Washington D.C., October 12th, 2016 – European Coalition for Israel (ECI) has made an appeal for a stronger transatlantic partnership in support for Israel ahead of its launch of a new sister organisation, American Friends of ECI, on Thursday night in Washington D.C.
“Europe is today ground zero when it comes to fighting growing antisemitism. But it does not stop here. The current assault on the Jewish people and the State of Israel is a global phenomenon,” ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell said in a press statement on Tuesday. He mentioned the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement in particular as a new form of antisemitism. The BDS movement has been condemned by a number of national parliaments, including Great Britain, and according to the High Court in France, its activities are in clear violation of international trade laws.
Sandell is not alone in expressing concern over the situation of the Jewish communities in Europe and the current demonisation of the State of Israel. According to the European Union, the Jewish population in Europe has declined from about 2 million in 1991 to 1.4 million in 2010. Last year, more than ten thousand Jews left Europe and immigrated to Israel.
Two weeks ago, the European Parliament organised a special conference in Brussels about the future of the Jewish communities in Europe, where several speakers warned about a new exodus from Europe following the growing violence against Jews on the continent.
In the conference, former British Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks accused the European leaders of failing to understand how antisemitism mutates over time and takes different forms in different ages. He said, “In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated because of their religion. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century they were hated because of their race. Today they are hated because of their nation state, the State of Israel. It takes different forms but it remains the same thing: the view that Jews have no right to exist as free and equal human beings.”
“This form of antisemitism is not limited to Europe,” Sandell warns, “but is also spreading in the United States and other parts of the world. It is often hidden under the cover of ‘human rights campaigning’. But whilst Israel is today the only country in the Middle East which fully respects fundamental rights and freedoms by law, it is paradoxically the only country to be singled out for boycotts by Western campaigners, including some Christian denominations.”
“Christians should know better. When campaigners shout ‘kauf nicht bei Juden’, (do not buy from Jews) trouble is around the corner,” Sandell warns.
But standing in support for Israel does not prevent ECI from also expressing legitimate concerns for the Palestinian people. In the past, the organisation has held Palestinian human rights events at local universities in Europe, where they have raised awareness of the problems which Palestinians are facing today, not only from the Israeli authorities, but also from their own political leaders.
“Whilst Europe may not be considered Israel´s best friend, we have a historic obligation to speak out and to do so in time, when we see Jews being targeted for boycotts and hunted down by terrorists in Europe. But in a global world we need to stand together with all those who value freedom, compassion and humanity, hence the need for an American sister organisation,” Tomas Sandell explained.
The new organisation is headquartered in Washington D.C., but has its main focus on the United Nations in New York. It will offer partnerships for fighting antisemitism in Europe and the US, as well as a platform for diplomatic activities at the European Union in Brussels and the United Nations in New York and Geneva.