Address by the European Jewish Congress President Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor at the symposium titled Building Together the Future of Europe. Brussels, European Parliament.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to start our Symposium confronting anti-Semitism in Europe. First of all, I want to announce the words of our deepest appreciation to the President of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pöttering, the Czech Presidency of the European Union for its patronage and engagement; our dear friend, Vice President of the European Commission Jacques Barrot, for his really strong commitment to our common values; the former President of the Republic of Poland and Chairman of the European Council for Tolerance and Reconciliation Aleksander Kwaśniewski, our dear friend and supporter.
Dear Members of the European Parliament,
Brothers and sisters,
Today we in Europe are facing not one, but 3 crises together. The first is the one which is very much visible and called economic crisis. Second is the crisis which is coming for the so-called edge countries, which are close to have nuclear weapon and which are close to make transitions of this weapon to the terroristic organizations and first of all we are speaking about the nuclear weaponization of Iran and development of international terroristic net of this country, which is called Hezbollah and Hamas. Later today we will talk how these organizations are connected with importing anti-Semitism to Europe. And the third crisis is called the crisis of tolerance. It is the crisis of banalization of common threats.
Unfortunately, the economic crisis shadowed the crisis of international nuclear terrorism and the crisis of tolerance. But as usual, history teaches us that it does not teach anything. Europe again doesn’t see that everything starts with Jews and never ends with them.
Here is just one fact: in France, Germany and Great Britain in the first month of 2009 we have more unfortunate anti-Semitic accidents than in twelve months of 2008. And Europe didn’t demonstrate any significant reaction to this.
But the real historical experience of Europe is the construction of the European Union which is still in progress. In order to ensure its future we must not forget its past. The European Union began as an answer to the barbarism of WWII. A great deal has already been done! We have come from loose economic ties to the supranational political, social and economic progress that we have today. Yet some of the demons of the past are still among us and must be fought. That is why we are here today - to create awareness of and to confront anti-Semitism in all its forms: traditional, modern, structural, and contextual.
European Jewry has been facing rising anti-Semitism in the last few years. Ever since the end of 1990s with a search on the 1st and later 2nd intifada, with desecration of the numerous cemeteries across Europe, the rebirth of the extreme right and other unfortunate incidents anti-Semitism is alive, in good health and growing.
Today anti-Semitism has been amplified through the recent war in Gaza, through the economic and financial crisis and through societies and governments that are in search of a perfect scapegoat.
This phenomenon is not only affecting Jews, in fact economic and financial crisis is dangerous because it seeks out several scapegoats, creating xenophobia and racism on a larger scale, targeting and attacking minorities and foreigners. Today anti-Semitism is very different than 70 years ago, 50 years ago and even 10 years ago. And we will speak today a lot about what to do with this illness of our European home.
In the past, European institutions have been active in facing these challenges. For example, the European Parliament’s Inquiry Commission on the Rise of Racism and Fascism in 1984 and 1986, and later the Inquiry Committee on Racism and Xenophobia in 1990, as well as the creation of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. Anti-Semitism was always given an important role in these institutions, and was monitored effectively and treated seriously.
Europe must safeguard the red lines in order to maintain its diverse and fragile composition of faiths, ethnics, traditions, etc.
Europe cannot afford importing a conflict – such as the Middle East conflict – into it. People could have their own opinions but anti-Semitic verbal or physical attacks cannot be tolerated.
Europe is confronting again challenging times with regard to anti-Semitism and racism. The economic crisis is the fertilizer for attacks against Jews, strangers and minorities. The scapegoat is always needed in these times.
But again I want to stress our common intention to something very special. To anti-Semitism which is imported from outside and which is triggering all types of anti-Semitism in Europe. I am speaking about Durban II. Durban II – Geneva conference – UN Conference which will take place next month in Geneva - is the conference which is indeed a dramatic challenge for Europe. Are the Europeans going to be misled as they were during the first conference, Durban I? Or are they going to take a firm stand?
The positive actions of the European Union have so far demonstrated the power the EU has to change things in this regard. We should understand perfectly that the existing terroristic international net of Iran which is called Hezbollah and Hamas are waiting for its nuclear activisation. We of course support the attempts of Russia, the United States and European Union to restart relations with Iran - maybe on after-election basis and correction of the Iran regime leadership. But if this process is not successful? Indeed Durban II is an ideological preparation of nuclear terroristic attacks against not only Israel, but against Europe as well, against all the civilization! That is why we strongly insist and recommend to all the European countries to consider Durban II as a challenge to co-existence in Europe.
The European Union should be a leader with regard to human rights and should not leave the United Nations arena to nations, where human rights are violated daily and which abuse the UN forums for political reasons. These forums should be patronized by members of the European Union from now on.
But what do we see today? Europe – I’m not speaking only about the European Union - I’m speaking about Europe in general. With all respect, madam Europe wants to be blindfolded and deaf and she does not want to hear and to see even with open eyes and ears. She really does not understand that Europe is confronting today extraordinary challenges. That is why we say today: European Union should be the leader in all the humanitarian and political dimensions. There are four of them: first of all – education in all aspects from kindergarten to university. Maybe it is just the time to establish here in Brussels the first university of tolerance and reconciliation to educate our future – our students, our children – to tolerate each other.
The second thing. Politically – it should be a common practice of strong declarations and condemnations against any type of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
The third dimension – legal actions.
And number four – one of the most important - media. Media in this problem is a real public opinion shaper. We do rely on it.
Before giving the floor to our dear colleagues and friends Jacques Barrot and Aleksander Kwaśniewski, I want to say a few words about a very special thing which can be a symbol of our Symposium. I am speaking about a very special thing. This is the salt from the Holy Land. It has a very holy meaning. Two days ago all practicing Jews in the world read a special part of the Bible, which describes the meaning of salt. Salt because of its own specific features is a very holy and common product for all of us, which I propose on behalf of the European Jewish Congress to be the symbol of our Symposium. Do you know why we Jews sacrifice bread and put salt during this process? Salt has a very special meaning. First all, it keeps its quality forever. Second, it helps other products to be in good condition. Number three – I can tell it as an agrochemical industrialist – some types of salt are very good fertilizers. That is why let us make it a symbol of devotion – permanent devotion – to our common European values of tolerance and reconciliation, and a symbol of our Symposium and its success. If you agree with me – demonstrate it somehow.
Thank you very much.