Speech by EJC President Moshe Kantor at the Annual European Commission Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in Brussels

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Dear First Vice President of the European Commission, dear Frans,

Dear Ministers, Commissioners, Members of the European Parliament

Dear Rabbis, Dear Imams,

Dear honourable guests,

Dear Friends,

We are here today to focus on analysis and synthesis of what should be done regarding anti-Semitism in Europe.

The relatively stable world of the past 70 years has been destroyed. We are facing a new, rather dangerous twenty-first century world. History is developing according to Huntington rather than Fukuyama.

The memory of the Holocaust will no longer prevent Europe from historical amnesia. One should make no mistake about this. It is merely part of the ‘new normality’.

A part of the new normality is the continuous wide parade of devaluations of national currencies, which leads to savings being wiped out and puts the brakes on investment. Incomes decrease as well as prices for raw materials. This in turn obstructs not only economic growth, but also the development of ‘green technologies’.

The explosion of religious extremism, nationalism, political radicalism and anti-Semitism has become a frightening reality. According to research carried out by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) at the end of 2014, 75% of European Jews considered anti-Semitism to be a ‘major problem’ in their countries. In 2014, the number of attacks with casualties had doubled.

The rate of anti-Semitism in Europe is so high that for the first time in its history the UN General Assembly had to hold a special session on anti-Semitism in January 2015.

Having been persecuted for centuries, burnt in the furnaces of the concentration camps, Jews feel the threat at the genetic level. But the problem here is more than just anti-Semitism. The attitude to Jews is the barometer of a society’s health, of its socio-economic and political sustainability and the social contract. Europe is ready to explode with violence and the European home has become a dangerous one. This is the new normality.

Over the past 3 years, tens of thousands of Jews have left Europe. Currently a third of almost three million European Jews are thinking about emigration. This is a new exodus without any exaggeration.

With the departure of Jews, Europe is losing the driver of its growth, its vital ferment, the Judaeo-Christian roots of its culture, one of the pillars of its civilisation. It is losing the carriers of the basic European values of tolerance, loyalty, humanism and enlightenment; it is losing those who have suffered for many centuries to achieve these benefits and who value them highly. Europe is losing those who obey the millennial rule of the Talmud for life in the Diaspora: ‘The law of the land is the law’. Dear friends, pay attention, this rule was formulated by Rav Samuel 1800 years ago. For us, Jews, it is a formula for survival. Other European minorities should be aware of this formula too.

European Jews clearly remember being driven out of Germany after ‘Kristallnacht’ – and also of how not a single European country was willing to take them in, how St. Louis ship returned from the USA to Europe. That is why I support granting a status of refugees to migrants fleeing mass murder and seeking asylum for political reasons.

But Europe’s main challenge is not only terrorism. We have to be quite clear that 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, the appearance of hundreds of thousands of new migrants in Europe will greatly intensify radical tendencies, of course including anti-Semitism. The possible consequences of such a “synergy” are frightening! European integration may turn into European pogroms!

So we are facing a basic question:

What is to be done?

First priority steps:

Preventive measures and immediate action to regulate migration are of the utmost urgency. I mention this problem because it triggers not only common instability, but also will lead to the most radical anti-Semitism in future.

We need, as a matter of urgency, to unite police forces and police efforts to locate and deport recently arrived illegal migrants, enforce strict registration of refugees, identify and neutralise Islamists and terrorists.

Immediately restore and strengthen cooperation on all previously endorsed initiatives and UN Security Council resolutions on nuclear terrorism;

It is essential that we ensure maximum permissible cooperation between special services and intelligence agencies to identify and interdict any attempt to seize nuclear materials for preparing nuclear terrorist attacks.

We need to assure that nuclear terrorism will not enhance the crisis of anti-semitism in Europe.

What is Europe doing to deal with the growing anti-Semitism?

Certain measures and decisions have already been approved by the governments of European countries, but have not yet been implemented.

Where is the European Special Envoy on anti-Semitism? Such position exists in the USA, Germany and France – and yet there is none in the EU. To that end, a special EU Task Force should be created with a dedicated Envoy on anti-Semitism. This body should manage and monitor the essential requirements and ensure cooperation between different authorities and officials dealing with the policies that need to be implemented as part of the battle against anti-Semitism.

It should also include and regularly interact with representatives of the Jewish communities who have invaluable experience and stand at the forefront of this battle, like in the UK and France.

25 speakers of national European parliaments endorsed the 2015 Prague Declaration on combatting anti-Semitism and hate crimes. But where is the change in national legislation to counteract anti-Semitism and extremism?

Where is the Model Law on Tolerance that defines the limits of tolerance, which is the demand for security?

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

For the time being, we must strictly execute already existing laws. In terms of that existing legislation we must:

  • Accept international definition of anti-Semitism ensuring that the limits of hate will be clearly defined. 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.

It will take a lot of education effort to foster among old and new Europeans a spirit of European values. That work must be focused on the idea that anti-Semitism is a threat and a danger not only for Jews, but 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.

Shakespeare, if alive today, would rephrase his basic question: ‘ARE JEWS PART OF EUROPE OR APART FROM EUROPE?’

Thank you for your attention and understanding!