ADL unhappy with anti-Semitism parley speakers

Foxman says that while foreign officials “needed to be invited,” he is “uncomfortable with them keynoting the conference.”

May 28, 2013 02:52
3 minute read.
Abe Foxman

Abe Foxman 370. (photo credit: SAM SOKOL)

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 Monday.

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 conference.”

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 Netanyahu.

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.”

This, he said, implies that “everything is all right” is their countries.

High 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 Jewish groups.

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 need.

“You can make the case that we can do more,” he continued, “but the issue is not related to declarations and actions, it’s education.”

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 officials.

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- Israel.

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.

Asked 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 government.

“They are not legitimate.”

Related Content

Joan Rivers
August 28, 2014
Joan Rivers rushed to hospital following throat surgery


Cookie Settings