More than 100 parliamentarians from 40 countries convened at the conference to discuss such issues as Internet hate, community relations and antisemitism in sport, as well as legal, parliamentary and governmental responses to antisemitism.
More than 100 parliamentarians from about 40 countries convened at the Berlin Conference on Combating Antisemitism (13-15 March 2016), hosted by the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA).
The conference brought together parliamentarians from around the world who take an active interest and involvement in fighting antisemitism, racism, and all other forms of intolerance with the aim of sharing their knowledge and good practice.
The participants discussed such issues as Internet hate, community relations and antisemitism in sport, as well as legal, parliamentary and governmental responses to antisemitism. Speakers included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier, President of the German Parliament Dr Norbert Lammert, Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans, and UK Justice Secretary Michael Gove.
"The fight against anti-Semitism is our common duty as a state and as citizens," said Chancellor Angela Merkel. The "Never again!" that we hear so often must be followed by action. Merkel pointed out that hatred of Jews and hatred of the State of Israel all too often come together to form an unholy alliance. "When we condemn antisemitism in Germany and in Europe, this then applies to every form of anti-Jewish expression. It embraces antisemitic comments and attacks cloaked as criticism of the policies of the State of Israel, but which in fact are nothing but an expression of hate against Jewish people."
She made it very clear that there is no place in Germany for hatred directed against Jews or any other form of xenophobia. This applies to everybody in Germany, whether they are old established residents or new arrivals. She looked in particular at online hate speech and antisemitism in sport and among migrants.
German Foreign Minister Steinmeier addressed the conference and said, "Antisemitism is not, as we might have hoped, a historical phenomenon that we have left behind. On the contrary, racism and antisemitism still exist in Germany, Europe and other parts of the world. The attacks in Paris, Brussels and Toulouse are very frightening reminders of that fact. It is also revealed, however, by the prejudiced and hate-fuelled sloganeering that we are hearing in many parts of Europe – including here in Germany.
We are here because we share the position that we will not accept antisemitism, hate-speech and threats in our societies and must instead take a stand against such things, actively and jointly."
UK Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove attacked the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), accusing it of disseminating antisemitic lies and of using apartheid tactics against Israel:
"Today, antisemitism targets the collective identity of the Jewish people. Jewish citizens of European nations are targeted if they dare to assert the dignity of their difference… And, of course, the most important expression of collective Jewish identity, the State of Israel, is faced with a campaign of prejudice against its very existence.
The BDS movement – urging the use of boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel – claims to draw inspiration from the struggle against apartheid.
But the comparison is offensive. Israel is a democracy in which all citizens are equal: whether Jewish, Arab, Christian, Muslim, of Ethiopian heritage, Bedouin and Druze – all have the same votes and rights, which is why Arab Muslim politicians sit in the Knesset and a distinguished Arab lawyer sits on Israel’s Supreme Court.
More than that – the BDS campaign indulges prejudice rather than fighting it. It calls for the shunning of Jewish academics, the boycott of Jewish goods, the de-legitimisation of Jewish commerce. We have seen these all before. And we know where it takes us."
EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans said: "Anyone who knows anything about our history knows that antisemitism is Europe’s most pernicious disease. It is the red-line that we must never, ever cross. Yet 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 islamist extremists.
But as we saw in the terrorist attacks in Paris in November – it starts always with the Jews, but it never stops there."