European Jewish Congress (EJC) president Moshe Kantor hopes that his call for unity “will be heard,” after four countries suspended their participation in the pan-European body.
“We don’t have the privilege to be occupied with internal fights, we are living in a dramatic time,” he said in an interview with EJP.
“We should be occupied with the Iranian threat, the biggest threat ever to humanity. We should be occupied with the dangerous rise in anti-Semitism in Europe. We should be occupied with future of Jewish communities in Europe,” he said.
Four countries, France, Germany, Austria and Portugal, suspended their membership in the European Jewish body last month after an extraordinary general assembly extended term limits of Kantor’s presidency from 2 to 4 years.
Richard Prasquier, head of CRIF, the umbrella representative group of the French Jewish community, has denounced the extension of the president’s mandate without using the normal way as “unethical and illegal.”
Kantor, current president of the Russian Jewish Congress, was originally elected last year for a two-year term.
“It was a decision taken by all members of the the EJC’s Executive to recommend to the general assembly on applying the new 4 year term on the existing officers, to give them sufficient time to work on those important issues,” Kantor said.
“A democratic vote was held where the CRIF representatives and other who opposed the recommendation took part in, and the majority decided to accept this suggestion.”
“I believe these communities will come back very soon, but we all must understand that we need to honor a democratic vote even if ones view was rejected.”
He added:“The majority of communities have expressed there wish very clearly both in the elections on June 2007 and also now and this wish should be respected also by the CRIF.”
Kantor also said that “one should stop talk about eastern and western European Jews”.
“It is shameful and it is also with no grounds as a majority of western communities supported both votes. We should unite,” he stressed.
The EJC head has asked Henry Grunwald, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews to chair a reconciliation committee to try to find ways to bring the CRIF and the other organizations back to the organization.
“I am optimistic this will happen very soon,” Kantor said.
EU should limit relations with Iranian leaders
On Iran’s repeated anti-Israeli rhetoric, Kantor says he expects from the European Union “to limit relations with current Iranian leadership to minimum.” “I want to stress – with the leadership, with the regime, but not with the people,” he added.
“We are convinced that EU leaders should at least keep pressing the Iranians on two tracks. First, it is the full stop of the Iranian nuclear programme and banning this country’s attempts to possess nuclear weapon and advanced nuclear technologies. It is obvious that Ahmadinejad with an atomic bomb is a threat not only for Israel and for Middle East, but for the whole world. And another thing we are expecting from the EU – to intensify efforts in combating with all expressions of anti-Semitism and violations of human rights which occurs daily in this country.”
He believes that the EU should also use its power to stop the commercial connections of European companies with the Iranian regime.
“They should understand that this is one of the reasons for this change in tone. When the Iranians see that they can continue on with their plans and Europe is not doing a thing, and even worse commercial ties are strengthening from day to day, they understand they could even tougher their approach.”
“Europe should always remember it history that words turn very fast to actions,” Kantor said.
He thinks that although European Union leaders are doing much for diminishing the threat of anti-Semitism, “it is not sufficient yet.”
“The EJC has been constantly paying attention of the European national leaders as well as the main players in the EU, Council of Europe and other institutions to the growing number of anti-Semitic and xenophobic incidents.”
European Tolerance Convention
“The tolerance to xenophobia is growing in Europe, neo-Nazis have already outnumbered the European Jews. That is why it is first of all so important to implement the pan-European laws to counteract xenophobia and anti-Semitism of any kind and scale.”
A code of laws called the ‘European Tolerance Convention’ will be presented for adoption to united Europe at the third ‘Let My People Live!’ international forum to be held in Strasbourg in November.
“The adoption of such a Convention by all European states will help to fight crimes based on ethnic and religious hatred,” Kantor stressed.
This event is scheduled to mark 70 years since the Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, the start of Nazi anti-Jewish progroms, as well as two other important events: 90 years since the outbreak of WWII and 60 years since the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“The EJC will also soon propose the establishment of a permanent European commission on anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia “where you would see prominent politicians and public figures of non-Jewish origin.”
This body would constantly monitor anti-Semitic manifestations and pay attention of the EU and national European authorities on the most acute problems.
Kantor mentioned earlier this week, at a meeting in Jerusalem of the “Global Forum for Combating anti-Semitism,” that in Russia “we have almost 100,000 skinheads and neo-Nazis.“
“According to some statistics agencies, only in Russia we have 50% of population with xenophobic disease. I think this can be referred to all of Europe.”