With antisemitism rising across Europe on all sides of the political spectrum, it is vital that those opposing this hatred unite. And where better than in Brussels, the centre of European politics?
I had the great pleasure of attending the 7-8th July 2019 Countering Antisemitism Conference kindly organized by the European Jewish Association, the European Centre for Jewish Students and Europe Israel Public Affairs.
Hunger for waffles was soon overtaken by thirst for knowledge, with dozens of leading advocates from across the continent meeting to deepen their understanding of antisemitism and how to confront it.
Ideas on how to overcome the demonization and delegitimization of Israel were shared in an informative presentation by Ilana Sherrington-Hoffman from StandWithUs on the background of the anti-Israel movement and how to effectively counter its many misrepresentations. Participants discussed the most common falsehoods propagated about Israel and how to confront these with the facts.
Amongst many others, we were also fortunate to hear from Ben Moore from the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs, who provided an update on the Ministry’s latest report, Terrorists in Suits, which exposes the deeply concerning links between terror organizations and NGOs which promote the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement.
In an intense couple of days, helpfully fuelled by Belgian beer and chocolate, the event provided a much-needed opportunity for advocates to share their experience of combating antisemitism across Europe, strengthening our community in the process.
Saskia Pantell, President of the Zionist Federation of Sweden, gave an inspiring presentation on the shocking level of antisemitism plaguing the country, and her efforts to challenge this hatred.
Since it maintained official neutrality throughout World War Two, Sweden did not suffer the same experience of antisemitism which befell central European states. The result would appear to be a cultural failure to recognize antisemitism in both its classic form and its modern manifestation of anti-Zionism.
Ms Pantell’s account was a reminder of just how intense, extreme and widespread Jew-hatred may become when antisemites are left largely unchallenged in a perfect storm of far-left, far-right and radical Islamist hatred of Jews.
I am grateful to our hosts for their generosity in organising this event. Participants came away with renewed vigour, knowledge and dedication. I have no doubt that gatherings such as these allow us to increase our collective impact in making the case for the Jewish People and their Nation State.