Officially billed as the 5th. Global Forum for combating Anti-Semitism this gathering of delegates from most parts of the globe took place last week in Jerusalem…Michael Kuttner reports.
Judeophobia which to my mind more accurately describes the hate and delegitimization we currently face is indeed the longest surviving virus in the history of the human race. This having been the fifth such gathering we can safely assume that given the serious escalation of those being afflicted with this virus, previous attempts to combat it have not been entirely successful. Whether this conference will prove to be any more successful remains to be seen.
Speeches by the PM and Minister for Diaspora Affairs contained the usual ringing declarations and clarion calls for assertive action to combat hatred but given past performances and the sometime dysfunctional nature of Israeli officialdom most locals will wait and see what actually happens as opposed to what is spouted by politicians.
The most notable speech of the evening was given by the German Federal Minister of Justice who very candidly admitted that some laws on the statute books dated back to the Nazi era. He pledged to review and revise these anomalies so that definitions of hate, incitement and similar definitions are brought into line with current realities.
The next day’s proceedings commenced with a panel discussion entitled “the oldest hatred in the newest vessels: towards solutions.”
Trying to defend their somewhat erratic efforts at preventing hate posts were representatives of Google and Facebook. Although no doubt sincere in their desire to eliminate the vile sites available, attendees were generally dissatisfied and felt that more serious steps needed to be taken.
The afternoon’s session was entitled “the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe’s cities today: means of response.” Chaired by the President of CRIF (the French representative communal body), the panel also included the Education Minister of Bulgaria, the Vice Chair of the EU delegation for relations with Israel, Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance from Hungary and the Mayor of Sarcelles in France. This proved to be a lively session. We learnt that the situation for Jews in France is bad and getting worse despite the Government’s best efforts. Stationing army personnel in front of schools and Synagogues will obviously not carry on for long, given the costs involved. Bulgaria has a good record at saving its Jewish citizens during the war but like all other countries in Europe faces increasing challenges at combating rising waves of Judeophobia.
The EU representative is a committed Christian friend of Israel and Jews who promised to do all in his power to fight hate. However even he had to admit that the situation in the EU concerning Israel and Jews is dire. The Hungarian representative is also determined to combat hate but he was hard pressed to explain how the rise of the extreme fascist right in his country was going to be thwarted.
The following panel touched on the topic of “Faith as a resource for tolerance.” Chaired by Rabbi Michael Melchior the ever optimistic believer in peace in our time, the other panelists were a Sheikh from the UK who is active in the Quilliam Foundation, an Imam who is Vice President of the Islamic Religious Community of Italy, an Imam from Drancy, France and President of the Conference of Imams of France plus a Social Democrat Council representative from Copenhagen. I should make it clear that the Moslem representatives are all long time advocates of tolerance, moderation and interfaith outreach. They presented views which if adopted by Islamic groups in the Middle East and elsewhere would indeed constitute a major advance in combating Jihad and current extremist actions. We were left heartened by their outspoken manifestations of friendship and tolerance. However when reality kicks in we wonder where are the voices of the vast majority of Islamic leaders and followers? Can these moderates survive and influence their fellow believers or will they be drowned in the tsunamis of hate which threaten to engulf civilization?
The Danish speaker presented a bleak report on the rise of anti Jewish/Israel events in that country and which is representative of events in Scandinavia generally. Despite the eternal optimism of Rabbi Melchior one was left to ponder if indeed the problem has gone past the point of no return.
The last day of the Conference was devoted to workshops covering every conceivable topic associated with hatred and incitement. Position papers were produced with suggestions on how to combat the phenomenon ranging from more education amongst youth and adults, censorship of the internet, monitoring hate sites, outreach at universities and legislation amongst others.
At the end of the day and despite all the serious and important recommendations the proof of any success will lie in effective implementation. International co-ordination and co-operation on a more effective basis than hitherto is critical. We can safely predict that in two year’s time when the next global forum is convened the problem will still be with us. Jew and Israel hatred is unfortunately almost impossible to eradicate. It needs a united effort by all of us to speak out, monitor, educate, lobby politicians and above all eternal vigilance.
We must never ever let the haters off the hook.