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Renewed commitment in the fight against antisemitism in Europe

Committee Opinion | Doc. 14023 | 19 April 2016

Committee
Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy
Rapporteur :
Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN, Romania, SOC
Origin
Reference to committee: Doc. 13751, Reference 4127 of 24 April 2015. Reporting committee: Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, see Doc. 14008. Opinion approved by the committee on 18 April 2016. 2016 - Second part-session

A Conclusions of the committee

1 The Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy considers the report on renewed commitment in the fight against antisemitism in Europe, presented by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, as being very timely and relevant. This report was originally triggered by a renewed wave of targeted attacks against members of the Jewish community in the past years in a number of Council of Europe member States. The Berlin Conference on combating anti-Semitism, organised by the German Government and Parliament in co-operation with the Inter-Parliamentary coalition for combating antisemitism (ICCA) from 13 to 16 March 2016, offered food for thought for the preparation of the committee opinion.
2 Welcoming the general findings of this report, the committee proposes to further clarify and define the draft resolution contained in the main report through a number of amendments, in particular with regard to the promotion of dialogue between political and religious leaders, the importance of Holocaust remembrance and the active role that parliamentarians can play in the prevention of antisemitism.

B Proposed amendments

Amendment A (to the draft resolution)

In paragraph 7.1.1, after the words “ensure”, insert the words “, while safeguarding freedom of expression,”.

Amendment B (to the draft resolution)

In paragraph 7.2.3, after the words “step up efforts to ensure”, insert the words “that a comprehensive and efficient system is put in place for”.

Amendment C (to the draft resolution)

In paragraph 7.3.4, after the words “parliamentary levels”, insert the words “with the participation of political and religious leaders of different faiths, spiritual and humanistic beliefs,”.

Amendment D (to the draft resolution)

In paragraph 7.3.6, at the end of the paragraph, add the words “, including in the framework of integration programmes for migrants and refugees;”

Amendment E (to the draft resolution)

After paragraph 7.3.6, add the following paragraph: “actively promote the Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and for the prevention of crimes against humanity;”

Amendment F (to the draft resolution)

At the end of paragraph 9, add the following sentence: “It also encourages them to set up an all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism to strengthen the fight across the political spectrum.”

C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Titus Corlăţean, rapporteur for opinion

1 Introduction

1 Hate crimes are still striking fear into Jewish communities and the post-war consensus to root out antisemitism in Europe may be dangerously weakening. According to Dieter Graumann, President of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, “these are the worst times since the Nazi era”, and the outbreak of hatred against Jews is not just a German phenomenon. This is also well documented in the thorough report by Mr Boriss Cilevičs, which gathered a wide variety of examples of manifestations of antisemitism from a number of Council of Europe member States.
2 The frequent attacks also raise alarm about Europe’s changing perception of hatred and intolerance against Jews, including among politicians and opinion leaders. I believe that we, as elected representatives, have the duty to question whether a subtle societal shifting is occurring that has made anti-Jewish remarks or behaviour more acceptable today than it was after the Second World War.
3 As rightly underlined by Ms Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, in her well documented report on Counteraction to manifestations of neo-Nazism and right-wing extremism, which led to the adoption of Resolution 2011 (2014) and Recommendation 2052 (2014), “there must be unequivocal solidarity with the victims of anti-Semitism, which must not be accompanied by any kind of expression of understanding for the perpetrators. I would add that this is all the more relevant in the current times of escalation of tension in the Middle East”. She also added that “there must be an awareness and recognition of anti-Semitism as a social and political problem for Europe, at all levels and in all of its forms”.Note
4 In my own country, Romania, I take an active interest and involvement in the fight against antisemitism, racism, and all other forms of intolerance. Romania has taken resolute actions in recent years in combating antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and the application of existing legislation in the field of antisemitic crimes is a joint effort by law enforcement agencies, subordinated to the Interior and Justice Ministries, and by the National Council for Combating Discrimination, which is under the control of the Romanian Parliament.
5 On 13 and 15 March 2016, together with the rapporteur of the Committee on Equality and Non-discrimination, Mr Cilevičs, I attended the Third Inter-Parliamentary Conference for combating antisemitism, organised by the German Government and Parliament, in co-operation with the Inter-Parliamentary coalition for combating antisemitism (ICCA) in Berlin. Since the main report had been adopted by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination on 11 March 2016, that is prior to the conference, I would like to include some of the messages from the Berlin conference in my opinion to complement the main report and the draft resolution.
6 On 16 March 2016, I also attended the 69th plenary meeting of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), whose high quality debates also informed this opinion.
7 I also suggested inviting a representative of the International League against Racism and Antisemitism (LICRA) to the committee meeting during the April 2016 part-session in Strasbourg, to provide the committee with an update on the situation in Europe. On that occasion, the committee will also take stock of the youth campaign “No Hate Speech Movement”, which has been prolonged until the end of 2017 as part of the Council of Europe Action Plan against violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism.

2 Third inter-parliamentary conference on combating antisemitism (13-16 March 2016)

8 More than 100 parliamentarians from 40 countries convened in Berlin to discuss such issues as Internet hate, community relations and antisemitism in sport, as well as legal, parliamentary and governmental responses to antisemitism.
9 The conference built on the success of two previous conferences in 2009 in London and in 2010 in Ottawa. Following the 2010 conference, an international task force on Internet hate, incorporating members of the major Internet companies, was established and has since published a report and produced a statement of aspirational principles that the participating industry stakeholders have supported and which serve as a framework through which those companies can seek to address cyberhate.
10 Speakers included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President of the German Parliament Dr Norbert Lammert, Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, European Commissioner Frans Timmermans, British Justice Secretary Michael Gove, Australian Minister for Justice Michael Keenan, and Harlem Désir, French Minister of State for European Affairs.
11 Chancellor Angela Merkel, in particular, stressed that the “Never again!” that we hear so often must be followed by action. She pointed out that hatred of Jews and hatred of the State of Israel all too often come together to form an unholy alliance. Chancellor Merkel also looked in particular at online hate speech and antisemitism in sport and among migrants.
12 In this respect, I would like to clarify the point that, while I could agree that the “hatred” of the State of Israel can be seen as a synonym of antisemitism,Note in my opinion, the mere criticism of Israel and its policies cannot.
13 The President of the German Bundestag, Mr Norbert Lammert, addressed in particular the integration of refugees into German society, stressing that anyone who comes to Germany also immigrates into the “Basic Law”, and that antisemites cannot be integrated. In my opinion, this attitude should inform any migration and integration policy, be it at the European Union or at the national level. We must make it clear that any prejudice, intolerance, racism, antisemitic or antimuslim sentiment, are impediments to the integration of migrants in Europe. The migration dimension of the debate on antisemitism should not be overlooked and I propose Amendment D to the draft resolution to reflect this concern.
14 UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova, pointed to UNESCO’s leading work in promoting global citizenship education, as a tool to prevent violent extremism, its efforts to bolster media and information literacy, to help young women and men counter radicalisation through the Internet. She also underlined UNESCO’s work to advance Holocaust education.
15 I very much agree with the statement made by the European Commissioner, Mr Frans Timmermans, who said that “we see age-old naked antisemitism at the far right, we see antisemitism that often hides behind anti-Zionism on the far left of the political spectrum and sometimes, sadly, even among anti-racism movements, and we see the deadly antisemitism of religious extremism, in particular from Islamism extremists. But as we saw in the terrorist attacks in Paris in November – it starts always with the Jews, but it never stops there”. He also stressed that criminal law punishing serious manifestations of racism and xenophobia is still not enforced everywhere in Europe. Finally, he pointed out that only 13 out of 28 EU member States have criminalised Holocaust denial.NoteNote
16 Finally, I noted that the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for combating antisemitism, which hosted the conference, was co-founded by John Mann MP, Chairperson of the UK all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism. In my view, that is a best practice that every parliament should follow to set up a similar all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism. This would reinforce the fight against antisemitism across the political spectrum and allow policymakers to rise above any ideological division.

3 Promoting dialogue between political and religious leaders

17 On 21 March 2016, on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) issued guidelines to all 47 member States of the Council of Europe on how to prevent hate speech, support those targeted by it, and deal with its consequences.NoteNote ECRI’s Chairperson, Mr Christian Ahlund, also stressed the importance of counter-speech in fighting the misconceptions and misinformation that form the basis of hate speech. Politicians, religious and community leaders must not only avoid using hate speech but also proactively counter it in their public statements.
18 This is especially true when it comes to deeply rooted prejudice and discrimination. I think that the role of political and religious leaders in promoting counter-speech based on tolerance, respect and mutual understanding should be further promoted and highlighted in the draft resolution, including through inter-faith dialogue.
19 Governments and parliaments should engage in consultations with religious leaders of different faiths, spiritual and humanistic beliefs with a view to understanding the root causes of antisemitism and promoting counter-speech based on tolerance, respect and mutual understanding.

4 The importance of Holocaust remembrance

20 The Holocaust is regarded as a paradigm for every kind of human rights violation and crime against humanity; all the victims (Jews, Roma, Resistance members, politicians, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, disabled persons) of the Nazi regime are taken into consideration.
21 The Council of Europe was the moving spirit behind the introduction of a Day of Holocaust Remembrance and Prevention of Crimes against Humanity. Education ministers from member States took the decision in October 2002. While Germany, France and other countries have chosen 27 January, the day when Auschwitz was liberated, Holocaust Day varies in other countries according to the respective historical experience. Romania, for instance, has chosen 9 October, the day that saw the start of a terrible campaign of persecution directed at Romania’s Jews in 1941.
22 The Council of Europe also helps teachers with their Holocaust Remembrance Day preparations by making available teaching material for raising pupil awareness of those dark times and exploring the topics of genocide and crimes against humanity so as to promote prevention, understanding, tolerance, and friendship between nations, races and religions.
23 2016 is also the year of the Romania Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), an intergovernmental body whose purpose is to place political and social leaders’ support behind the need for Holocaust education, remembrance and research, both nationally and internationally. In February 2010, Ambassador Tom Vraalsen, the IHRA Chair under the Chairmanship of Norway, and Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the IHRA and the Council of Europe. The Romanian Chairmanship will host two IHRA plenary meetings this year, in Bucharest in May and in Iași in November.
24 Council of Europe member States should be encouraged to support and promote Holocaust Remembrance Day and parliamentarians can play a crucial role in leading the way.

5 Detailed explanations of the amendments

Amendment A

As stressed in Resolution 1510 (2006) on freedom of expression and respect for religious beliefs: “The Assembly is of the opinion that freedom of expression as protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights should not be further restricted to meet increasing sensitivities of certain religious groups. At the same time, the Assembly emphasises that hate speech against any religious group is not compatible with the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.”

Amendment B

Following the publication of the ECRI monitoring report on Romania on 3 June 2014, the Romanian authorities have implemented ECRI’s recommendation to establish a comprehensive system for the collection of data so as to be able to assess the scale of direct and indirect discrimination of minority groups in Romania in various fields of life. The recommendation is applicable to all Council of Europe member States and the amendment is aimed at clarifying the recommendation contained in paragraph 7.2.3.

Amendment C

The amendment points to the importance of engaging dialogue among political and religious leaders of different faiths, spiritual and humanistic beliefs. Governments and parliaments should engage in consultations with religious communities’ representatives to achieve a better understanding of those faiths and to engage in open discussions with a view to combating and preventing antisemitism and all forms of intolerance.

Amendment D

Awareness-raising campaigns promoting respect and a harmonious living together should also be considered in the framework of integration programmes for migrants and refugees, who also “immigrate” into European standards and values. It should be clear that any prejudice, intolerance, racism, anti-Muslim, xenophobic or antisemitic sentiments, are impediments to the integration of migrants in Europe.

Amendment E

See Chapter 4 of the explanatory memorandum on “The importance of Holocaust remembrance”.

Amendment F

Setting up an all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism in all parliaments of Council of Europe member States is a best practice which would reinforce the fight across the political spectrum and allow policymakers to rise above any ideological division.

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