EU anti-Semitism seminar back on track after Prodi meets Jewish envoy

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) A Jewish group patched up its differences with the European Union’s chief executive on Thursday after accusing his office of “moral treachery” amid plans for a European seminar on anti-Semitism.

The World Jewish Congress alleged the European Union censored a study highlighting involvement of Europe’s Arab minorities in anti-Semitic attacks. It also complained about an opinion poll in which Israel was named a threat to world peace more than any other country.

Stung by the group’s charges of anti-Semitism, European Commission President Romano Prodi abruptly called off an EU seminar on the issue. On Thursday, he met with an official from the group and said the event was back on.

“The cooperation between our two institutions is fully restored on the basis of a concrete mutual trust,” Prodi said after meeting Israel Singer, the chairman of the group’s board.

Singer flew to the EU headquarters from New York for the hastily arranged meeting.

“If there is a man in whom we trust … it’s president Prodi,” Singer told reporters.

The dispute flared Monday when The Financial Times newspaper published a letter from the president of the group, Edgar Bronfman, and the head of its European branch, Coby Benatoff, accusing the European Union’s head office of “intellectual dishonesty and moral treachery.”

“Anti-Semitism can be expressed in two ways: by action and inaction. Remarkably, the European Commission is guilty of both,” Bronfman and Benatoff wrote.

Prodi denied the European Commission censored the study from the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia. He said the Vienna-based center is an independent institution and that the European Commission has no power to interfere.

He also dismissed suggestions that the recent Eurobarometer poll was politically motivated. The poll showed 59 percent of Europeans ranked Israel as the top threat to world peace.

Jewish groups had complained about the way the survey question was worded, and said criticism of Israel by European politicians had influenced public opinion.

After the poll’s release, Prodi condemned lingering anti-Jewish bias he said was reflected in the survey.

Prodi said the criticism from the World Jewish Congress amounted to a “defamatory accusation of being anti-Semitic.”

The seminar is expected to be held next month. It was called in response to an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe that has been linked to violence in the Middle East.

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Associated Press, USA
Jan. 8, 2004
Paul Ames, Associated Press Writer

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday January 8, 2004.
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