'We are looking at the beginnings of a Holocaust'
By SAM SOKOL
Israel Jewish Congress Danish ambassador warns MKs against linking anti-Semitism and Gaza operation.
The situation facing European Jewry is “simply intolerable, unacceptable and inexcusable,” Israeli Jewish Congress president Vladimir Sloutsker told MKs and foreign diplomats at a special session of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee on Monday.
Calling the rise in anti-Semitic incidents accompanying Israel’s invasion of Gaza an “SOS situation,” Sloutsker warned that if left unchecked, such behavior could lead to another European genocide.
“Never before since the Holocaust, have we seen such a situation as today,” he said, referring to the continent-wide demonstrations by pro-Palestinian activists, a number of which have generated into violence and many of which have featured racist rhetoric.
“We are potentially looking at the beginning of another Holocaust now. These events [violent demonstrations and expressions of anti-Semitism] will only grow in scale across Europe,” he asserted.
Addressing the legislators and representatives of a number of European governments, including those of Denmark, Holland and France, the oligarch and former head of the Russian Jewish Congress called for Jewish communities across the continent to “unite and consolidate.”
Sloutsker also called on all European governments to impose what he called “strict regulations” on the format and content of demonstrations in order to prevent further violence against Jews.
Citing a recent proposal by Belgian Jewry to establish a position of Special European Commissioner to monitor and combat anti-Semitism and racism, Sloutsker said such measures would “help send a strong message that European leadership is united and committed to combating anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia.”
A number of Israeli legislators echoed Sloutsker’s call for a more proactive European approach to combating anti-Semitism.
“Fight together with us,” MK Shimon Ohayon urged the diplomats present, adding that he was opposed to “dangerous propaganda” that painted Israel as an aggressor.
Jews in Europe have been targeted because they are Jewish and not because of any territorial claim or conflict in the Middle East, the lawmaker asserted, but “because they are against them because they are Jews,” citing attacks against Jews in France, including a recent riot in the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles in which the synagogue and Jewish stores were targeted by people.
“We ask you to stop this wheel” of “anti-Semitic hatred in Europe,” he added, calling anti-Zionism the “new anti-Semitism.”
The world “must understand” that Israel is fighting against terrorism, committee chairman Yoel Rzbozov said in response to Ohayon’s statement, echoing the prevailing sentiment among the lawmakers present.
The state will not allow one Jew to remain undefended, MK Yisrael Hasson chimed in, asserting that the fates of European and Israeli Jews are intertwined.
Jews is Belgium are being asked “why are you killing children in Gaza?” Rafael Werner, a representative of Belgium's Jewish community recounted, asserting that there is little distinction being made between Jews and Israelis.
“There is no hasbara in Europe,” he complained, using the Hebrew term for public diplomacy.
The situation in Europe is “dire,” said MP Meir Habib, a Jew who represents French expatriates in the National Assembly. While praising the French political leadership for their commitment to defending their country’s Jewish community, he said that hearing calls for the deaths of Jews at demonstrations left him “concerned that there will be a second Toulouse,” a reference to the 2012 shooting deaths of several Jews at a Jewish school in that city.
Decrying what he perceived as a lack of concern for the mass deaths accompanying the Syrian civil war, Habib complained that accusations of “disproportionate” actions by Israeli forces have been harmful and asserted that the media is “the primary problem.”
Most French Jews will remain in France despite a high rate of emigration, he concluded, imploring his Israeli counterparts to “help those who stay.”
European representatives present during the meeting sought to assure the room that their governments are committed to defending local communities.
“We refuse to allow any conflict to be imported into French society,” a representative of the French embassy said. “The security of the Jewish citizens of France is an utmost priority for us. Our determination will not falter.”
“Forceful measures have to be taken against cases of anti-Semitism or it will increase,” Dutch Ambassador Casper Veldkamp said. “The situation is severe. We risk importing the conflict from the Middle East to Europe when Europe should export respect.”
Danish Ambassador Jesper Vahr agreed but cautioned the communal leaders and legislators about linking anti-Semitism and the current Israeli military operation.
“We are discussing anti-Semitism. There is also another discussion going around the table pertaining Operation Protective Edge,” he said. “I would warn against mixing apples and oranges…we as a society also defend the right of people in Denmark to voice their protests against the actions happening on the ground. You know the position of my government on that.”
However, he added, Denmark supports Israel’s “right to defend itself” and will “exert all efforts to fight the scourge of anti-Semitism.”