The Mayors of Bologna and Palermo Withdraw From a Summit Aimed at Shielding Israel From Accountability
Virginio Merola, Mayor of Bologna, and Leoluca Orlando, Mayor of Palermo, have withdrawn from an international mayors summit aimed at shielding Israel from criticism over its violations of Palestinian human rights and international law.
The meeting, to be held on Tuesday, 16 March, claims to contribute to "eradicate prejudice and hatred from our cities." Instead, as 14 Jewish organizations from around the world wrote in an open letter, the summit aims to promote the fraudulent and widely criticized International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “definition” of antisemitism. Seven out of eleven of the IHRA definition’s examples falsely equate criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish hatred.
Jewish organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace, with over 70 branches in the United States, have called on mayors not to participate and instead to "join the collective struggle against racism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia."
The Jewish organizations note that the definition promoted by the IHRA is being used “to shut down local initiatives by many communities that are resolutely opposed to Israel’s human rights violations," and that, just as any other country, "Israel’s actions can and must be criticized." Increasingly, the IHRA definition is being used in an attempt to stop the growing Palestinian-led nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a key sponsor of the summit.
One of the three panels of the summit, where Mayor Merola was scheduled to speak, is in fact dedicated to the controversial IHRA definition.
The mayor of Modiin-Maccabim-Reut, an Israeli town partially built on the Occupied Palestinian Territory in violation of international law, will speak in the plenary session where Mayor Orlando was scheduled to speak.
Thanking the mayors, prominent Jewish Italian playwright and actor Moni Ovadia said:
“No specious and manipulative definition of antisemitism will succeed in closing our eyes to the policy of apartheid and the systematic oppression practiced by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people, with the silence of a large part of the international community. Those who believe that every people’s right to self-determination is inviolable know to express it with courage and determination, just as many Jews and Israelis do."
Luisa Morgantini, former Vice President of European Parliament and President of AssoPace Palestine, commented:
"The Mayors Merola and Orlando have always expressed their commitment against all forms of antisemitism. For them the phrase "never again" is not just words, but a way of life. It is why they stand alongside those who suffer all forms of abuse and they believe in the inviolability of human rights and international legality, just as the Jewish organizations that urged the mayors not to lend themselves to this sham equating criticism of the State of Israel with antisemitism."
Raffaele Spiga of BDS Italia thanked the mayors, adding:
"BDS Italia, an anti-racist organization that fights all forms of discrimination on ethnic, religious and civil grounds and defends the rights of the Palestinian people, expresses gratitude and appreciation for the decision of the mayors of Bologna, Virginio Merola, and Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, not to participate in the summit. To their credit, the mayors heeded with coherence and principles the notion that all the peoples of the world suffering from oppression and repression deserve our solidarity. Those who truly believe in the fight against racism, including antisemitism, will not stand by when it is abused to protect Israel’s impunity while it imposes a regime of apartheid on the Palestinian people."
A growing number of people and organizations now oppose the weaponized adoption of the IHRA definition, including Jewish intellectuals, Israeli academics, many of whom lost family members in the Holocaust, the Academic Board of University College London, Palestinian and other Arab intellectuals, the director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, 40 Jewish organizations, and even the lead author of the definition Kenneth Stern.
In Italy, intellectuals and artists such as Salvatore Settis, Livio Pepino, Carlo Rovelli, Marco Paolini, Moni Ovadia and Alessandra Farkas signed a letter in which they state that "the struggle against antisemitism must not be transformed into a ploy to discredit the fight against Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, its denial of their rights and its continuing occupation of their land.”
Assopace Palestine and BDS Italia reaffirm their commitment to fight against all forms of discrimination, including Israel’s system of apartheid that oppresses millions of Palestinians, and their determination to continue to promote respect for human rights and international law.