Knesset speaker: Europe leaders embrace Jews, but accuse Israel of ‘war crimes’

Knesset speaker: Europe leaders embrace Jews, but accuse Israel of ‘war crimes’

At Holocaust commemoration event, Yuli Edelstein accuses officials of sending contradictory messages in expressing solidarity with Jews while treating Hamas as legitimate

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein addresses the European Parliament in Brussels on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 24, 2018 (courtesy)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein addresses the European Parliament in Brussels on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 24, 2018 (courtesy)

BRUSSELS — Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday accused European leaders of duplicity for embracing their local Jewish communities in the aftermath of anti-Semitic attacks and hate crimes, even as they accuse Israel of “fabricated war crimes.”

“The efforts to combat anti-Semitism and protect the Jews of Europe are sincerely appreciated,” said Edelstein at an International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Brussels.

“But what is the message when elected officials march with the Jewish community one day, and against Israel the next? When leaders embrace the local rabbi in solidarity after a hate crime and then treat Hamas as a legitimate voice? When an attack is anti-Semitic, and then Israel is denounced for fabricated war crimes?” he told the European Parliament.

“These contradictory messages do not build trust. Instead they prevent us from meeting our joint obligations,” he added.

Edelstein further charged  that Europe’s “post-war sense of mission has faded,” and drew attention to anti-Israeli incidents across the continent over the past year that spiraled into anti-Semitism, including the firebombing of a Swedish synagogue and rallies in Vienna, London and Berlin where protesters shouted “Death to the Jews.”

Edelstein chided European Parliament lawmakers for failing to condemn an Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest, seen to foster denial of the genocide of the Jews, when they made a recent trip to Tehran that coincided with the competition.

“I do not know who made the trip, what plans were made or what meetings were held. But I’m sure — correct me if I’m wrong — that during that visit, no one protested the international cartoon contest taking place in Tehran for the best caricature denying the Holocaust.”

His comment came a day after European Parliament members questioned a visiting group of Iranian parliamentarians about Iranian leaders’ past Holocaust denying statements and threats.

Jewish groups and Israeli politicians had criticized the European Union’s parliament for hosting Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who chairs the Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security of Iran’s parliament, and his delegation for a two-day visit to the parliament in Brussels.

Boroujerdi repeatedly failed to answer questions about alleged Iranian terror plots in Germany, said to target Israeli and Jewish sites, and Holocaust denial. He did, however, tell the European Parliament that “we (Iran) do not accept the Zionist regime,” according to the AJC.

On Wednesday, Boroujerdi was scheduled to participate in a seminar about bilateral Iran-EU relations.

In a letter to the president of the European Parliament prior to the Iranian delegation’s visit, the Anti-Defamation League called the invitation to a senior member of the regime troubling, given his history of promoting terrorism and participation in a conference in Tehran in 2014 promoting Holocaust deniers.

In his address, Edelstein also urged European nations to follow in the footsteps of US President Donald Trump and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“I welcome you to do the same,” he said.

During his Brussels visit, Edelstein also addressed the Belgian parliament on Tuesday in its first official Holocaust commemoration event, as the first Israeli representative invited to speak at the legislative body.

There, he also condemned the Iranian cartoon contest, noting a Belgian city’s decision to honor a teacher who won the competition in May 2016 for a drawing of the words “Arbeit macht frei” over a wall with guard posts — presumably comparing Israel’s security barrier along the West Bank with the gates at Auschwitz.

“Last year — after he won the award — his hometown here in Belgium named him a ‘cultural ambassador par excellence.’ To judge from his cartoon, however, I am not certain what culture he represents,” said Edelstein.

JTA contributed to this report.

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