GENEVA – European Jewish Congress President Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor said that anti-Semitic acts over the last few months in Europe “completely changed” his understanding of the safety of Jews in the continent and that political leaders there have to “wake up” to the situation.
“I have more serious thoughts than before,” Kantor told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Tuesday, adding that incidents in Europe over the last several months “completely changed my understanding of the situation.”
The political leaders in Europe do not understand the problem and “have to wake up” to what is going on, he said.
Kantor, EJC president since 2007, is a prominent Russian- Jewish philanthropist who earned his fortune in Russia as a self-made businessman after taking over the Acron Group that specializes in mineral fertilizers in 1993 and turning it into one of the world’s top fertilizer companies.
Forbes estimates his net worth at $2.1 billion.
Kantor appeared on the Post list of the 50 most influential Jews in the world for 2014.
He holds a PhD in Spacecraft Automatic Control Systems and in 2004 was awarded an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University.
He raised alarm bells over the Jewish situation in Europe in the wake of the attack at the Brussels Jewish Museum last month by a French-Algerian man who had previously traveled to Syria in order to fight with jihadists.
He specifically called on the Belgian and French governments to do more about the rise of anti-Semitic attacks before more Jews are killed.
The most important thing to look at is not the number of incidents, Kantor said, but at “how governments are reacting” to them, adding that “France and Belgium are waiting for something terrible to happen” in order to take action, a situation that “is not acceptable.”
The EJC president believes that British authorities are doing a much better job of dealing with anti-Semitism.
Life is better for the Jews in the US, Israel, and Australia in comparison to EU Jews, he said.
Kantor believes that the situation of Jews in Russia is now better than in parts of Europe.
“Anti-Semitism in Russia has a latent character” while in Europe it is “aggressive,” he said, noting the rise of extreme-right movements in Hungary and Greece.
“Russian Jews do not want to leave Russia anymore” since the country is “flourishing” compared to Europe, he added.
Regarding the memory of the Holocaust in Europe, Kantor said that EU leaders don’t respect the continent’s history, adding, “that is why there are so many [Holocaust] skeptics.”
The Yad Vashem donor noted that while Holocaust commemoration is not the key to Jewish existence, it is important to continue to remember it.
Speaking of the political situation in Europe, Kantor said that Jews are caught in between two extremes – the far Right and Islamists.
Earlier this week, Kantor called on the European Parliament to strip the founder of the French far-right National Front party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, of his immunity, and to prosecute him after he reportedly made anti-Semitic references when speaking about Jewish singer Patrick Bruel.