The European Union issued a strong message of intolerance for anti-Semitism on Wednesday prior to the onset of the Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day.
The EU delegation to Israel said that it mourns all of the victims of the Holocaust and that “honoring their memory means for us to stand strong against anti-Semitism, prejudice, and racial discrimination in all their forms and wherever they occur.”
According to the statement, which was issued jointly with 26 EU member states, such a position is “true today more than ever. Seventy years after the Shoah, we still encounter anti-Semitism in Europe,” “There are Jewish communities in Europe that again feel insecure and we have been sadly reminded that violent anti-Semitism, intolerance, and fanaticism remain a threat. As a union built on the values of human dignity and human rights after the tragedies of two world wars and the Shoah, we will not allow the return of the demons of anti-Semitism, racism, and intolerance. Never forget. Never again.”
Meeting with a Belgian Jewish delegation on Wednesday, First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans indicated that “often anti-Semitism is also hidden behind anti-Zionism and malicious criticism of the state of Israel,” the Forum der Joodse Organisaties said in a statement.
According to the Belgian Jewish representative body, Timmermans likewise agreed that while both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are terrible, they do not share a common origin and cannot be fought in the same way.
Jewish organizations worldwide expressed shock and dismay last week following the announcement that the European Commission is planning on holding a conference that implies an equivalence between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
The first annual colloquium on fundamental rights in the EU, held by the racism watchdog organization and titled “Tolerance and respect: Preventing and combating anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe,” is scheduled to be held in Brussels in early October.
During the meeting Timmermans also said that he would consider the Belgian Jewish community’s request that he establish either a director or appoint a special envoy tasked with combating anti-Semitism in Europe.
Last month EU Foreign Affairs chief Federica Mogherini issued a statement to an Italian newspaper in which she endorsed the idea of an EU anti-Semitism task-force.
“Jews belong to Europe like the Acropolis. A Europe without Jews is not Europe anymore,” he asserted, echoing politicians in France and elsewhere who have pegged the validity of their respective identities on their treatment of the Jewish minority.
“I transferred the idea to Frans Timmermans, who has the formal authority in this issue, and we are already working on various initiatives,” she was quoted as saying.
The Swedish government on Wednesday said that it has “proposed in its spring budget a substantial increase in state funding for the safety and security of synagogues, temples, mosques and other places of worship, while extending the mandate of the national coordinator for the prevention of violent extremism.”
Sweden has also invested millions of Kronors in The Living History Forum, a body which utilizes the history of the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity to promote tolerance and plans to establish and “national knowledge center against racism” in Gothenburg.
On the law enforcement front, the Swedish police has decided to establish a hate crime unit in the city and to strengthen such units in Stockholm and Malmo, a hotbed of Muslim anti-Semitism.
Efforts to capture and try former Nazis throughout Europe have improved greatly in Germany but remain lackluster elsewhere, especially in Austria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine, “which have consistently failed to hold any Holocaust perpetrators accountable, primarily due to a lack of the requisite political will, as well as Sweden and Norway which in principle refuse to investigate, let alone prosecute, due to a statute of limitations,” the Simon Wisenthal Center announced on Tuesday in its annual report.
“During the past 14 years, at least 102 convictions against Nazi war criminals have been obtained, at least 98 new indictments have been filed, and well over 3,500 new investigations have been initiated.
Despite the somewhat prevalent assumption that it is too late to bring Nazi murderers to justice, the figures clearly prove otherwise, and we are trying to ensure that at least several of these criminals will be brought to trial during the coming years.
“While it is generally assumed that it is the age of the suspects that is the biggest obstacle to prosecution, in many cases it is the lack of political will, more than anything else, that has hindered the efforts to bring Holocaust perpetrators to justice, along with the mistaken notion that it was impossible at this point to locate, identify, and convict these criminals,” said Wisenthal Center Nazi-hunter and Israel director Dr. Efraim Zuroff.