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February 25, 2019 2:06 pm

EU Presidency Candidate Calls for Europe-Wide ‘Pact’ to Combat Rising Antisemitism

avatar by Ben Cohen

Manfred Weber, head of the European People’s Party grouping in the European Parliament. Photo: Reuters / Alkis Konstantinidis.

One of the leading candidates to be the next president of the European Commission of the EU has called for a continent-wide pact to combat antisemitism, asserting that the “continuing advance” of anti-Jewish feeling on the continent “should be a wakeup call for us all.”

Manfred Weber — a German politician who leads the center-right European People’s Party, the largest parliamentary grouping in the European Parliament — told the German news outlet Die Welt on Sunday that he would launch an initiative to “send a clear message that antisemitism has no place in Europe.”

Alongside Socialist candidate Frans Timmermans, Weber is one of the two frontrunners tipped to succeed current incumbent Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission — the executive branch of the European Union — in elections this May that will pit nationalist “Euroskeptic” candidates against pro-EU rivals in several countries.

Weber told Die Welt that if he were elected to the president’s post, he intended to form a European “pact” against antisemitism. The pact would include increased legal pressure on internet platforms and social media accounts to “stop the dissemination of antisemitic ideas,” Weber said. He added that the pact would require a “common definition of antisemitism valid throughout Europe.” Last June, the European Parliament voted for a resolution that called on all the EU’s 28 member states to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s “working definition of antisemitism” — so far, 11 have done so.

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Weber’s comments came as several fellow German politicians called over the weekend for stronger action against antisemitism. Earlier this month, government statistics showed a 60 percent surge in violent attacks against Jews in Germany during 2018, in keeping with a Europe-wide trend that also saw a sharp increase in attacks on Jews in France and the UK over the last 12 months.

Two of the politicians quoted by Die Welt argued that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israel should be regarded as unambiguously antisemitic.

Karin Prien — minister of education in Germany’s northern state of Schleswig-Holstein — stated that the term “BDS” was a modern version of Nazi-era slogan, “Kauft nicht bei Juden” (“Do not buy from Jews”). Condemning the aim of the BDS campaign that “the Jewish state should be economically, culturally and politically isolated,” Prien denounced its “perfidious message that wants to delegitimize the only Jewish state in the world. ”

Die Welt quoted Christian Lindner, the leader of the liberal FDP party, calling for a clearer understanding of the overlap between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

“No NGOs that demand a boycott of Israeli products or enterprises, either domestically or abroad, should be financed with state funds,” Lindner emphasized.

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