Friday, April 15, 2005

A True Hero

Last night I had the pleasure of attending an AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) event with a very special guest speaker: MP Ilka Schroeder. I'm first going to type out her bio that we were given to promote the event and then I will share with you the notes I took (my usual caveats about my handwriting/lack of note-taking skills still apply) during the session, which other than an intro by her was mostly Q&A. Two of the most interesting facts about this fascinating woman -- she was only 21 years old when she first became an MP in the EU Parliament (she is now 27 years old), and -- she is NOT Jewish.


Ilka Schroeder, a former German Green Party member who is now a member of of the EU Parliament [actually, this is out-of-date cause she isn't anymore], has been a courageous friend to Israel in a very difficult environment. She has been a leader in exposing terrorism and corruption in the Palestinian Authority, as well as anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism in the EU's position towards Israel. Despite significant pressure from her colleagues, Ms. Schroeder was the initiator of a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on EU funding to the Palestinian Authority, an investigation conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on the possible misuse of EU funds for financial support of terrorist activities.

As a member of the Committeee of Justice and Home Affairs and the Committee for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Schroeder has established the fight against anti-Semitism in the European Union as an issue on the Parliamentary agenda. She has also vocally criticized European policy in the Middle East, stating: "I consider this to be a mixture of naivety, moralism, anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionism and an altogether serious danger. It is against these trends that my efforts are directed."


Make no mistake about this -- taking the positions she has in support of Israel and the US and her stance against anti-Semitism -- HAS COST THIS YOUNG WOMAN HER POLITICAL CAREER. It took incredible moral fiber and plain old guts to do what she has done in the environment she has done it in.

It is her feeling that 9/11 was an act of anti-Semitism. She explained that the mind set in Europe and abroad is that it was an attack on the "East coast" -- on political and financial institutions, all of which are known code, according to her, for Jewish power. I found this theory fascinating... and scary.

Someone asked if growing anti-Semitism in Europe was because of the rising Arab populations. She said that their populations are so miniscule as to have no affect. Sadly, anti-Semitism is just rooted in their society and most people are simply becoming more comfortable expressing it.

Another asked about how the Holocaust and such is handled in Germany. She said that up to the 1960s it was not discussed. In the '70s, the school books started to discuss the Holocaust but grandparents wouldn't discuss their Nazi past. Today, in literature, song, most cultural things, etc., they are saying more and more that Germans were victims too (like the bombing of Dresden, being expelled by neighboring countries). Things are stressing more on Germans who had to flee after 1945. They say everyone suffered, but yet no discussion of the political part of this. She sounded pretty disgusted by it. She then added that after 1989, a new self-consciousness, a new awareness... like, "We're Germany -- what do you want?!" kind of attitude emerged.

She said that while Europe will readily compare Ariel Sharon to Hitler, that's something Germany knows they can't do (yet). Another thing they can't do yet -- divest from Israel.

She shared the story of a friend of hers in Brussels (I'm guessing someone high up in politics like she was). Her rhetoric was becoming offensive, so Ilka said, "You're sounding anti-Semitic." Her friend's response: "Yes! Anti-Semitism -- that's the cause now!" Ilka was shocked and appalled.

She said with rising tensions and worsening economic conditions, globalization, etc., everyone is of course blaming the Jews. She said that anti-Semitism is hard to fight since people aren't willing to face it. She was open. She listened to things. But most people don't want to be confronted with facts that could change their world view.

She said the EU feels competition with the US -- they want to challenge us, like a kid trying to show they've grown up. It's why they're supporting the Palestinian Authority. They simply want to be on the opposite side of the issue from the US.

She said she knows the EU doesn't want to see Iran with nukes but she also feels Brussels is willing to see that goal go by the wayside when they say "no" to the possibility of military force being used on them.

Someone asked if there is a link with anti-Semitism and the rise of power in the EU. She feels that it has simply become more prevalent post 9/11 and that anti-Semitism is definitely linked to anti-US sentiment. She does feel that the position Europe takes helps feed anti-Semitism.

When asked what the Jewish communities in Europe seem to be doing, she said that if they're not a Jew or married to a Jew, then they're not working against anti-Semitism. And she said that if you don't challenge anti-Semitism when you hear it, you're contributing to it. I couldn't agree more.

While I didn't go into it here, Ilka parted ways with the Green party pretty quickly as her interests began to diverge from theirs. As she learned more, she challenged the EU to take the moral high ground and was met with much resistance but while she was there, she was our champion. Ilka might be teaching courses at Georgetown University in the Fall. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, I highly recommend you do whatever you can to be there (also, I linked to her Web site back at the beginning of this post, so you can probably read her speeches, etc., there). She is truly inspiring.


At 1:53 PM, Blogger patrickafir said...

I hadn't heard of her before now, and yes, she is inspiring.

This is why hasbara work is important. We need to help the good, but ignorant and as yet undecided, people to understand why it is so important to all people to support Israel and to oppose antisemitism. The more everyday people who understand this, the more support people like Ms. Schroeder will have for their work. This is a matter of right and wrong, and having the courage to call each by its name, even when it's unpopular.

At 3:25 PM, Blogger Sergeant America said...

Another Interesting Posting! Thank you, Esther, for sharing ... :)

At 3:48 PM, Blogger Gindy said...

Great post. I never heard of her. Is she Jewish or just cares about the problem (just curious)?

It is always surprising for me to see a socialist stand up what is right. Especially when it comes to anti-semitism, a cause that many usually doesn't care about.

At 4:34 PM, Blogger Esther said...

Patrick -- you are absolutely right. This is why hasbara work is important.

Glad you all have enjoyed hearing about her. I had never heard of her either before last night. But she is an inspiration!

Gindy, she isn't Jewish, which to my mind makes her even more impressive.

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Tran Sient said...

Antisemitism from Europe doesn't surprise me, no matter what the reason is. Its the English that dissappoint me. Not that they are Antisemitic, but that they put up with that bunch of clowns. They were better off sticking with the Commonwealth than throwing their lot in with the French and Germans.

At 12:29 AM, Anonymous Rory said...

Esther, I'm so glad you posted this. I had read about her quite some time ago and she's really an amazing woman. She had come to many peoples' attention for a piece she had written claiming that, rather than most anti-Americanism being a result of our support for Israel, in Europe, the opposite is true. She felt that a lot of the European demonization of Israel is, in large measure, a manifestation of anti-Americanism connected to the EU's desire to supplant the U.S. as the world's major economic power. Apparently, a lot of Europeans have bought into the "Great Satan/Little Satan" rantings that we hear being spewed by the Iranian mullahs. On the other hand, though, she doesn't minimize the fact that there's still plenty of good, old-fashioned Jew-hatred that never really disappeared in Europe, but just went underground temporarily.

At 1:18 AM, Blogger MissingLink said...


She was probably the only TRUE green in this party -envoronment rather than hidden agenda of spreading marxism.
We call them the watermelon party in Australia (green on th outside and red inside).

At 1:35 PM, Blogger mr_g said...

I'm really glad you shared that with us. It's inspiring to someone such as her stand up and express such opinions. Unfortuantely, this also further exemplifies the danger of a unified Europe.


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