Hosting BDS founder at European Parliament encourages anti-Semitism, Jewish leaders say


(JTA) — The Jewish communities of Lisbon and Belgium protested a Portuguese lawmaker’s invitation to a founder of the boycott movement against Israel to speak at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Yohan Benizri, president of the CCOJB umbrella group of French-speaking Jewish communities in Belgium, and Gabriel Steinhardt, president of the Jewish Community of Lisbon, wrote of their disapproval of the invitation of Omar Barghouti to speak later this month in a letter they penned Wednesday to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani.

Barghouti’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement addresses “not only the disputed territories but opposes the very existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state in its entirety and in any kind of borders,” the communal leaders wrote.

By offering a podium to Barghouti, “the house directly undermines its own policy stance on anti-Semitism,” they added, citing how some BDS activists “consistently engage in practices which are considered anti-Semitic according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition on anti-Semitism.”

The co-authors asked Tajani to cancel the invitation that Barghouti, a Qatari-born Palestinian who lives in northern Israel with his Israeli-Arab wife, received from the Lisbon-born lawmaker Ana Gomes of the European Parliament’s Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the house’s second largest bloc. Barghouti is slated to speak on Feb. 28 at an event titled “The Israeli settlement in Palestine and the European Union.”

Many BDS activists say the movement is not anti-Semitic, though promoting a boycott of Israel is considered incitement to discrimination in France and Spain.

The communal leaders’ call was co-signed by representatives of the European Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith International, the American Jewish Committee’s Transtlantic Institute, ELNET and the European Union of Jewish Students.

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