Bulgarian Jewish group protests partnership with rightist lawmaker


BRUSSELS (JTA) — A Jewish group in Bulgaria protested the cooperation of other Jewish organizations with a nationalist lawmaker at the European Parliament.

In a letter sent Monday by the Sofia lodge of the B’nai B’rith Jewish lobby group, the lodge president, Solomon Bali, chided the Simon Wiesenthal Center for cooperating with Angel Dzhambazki, who represents the Bulgarian nationalist VMRO Party, a member of the European Conservatives & Reformists bloc, in Brussels.

Last week, Dzhambazki co-hosted, along with the Wiesenthal Center and the European Jewish Association, a June 30 conference at parliament on Hamas’ anti-Semitism. Shimon Samuels, the center’s director of international affairs, said the meeting was part of a series that is exposing groups to Hamas’ anti-Semitism at each of the European countries’ parliaments that voted in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state last year and earlier in 2015.

“You can see Dzhambazki supporting all anti-gay, anti-Roma, anti-migrant and ultranationalist violent events,” Bali wrote. “It is ridiculous to see Jewish organizations giving legitimacy to such MEPs,” or members of the European Parliament.

A senior representative of Bulgarian Jewry disputed the characterization. Speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to speak on individual political parties, the representative said, “Dzhambazki is a nationalist and his party may have issues with Roma, but there is nothing to prevent cooperating with him or almost any other politician.”

Dzhambazki called Bali’s allegations a “defamation.”

The Shalom Organization of Jews in Bulgaria, the community’s main representative body, is open to cooperation with all parties, including VMRO, except for the far-right Ataka Party, a Shalom spokesman told JTA on Tuesday.

The European Jewish Association wrote about Dzhambazki in a statement following Bali’s letter that he is a “supporter of the fight against anti-Semitism across Europe, as well as being sympathetic to issues of concern for Europe’s Jewish communities. His party is a mainstream right-wing organization.”

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