Address by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom to the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism Plenary Meeting

Jerusalem, January 29, 2004

Minister Natan Sharansky,
Ambassador Kurtzer,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Friends,

It is a great pleasure to be here today, at the Global Coordinating Forum against Anti-Semitism, and to have this opportunity to share with you the ideas, responses and activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the face of the challenge of resurgent anti-Semitism.

Unfortunately, today we have suffered yet another brutal, inhuman attack on our people and on our way of life. Just a few short blocks from here, ten people this morning lost their lives and dozens more were wounded in the latest terrorist outrage.

More funerals. More suffering.

More proof that there are no limits to the hatred of Israel and the refusal to accept our right – as individuals and as a nation – to build our Jewish state in our homeland.

The link between this terrorism, anti-Israeli and anti-Western incitement, and anti-Semitism, is direct and it is strong.

In recent years we have seen how classic European anti-Semitism is today combining with extreme left-wing hostility to Israel and Jews, and the rampant anti-Semitism emanating from the Arab world, to create an enemy of global proportions.

Israel will not rest in the battle against this enemy. We will continue to take all necessary measures to provide security to our citizens. And we will continue to demand that the Palestinians dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and end incitement before any political negotiations can take place.

There will be no rewards for terror.

During the course of the last three years the Jewish people and the State of Israel have been the target of a wave of anti-Semitism much stronger than anything we have seen since the end of World War II.

Attacks are on the rise. Criticism of Israel is often translated into verbal and physical attacks against individuals and the Jewish people as a whole. Familiar and dangerous stereo-types and prejudice are creeping back into public discourse.

I visited Istanbul on Sunday 16 November, just one day after the terrible attacks there. I saw the destruction. I saw burnt Sifrei Torah [Torah scrolls] and Talitot [prayer shawls] covered in blood. And I met members of a strong, but frightened community.

Anti-Semitism is a grave danger to the well-being of Jews and their communities around the world. It also fosters the hostility towards the State of Israel which fuels the suicide bombers while also undermining our diplomatic efforts to bring peace and security to our citizens.

Israel is committed to doing everything we can to combat this common enemy.

We are determined that Jews – whether they live in Jerusalem or Paris or Stockholm, in Jerba or Haifa or Istanbul – should be able to live their lives, free of the fear of verbal or physical attack.

But I would say something more.

This wave of hostility to Jews – and their basic rights as individuals and as a nation – does not only present a challenge to Israel and the Jewish world. It presents a grave challenge to the international community as a whole. When Jews cannot pray in their synagogues without fear, civilized society itself is in danger.

Since becoming Foreign Minister last February, I have focused effort on mobilizing the political leadership of Europe in particular to engage in the battle against anti-Semitism.

My message to them has been clear – this is Europe’s problem as much as it is ours.

I have told them: Europe has a moral, political and historic obligation to ensure that the evil of anti-Semitism is stamped out.

In Brussels in November, in a meeting with the Foreign Ministers of the fifteen member countries and ten accession countries of the European Union, I proposed the formation of an Israel-Europe inter-ministerial committee to combat anti-Semitism, racism and terrorism. These phenomena are all linked and it is critical that they be addressed accordingly.

In a first response to this call and to our efforts to place the issue of anti-Semitism on the agenda of the European Union, we were pleased to see European leaders include a specific condemnation of anti-Semitism in the final communiqu? of their December summit in Rome.

This is, of course, not enough, but it is a welcome start and a useful platform for further work.

I am convinced that the leaders of Europe share our rejection of anti-Semitism. In my conversations with Foreign Ministers, Prime Ministers and Presidents across the continent, I have found them to be sensitive and willing to help. Indeed, many European governments, including France and others, have taken concrete initiatives to deal with this problem.

At the same time, more must be done. There is a real need for immediate and concrete action, particularly in the field of education.

We also need to change the terms of the debate about Israel. The speed and ease with which Israel and the Jews are blamed for every problem in the peace process is a travesty of the truth, and a source of real concern.

The flow of vicious anti-Semitic incitement in the Arab world today is becoming a strategic problem. It poisons public discourse about Israel in the Arab world and in Europe, creating real obstacles to normalization and dialogue, and closing hearts and minds even to the possibility of peace and accommodation with Israel.

Satellite television stations such as Al-Manar, which recently broadcast a series in which Jews were shown conducting a "ritual murder" of a Christian child to use his blood in the baking of matzot, are sowing the seeds of further hatred and violence every day.

This state of affairs poses a real challenge to the very possibility of coexistence between Islam and the West. The leadership of Europe and the moderate Arab world must stand up and be counted in the face of this threat.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs plays a central role in our national effort to combat this enemy. Through our network of embassies and consulates worldwide, we maintain ongoing contacts at the governmental level and with key organizations and audiences to promote and coordinate action against anti-Semitism, to raise awareness and to defend against it.

Our activities include a mix of proactive and reactive measures.

We are active behind the scenes in building coalitions with enlightened governments, in Europe and elsewhere, to actively combat anti-Semitism.

We are constantly encouraging and helping European governments to do more to educate their publics about the shared interests and values which unite us, and about the shared dangers which challenge us.

We have taken various initiatives to place the question of anti-Semitism on the agenda of the United Nations, and we will continue to do so.

Together with major Jewish organizations, we have promoted the struggle against anti-Semitism within the framework of the OSCE.

We continue to play a leading role in the task force for international cooperation on Holocaust education, research and remembrance – a vitally important vehicle for educating the current generation of historians and teachers regarding the history of the Shoah.

We play a central role in the monitoring, analysis and dissemination of raw information about anti-Semitism, particularly in the Arab world.

Our people also stand every day on the front lines of the Hasbara battle for Israel’s image, including in the Arab media. I know that our enemies have had much success in this battle, but there is no doubt that things would be far worse were it not for the constant and dedicated effort of our emissaries and their colleagues from the local Jewish communities.

In recent months we have also addressed specific challenges:

  • countering Romanian denial of holocaust atrocities occurring on its territory.
  • encouraging Hungary to outlaw anti-Semitic propaganda
  • Leading efforts to ensure global awareness and condemnation to the anti-Semitic remarks of Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohammed, Greek composer Theodorakis, and others.
  • combating the inflammatory and anti-Semitic broadcasts of the Hezbollah TV station, Al-Mannar, as I mentioned earlier.

    Friends,

    The struggle against anti-Semitism is not easy. For many people around the world, it is much easier to hate than to listen.

    But we – the Jews, we – Israel, we – members of modern civilized society, have an historic obligation both to past generations and to future ones, to challenge and fight this enemy wherever it lies.

    In this battle, we must constantly strive to promote the awareness and commitment of leaders and publics across the globe.

    At the end of the day, anti-Semitism is their enemy as well.

    Together, we can prevail.