European Parliament’s Israel-relations czar defends removed anti-Semitism definition

Cnaan Liphshiz

BRUSSELS (JTA) – The chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Israel defended a working resolution of anti-Semitism that the European Union recently removed from its website.

Fulvio Martusciello of the Group of the European People’s Party stated his endorsement of the document in an interview with JTA last week about the anti-Semitism definition, which is controversial because it cites demonization of Israel and its comparison to Nazi Germany as forms of anti-Semitism.

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“Recently, the Fundamental Rights Agency has removed the definition from its website,” Martusciello said in reference to the European Union’s body responsible for combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. The working definition was first adopted in 2005 by that body’s predecessor, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. FRA replaced it as the organ within the European Union responsible for monitoring and combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of anti-Semitism.

“However, I think the definition represented a landmark in combating anti-Semitism that should pave the road to effective institutional responsibility” in the fight against all forms of discrimination and intolerance, said Martusciello, who assumed the chairmanship of the delegation in October.

Set up in 1979, the delegation is among the European Parliament’s oldest and is responsible for maintaining and developing parliamentarian ties between the Knesset in Jerusalem and its counterpart within the European Union.

Blanca Tapia of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency said the definition of anti-Semitism was removed last year “together with other non-official documents,” and that her organization had in fact never viewed the document as a valid definition. She said her organization was unaware of any other official definition of the phenomenon and that it was not able to define it.

Shimon Samuels, director of international affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal, disputed her assertion about the unofficial nature of the definition and called its removal from the FRA website a “dismaying about-face which damages the European Union’s credibility.”