EU lawmakers host conference on Palestinian incitement in light of Oct. 7 massacre

Dehumanization and demonization are focus of event co-hosted by a Jewish Hungarian lawmaker and his Christian colleague

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Tamir Werzberger, second from right, attends a conference on Palestinian incitement at the European Parliament in Strasburg, France on November 21, 2023. (Courtesy)
Tamir Werzberger, second from right, attends a conference on Palestinian incitement at the European Parliament in Strasburg, France on November 21, 2023. (Courtesy)

A Jewish Hungarian nonprofit held a conference at the European Parliament this week that presented the October 7 attack as proof of the need for firmer action against hatred in the Palestinian Authority’s education system, which many see as a key element generating violence against Jews in Israel and beyond.

“What happened on October 7, it just gave us more justification that what we are doing is critically necessary and needs to be acted on,” Tamir Wertzberger, the foreign relations director of the Action and Protection League, told The Times of Israel about the event that his Brussels-based organization held in Strasbourg, France.

The event was co-hosted by two Hungarian lawmakers, one Jewish and one Christian, Tamás Deutsch and György Hölvényi, respectively. It featured a lecture by Arnon Groiss, an academic who has written extensively on incitement in Palestinian textbooks.

Groiss presented his analyses of textbooks issued after 2016, which he said include “demonization of Jews also outside the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

In one book, Jews are referred to as “Satan’s helpers.” In another, they are said to be the “enemies” of Jesus Christ, Mohammed and even Moses. Yet another book refers to Jews as “wolves and snakes.”

Miklós Panyi, Deputy Minister of the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office, said at the conference: “The brutal terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israeli civilians have shaken Europe but the developments that came afterwards shake Europe’s very foundations.” He was referencing mass pro-Palestinian protests where calls of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” were prevalent, among other slogans that are widely viewed as hateful or antisemitic.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a debate on the attacks by Hamas against Israel and the humanitarian situation in Gaza, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on October 18, 2023. (Frederick Florin/AFP)

The October 7 attacks saw thousands of Hamas terrorists cross into Israel, killing some 1,200 people and perpetrating atrocities on a hitherto unprecedented scale in Israel, including the abduction of some 240 Israelis and the torture, rape, and mutilation of others.

Szalai Kálmán (left), secretary of the Action and Protection League (TEV), at a conference of the organization, November 29, 2017 in Budapest, Hungary. (Facebook)

Itamar Marcus of the Palestinian Media Watch nonprofit presented an overview that explored how, according to him, dehumanization in the Palestinian education system is complemented by similar messaging in Palestinian media. This atmosphere “provided the infrastructure for the savagery we saw on October 7,” said Wertzberger.

European nations and institutions have become increasingly critical of incitement in the textbooks of the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank but not Gaza. In May, the European Parliament, which is the Union’s legislative branch, called in a resolution on the Palestinian Authority for a fourth consecutive year to remove hateful elements from its textbooks.

Itamar Marcus, the director and founder of Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli non-governmental organization that frequently publishes reports on Fatah social media. (Screenshot: Youtube)

But the May resolution was the first time that the Parliament urged the Union’s executive branch, the European Commission, to stop funding the Palestinian education system unless it removes “all antisemitic references and examples that incite hatred and violence,” as the resolution states.

The latest conference also dealt with introducing Jewish history into the curricula of countries in Europe and beyond, based on the consulting role that the Action and Protection League has had in shaping how Jewish history and the Holocaust are taught in Hungarian schools.

An IDF soldier stands next to what the army referred to as ‘incitement materials’ that were seized in overnight raids on December 14, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

“Just as some people deny the occurrence of the Holocaust, denial of the fact of the brutal massacre committed by Hamas has also appeared already,” said Kalman Szalai, the general secretary of the Action and Protection League, an organization established in 2013 and modeled after the Anti-Defamation League. “This cannot be allowed; those extreme ideas go against Judeo-Christian values, and they also undermine the fundamental importance of cooperation between European nations.”

The event’s organizers did not publish a joint resolution or open letter at the end of the event, Wertzberger said. “We’ve seen enough talk and declarations. The time has come for action by decision-makers, and this is what we’re hoping for with this conference,” he said.

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