TEL AVIV (EJP)—European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Moshe Kantor said that one of the worrying growths in 2010 was that of anti-Semitic comments made by prominent officials in Europe.
He was speaking on Sunday at the release of a new survey regarding the state of anti-Semitism worldwide by The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism and the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University.
The report noted that while the number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2010 was lower than in the previous year, much of this had to do with Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip which was still ongoing during January 2009.
But Kantor pointed out to the rise of what he called “respectable anti-Semitism.”
“This form of anti-Semitism is made by prominent and respectable officials whose words are heard by millions on TV screens and the radio, in newspapers and books and on the internet.”
He gave several examples of this form of anti-Semitism, including German Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin in his book on immigration issues, Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade, in an interview to a local radio station, Monsignor Cyril Salim Bustros, Greek Melkite Archbishop at a Vatican press conference and Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, a Greek Orthodox Church leader on Greek television.
“Each one of these incidents was not just problematic in its own right, they each evoked terrible anti-Semitic accusations that many thought were left behind by a new Europe,” Kantor said.
“That such prominent figures can evoke such anti-Semitic canards is extremely disturbing and worrying. Whereas many anti-Semites are seen as extremists who have little following and remain at the margins of society, these ‘respectable anti-Semites’ have power and their message resonates amongst millions.”
“While freedom of speech is a cornerstone of any democracy, before even this right is surely the right to life and security and hate speech endangers both. Tolerance is also important, but there needs to be a form of ‘limited tolerance’, which takes into account the demands of security.”
He called for a more robust definition of anti-Semitism and implementation to protect the Jews of Europe from racial hatred. “All levels of society need to be accountable for their words and their actions. Jews can not possibly feel safe on a continent whose prominent figures can say such things;” he continued.
“If the Jews of Europe can’t receive protection or respite from mainstream officials then we are entering a very dark period for Jewish Europe.”