Brussels, December 9th, 2018 – Amid Hanukkah celebrations and the first ever European Council resolution against antisemitism, the European Coalition for Israel celebrated on Thursday its 15th anniversary in what turned out to be a historic day for Israel in Brussels. At a symposium in the European Parliament Member of Knesset, Rabbi Yehuda Glick lit the fourth candle of the Jewish Menorah which was brought in directly from Jerusalem, followed by a time of joyful singing of Jewish and Christian holiday songs.
In her remarks, EU coordinator on combating antisemitism, Katharina von Schnurbein reminded the audience of the fact that Jewish life and traditions, such as Hanukkah, are an integral part of European culture and identity.
“When Jewish families today put in to question whether there is a future for their children in Europe we have reasons to be worried,” she said while announcing that the most comprehensive and largest ever survey on antisemitism in Europe will be presented in Brussels on Monday.
Von Schnurbein was appointed Special coordinator only three years ago but has worked tirelessly to help the EU member states find a coherent strategy to combat antisemitism. While the ECI celebrated its 15th anniversary in the European Parliament building in Brussels, the Ministers of Interior of the 28 EU member states met a few hundred meters away, in the Council building to unanimously pass the first ever EU-resolution condemning antisemitism in Europe.
The declaration calls on EU member states to take steps to ensure security for Jewish communities, institutions and citizens; to emphasise the importance of Holocaust commemoration and education; calls on all EU member states which have not already done so to endorse the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism in the fields of law enforcement, education and training; and calls on the European Commission and Europol to pay particular attention to online antisemitism and to content advocating anti-Semitic terrorist offenses.
“The ECI could not have received a better birthday present”, Founding Director Tomas Sandell said after the conference. This clearly illustrates that the European Union takes the threat against Jews in Europe seriously. In his remarks he commended the work of Katharina von Schnurbein who has worked relentlessly to unite the EU-member states behind the resolution. He also praised the current EU presidency of Austria for taking such a strong stand in paving the way for the adoption of the resolution on Thursday. In a personal message to the symposium Chancellor Sebastian Kurz congratulated ECI on its anniversary and stated that “for Austria the security of Israel is non-negotiable.”
This message was also conveyed by Austrian MEP Heinz Becker who spoke about the role of the European Parliament in combating antisemitism. Becker is the current chairman of the EP working committee against antisemitism. He noted that “we have to stand against all threats to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, including the existential threat from Iran as well as from Hezbollah and the BDS movement.” He was supported by co-hosts MEP Bas Belder from the Netherlands, Branislav Škripek from Slovakia and Arne Gericke from Germany, representing the European Christian Political Movement in the European Parliament.
In his keynote speech, ECI Legal Council Andrew Tucker asked why Europe is obsessed with the Jewish state. When Europeans speak about the need to find a “solution” to the Middle East conflict we should all be worried.
He noted that ”The Christian nations of Europe were instrumental in giving birth to the State of Israel, as well as the modern nations of the Middle East. However over the last 100 years they have gradually distanced themselves from the Jewish State. Since 1973 European policy has focused on pressuring Israel to help create the State of Palestine. Unfortunately this policy has failed to produce a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It is now time for Europe to reassess this policy. In our view the key to achieving peace in the region is not by condemning Israel and pressuring it to give up land, but strengthening the rule of law. This means sovereignty of the Jewish state, condemning violence and terror, and assisting Israel to protect the rights of all minorities.”
The symposium also discussed how the EU could strengthen the partnership with Israel.
MEP Bas Belder pointed out how the EU cooperation with Israel has been taken hostage by the lack of progress in the peace negotiations.
“We should not make EU-Israeli cooperation conditional on progress in the peace process, by punishing Israel for the fact that the Palestinians are refusing to come to the negotiating table.”
Walid Abu-Haya, Deputy Chief of Mission of Israel to the EU & NATO pointed out how Palestinians are the losers when the EU boycotts products from the disputed territories.
In his final remarks Sandell called upon the EU to reject historical revisions which the EU member states express time and time again in their voting at the UN and UNESCO when denying the historical connections between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.
“It is high time for the EU member states to also recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel”.
Meanwhile at the United Nations in New York, all 28 EU member states voted on Thursday in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Hamas in what was the first ever UN resolution against the terrorist group. Despite failing to reach a two thirds majority, the vote, which had the support of 87 nations was considered a diplomatic victory for Israel.
Other speakers in the Brussels conference included Josh Reinstein from the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, Nuno Wahnon Martins from the European Jewish Congress, Andrea Carignani di Novoli from the European Commission, Nili Shalev from the Israel Innovation Authority, Shai Newman from Israeli technology company Compedia and Leo van Doesburg from the co-organiser European Christian Political Movement.