 189% di incidenti antisemiti riferibili all’ultimo triennio.

The definition of the phenomenon and its legal application should be the prohibition of financing NGOs (with the money of the European taxpayers) known for anti-Semitic positions and declarations and the removal from the web of contents that promote radicalization and fundamentalism. Those should be the lines on which European institutions and Member States should quickly act right now. We should also recall that a 12 EU countries survey recently revealed that there is a perception of a sharp increase in anti-Semitism according to the 89% of the 16,000 European Jews, while in the Czech Republic a similar survey last July reported a 189% increase in anti-Semitic incidents during to the last three years.

All of this is no longer acceptable.

Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata
Ambassador, President of the Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella”

Translation: Asia Jane Leigh

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