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With Israel under attack, Jewish parliamentarians from across globe convene to discuss shared legislative strategies to combat antisemitism

12 May 2021

NEW YORK — As Hamas rockets rain down on Israel and antisemitic hate continues to dangerously spread online and in communities, dozens of Jewish legislators and elected officials from around the world came together during the World Jewish Congress’ 16th Plenary Assembly. During the gathering. the first consultation in five years of the relaunched International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP), participants discussed how to use their platforms and positions to fight antisemitism and advance human rights.

Newly named Global Chair of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, who led today’s conversation, said, “No issue threatens the Jewish community more than the alarming rise of anti-Semitism and violent extremism. This is true in the United States, and it's true in Israel, Europe, Latin America, and countries all around the world. By promoting dialogue and collaboration between Jewish parliamentarians from different nations, the ICJP helps advance policies that support human rights and democracy. It was an honor to speak to them today about the critically important work we must continue to do to combat anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and racism through educating and legislating.

“I am grateful to Ambassador Ronald Lauder’s leadership as President of the World Jewish Congress, and for working to reconvene the Council at this critical moment for Jews around the world.”

Sen. Rosen opened the meeting by introducing Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, who placed the event in the context of the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel over the past several days and nights. Amb. Lauder said, “As the Jewish world unites in solidarity with Israel as it defends itself from terrorism, the relaunching of this critical global body, the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, could not be more timely. We live in an era of conspiracy myths, rising antisemitism and xenophobia, and a disturbing recurrence of Holocaust denial online and offline, and the ICJP has a powerful role to play in countering these troubling, dangerous phenomena.

“Under the leadership of Senator Jacky Rosen, a tremendous advocate in the fight against antisemitism and a leading legislator in efforts to combat the world’s oldest hatred, the ICJP creates a space for Jewish parliamentarians to come together, share experiences, discuss priorities, and unite in a common fight for human rights and democracy. I am looking forward to partnering with Sen. Rosen and parliamentarians from across the globe in advancing our shared values through this significant and influential forum.” 

Sen. Rosen shared with her fellow parliamentarians a word of caution in referencing the threat posed by recent incidents of antisemitic hate and violence in Charlottesville, Va., Poway, Calif., and Pittsburgh, Penn., as well as the rampant spread of conspiracy myths and lies targeting Jews during the coronavirus pandemic, “Let me be clear: These are not isolated incidents. They represent a step back for the safety and well-being of the Jewish people. Across the globe – from the U.S. to Europe to the Middle East, antisemitism is on the rise, it’s on the streets, it’s online, it’s in political parties, and it’s even on college campuses.  

“This is something that we must come together to confront head-on. We have a responsibility to our neighbors, to our friends, to our community, and to our children to help prevent antisemitism before it starts.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, North American ICJP Co-Chair, led the second half of the conversation, emphasizing the troubling trend of rising antisemitism in the U.S. and globally and the current violence in Israel. He said to his fellow parliamentarians, “I don’t have to tell any of you that the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law are under attack in many places around the world. The forces of racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, terrorism and Holocaust denial are growing threats to peace and stability, not only to the Jewish community but starting with the Jewish community. 

“It affects every Jewish community – all of us – because we are one Jewish community. As Jewish parliamentarians, we have to fight antisemitic attacks wherever they occur. We must come to the defense of every Jew, every Jewish community facing hatred and violence. And right now, at this very moment, Israelis, our Israeli colleagues, the Israeli people, are under siege by Hamas terrorists launching rockets with the sole purpose of killing as many civilians as they can, and we, Jewish parliamentarians, cannot afford to be silent. …

“We must say unequivocally that there is no place on earth where a terror group firing hundreds of rockets on innocent civilians should be defended or its actions justified – not if human rights matter to us. The attack on Israel is an attack on the Jewish state, and attacks on our people is something that all of us here understand uniquely and are tasked with speaking out on forcefully.”

Canadian House of Commons MP Anthony Housefather, North American ICJP Co-Chair, discussed legislators’ role working with Jewish community organizations to ensure their voices are heard via committee testimony and to guide parliamentary bodies’ prioritization of issues. In describing his collaboration with fellow ICJP members to develop an international task force to combat online hate, he said, “That needs to be a priority of this group because the vast majority of antisemitic incidents today start online. …

“I look forward to working with Jewish parliamentarians around the world who have different challenges in our own countries, but share common bonds as Jews and people who care about Israel as a centrality for the Jewish people. I think this group can do so much.”

Knesset member Merav Ben Ari, Israeli ICJP Co-Chair, shared the fear last night of waking up with her four-year-old daughter in the middle of the night, to the sound of a bomb hitting Tel Aviv, urging those in other countries to understand the current violence as antisemitism.

New British House of Lords member Baroness Gillian Merron, European ICJP Co-Chair, conveyed how her experience as a member of the British House of Commons for 13 years, and as Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews representing 300,000 Jews, has educated her on the importance of communities around the world building relationships with legislators of all religions and none. “I think that it’s absolutely crucial for parliamentarians who are Jewish from across the world, that we ensure that speaking up for the Jewish community is not just our responsibility. It should be the responsibility of all parliamentarians, indeed whether or not they have constituents – if they are elected – who are Jewish, because the values, the concerns, the issues that we bring are ones that I believe are about freedom, about dignity and decency.”

Chamber of Deputies of Argentina member Waldo Wolff, Latin American ICJP Co-Chair, discussed the need to protect the Jewish people’s common goals and identity, including the right to exist as a people. “We have to defend our right to express ourselves and defend the right of Israel to exist. In these times, we can recognize who are our true friends.” He shared the positive note that much has improved since before Israel became the Jewish state, and applauded the global support in this moment “expressing solidarity with the right of the state of Israel to exist.”

ICJP members then participated in the conversation via formal interventions. National Assembly of Bahrain member Nancy Khedouri praised the lack of antisemitism in the kingdom, coexistence among people of different religions, and the advancement of women in society.

Vivian Teitelbaum, member of the Parliament of the Brussels Capital Region, raised disturbing issues in Belgium including a lack of political will to fight antisemitism, denial of the growth of antisemitism and even its existence. In praising the relaunch of the ICJP, she said “We need to be able to unite forces and exchange experiences and best practices on how to address these issues. … Networking to tackle these issues together gives strength to the message, and also to our individual actions.”

British House of Lords member Baroness Ruth Deech raised the need for elected officials to take action to prevent and respond to antisemitism.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz focused on the situation in Israel – “No nation should be subject to the barrage of rocket fire or endure this kind of bloody assault as Israel has once again. I’m extremely concerned by those who purposely demonize Israel’s conduct while ignoring Israel’s right to self-defense including its obligation to protect all of its citizens. We pray for peace and security for all and a return to working toward a viable two-state solution. And while Israel is in such a vulnerable state, we must be more vigilant than ever because unfortunately, opposition to Israel’s actions too often spurs antisemitism with the United States and around the world. It’s an unfair criticism over and over again when nations around the world whose actual atrocities are ignored, yet every action taken by Israel is disproportionately reacted to. It’s unacceptable.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning, former chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, described personal experiences being in Israel at times when it was under attack, and the “unleashing of antisemitism” in Washington, D.C., when the insurrection happened on her fourth day as a member of Congress this January. Summarizing the perspectives of many voices in today’s conversation, she expressed her excitement at working from a new vantage point with fellow Jews around the globe and how “It’s critically important that we work together and find common ground with allies outside of the Jewish community who are willing to work with us.”

About the WJC Plenary Assembly

The WJC Plenary Assembly takes place every four years and brings together delegates from WJC-affiliated Jewish communities and organizations in more than 100 countries around the world. The Plenary Assembly elects WJC leadership and sets policy for the years ahead. This year, Plenary Assembly delegates have been gathering remotely since mid-April and through the end of May for discussions on key issues affecting Jewish communities.

Among the slate of events, the WJC convened leading level government representatives at the national level whose work focuses on preventing, countering and educating around antisemitism. WJC’s Special Envoys and Coordinators Combating Antisemitism (SECCA) Forum discussed to shared strategies and international cooperation. Topical discussion sessions have covered a conversation with Facebook leadership on its efforts to counter and remove online hate, a Ramadan celebration with leading Islamic representatives from the Muslim World League, Israel’s political future, the Iranian nuclear threat, and the role of young leaders within their communities.

About the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians 

The International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP) is the global network of Jewish legislators, government ministers, and other elected officials. The forum aims to promote dialogue and collaboration between Jewish parliamentarians; to support the principles of democracy, the cause of human rights, and the rule of law; and to combat racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, terrorism, and Holocaust denial by those means available to legislators and government ministers. 

The ICJP strives for the creation of an enduring peace in the Middle East and works to protect the welfare of Jews and Jewish communities worldwide. The forum provides for the exchange of best practices and seeks to address the challenges facing Jewish communities worldwide. 

The ICJP is led by U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen. Sen. Rosen, a leader in advancing and responding to the concerns of Jewish communities, launched the first ever U.S. Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, worked on bipartisan legislation to elevate the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to the position of ambassador, introduced the Never Again Education Act to provide resources and training to teach students across the United States the lessons of the Holocaust, and has long supported the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program which protects synagogues and Jewish community centers against the threat of violence and terror.

About the World Jewish Congress

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is the international organization representing Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations.
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West End Strategy Team
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