Swastika grafitti 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Next month, the fourth International Conference of the Global Forum for
Combating Antisemitism will convene in Jerusalem under the auspices of the
Israeli Foreign Ministry. The forum, which was created four years ago in the
wake of a sharp upsurge in anti-Semitism worldwide, will bring together experts
from all over the world to discuss the most effective strategies to fight
against the continuing defamation of the Jewish people and the delegitimization
of the State of Israel.
In principle, this is a very important conference and
one which should contribute new ideas and increased motivation to those leading
the fight against the our unfortunately numerous enemies.
surprise, therefore, upon receiving the conference program and learning that
those scheduled to deliver greetings to the plenary at the opening ceremony are
in four out of five cases representatives of countries whose current record on
anti-Semitism is among the worst in Europe.
The countries in question
are, in order of appearance: Ireland, Lithuania, Greece and Hungary.
problem in this regard must be divided into two different categories. Ireland is
generally acknowledged to be the most actively anti- Israel country in Western
Europe, whereas Lithuania, Greece and Hungary all have hitherto consistently
failed to sufficiently address serious issues of anti-Semitism in their
countries; in some respects the governments themselves are directly responsible
for the problems.
In Lithuania, for example, the government has actively
promoted the Prague Declaration which supports the canard of historical
equivalency between Communist and Nazi crimes and seeks to undermine the
accepted narrative of the uniqueness of the Holocaust.
Nazi war criminals and collaborators and seeking to prosecute Jewish anti-Nazi
partisans on trumped up charges of war crimes, the authorities have failed to
apprehend, let alone punish, those responsible for a slew of attacks on Jewish
cemeteries and Holocaust memorials and even Jewish community institutions, the
number of which rose considerably in the wake of the ultra-nationalist agenda
implemented by the government.
In Greece, the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden
Dawn party, with its openly anti- Semitic rhetoric and blatant Holocaust denial
threaten Greek Jewry. In Hungary, World War II fascists, including Admiral
Miklos Horthy, who bears significant responsibility for the mass deportation of
437,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, are publicly honored, and the notoriously
anti-Roma and anti- Semitic Jobbik Party calls for the registration of Jews in
the Parliament and government ministries, accusing them of double loyalties, and
creating an anti- Semitic atmosphere which arouses memories of the darkest
periods in the history of the local Jewish community.
If the guests in
question were coming to Jerusalem to announce new policies which would
significantly contribute to the battle against anti-Semitism or against the
attacks on Israel in their countries, obviously their invitation to the forum
would be totally justified, but if past experience is any indicator, that will
not be the case. On the contrary, their “greetings” will be another opportunity
to whitewash the problem and extol the wonderful policies of the governments
Thus the guest of honor to the forum held in December
2009 was Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackes, who did not renounce his
country’s support for the Prague Declaration or apologize for past failures, but
rather used the platform to equate the phenomenon of Lithuanian collaboration in
Holocaust crimes with the heroic deeds of the Lithuanian Righteous, as if the
two were equivalent, when the number of local killers was many times that of the
Righteous, a classic example of rampant Lithuanian Holocaust
In response to an e-mail I sent to Deputy Foreign Minister
Ze’ev Elkin in this regard, a ministry spokesman replied that there were “many
good reasons to to hold this Global Forum exactly the way it is,” and emphasized
the practical aspects of strengthening the fight against anti-Semitism, which of
course entirely misses the point. No one doubts that the experts gathered can
and should benefit from the opportunity to exchange ideas and strategies, which
is the aim of the conference.
But what message does the Forum send when those
invited as honored guests represent the countries with the most serious
problems? If they were to participate in the various working groups and address
the plenary after meeting with the experts throughout the conference, there
might be room for optimism, but that is not what is planned. Their speeches open
the conference and they will not be around to hear its conclusions and undertake
to implement them in their countries, thus creating a very problematic and
disappointing scenario for all of us who hope for the Global Forum’s success and
recognize its potential importance.
The author is the director of the
Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem.