Oeiras town hall bathed in colours of Israeli flag in wake of October 7 atrocities
Oeiras town hall bathed in colours of Israeli flag in wake of October 7 atrocities

President of European Jewish Congress praises Portugal for “doing well in fight against anti-Semitism”

But fears “there will be many more incidents in Europe” before tensions calm

The president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), in Lisbon today, has denounced the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and expressed fear of more incidentsblaming the media for “failing to understand what is happening“.

Ariel Muzicant also told Lusa that he believes Iran was behind the October 7 attack mounted by Hamas. It is something that has been planned “for years”, he said. Image: Miguel A Lopes/ Lusa

In an interview with Lusa while he is chairing a meeting of the Executive Committee of the EJC, which ends today, Ariel Muzicant said that European countries must create the conditions for greater vigilance and security, especially after Hamas, following its massacre in Israel of October 7, has called for the death of Jews around the world.

“Security and vigilance against anti-Semitic events have been stepped up everywhere,” he said. But it is still “feared that there will be many more incidents in Europe” of the type already witnessed, in France, Belgium, Tunisia and Germany. “And once again, they are attacking civilians in synagogues, in schools, in community centres.” 

Running through the various incidents since Hamas’ latest atrocities, Muzicant also referred to the decision by Italy to close several airports due to threats from extremist groups.

“So, welcome to the world of Hamas! (…) Ask me: ‘Are you accusing Hamas of killing Jews?’ Of course I am. Hamas called for a day of ‘jihad’ last Friday, it killed Jews everywhere. No more, no less. It’s public. It made the call and Jews were killed. Not just in Tunisia, but everywhere.

“If you go to a pro-Palestinian demonstration, what they’re asking for is death to the Jews (…) I’ve been to a pro-Israel demonstration. I never called for the death of Palestinians. I have never called for the annihilation of the Palestinian people.

“On the contrary, I think the Palestinian people deserve to finally have a future,” he said.

It was at this point in the interview that Muzicant referred to the fact that “many media outlets” have in effect made things worse, “by not saying that (Hamas) is a destructive, corrupt and criminal organisation.

“Calling for the killing of civilian Jews is a criminal offence and we will now pursue them in international courts, in local courts, and we will try to obtain international warrants against any Hamas leader who survives these next few days – any of them,” he told Lusa. “They will be taken to court. That’s where they should go, and to prison.

“Wait a week and you’ll see, when the pictures come out of Gaza of dead civilians, unfortunately, you’ll see how sympathetic the press will be (…) The press doesn’t understand what’s happening, and the Left and many critics don’t understand.”

With regard to Portugal, Muzicant declined to comment on criticisms of the granting of passports and Portuguese nationality to Sephardic Jews – related to suspicions of corruption in the process – saying that he does not meddle in the internal affairs of other countries.

He did say, however, that he was aware of the issue – and that there are parallels in other European countries such as Hungary and Austria.

“I think it’s great that Portugal has rediscovered its past,” he told Lusa. “I think it’s great that it’s doing what it’s doing in this regard, but it has to be done in a legal and correct way.”

The EJC leader also stressed that Portuguese authorities are “doing well” in the fight against anti-Semitism, and that there are “no complaints“.

Regarding the meeting of the executive committee in Lisbon, Muzicant explained the organisation exists with the aim of supporting the 50 or so small Jewish communities in Europe – in Portugal it is estimated that there are between 2,500 and 3,000 membersso that they don’t disappear.

“Unfortunately, if we don’t help, they will disappear,” he said. “The Lisbon community is the representative of the Jewish people in Portugal. They are affiliated to the EJC and it is important that we support them and that we also say to the local government and everyone else: please remember what you did, the decision you took in the European Parliament to promote Jewish life. And promoting Jewish life means supporting your community.”

Source material: LUSA