Speech by President of the European Jewish Congress Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor at the Closing Plenary Session of the Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” – “European Challenges and Ways to Overcome Them”. Rhodes

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Dear participants of the Dialogue of Civilizations Forum,

For three days, we have been trying to get a glimpse of the future, to see the “World Beyond Global Disorder”, and a “Prosperous Future Together”.

Indeed, Rhodes is a place, which inspires foresight. However, here one also thinks about history, wondering: how did this wonderful island of Dorian Greeks manage to survive the Persian, Arabic, Egyptian and Turkish invasions and preserve its inimitable European identity?

Will Rhodes, Greece and Europe be able to preserve their civilisation and values in such circumstances, when almost a million immigrants have fled to Europe over the last few months?

Will Rhodes, Greece and Europe be able to find a sustainable way to overcome the financial and economic instability? A way other than the notorious “Grexit”?

We must find solutions that will save Europe physically and as a civilisation. And find them here, in Rhodes, as it was said in Aesop’s famous fable, Hic Rhodus, hic salta (“Here is Rhodes, jump here!”, which means: prove what you can do here and now.)

I am going to focus on one of the real threats to both the security and the civilisational nature of Europe – the explosive growth of anti-Semitism.

Memory of the Holocaust does not protect Europe from historical amnesia anymore. There should be no mistake here.

Anti-Semitism is like cancer. It is a dreadful sign of systemic disease, a loss of immunity to evil, a de-civilisation of society.

It is true: today, anti-Semitism in Europe goes together with the outbreak of religious extremism, Islamophobia, nationalism, political radicalism and terrorism. The European home has become dangerous.

According to research conducted by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) at the end of 2014, 75% of European Jews considered anti-Semitism a “grave problem” in their countries. In 2014, the number of attacks with casualties doubled.

For the first time in its history, the UN General Assembly had to hold a special meeting in January 2015 on anti-Semitism.

It is a hybrid war going on against European Jews now! It includes anti-Semitic propaganda on the Internet and attacks on schools and synagogues. And it is a part of the hybrid war against Europe!

Violence triumphs! But Jews are not the only ones who suffer.

Today, 44,000 people around the world are fleeing violence each day. In 2014, 123 million people needed humanitarian aid. Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon offered asylum to more than 3 million refugees. Approximately one million from North Africa and Afghanistan has come to Europe.

Meanwhile, over the past two or three years, tens of thousands of Jews have left Europe. Having been persecuted for centuries, burnt in the furnaces of the concentration camps, Jews feel the threat at the genetic level. Now, one-third of Europe’s nearly three million Jews are planning to emigrate. This is a new exodus, without exaggeration.

With an outflow of Jews, Europe is losing a driver of growth, a vital ferment, the Judeo Christian roots, one of the pillars of civilisation. It is losing people who represent the basic European values: tolerance, humanism and enlightenment.

It is losing those who obey the millennial Talmud rule: “The law of the land is the law.” This is a formula for survival for Jews, and other European minorities should be aware of it too. Europe is losing people who are truly open to the dialogue of civilisations.

Jews know what it is like to be migrants. They clearly remember their expulsion from Germany after die Kristallnacht. How none of the European countries gave them asylum. How St. Louis ship loaded with Jews returned to Europe from the United States. That is why I support granting a status of refugees to migrants fleeing mass murder and seeking political asylum.

But granting asylum to ISIS militants is destructive. You remember ISIS’ threats to send 500,000 terrorists to Europe. They are capable of bringing a dirty nuclear bomb to Europe. Here is another Armageddon scenario: a hand grenade goes off in the radiology unit of a medical centre in any European megalopolis, causing radioactive contamination of a wide area and panic.

Still, Europe’s main challenge is not only terrorism. Even the well-intentioned young men fleeing to Europe are people from a different culture, with different traditions and different religion. They come from countries with totalitarian regimes, where anti-Semitism is a policy, Israel is evil and to kill a Jew is а pious deed.

These people have not been brought up and educated in the spirit of religious and ethnic dialogue, nor versed in the fundamentals of democracy. The successful integration of these immigrants is a huge challenge for Europeans.

Clearly, migration flow will intensify radical trends in Europe, including anti-Semitism. The possible consequences of such a “synergy” are frightening! European integration may turn into European pogroms!

Thus, we see two existential challenges and threats to Europe – to its security and civilisation.

Restrictive measures alone will not solve this problem, but will only aggravate the situation.

So, what is to be done?

First, we shall ensure security.

Europe cannot be secure alone. We need common, global efforts to settle the conflicts and crises in the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan. We need to support normal living conditions in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey. And Europe recently took a step in this direction.

We need to unite police forces and police efforts to strictly regulate migration, to identify and neutralise terrorists.

The nuclear powers must lay aside their disputes of the last two years and immediately revive and strengthen their cooperation under all initiatives and resolutions on nuclear terrorism adopted by the UN Security Council. They have to ensure cooperation between special services and intelligence agencies to interdict seizure of nuclear materials by terrorists.

We need close coordination and cooperation between Europe, the U.S., Russia and the countries of the Middle East in the fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups and networks. We already see some progress in this direction. Today, the main task for civil society and the expert community is to support these efforts and give them momentum at the public level. The Dialogue of Civilizations Forum is exactly the format that encourages this process.

To ensure security in Europe we need to adapt the legal sphere and – as minimum – strictly implement the existing laws.

I remain convinced that democracy is impossible without pluralism and tolerance. But respecting these values implicates that hate crimes must be prosecuted, and that tolerance of anti-Semitism – as any hate crime – is unacceptable. Intolerance should be recognized, and punishment for it must be more severe than a crime itself. Otherwise, we destroy the platform of democracy.

In terms of that existing legislation, we must:

  • Accept international definition of anti-Semitism clearly defining the limits of hate. We should openly and publicly unmask racists and expose them to legal actions against hate crimes.
  • Toughen law enforcement and introduce criminal liability for anti-Semitic propaganda, including on the Internet and social networks.
  • Oblige EU law enforcement agencies to take special training courses on combating anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

To save civilisation we have to take a lot of education efforts to foster European values among old and new Europeans. To make them understand, that anti-Semitism is a threat and a danger not only for Jews, but also for all Europeans.

We are speaking about anti-Semitism, having in mind that radical Islamists and terrorists are equally dangerous for both Jews and our dear Muslim neighbours.

We need everyday Dialogue of Civilizations!

Thank you for your attention and understanding!