Your Royal Highnesses,
And dear Holocaust survivors,
I would like to begin by expressing my deepest gratitude to President Rivlin, who two years ago strongly supported the idea to lead the Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, under the special partnership of Yad Vashem and European Jewish Congress.
I would like to address here today three points:
- Why is antisemitism a threat to humanity and not only for the Jewish people?
- What is the situation today of antisemitism and especially for European Jews?
- What are the practical steps that must be taken to stop this threat?
When granting equal rights to the Jews of France, Napoleon Bonaparte said “the national attitude towards Jews is the barometer of society’s civilization”.
And why is that?
Historically, Jews were always among the most loyal citizens of their countries, and did their best to integrate and to become pillars of society in all walks of life.
And so, for all those who wanted to dismantle the fabric of society, extremists from both right and left, the Jews were a symbol of society’s foundations.
Rejection of the Jews was a rejection of the world order. they were always the first target, but by no means the last.
The Nazis erased one third of the Jewish people, 6 million, but in total, more than 60 million people were killed during the second world war, and the world just stopped at the gates of destruction.
If extremists are not stopped at the gates of antisemitism, they will eventually take over executive power in their states.
And what is the situation today?
Who could imagine that just 75 years after the Holocaust, Jews would again be afraid to walk the streets of Europe wearing Jewish symbols?
Who would have imagined that synagogues would be attacked and cemeteries destroyed/desecrated on a regular basis.
As President of the European Jewish Congress, I can only offer you a picture of communities hiding behind high fences and thick security doors.
More than 80% of them feel unsafe in Europe today, while more than 40% are considering leaving Europe entirely and in recent years 3% have done so annually.
If we think about this figure for a moment, it means that at this rate in only 30 years there could be no Jews in Europe.
What must be done?
Firstly, we must educate – about the Holocaust and about the dangers of antisemitism, racism and xenophobia. and particularly from an early age.
Secondly, we must introduce meaningful legislation and thirdly fully enforce it.
In this regard, there is so much that we can learn from one another.
- Germany adopted a law, two years ago, against online hate speech, addressing one of the most powerful platforms for antisemitism and racism today – the internet.
- The United States has recently adressed the growing antisemitism on university campuses, with an executive order which permits restricting of federal funds for universities that do not combat antisemitism.
- France passed legislation against boycotts of people and products based on nationality, addressing the new type of antisemitism which targets the Jewish state.
A few weeks ago, they passed a resolution acknowledging that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism!
- Great britain is a model of how to effectively respond to antisemitism. It created a taskforce, combined of law enforcement agencies, legal institutions and civil society organisations, to effectively coordinate and act against antisemitism.
- And Russia where we find maybe the lowest rates of antisemitism due to a very uncompromising, long term policy towards antisemitism.
And antisemitic incidents are treated with maximum severity.
Therefore, practically eliminating antisemitism in the public arena.
These 5 positive examples of strong leadership should be common all over Europe and the world.
So to resume, we have to equate legally and practically the words and actions of anti-Semitism to the words and actions of extremism and terrorism.
Otherwise it will be too late when extremism takes over executive power, country by country, which means your power and our mutual future.
We are together today, united in our words and in our belief for a future free from antisemitism, racism and xenophobia. together we will plant the seeds of trust and belief so that our daily prayers for salvation will be answered.
I thank each and every one of you for being here and for your dedication, belief and commitment.