Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism
13 October 2021
Speech by EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor
Dear Prime Minister Löfven,
Thank you, dear Stefan, for this forum and for the historic pledges of your government.
The Swedish pledges will be followed up without any doubt by your colleagues – decision makers from other countries.
And today, European Commission pledges are the most mighty and brilliant example of that.
I would like to express my special gratitude to Ursula Von Der Leyen, Margaritis Schinas and Katharina von Schnurbein for such a concrete and remarkable strategy to foster Jewish life in Europe.
This conference is the most dignified follow up to the historic World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem in 2020.
As President of the European Jewish Congress, I want to share with you my deep concern about the rise in antisemitism, extremism and disinformation across the world.
In the past year, conspiracy theories have spread about Jews, the Jewish people or the State of Israel, as being behind the pandemic, or profiting from it with a large scale vaccination campaign.
Young people are particularly exposed to antisemitic disinformation.
And so today, I would like to focus on the challenges that especially young people face all over the world.
Historically, desperate young people have been an easy target for extremists of all kinds, who have seduced them into their ideologies using sweet promises.
It was young Afghan boys from refugee camps and nearby villages, some as young as 6, who were first attracted to the ideas and practices of the Taliban.
It was Chinese schoolchildren at the average age of 16 who stormed houses and destroyed invaluable artefacts during the cultural revolution.
Very few of us know that the perpetrators of Kristallnacht were as young as 17.
Revolution is devouring its own children. But today we have to modify the famous quote of the French revolution “Extremism is devouring our kids”.
Today, there are 1.8 billion people under the age of 25 in the world, the largest number ever and still growing.
Over the past year and a half, young people have been locked down and exposed 24/7 to online disinformation, extremism and antisemitism.
Never in history was a young generation so intensively brainwashed with conspiracy theories and lies, and at the same time so unfamiliar with the tragedy of the Holocaust.
Therefore, preventing young people from falling into extremism is one of the fundamental challenges of our time.
But so far, the majority of our strategies has failed.
For example, methods focused on security have come at a great expense, and they have increased stigmatisation as well as isolation.
There are two basic ways out of this crisis.
Firstly, there is the conventional way, providing young people with homes, education and jobs, we call this triangle HEJ foundations. We have to fix young people’s basic interests according to transparent social contracts.
This is an extremely important long-term task that can take a generation and cost trillions.
We already lost one generation to the financial crisis of 2008-2009.
If we do not provide young people with the tools to become economically active, if we do not adapt to the digital age and to new economic processes, we may lose a second one to the economic effects of the pandemic.
We must invest more in young people; we need a new social contract between generations.
The current EU leadership does a lot in that direction, fighting first of all youth unemployment and we appreciate so much these crucial steps.
But there is a second path. I would like to propose in parallel a new strategy based on using social influence with powerful influencers and social media platforms.
These methods are comparatively fast and doable.
First of all, we need to identify groups of young people who are united by the same age, interests, as well as social conditions and assign them to corresponding target groups.
For each of them, we need to find the most relevant influencers and build social platforms that will attract them and open their souls and minds.
Young people trust communicators of their own age and interest group the most. Social influence can therefore be an opportunity, not a problem.
The peers addressing their corresponding groups are called micro-influencers.
A very interesting fact. The latest research conducted during the pandemic in the UK shows that a young individual or group can be discouraged from extremist activity in just one session, just in one talk if we succeed to find relevant influencers and relevant platforms.
At the same time, there is a second type of influencers – mega-influencers – heroes and role models of young people who are able to spread content to millions.
Elite football players, members of royal families, popular artists, scientists, and religious leaders should be mobilised to join our struggle for young souls.
We cannot win the fight against antisemitism without winning the fight against extremism in general.
We can turn social media from a possible mental health catastrophe into the most effective way of combatting antisemitism.
The EJC would like to contribute to this important initiative and if your countries are interested in exploring this possibility please contact us.
In conclusion, dear mega influencers sitting here in this room, the struggle with extremism and antisemitism is completely in your hands.
Thank you very much.