Officials from Hungary, Ireland and Greece should not have been invited to give
opening speeches at Tuesday’s Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in
Jerusalem, Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman told The Jerusalem Post on
Foxman, who is in Israel for the international gathering convened
under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry, said that while the foreign
officials “needed to be invited,” he was “uncomfortable with them keynoting the
The speeches in question are to be given by Irish Justice
and Defense Minister Alan Shatter, Lithuanian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
Neris Germanas, Greek Deputy Minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights
Konstantinos Karagounis, Hungarian Public Administration and Justice Minister
Retvari Bence and Dr.
Mario Silva, chairman of the International
Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Their remarks are to follow opening
remarks by Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Foreign Minister
Ze’ev Elkin, and a video message by Prime Minister Binyamin
Excluding Silva from his remarks, Foxman noted that while the
European officials’ “presence is important,” he was surprised that they had been
invited to appear so prominently during the event.
“These are people who
need to be educated [about anti- Semitism],” he said, “and yet when you give
them that opening platform you give them greater legitimacies.”
said, implies that “everything is all right” is their countries.
levels of anti-Semitism in Greece and Hungary and the rapid growth of far-right
parties in these countries’ parliaments have been a matter of concern for many
Foxman told the Post that in his view, the significance of
their presence in Jerusalem is that “you want to impact on them how serious the
issue is, how broad the consensus is, not only in the Jewish community but to
people who come here.”
Reacting to a statement by the Foreign Ministry’s
Gideon Behar asserting that the conference will be geared toward action rather
than talk, Foxman said that while “you can always find more things that you can
do,” he has attended enough conferences across the globe – where “there is an
action plan and there is a commitment [and] then people go back and do what they
are doing” – to be slightly skeptical.
“I think we can probably find
going back to the first international conference, a commitment by the countries
that they would take stock, take inventory, measure anti- Semitism,” he said.
“They are not doing it. Most countries are not gathering data which would then
serve as a source and a resource to determine what actions they need or not
“You can make the case that we can do more,” he continued, “but the
issue is not related to declarations and actions, it’s
Calling education the only antidote to prejudice, Foxman said
that while much of his notoriety comes from public statements against
manifestations of anti-Semitism, most of his organization’s activities focus
around educational initiatives.
However, he stressed that his comments do
not mean he believes such conferences are without value, noting that they are
important for keeping anti-Semitism on the agenda, sharing best practices
between organizations and stressing the issue to government
Foxman also downplayed anti-Israel rhetoric on American
campuses, which many Jewish activists see as worrying.
Despite decades of
campus radicalism and pro-Arab rhetoric, he said, the overwhelming majority of
Americans who went through the university system are still pro-
Turning to the situation in Europe, Foxman called on leaders of
countries such as Greece and Hungary to ban far-right parties, as Israel did
with the anti-Arab Kach party of American-born Rabbi Meir Kahane.
what politicians such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán should do about
the rise of the extreme right, Foxman replied that “he should say that parties
that have a prejudice in their platform and express it have no place in
“They are not legitimate.”