BRUSSELS (JTA) — Israeli officials and an American one convened here to protest alleged inaction by some European governments on what they called anti-Semitism disguised at criticism of the Jewish state.
The criticism came in a report about the campaign to boycott Israel that the office of that country’s strategic affairs minister, Gilad Erdan, unveiled Wednesday in the Belgian capital at a press conference. The report includes 80 examples of alleged anti-Semitism by key European promoters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
In one example from April, Jenny Tonge, a lawmaker in the upper chamber of the British parliament, asked on Facebook whether the wounding of 27 Palestinians, including a baby, in clashes with Israeli troops was “all to celebrate the Passover?”
Blood libels connected to that holiday, and especially the trope about Jews using blood to bake matzoh crackers on Passover, for centuries have been a motif of classic anti-Semitism in Europe.
In another, Robert-Willem van Norren, a promoter of BDS in the Netherlands, is seen holding up a caricature of the Israel flag with a cockroach instead of the Star of David.
Erdan presented the report, titled “Behind the Mask,” alongside Elan Carr, the U.S. envoy against anti-Semitism, and Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association in Brussels. Each speaker had a cracked mask next to him, emblazoned with human rights-related terms, such as “freedom” and “solidarity.”
“BDS leaders use anti-Semitic language and images that also prove their principles, of boycotting the Jew among the nations, Israel, are anti-Semitic,” Erdan said.
Erdan also protested the hosting in July of a BDS promoters with alleged links to the PFLP terrorist organization. Erdan said the European Union offers funding to groups involved in promoting anti-Semitism.
Promoting BDS is illegal in France and Spain. Earlier this year, the German Bundestag passed a motion defining the movement as anti-Semitic.
Elan Carr, the U.S. envoy against anti-Semitism, said that BDS is ”classical old anti-Semtiism, repackaged and rebranded, cloaked poorly as anti-Israel rhetoric.”
Margolin said that BDS “is responsible” for some anti-Semitic attacks in Europe.
Advocates of BDS, including Jewish ones, have disputed claims that their cause is tainted with anti-Semitism, calling these allegations an attempt by Israel and its supporters attempts to deflect criticism over Israel’s alleged human rights violations.
“The world, including many Israelis, is beginning to demand of Israel, as it did of South Africa, that it become a legitimate member of the world community,” Mark Braverman, executive director of Sabeel-Kairos USA, wrote earlier this year on the website the pro-Palestinian organization.
NGO Monitor, an Israeli group that monitors funding for BDS, praised the report as containing significant evidence of institutional anti-Semitism in the the ranks of the BDS movement. “The examples highlighted in the report add to the hundreds of disturbing cases that we’ve identified, many from NGOs that benefit from foreign, primarily European, governmental funding,” said Gerlad Steinberg, who heads NGO Monitor.