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Antisemitism tops agenda

Last updated: 2003-12-15

At a plenary meeting of the Board of Deputies yesterday, Cobi Benatoff, the new President of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), and David Veness, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, addressed deputies on the dangers and realities of rising antisemitism.

Mr. Benatoff spoke of his aim of making the EJC more of a European institution and of working to defend the rights of European Jewish citizens. After pressure from the EJC, the European Summit had recently raised the issue of antisemitism for the first time in its formal statement. The EJC were planning a seminar in Brussels in January, sponsored jointly with the European Commission, to study the issue of rising antisemitism in Europe and possible ways of combating it through legislation, police enforcement, educational programmes and other measures. Mr. Benatoff assured the Board that, whilst in the past European leaders had underestimated the threat of antisemitism, it was now being taken much more seriously.

Assistant Commissioner David Veness acknowledged that Britain now faced a new dimension of the threat of international terrorism which impinged upon all of our lives. In order to respond, it was the responsibility of governments and authorities to engage in a global alliance. He noted that, “We now see a degree of political will, political commitment and leadership which is heartening. If we are global in terms of our threat, then we are global in terms of our response.”
He added that the bombings in Istanbul had been a wake-up call for Europe. There was a need, particularly amongst those communities who were in the frontline as targets, to understand the long-term dangers and to engage in a balanced and rational debate in order to reduce risks.

Board President Henry Grunwald QC noted the importance of having a debate on this topic. He commented: “It was a valuable opportunity to receive the informed insights of both the EJC President and the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. David Veness has proved himself time and again to be a true friend of the community and we have always received nothing but the highest cooperation from the Metropolitan Police in protecting and defending the community. We also applaud what the EJC are doing to tackle antisemitism on a European level. We need to embark on a European-wide campaign to deal with anti-Jewish incitement which is entering European countries on the internet, through satellite channels and through the Arab media. We may never get rid of antisemitism completely but we’re not going to give up the fight. The time is right for us to make our voices heard and to say enough is enough.”