Austrian Kurz: We can’t undo history but we can do justice to our history

“Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are getting blurred but they are two sides of the same coin.” Chancellor Kurz said during his opening address.

November 21, 2018 15:30
3 minute read.
Austrian Chancellor

On Tuesday, at a gala dinner in Vienna’s Natural History Museum, co-hosted by the Chancellor and the EJC, Dr. Kantor awarded the 'Navigator of Jerusalem' Prize to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz for his commitment to the issues of antisemitism and Jewish security and for ensuring these are among the prior. (photo credit: COURTESY OF EJC)


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Detailed proposals and recommendations for combating antisemitism in Europe were presented on Wednesday at a conference in Vienna arranged by the Federal Chancellery of Austria led by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

The recommendations, called the “Catalogue of Policies to Combat Antisemitism,” were drawn up by the European Jewish Congress with the assistance of academics from universities in Vienna, Tel Aviv and New York.

Kurz said at the conference that he intends to bring the document before the European Council, the body comprising the 28 EU member heads of state that determines policy direction, at its next summit in December.

Raising the issue at the European Council would represent a serious effort in pushing for the adoption of the recommendations around the continent.

“Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are getting blurred, but they are two sides of the same coin,” Kurz said during his opening address at the high level conference, titled “Europe beyond antisemitism and anti-Zionism – securing Jewish life in Europe.”

“As Austrians, we have to be honest when we look back at our past – as Austria was not only a victim but also a perpetrator – but we must also look ahead to the future. We can’t undo history, but we can do justice to our history.”

Kurz said that he hoped that the definition of antisemitism and the conclusions presented at the conference will ensure Jewish safety in Austria, Europe and beyond.

The recommendations, which it is hoped will be adopted by the EU and by national governments, include adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism; the appointment by EU countries of a special commissioner for combating antisemitism; a commitment of a percentage of GDP annually to fighting antisemitism; barring antisemites from political parties and public office; committing financial and other resources to guaranteeing security for Jewish communities in Europe; making Internet companies liable for antisemitic content on their platforms; and advising companies not to do business with countries or organizations that support antisemitism in any way.

“Today, on European streets, people are being killed again simply for being Jewish,” said European Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor at the summit.

“Jewish communities in Europe are increasingly concerned about their security and pessimistic about their future. Europe doesn’t have a monopoly on antisemitism anymore. No Jewish community anywhere in the world, however strong and well organized, is now immune from Jew hatred. Fighting antisemitism deserves much more than simple statements of good will – we need concrete policies and reinforced legislation.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a recorded video speech at the conference, which he was scheduled to attend but had to cancel due to political difficulties with his coalition.

Netanyahu said that a lesson learned from the Holocaust was that it was critical to fight against “hatred, barbarity and extremism” from the beginning to prevent the situation deteriorating further.

“The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers of Auschwitz,” Netanyahu said. “The Holocaust began with the spread of hate speech, the burning of books and the smashing of shop windows.”

The prime minister said that antisemitism was resurgent again “throughout the world,” and that a new antisemitism has arisen which attempts “to demonize the Jewish state and prevent the Jewish people the right to self-determination in the homeland of our forefathers, the Land of Israel.

“When every nation except the Jewish people has the right to determine its flag, anthem and national identity, this is antisemitism,” he said, but added that both modern and “traditional” antisemitism must be combated, a reference to far-right and nationalist hatred of Jews.

“Chancellor Kurtz – Sebastian – you are a true friend of Israel and a true friend of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said. “I thank you for taking a clear moral stand against antisemitism. You stand firmly in your efforts to recognize history, defend the truth and fight antisemitism in Austria and throughout Europe.”

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