'There is legitimate criticism of Israel, but there is a line'

Coordinator of European Parliament's Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup says extremism from both sides needs to be tackled.

Yoni Kempinski ,

Alfiaz Vaija
Alfiaz Vaija
Yoni Kempinski

Arutz Sheva spoke with Alfiaz Vaija, Coordinator of the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup, at the European Jewish Assocation (EJA) annual conference in Brussels.

“We’ve come together to combat racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. That includes anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred” and others, explained Vaija.

He acknowledged that anti-Semitism does exist in the European Parliament “because we have a high proportionate number of members of European Parliament from the extreme far-right who have engaged in anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

Vaija expressed concern over how far-right and populist parties have used the manifestation of anti-Semitism to try and attract Jews to vote for them.

“We see how the far-right has tried to show that it is no longer anti-Semitic, because it is trying to play with the feelings of the Jewish community and say, ‘We all have a shared concern, which is the rise of Islamists or radicals from particular backgrounds and we will need to come together.’ That means that Jewish communities support populist or extreme parties. But it’s not only the Jewish community. We see this with other marginalized communities,” he said.

“We have to understand that in Europe we do have a problem when it comes to radicalization. This is clear and apparent with the attacks we’ve seen in Europe against the Jewish community, Jewish sites and Jewish symbols,” continued Vaija.

The way to tackle with this radicalization, he said, is to understand the fine line between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism.

“There is legitimate criticism of Israel, but there is a line. When you cross that line, it becomes anti-Semitic. We have to go and educate different communities about their roles and responsibilities in society, but also on the balances and the lines where something is anti-Semitic and something is legitimate.”

“It’s up to us to protect the Jewish community and ensure their safety. That means that we have to tackle both far-right extremism, but also extremism that is coming from Islamists or people who claim to be belonging to a particular group that’s from a migratory background,” said Vaija.

At the same time, he pointed out, most Muslim migrants understand the religious scriptures and literature which say that Muslims, Christians and Jews should come together.

“I see really good work happening in the community level between Muslim and Jewish communities, Christian communities and non-believers. But there is a small percentage in our society who are trying to break down that trust and cause conflict and they are the people that we should be targeting,” conclude Vaija.