Reactions of European Jewish Leaders to European Parliament Elections – Rise of Far-Right, Anti-Semitism and Israel
Following last week’s elections in the European Parliament, which came in the wake of the horrific shooting at the Brussels Jewish Museum, The Israeli-Jewish Congress (IJC) spoke exclusively with a number of Jewish leaders across Europe to obtain their reactions to the election outcome, including the rise of far-right parties and specifically the effect on their local Jewish communities, anti-Semitism and Israel.
BELGIUM (Eli Ringer – Immediate Past-President, FORUM of Jewish Organizations, Belgium)
I am very sorry to see the results of the European Parliament, which took place in many countries but did not attract many voters. The people who did come to vote were the loud minority, who were mainly the Euro-Skeptics.
Whomever is in opposition to the concept of a United Europe, usually votes for these side parties that develop the concept of narrowing down the authorities of the EU or dismantling it. This is where we meet the phenomenon of these parties that cannot make it in the local arena, but conquer the top in the EU elections. They become a popular protest party.
The Belgium government, like all governments in Europe, must act against Anti-Semitism. There must be open regulation on the written and broadcast media, so that a concrete criticism of Israel does not turn into a vicious attack and incitement to act violently.
Regarding the horrific attack from last Saturday, the Jewish community in Antwerp is working in full cooperation with the Jewish community of Brussels and getting help from the government, which is working with the police to solve this disgusting crime. We thank the authorities of Belgium which are taking all means necessary to ensure the safety of the Jewish establishments across the country and doing everything they can to put life back on track.”
FRANCE (Roger Cukierman – Leader of the French Jewish Community (CRIF)
We French Jews have many reasons to be worried.
The difficult economic situation of France has probably contributed to the deterioration of the situation of the Jews in France as it has been the case in the other European countries.
We have three problems:
First the rise of the National Front to a level of 25 % in the European recent election makes it the strongest party from France. Its leader Marine Le Pen never expressed anti-Semitic attitudes but behind her are all the Holocaust deniers and traditional extreme right anti-Semites.
Secondly at the extreme left, the anti-Zionists are progressing. It has become elegant to treat Israel as a fascist country and therefore it would be legitimate to boycott Israeli products. We consider that anti-Zionism is the new form of anti-Semitism.
Thirdly and probably more dangerously, the violence coming from young people in the difficult areas of the suburbs and the big cities. Seven hundred of these are combatting the Jihad in Syria. They are potential bombs. Mohamed Merah or the author of the Brussels Jewish Museum murders are coming from that part of the population.
Another phenomenon is the rise of the hatred of Jews on internet.
The only positive aspect is that the President Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls are real friends of our community and are ready to fight the hostility against the Jews.
There is still half a million Jews in France and the aliyah to Israel is around 1 % of the total Jewish population.”
GREECE (Benjamin Albalas – President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece)
All the European countries and organizations, as well as all the democratic people of Europe should take into serious consideration the results of the European Parliament’s elections.
It is very disappointing that not only the Golden Dawn party of Greece had an impressive rise in its percentage, with three seats in the European Parliament, but also that other extreme right parties in Greece, as well as all the extremist parties in Europe took worryingly high percentages.
Though polls kept on repeating the increasing power of Golden Dawn, we were greatly disappointed, surprised and shocked to see that indeed GD is the third political power in Greece!
It seems that a great number of European citizens have forgotten the Holocaust and also what humanity suffered during the 2nd World War from Nazism and fascism.
The growth of racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance has hit Europe. It is time for immediate action.
HUNGARY (Andras Heisler – President of MAZSIHISZ, Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary)
The MAZSIHISZ (Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary) is not an active actor but a passive observer to the party politics.
Rising of the euro-skeptical parties is a bad sign for the whole continent. But at the same time it seems that the Jobbik in Hungary has reached its peak of possibilities: after their 20% at the Hungarian parliamentary elections Jobbik gained 15% at the EP elections. This may be an optimistic sign.
It must be taken notice that instead of the global model the national interests will come to the front during the coming years.
ITALY (Riccardo Pacifici – President of Jewish Community of Rome)
The result of European elections demonstrate that Italy is an island of happiness because unlike the rest of Europe, Italian xenophobic and racist forces still represent a minority in the country.
We are truly worried about the upcoming of some foreign parties who wave anti-european flags and who disguise racist beliefs. One of them is the French party of Front National. Speaking of Marine Le Pen, we are obliged to report that we are concerned by the will of the Italian party La Lega who decided to side with Front National.
The European Parliament that we want is the one represented by the image of Renzi, Hollande and Di Rupo that together with me and the delegation of the Jewish Community of Rome payed tribute to the victims of the attack at the Jewish Museum of Brussels.”
NETHERLANDS (Esther Voet – Director of CIDI, Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, Netherlands)
Although in the Netherlands the radical right did not win more seats during the last European elections than they already had, we are very aware that times are changing for the worse.
According to an ADL-survey the Netherlands is the country with the least anti-Semitic viewpoints in Europe after Sweden (with 5%). But the situation on the ground is experienced differently by our community. Last year CIDI noted a rise in anti-Semitic incidents from 114 in the year before to 147.
Anti-Semitism continues to be a problem in Europe, hence the parties on the extreme right winning. After the Arab world, Europe is the second continent with a population with the most anti-Semitic feelings. It will never disappear. The only thing we can do is make a firm stand and enroll others in our fight. The Netherlands will be asking the EU to tackle the fight with priority on an European level.”
SPAIN (David Hatchwell – Leader of the Jewish Community of Madrid, Spain)
The Jewish Community of Madrid is following with great concern what is happening in European politics.
There is clearly a growing lack of interest and euro-skepticism for a more cohesive European project.
There is also clearly a rise of the extreme right because of a failed immigrant integration policy.
While decreasing support for the EU in Spain is not yet a matter of concern, it seems our population has gotten used to the idea lf not relying upon European or national institutions.
We are concerned that Antisemitism is on the rise in various countries. France, Belgium and Sweden are particularly worrisome.
Terrorism is rising and so is classic violence.
The Muslim community’s statistics on antisemitism are incredibly high.
The delegitimation of Israel is an accepted phenomenon in many places.
The ‘Jew among nations’ is the perfect excuse for a more acceptable hatred towards the Jews.
Fortunately, Spanish authorities are working hard on a series of legal reforms that will enable stronger police enforcement against matters such as the banalization of the Shoah and antisemitism in general.
UNITED KINGDOM (Simon Johnson – CEO, The Jewish Leadership Council)
The European Parliamentary elections have seen a big swing throughout Europe in favour of Euro-sceptic and anti-immigration parties. This represents a continuation of a worrying trend towards intolerance which requires careful monitoring.
In the UK, we not only had European elections but also local Council elections. The results of both saw the emergence of the anti-European UK Independence Party as a fourth credible party. Their stance on immigration and against European integration struck a chord with around 20% of the voters, although much less so in London.
The interesting reaction to observe will be that of the other parties. Will they respond by aping the anti-immigration policies of UKIP? The Jewish community will be watching closely to see how the debate in UK policy is shaped by these elections.
Is this a permanent change to the political discourse, or a temporary expression of protest?
The Israeli-Jewish Congress (IJC) is an Israeli-based organization devoted to promoting the principle of Israel as the State of the Jewish People & strengthening ties between Israel and the Diaspora, including representing the interests of the European Jewish community to Israeli lawmakers.