Mistakes of the European Jewish Congress

14 June 2009

By Henrik Ræder Clausen

Certain leftist groups have at times voiced negative opinions about the open philosemitic articles posted here at EuropeNews or at our friends at Gates of Vienna. While 'philosemitic' is a badge of honour in these days of rising anti-semitism, there is a point to be made:

Not everything makes sense merely because it is Jewish or comes from a Jewish organisation.

In the wake of the recent elections to the European Parliament, the European Jewish Congress (EJC) issued a press release stating that the EJC is "Alarmed by Extreme Right’s Success in European Elections", referring, among others, to the Danish People's Party and its newly elected MEP Morten Messerschmidt, and the success of similar parties in the elections (full results here). The press release (now corrected) is here.

Originally, the Danish Peoples' Party (DPP) was mentioned in it. DPP and Jewish organisations in Denmark were quick to point out the error of suspecting a staunchly pro-Israel party for any anti-Semitic sentiment. The correction is here.

Strangely, the correction fails to acknowledge the active support that the Danish Peoples' Party is providing to Israel and to the Jewish community in Denmark. Geert Wilders' PVV is still mentioned in the original press release, which is equally unjustified. For example, Geert Wilders chose to travel to Israel for a screening of his mini-movie Fitna. Had he harboured anti-Semitic sentiments, he would have gone somewhere else.

But more worrysome is the use of this by EJC to justify this statement:

On behalf of minority communities throughout Europe, we strongly urge the new European Parliament and European Commission to support the implementation and enforcement of comprehensive legislation dealing with racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

That'd be an implicit reference to the EU Framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia. This dubious piece of legislation that includes this broad definition:

Racism and xenophobia will mean belief in race colour, descent, religion or belief, national or ethnic origin as a factor determining aversion to individuals.

Taken literally, that would outlaw aversion to a group of fast-speaking, khat-chewing Somali youth. I don't know about others, but I do tend to feel aversion to individuals or groups like that, and choose to avoid them. I don't think my aversion deserves to be outlawed.

The obvious intention of broad paragraphs like these is to be able to punish every possible form of racism, but overly broad definitions naturally leads to abuse, and curtailing of free speech. Over-zealous civil servants, judges or people with a political agenda can easily misuse this, as we have already seen in Belgium, Netherlands and Austria.

In Denmark, where we have a good constitutional guarantee for free speech, implementing this framework decision will be difficult. Even the Soviet Union based their human rights violations on similar laws, and zealous enforcement of them.

This is the wrong cure for a problem more of the past than of the present.

For racism hasn't been a major problem in Europe since WWII. Back then, the German regime had shown with horrible effectiveness just how stupid and evil racism is, by killing a significant part of its own population. Today, racism is more of a bogeyman than a real problem. The fear of racism, more than racism itself, is problematic - and that leads to draconic legislation like this framework decision. Quite possibly the best cure against racism is capitalism: If an employee does a good job for a company, who cares what colour of skin she/he has?

Back to the mistake of the EJC. Prominent figures of the Danish Peoples' Party are staunchly pro-Israel. Foreign policy spokesman Søren Espersen (whose wife is Jewish, incidentically) spoke at the pro-Israel rally in Copenhagen, January 10th 2009, and as recently received a prize for his support of the Jewish community. Newly elected MEP Morten Messerschmidt has openly declared himself a Zionist. The pro-Israel position is open and unconditional, as are their friendly ties to Jewish organizations like Mosaisk Trossamfund. This is a position similar to that of the Vlaams Belang in Belgium.

Understanding and appreciating the past Perhaps not enough Nazism-bashing has been done to drive home the point? I recently translated an article of mine into English. The article, which was published in the Danish regional daily Århus Stiftstidende, can be found here. If anyone still hasn't figured out what confused, brain-dead, murderous and utterly evil ideology Nazism was/is, I suggest reading some relevant history books. Or at least watch a documentary or two. Further relevant reading includes Icon of Evil or the small but instructive phamplet The Nazi Roots of Palestinian Nationalism.

For good measure, let's also recall that Jews have contributed immensely to European culture. The listing of Jewish Nobel Laureates is a classic, but many other great European scientists, artists and musicians (Mahler comes to mind) have been of Jewish ancestry, contributing seamlessly to the European cultural heritage. Also the very notion of separating state and religion, now considered a 'Sine qua non' of a healthy democracy, has its origins in the ancient Kingdom of Israel. The common Judeo-Christian heritage European identity is important to recognize and appreciate.

Even today, it is notable that Israel is a functioning democracy, in a region otherwise dominated by authoritarian dictators, and that Israel treats its minorities properly. It is founded in accordance with UN resolutions, and UN Security Resolution 242 in particular confirms the right of Israel to exist within secure borders.

Israel has routinely defended this right, much to the concern of radical organizations like PLO, but in 1993 changed course and entered into a series of confidence-building measures, commonly known as the Oslo Accords. These do not constitute a peace accord, but rather measures to be taken in order to build sufficient confidence for a peace agreement to be signed and implemented at a later stage. Israel has fulfilled almost every item of the accords, while PLO (now renamed PA) has not fulfilled any of them to a satisfactory degree.

In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip voluntarily, without preconditions. It was expected that this unilateral fulfilment of a long-term Palestinian demand would appease Hamas and other Palestinians, but the opposite has happened. Rocket and mortar attacks against Israel have increased dramatically, and for this reason, Israel entered the Gaza strip with force in December 2008 to counter that threat. That was fully justified.

The old saying "Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by ignorance" applies. The European Jewish Congress probably doesn't understand the political parties in Denmark, and is nervous about what might happen. The suffering that the Jewish minorities in Europe have suffered over time does justify caution and vigilance. But that does not justify neglecting basic fact-checking before issuing a press release with potentially libelous contents. In particular, accusing anyone of Nazi sympathies of any kind constitues blood libel, for doing so implies that the accused has a tacit approval of the atrocities committed against the Jews by the Third Reich. This accusation to be avoided except when obviously justified.

Anti-Semitism, and even sympathy for Nazism, does exist in Denmark, though. This video, recorded January 10th in Copenhagen, shows an instance of this. Interestingly, it was a counter-demonstration to a pro-Israel rally - which featured DPP foreign policy spokesman Søren Espersen as a speaker.

The bottom line to EJC: Don't worry, we're here to protect you. And what passes for 'right-wing' these days bears no resemblance to the 'national socialism' of the 1930's. Socialism, for one, fared badly in the EP elections, where Conservative rule-of-law proponents won out. That's not 'extremist', either, but it does constitute a challenge to the European Union, as well as to Islamic immigration and the rising challenge of Islam to our democracies.

Jewish interests, as has been repeatedly demonstrated by vandalism and assaults, has only radical Islam to fear, not the European right-wing parties. Paradoxically, it may very well turn out that exactly the parties that causes worry at the EJC, will turn out to be their best friends and protectors as the conflict with radical Islam escalates.

Henrik Ræder Clausen is card-carrying member of the Danish Peoples' Party and was a candidate at the 2009 elections for the European Parliament.