Speech by Speaker of the Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein at the International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the European Parliament. Brussels, January 24, 2018
”My parents, Yuri and Anita Edelstein, don`t often talk about their experiences during the Holocaust. So, when my father once said to me,
`You know, I don`t have any childhood friends`, I suddenly realized that I didn’t know one single friend from his youth in Kiev. They were all from later stages of his life - university or living elsewhere.
My father continued and said: `All the kids I played with – are now in Babi Yar.`
I was privileged to represent Israel on the seventieth anniversary of that horrible Babi Yar massacre. Standing at the memorial, not far from the center of Kiev, I couldn`t stop thinking of the happy children who once played nearby, of whom only ONE remained – my father.
My mother used to tell me stories about her life in the Shargorod Ghetto in Transnistria. She used to steel buttons from my grandfather`s coat to play street games with other children. Listening to her, I was sure that life in the ghetto was not that terrible. That was until I met a survivor from the same ghetto, who told me: `Your parents really love you very much. Otherwise your mother would have told you the truth about Shargorod Ghetto.`
Ladies and gentlemen, let me draw your attention to the following events that took place in a single year:
The Jews in Bochum, Germany, felt compelled to hide their identities for fear of attack. In Gothenburg, Sweden, a synagogue was firebombed.
In Vienna, London, and Berlin, rallies called for death to the Jews.
This was not in 1933. These were headlines from the last year – 2017.
Seven years ago, I stood here and asked, ”What have we learned?”
Today, following these 2017 events, I ask you once again, ”What have we learned?”
Seventy-three years ago, the world was horrified when the gates of Auschwitz swung open. Shocked by the destruction of war, countries vowed to prevent further blood-shed.
The United Nations, and the foundations of the European Union, were created to replace military alliances with economic and political cooperation. The international community finally recognized that the Jewish People need a state of their own.
The State of Israel was born and opened its gates to every member of the Jewish People. The wandering Jew, the Jewish refugee seeking a home, is a thing of the past.
Since then, much has been done across this continent to acknowledge the painful truth of the Holocaust. Politicians, media outlets, academics, and engaged citizens have stood up to combat anti-Semitic rhetoric and acts.
Memorials to vanished Jewish communities have been built. Holocaust education and awareness have expanded dramatically throughout Europe.
Yet, for all the work that has been done, I fear that the post-war sense of mission has faded, leaving the real issues unaddressed.
What has been learned from all the memorials if synagogues across Europe need round-the-clock protection? Is Holocaust education effective if Jews on this continent don`t wear a kippah or a Star of David necklace for fear of attack?
I stand here today mindful of the warning issued by Si-mone Veil, who survived Auschwitz and served as this institution`s president. `Never Again,` she once said, `is never enough to protect future generations.
It takes more than words, more than resolutions, more than good intentions.`
The efforts to combat antisemitism and to protect the Jews of Europe are sincerely appreciated, but what is the message when elected officials march with the Jewish community one day and against Israel the next?
When leaders embrace the local rabbi in solidarity after a hate crime and treat Hamas as a legitimate voice? When an attack is condemned as anti-Semitic and then Israel is denounced for fabricated war crimes?
These contradictory messages do not build trust. Instead, they prevent us from meeting our joint obligations.
In a similar vein, I am aware that a delegation from this parliament recently paid a visit to Tehran. I do not know who made the trip, what plans were made, or what meetings were held.
I do know that no one mentioned Holocaust denial that has become a regular occurrence for the Iranian regime! I am sure no one protested the cartoon contest that ridiculed the Holocaust using the oldest and worst anti-Semitic stereotypes. Here is the piece of ”art” that took first prize and outrageously suggested that the Jewish People exploit the Holocaust for financial gain at the world`s expense.
For `Never Again` to REALLY mean NEVER AGAIN – consistent and sincere actions are necessary. Antisemitism – wherever it rears its ugly head, for whatever reason, is wrong and must be fought at every turn.
Writing off such acts as ”mere opposition to Israel” is absurd.
Antisemitism has no excuse – not religion, not poverty, not lack of education, and not political disagreements.
Today we know that we ignore hatred and intolerance at our peril.
I stand here, in the capital of a united Europe, which is heir to cultures and histories that have enriched the world. The Jewish People have been proud parts of this European heritage in every field.
But we always cherished our own heritage and maintained our ties to the Jewish capital, regardless of recent UNESCO decisions. In Jerusalem, the Jewish People made their mark on the world. Therefore, it was meaningful to us that last month, one country – the United States – chose to recognize the capital of Israel after 70 years of independence, acknowledging both our ancient heritage and our modern history.
I welcome you to do the same.
Join me for a visit in my capital, that is dedicated to improving human condition through healthcare, hi tech, and spiritual elevation for members of ALL faiths.
Together, we can bear witness to the words of the ancient prophets: `There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem… And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls`.
This parliament is an inspiration to Europe and the world. Use your standing to realize the values on which this institution was founded.
Together, we can declare an end to antisemitism and achieve the vision to which we re-commit ourselves today: Never Again! Nunca más! Plus jamais! Mai più! Nie wieder! Never Again! (in Hebrew)”