As Europe prepares to mark the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht this weekend, there will be a certain sense of déja vu in the air. Earlier memorials have been characterised by emotional speeches and complex analysis as to how Kristallnacht could have come about in the first place. This year, the 75th Anniversary of the pogroms against Jews, their homes, their businesses and their synagogues, will be marked by – you guessed it – new calls to boycott Jewish businesses!
But do not expect to hear anything about it in the commemoration events which follow a well-known pattern. The mistakes of past generations will be condemned in the harshest words possible, but anyone who dares to draw a parallel with today´s situation will automatically be dismissed. You can state whatever you wish, so long as it is not relevant to today. These are the unwritten rules of the endless memorial events in national parliaments and city halls across Europe.
This year however, it will be rather difficult to pretend that anti-Semitism belongs only to the past. In one parliament after another, neo-Nazi parties are gaining ground. This is also true of the European Parliament in Brussels, where extreme right wing parties are expected to score new victories in the upcoming Spring election, and where the European Commission is busy preparing for new guidelines to boycott Jewish businessnes in the disputed territories. When the new guidelines come into effect, on January 1st, 2014, any Israeli entity located ”on the wrong side of the 1967 lines” will be facing a financial embargo from the EU, as they forbid EU grants, prizes and loans from going not only to Israeli entities located beyond the Green Line, but also to Israeli entities that have any activity beyond the the post- 1967 lines.
Other measures are already in place to start marking Israeli goods produced in the disputed territories. Once the EU starts implementing the new guidelines and marking Israeli goods, life will become increasingly difficult for any Jewish person, I mean ”settler”, who chooses to stay on in the territories, as they will now be considered international outlaws.
The lessons from Kristallnacht should not be forgotten. It all started with boycotts and demonstrations against Jewish businesses, academia and culture, but it did not stop there. Today’s campaigns of the delegitimisation of Israel have all the same ingredients as the events leading up to Kristallnacht.
The EU guidelines, which in fact pre-determine where Jews can and cannot live, have been issued, despite the fact that they are in clear breach of Article 15 of the Mandate for Palestine which states that ”No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants of Palestine on the sole grounds of race, religion or language. No person shall be excluded from Palestine on the grounds of his religious belief.”
International law does not stipulate where citizens of a particular ethnicity can live. It seems as if the Jews are the only exception to this rule, as Mahmoud Abbas has declared that ”there can be no Israelis living in a future Palestinian state.” Brussels, hello?!
Nothing much seems to have changed in Europe since 1938. Yes, the EU has sworn never again to let down the Jewish people, but since the Yom Kippur war of 1973, the European Union has consistently taken the side of the Arabs. One month after the war, the European Community issued a declaration recognising ”the legitimate rights” of the Palestinians and calling for an Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. What international law could not settle, the combined weapons of Arab oil and the threat of Palestinian terrorism could determine once and for all. As a consequence, the EU is now forcing the Jews out of the disputed territories, using financial instruments as their main weaponry.
Having concluded that by and large, the European political class has long abandoned Israel, it would be nice to state that this is not the case for European civil society. Romantic perceptions would have it that, at the very least, ordinary European citizens would be on the right side of history. Sadly this is not the case. In parallel with their political leaders, much of European civil society, consisting of trade unions, academia, churches and other non-governmental organisations, has stepped up its dipomatic war against Israel and is pressing for more sanctions and boycotts. When the World Council of Churches met recently for its annual meeting in Geneva, there was little concern for its persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East; but there were four workshops on the issue of – you guessed it – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The problems in Europe in 2013 are the same as in 1938. When the boycotts and singling out of the Jewish people began, the good people chose to look the other way. It is now high time to look in the right direction.