Europe tackles hate
by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2007-04-21
Jewish communal groups in the UK have broadly welcomed the signing in Europe of a framework on combating racism and xenophobia but were concerned that the growth of anti-Semitism was not mentioned in specific terms.
The Board of Deputies, Community Security Trust and the Jewish Leadership Council said they have been watching the debate on the issue for six-years prior to its signing in Luxembourg by EU member states and have been expressing their views to British and European minister.
"We were disappointed that the Decision fails to mention the growth of anti-Semitism, which European Jewish communities have argued should be included in the text," the groups said in a joint statement.
Holocaust denial is set to be a crime where it is part of an incitement to hatred or violence but will be left to member states to decide how they implement the law.
"In reality, the decision will mean little change for the UK, as it follows closely the British approach, which is to criminalise incitement to racial and religious hatred. It does however add criminal sanctions against denial or trivialisation of the Holocaust, which the British government and the Board of Deputies have argued is unnecessary in the UK legal context," the groups added.
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, raised her concern over the planned new laws. "While legislation against Holocaust denial is fitting and effective in Germany and Austria, we do not believe it is needed in the UK," she said. "Existing legislation in this country outlawing 'incitement to racial hatred' is enough to cover most situations in which Holocaust Denial rhetoric is articulated and there is a danger that further legislation could bring people on the fringes of society onto the centre stage."
Meanwhile, The European Jewish Congress, an umbrella Euro Jewish organisation added its concern of anti-Semitism being left out: "As anti-Semitic attacks are again on the rise in Europe, the EJC would have hoped that this initiative which was rejected once before in 2003 would have at least included some overt reference to anti-Semitism."
A spokesman told European Jewish Press: "Anti-Semitism is the oldest form of racism in Europe and is nowhere near from disappearing. Europe has a special historic responsibility to combat anti-Semitism, and it is a shame that the final version of the Framework Decision did not include this".