Greece's Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)
Since 2007, I have actively participated in all three global forums held in
Jerusalem to combat anti- Semitism. These are undoubtedly important and
necessary gatherings which enable a wide variety of concerned, professional and
committed people from around the world to meet, exchange ideas and energize
In these difficult times when Jews find themselves under
attack from many different quarters, the need for such a forum is beyond
Nevertheless, the concrete results from earlier meetings of the
forum were somewhat disappointing. There have also been some disturbing
political decisions made whose logic seems difficult to understand.
example, already four years ago, I was astonished to note that the Lithuanian
foreign minister had been given a prominent platform despite his country’s
efforts to downplay the anti- Semitism and the pro-Nazi collaboration of many of
its citizens during the Holocaust.
At the time, I hoped this was just an
unfortunate aberration that would never be repeated. However, as Efraim Zuroff,
head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Office, has recently stressed, the
upcoming Global Forum (set for the end of May 2013) has not only repeated but,
worse still, greatly aggravated the blunder of 2009.
This time around, it
is senior government officials from Greece, Ireland and Hungary, as well as
Lithuania, who have been given the honor of addressing the forum – though these
four countries have tainted records (to say the least) when it comes to the
current struggle against anti-Semitism.
In Greece, for example, the
European Union’s leading neo-Nazi parliamentary party, the Golden Dawn, openly
espouses a vicious anti-Semitism as well as brazen Holocaust denial, yet the
Greek government has failed to take any effective action against it. As for
Ireland, it has adopted a fiercely anti- Israel policy within the EU and
recently its teachers’ union openly advocated the boycott of
Lithuania, however, is a far worse case. For the past two
decades, it has consistently omitted or minimized the massive scale of the
nation’s complicity in the Holocaust, which greatly contributed to the barbaric
slaughter of 95 percent of Lithuania’s 200,000 Jews 70 years ago. Rather than
honestly confront this appalling record, the Lithuanian government has
continuously stressed the Soviet “genocide” of Lithuanians, even insinuating
that Jews were involved in these Communist war crimes.
As elsewhere in
Eastern Europe, the uniqueness of the Holocaust has been blurred through a
misleading equation of Nazism with Communist tyranny.
This, in itself, is
a dangerous form of Holocaust revisionism, aggravated by willingness to tolerate
open neo-Nazi parades in Lithuanian cities on major holidays. Is this the
country that is supposed to provide a model for combating anti-Semitism? Worse
still is the folly of granting a central role to an official representative of
Hungary. Earlier this month, Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban addressed delegates
of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in Budapest, claiming that his government
displayed “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism.
Yet, the facts on the
ground belie this assertion. Over the years, Orban’s ruling Fidesz party has
played down or turned a blind eye to the activities of Jobbik – the aggressively
anti-Semitic party which won 17% of the votes only three years ago in the
Hungarian national elections. Moreover, Orban is known to be friendly with the
writer Zsolt Bayer, whose appalling comments about Hungary’s Roma gypsies and
obscene comparison of Jews to “stinking excrements” are well known.
long ago Orban and his party took their time before issuing a rather tepid
condemnation of Jobbik’s deputy, Marton Gyongyosi, who had publicly described
Hungary’s Jews as a “risk to national security.” For good measure, the day
before the WJC event, Gyongyosi told demonstrators in Budapest that Hungary “has
become subjugated by Zionism” and Jewish influence. It is also worth noting that
nearly half of the parliamentarians belonging to the Hungarian-Iranian
friendship committee (which Gyongyosi chairs) belong to Fidesz.
hardly friends of Israel.
Orban’s rather abstract remarks about
anti-Semitism to the World Jewish Congress lack credibility. Unfortunately, they
ignored the gravity of the real threat to Hungary’s Jews and the highly
ambiguous role of his own Fidesz party in creating the ugly anti-Semitic climate
existing in the land of the Magyars.
The facts are somber
A recent ADL survey showed that more than 70% of Hungarians
believe Jews have too much power in business and finance. In this context one
has to ask why on earth any Hungarian official should be given a place of honor
in the Global Forum in Jerusalem devoted to fighting anti-Semitism.
so I wonder: Is this the best that the Israeli Foreign Ministry can do? The
author holds the Neuberger Chair of Modern European and Jewish History at the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is the director of the Vidal Sassoon
International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA). His most recent
books are From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel
(University of Nebraska Press, 2012) and Holocaust Denial: The Politics of
Perfidy (De Gruyter, 2012).
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