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Roll Call, E.U.-Style

The European parliament votes on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. Welcome to the new Europe.

3:00 PM, Jan 27, 2005 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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ON THURSDAY the Brussels-based European parliament voted on a resolution remembering the victims of the Holocaust and condemning anti-Semitism, ancient and modern, in all its forms. The resolution, which also established January 27 as a European-wide Holocaust memorial day, passed overwhelmingly. The final vote was 617 to 0. But that lopsided figure doesn't include the 10 European parliamentarians who abstained from the vote.

Why abstain? Who knows? It is not as if the resolution was offensive. Here is an excerpt:

The sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Nazi Germany's death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where a combined total of up to 1.5 million Jews, Roma, Poles, Russians and prisoners of various other nationalities, and homosexuals were murdered, is not only a major occasion for European citizens to remember and condemn the enormous horror and tragedy of the Holocaust, but also for addressing the disturbing rise in anti-Semitism and especially anti-Semitic incidents in Europe, and for learning anew the wider lessons about the dangers of victimising people on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion, political or sexual orientation, or social classification.

Those 10 parliamentarians, of course, should be able to explain their actions. But there's a problem: I couldn't find the names of the 10 abstainers on the Internet, and the European parliament's press office in Brussels didn't respond to requests for help, either.

The parliament did, however, publish a brief summary of the debate surrounding the vote. Read it and you discover that the resolution caused some major divisions. The first was between the Polish delegation and the parliament at large. The Polish parliamentarians demanded the resolution specify that the Holocaust was a distinctly German event. Other parliamentarians said the resolution already contained German-specific language (and, indeed, such language made it into the final resolution, as you can see in the excerpt above). In the end, after a German socialist parliamentarian took the floor and spoke briefly about "the special responsibility of Germany," the Pols dropped their objections. And yet it would not be surprising if a few of them, embittered because of the debate, chose to abstain.

The second major division was between left and right. Rightists protested against what they saw as an attempt by the left to link the anti-Semitism that sometimes bubbles up in contemporary European nationalist movements with the legacy of the Holocaust. "My party is not racist," said parliamentarian Frank Vanhecke, a member of the Belgian nationalist Vlaams Blok (now the Vlaams Belang), "but it is labeled as such by the resolution because it supports some nationalist elements. Some members want to demonize certain political parties." Perhaps Vanhecke abstained for that reason. Perhaps he didn't. Until the European parliament provides a roll call of the vote next week, we won't know.

Matthew Continetti is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.