BERLIN – Dan Tichon, a former Knesset speaker, handed over the chairmanship of the International Holocaust Task Force to Ambassador Karel P.M. de Beer of the Netherlands in Berlin on Tuesday.

The ITF, whose full name is the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, seeks to expand Holocaust education as a global project.

Meanwhile, The Jerusalem Post learned from an official with access to the membership application process that Croatia has blocked Serbia’s efforts to join the ITF.

Daniel Gluncic, a spokesman for the Croatian Embassy in Berlin, told the Post on Wednesday that the denial of Serbia’s application “was not a topic” at Tuesday’s event. He said, however, that he could not say whether or not there had been a Croatian government decision to stymie Serbia’s chances for membership.

The Post source at the event said the push to deny entry to Serbia was filled with historic irony because the Croatian fascist Ustashe separatist movement during World War II was aligned with Nazi Germany and waged an extermination campaign against Serbs and Jews in the former Yugoslavia.

The Israeli government held the chairmanship of the 28-nation member organization for a year.

In an interview with the Post in Berlin on Tuesday, Task Force coordinator Jacob Rosen, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan, said the Dutch have “a lot of experience in Holocaust education.”

The Netherlands helped found the Task Force in 1998 and is chairing the group for the second time.

Rosen, asked about the highlights of Israel’s chairmanship, said an International Training Team was introduced to foster education in countries seeking to gain admittance to the Task Force. Portugal, Slovenia and Macedonia are at different stages of meeting the criteria for acceptance.

In December, according to Rosen, the ITF jump-started a “liaison committee” to promote talks with the governments of Libya, Algerian, Tunisia and Morocco. The Nazis set up detention camps for Jews in many North African countries. German troops worked closely with the Vichy France to persecute and detain Jews in North Africa.

Rosen also noted that on Israel’s watch a series of six lectures, which can be accessed on the Task Force website (www.holocausttaskforce.org), were implemented to raise awareness about Holocaust education.

Rosen said Israel’s chairmanship sought to expand the “scope of the ITF to go beyond Europe into new emerging democracies like India, Brazil and Philippines.” He also cited New Zealand and Japan as countries for the ITF to focus on.

Tichon’s chairmanship was marked by statements criticizing the treatment of the Roma and Sinti populations (both are known as Gypsies). In September, Tichon said in a statement, “As the chair of an organization dedicated to the remembrance of the Holocaust and the victims of genocide during the Second World War, I am deeply troubled to see the Roma subjected to racial prejudice, hate crimes, expulsions, and even in some cases murder. I condemn these practices and call on all governments to protect the rights of this vulnerable minority, whose communities still suffer from their persecution and genocide under Nazi rule.”

The Task Force has a consensus-driven decision making process among its 28 members. That helps to explain why countries like France and Hungary, which are both members, were not cited in Task Force statements for their alleged mistreatment of the Roma and Sinti communities. Diplomatic sensitivities —similar to the UN Security Council voting structure — play an enormous role when a chairman seeks to garner a consensus vote.

France’s deportations of Roma and Sinti last year prompted widespread EU criticism of its anti-immigration policies.

Tichon sharply criticized Tehran in September for spreading Holocaustdenial material. “It has come to my attention that a foundation linked to the Iranian regime has recently launched a website in English, Arabic and Farsi, dedicated to disseminating Holocaust-denial propaganda and anti- Semitic imagery to an international audience. The website promotes the idea that the Holocaust is a myth fabricated to advance the interests of the Jews and the State of Israel. Through crude cartoons and pseudo-historical statements it depicts Jews as murderers and money-worshippers,” Tichon said in a statement.


He added, “The Iranian government has a history of vocal Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. The ITF issued a statement against the caricature contest held by the Iranian government in 2006 intending to ridicule the Holocaust.

In 2009, the ITF chair from Norway condemned the anti-Semitic hate speech propagated by the Iranian president.

Now, as the ITF chair for 2010, I am also compelled to condemn, in the strongest terms, this latest incitement to Holocaust denial intended to spread vile anti-Semitic propaganda over the Internet.”

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