European Jewish and Muslim activists press case against anti-Semitism in DC visit


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Three young Europeans — two Muslims and a Jew — met with Obama administration and congressional officials to press for action against anti-Semitism in Europe.

The three activists were in Washington this week to receive this year’s Human Rights First Award, which is bestowed by the group of the same name.

The activists are Jane Braden-Golay, a Swiss national who until recently headed the European Union of Jewish Students and initiated a number of interfaith and intercommunity efforts against bigotry with Muslims, Roma and Armenians; Siavosh Derakhti, a Muslim from Malmo, Sweden, who formed a group to combat anti-Semitism in his hometown; and Niddal El-Jabri, a Palestinian Dane who organized a “ring of peace” around a Copenhagen synagogue that had been hit by a deadly attack in February.

They met with senior officials from the National Security Council and the State Department, and on Tuesday briefed a meeting of congressional staffers convened by the office of Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.

“What I want to see is for European governments to understand fighting anti-Semitism is not a niche project that politicians like to take up,” Braden-Golay said in an interview.

“This must be woven into all work that combats discrimination and violence. We see a phenomenon of picking and choosing which leads to resentment and is unproductive,” she said. “The U.S. has shown leadership in showing any form of discrimination is problematic to society and we want (U.S.) officials to keep stressing that message to other governments.”

The activists said it was a challenge to keep their communities from retreating into insularity, particularly in the wake of the murderous Islamist attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher marker in Paris in January, and the anti-Muslim backlash that followed.

Derakhti and El-Jabri said members of their communities reflexively refer to “the Jews” when they condemn Israeli actions.

“One of the things we emphasize is that religion is not held in custody by Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians,” El-Jabri said.

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