Int'l conference on anti-Semitsm set for J'lem

Meeting's aim is to formulate “concrete action plan” to “combat anti-Semitism’s growing threat.”

May 27, 2013 05:41
2 minute read.
Nazi imagery used in graffiti [file]

Swastika grafitti 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Foreign diplomats, Jewish communal heads and representatives of nongovernmental organizations from over 50 nations will convene in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening for the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, to formulate what the Foreign Ministry terms a “concrete action plan” to “combat anti-Semitism’s growing threat.”

The conference is a joint venture of the Foreign and Diaspora Affairs ministries.

This year’s three-day meeting, the first meeting of the GFCA since 2009, will not be “a conference of speeches,” Gideon Behar, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Combating Anti-Semitism, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“Many people feel that we need to adopt a different approach in tackling anti-Semitism,” he explained, noting that critics have complained that “we are too much into talking.”

As such, he said, the “conference is geared toward action.”

There will be 10 working groups, each with a different focus, and Behar hopes that the participants, aside from contributing to the conference’s final document, an “Action Plan for Combating Anti-Semitism 2013 and Beyond,” will continue to work together between gatherings.

Among the issues on the table at the event will be the defense of both traditional circumcision and ritual slaughter, which have come under increasing attack in Europe.

The action plan “will not be a theoretical document, but a real blueprint for action,” Behar wrote.

The working groups will focus on issues such as anti-Semitism in the Muslim and Arab world and in the former Soviet Union and anti-Semitism in the guise of delegitimization.

In a letter to participants, Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin asserted that while Israel is at the forefront of the effort to combat anti-Semitism, “responsibility lies with the leadership of every state in which anti-Semitism still exists.”

Among those in attendance will be representatives of the Muslim communities of the UK and Albania, whose participation Behar sees as extremely important.

There are “many millions of moderates Muslims and Arabs in the world,” and it is “very important” that Israel engage in “building bridges with the Muslim world,” he said.

Several countries that have come under fire from Jewish groups will be represented, such as Ireland, Greece and Hungary.

Israel boycott efforts by Irish unions have alienated many Jews, while anti-Semitic political parties have seen rapid growth in Hungary and Greece.

A Canadian representative of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance will be one of the opening speakers at the event.

Senior officials from Ireland, Greece, Lithuania and Hungary will also deliver opening greetings.

Critics of the conference have voiced concern over the presence of these latter speakers. In an op-ed in this newspaper condemning the “whitewashing of anti- Semitism,” Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, wrote that he was shocked 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.

“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,” Zuroff wrote.

However, he argued, “their ‘greetings’ will be another opportunity to whitewash the problem and extol the wonderful policies of the governments they represent.”

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