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Op-ed by IJC President Vladimir Sloutsker: ‘Combating anti-Semitism in Europe’

Op-ed by IJC President Vladimir Sloutsker: ‘Combating anti-Semitism in Europe’

Vladimir Sloutsker, IJC President, has the following op-ed in today’s Israel Hayom on combating anti-Semitism in Europe:

“Fighting anti-Semitism, racism and assaults on Israel’s legitimacy are issues of the highest priority. We cannot afford to spare a single moment. The time for action is now.” To that end, the Israeli Jewish Congress has proposed the following blue-print as an action plan to combat anti-Semitism in Europe.

You can view full article here.

Combating anti-Semitism in Europe

By Vladimir Sloutsker (June 4, 2013)

This week, Jewish leaders from around the world convened in Jerusalem for the fourth conference of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism to formulate a blueprint to tackle the growing scourge of global anti-Semitism.

Today, merely 68 years after the end of the Holocaust, virtually no part of Europe is free of the evil of anti-Semitism and hatred that led to Europe’s darkest period in history.

The Holocaust did not start with the death camps and crematoria; that’s where it ended. It started with words and with the demonization of an entire group of people. Today, that demonization is also being directed against the State of Israel, the Jew among the nations.

Why I am so concerned? Because we see increasingly how Israel is singled out and regarded by television viewers, human rights organizations, Internet users and media consumers as an aggressive and violent force in the Middle East. This also helps create a situation in which violence directed against Israel or Jews is often considered retaliatory action that they deserve.

At the same time, Israel is unjustly criticized from exercising its right of self-defence against Palestinian terrorism. Such double standards do not apply to any other country and contribute to the anti-Semitism we see today.

The time has now long passed to stop just talking about anti-Semitism and start doing something to fight it. To that end, the Israeli Jewish Congress proposes the following action.

First, it must be stressed that anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem, but a human problem. As British Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks has said: “A civilization or a country that has no room for Jews has no room for humanity.”

At the same time, we, as the organized Jewish community and concerned citizens both in Israel and throughout the Diaspora, must offer, as much as possible, our help, support and assistance to the Jewish communities in Europe to show that we stand in solidarity with them and to help support their efforts to fight against anti-Semitism in their home countries.

To this end, the IJC has signed a number of memoranda of understanding with leading Jewish communal organizations in the EU member states, enshrining our commitment to work with them to support their efforts in combating anti-Semitism and continuing to thrive as Jewish communities.

It is also important that Jewish communities around the world help each other by creating “best practices” in dealing with anti-Semitism. There are many lessons we can learn from one another’s experiences in combating anti-Semitism, including those strategies that work best and where we can assist each other.

Our politicians and leaders of civil society must also unequivocally condemn all manifestations of anti-Semitism and demonization of Israel and denounce and take action against all those who seek to resort to it.

Under current EU law, Holocaust denial is punishable by a jail sentence of up to three years. However, EU countries that do not have such a prohibition in their own domestic legislation are not bound to enforce the EU law.

At present, only 13 of the 27 EU member states have laws specifically criminalizing Holocaust denial. This anomaly is unacceptable. Legislation must be enacted, and enforced across each country in the EU outlawing racist hate speech, use of Nazi symbols, and specifically, the denial of the Holocaust. The IJC, together with our friends in Europe, will work to promote such legislation.

All Jewish communities in the EU also ought to have a formal mechanism by which to systematically monitor and record incidents of anti-Semitism in their home countries. These reports should then be presented to government and police authorities to take action against the perpetrators.

A number of Jewish communities in the EU already do that, and the IJC will assist those communities that have not yet done so in their efforts to establish such monitoring mechanisms.

Concurrently, European governments must also be pressed to monitor anti-Semitism. Despite being required to do so under accords reached between the EU and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, many have failed to do so.

And lastly, education, education, education. The history of the Holocaust and its lessons and implications should be compulsory study in high schools across Europe. People are not born to hate, they learn it. We propose lobbying EU member states to make the study of Holocaust mandatory for all high schools.

The IJC considers the combating of anti-Semitism, racism and assault on Israel’s legitimacy to be issues of the highest priority. We cannot afford to spare a single moment. The time for action is now.

Vladimir Sloutsker is the president and co-founder of the Israeli Jewish Congress, an Israeli-based organization devoted to opposing and combatting all manifestations of anti-Semitism, racism and assault on Israel’s legitimacy in Europe.

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