President Moshe Katsav addressed a special conference dedicated to the struggle against anti-Semitism held by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Berlin.

 Address by President Katsav at OSCE Conference in Berlin

 

President Moshe Katsav meets with German President Rau in Berlin (©2004 Reuters/ Fabrizio Bensch)

Address by the President of the State of Israel
Mr. Moshe Katsav
at the President’s Palace in Berlin

Mr. President, Ministers, Distinguished Guests, Heads of Delegations:

It is very difficult and sad for me to stand here today in Berlin, 60 years after the Holocaust, and to speak about anti-Semitism and the ways of fighting against it.

We, world Jewry, believed that after the terrible events of the Holocaust, it would not be necessary to struggle against anti-Semitism. We believed that the world would not allow anti-Semitism to raise its head. We believed that anti-Semitism belonged to the old world and to distant history.

We very much appreciate this gathering in Berlin. This step to fight anti-Semitism sends a very important message that this issue has a significant place in the European agenda, in the relations between Israel and Europe and between Europe and world Jewry. It is a sign that the security of Jews touches directly basic human values.

I am standing here as a representative of a nation which suffered a great deal during many generations of exiles, inquisition and the terrible Holocaust – Shoah. I represent a nation which desires to live in peace without fear, without bloodshed, without incitement and without violence. I am standing here as a citizen of a democratic and free world which is committed to the values of freedom, equality, to universal values which oppose anti-Semitism. 

Anti-Semitism is a big tragedy for the Jewish people.  It is a moral and historic failure for humanity. It is a failure of world leaders. It is a failure of the free world.

If humanity does not express determination and does not learn the historical lesson, the Holocaust will not remain an abstract issue for the next generation.

Among international leaders, no one in 1933 believed that the Holocaust would happen – not even at the beginning of the war in 1939. It is very difficult to believe, but the Holocaust happened in the heart of Europe, in one of the most sophisticated countries in the world, which had the best musicians, philosophers, scientists and researchers in the world.

Lately we are witnessing again the burning of synagogues and Jewish schools, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and horrible writings. Jews are again afraid to walk in the streets with a Star of David and a yarmulke. Jewish children are again a target of violence and the streets of Europe are again not safe for Jews, only because they are Jews.

Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are a target of physical and emotional violence. Hostile letters, graffiti and the use of the Internet and the media are examples of instruments against the Jews.

For a long time Europe denied the rise in anti-Semitism. The problem is not just the physical violence and damage caused to Jewish institutions. We are concerned about the hostility and incitement against the Jews and Israel in Europe.

There are some who blame the Jews for an international conspiracy and even blame them for the terrorist acts of September 11th. They accuse American Jews of cooperating with Israel in blaming Islam for these terrorist attacks.

We are witnessing a new trend by radical Muslims who are recreating the classical blood libel and who are publishing again the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which claim that the Jews aim to control the world. For others, the new anti-Semitism is a way of criticizing the Jews and Israel for their treatment of the Palestinian people.

In Europe the rise in classical anti-Semitism represents the Jews and the Jewish state as brutal devils, the source of wars and responsible for global disasters.

It is difficult for us to believe, but recently the public opinion polls which were initiated by the European Commission show that a majority of Europeans believe Israel is a danger for the stability and peace in the world. It is not the non-democratic countries which are trying to develop and achieve mass destruction weapons, not the totalitarian countries which back terrorist organizations, not the brutal bloodshed in the name of God, not poverty but we, Israel, who are a danger to world peace in the eyes of some European people.

The violence against the Jews in Europe is evidence that anti-Semitism, which we have not known since the Second World War, is on the rise. This trend of the new anti-Semitism is a result of the aggressive propaganda, made possible by modern technologies, globalization and abuse of democracy and which creates an infrastructure for developing and increasing anti-Semitism, of a kind we have not known before. Millions and millions of people are exposed to television programs and Internet sites full of blood libels.

The silence, the closing of eyes and the slow reactions in some countries permit this incitement to become deeper and stronger. It is impossible to fight against anti-Semitism, while permitting the demonization of Israel and its leaders and denying its legitimate right to exist.

During the last decade we took historical steps towards the Palestinian people.  I would like to mention the Oslo Agreement, the Camp David conference and the acceptance of the Roadmap but during the last ten years we have had not even one quiet day and we suffered from brutal and terrible bloodshed. Sometimes we feel that Europeans are not ready to feel solidarity with us or to recognize the suffering of the Israeli people from the terrible terrorism, which has continued for many years.

The brutality of the terrorism in the Middle East is of a type that humanity has never seen before. It is only by cooperation, with determination and with leadership that we can overcome this hatred.

We are astonished that there are still people who deny the Holocaust. The Durban Conference in September 2001 shocked all of us. It was meant to be a conference against racism but became a meeting of racists against the Jews and the State of Israel.

The anti-Semitism in Europe is a result of the cooperation among elements who are against the West and western values, who are against globalization and against progress, as well as extremists from the left and right and from organizations of radical Muslims.

The world of Islam is very large. There are more than a billion people who are not of one mind and opinion.  There are some Muslim countries which have diplomatic relations with Israel, such as Turkey, Egypt, the Hashemite Kingdom, the Muslim Republics in Central Asia, Persian Gulf countries and others.  Not all Muslims are anti-Semitic and there is no conflict between Judaism and Islam.  In Europe there are 20 million Muslims. Most of them are very good people who desire to live calm and normal lives. However, they are afraid to raise their voices against the extremists. I call on the moderate Muslims in Europe and on their leaders to cooperate with us in encouraging tolerance and understanding for a free and better world.

However, we must still remember that there are still Muslim countries and organizations which are calling for the destruction of the State of Israel. 

Anti-Semitism is encouraged and is given inspiration by international terrorism.
Anti-Semitism is a great danger to democracy and freedom in the world. Where synagogues are burnt, the day will come when stones will be thrown on parliament and democracy is in danger.

Fighting against anti-Semitism with determination will deliver a strong message to the international terrorist organizations and will be a message that the free world has determination to defend its values and is not prepared to tolerate anti-Semitism, hostility and racism.

Anti-Semitism has no justification, no legitimacy and should not be shown any understanding. Anti-Semitism is a great threat to freedom. It uses human morality, democracy and liberalism for its destructive aims.

Black people are not responsible for the racism against them just as the Jews are not responsible for anti-Semitism. We had hoped that the creation of a Jewish state would help prevent anti-Semitism. We desired to be a free nation in our homeland, like all nations. The Jewish state is a national home for every Jew and we want to be sure that never again will Jews be unprotected.

We are shocked by the accusations, which compare Israel to Nazi Germany. There is a linkage between this incitement and the violence against Jews in the streets of Europe. We do not want to prevent legitimate political criticism against Israel government policy, but we will not tolerate incitement against world Jewry and the Jewish state.

Many times I have heard voices saying that anti-Semitism is not unique and that it is no different from other kinds of racism. Anti-Semitism should indeed receive special attention. Hatred against the Jews has existed for many generations and it is rooted in many cultures and continents throughout the world. However, now anti-Semitism has become an instrument for achieving political aims. It is being used by Muslims as an instrument to achieve political gains.

The genocide of the Jews was the result of anti-Semitism and was not caused by a war between countries or a territorial conflict and, therefore, anti-Semitism is a special danger for world Jewry and the whole of Europe. Can it be that the impact of the Holocaust is not strong enough to stop and prevent anti-Semitism?   Can it be that the impact of the Holocaust has become weaker in the last decades?

We must focus all our efforts, energies and wisdom on educational activities and research on the Holocaust. We must transmit the lesson of the Holocaust to the young generations.

I call to continue researching and documenting all the events relating to the Holocaust. We must teach the young generation human values.

I call on the European leaders to increase the awareness of anti-Semitic acts in their countries, to research the origin and background in each country and to evaluate anti-Semitism on a national level.

I call for a mechanism for monitoring and controlling anti-Semitic events and for ways to fight them.

I call for increased cooperation between the countries and law-enforcement authorities, in fighting anti-Semitism in Europe.

I call for legislation to prevent anti-Semitism, especially in the Internet and via satellite programs.

I call for a meeting of professionals from all over the world to set up a program and take real steps against anti-Semitism.

I greatly appreciate European governments and leaders who are fighting against anti-Semitism and I very much appreciate this important gathering in Berlin. Most European countries have close relations with the Arab countries which are responsible for producing incitement and anti-Semitic propaganda on television, in books and in newspapers which are distributed in Europe and around the world.
We must put pressure on such countries to stop the distribution of such terrible incitement against the Jews.

It is not enough to talk against anti-Semitism. We must act. 

I believe that European countries wish to do as much as possible to stop anti-Semitism and give security to their Jewish citizens. European leaders have done a lot lately but not enough. It is necessary to do more in the fields of education, public opinion, legislation and law enforcement.

At this time, we the Jews are not alone. I can see many good friends here who are standing with us. I am aware of many people, nations and leaders who are struggling against anti-Semitism, as they understand that anti-Semitism is a danger to the stability and peace in the world, to human values. I am aware of European governments who are our partners in our efforts and concern to provide security for every Jew and they understand that Jews have the right to live without fear anywhere.

I appreciate the governments in Europe who have already appointed special ministerial committees for fighting anti-Semitism.  I appreciate countries whose parliaments dedicated special sessions on the issue of anti-Semitism. I appreciate those countries who have decided to strongly condemn anti-Semitism in international bodies.

Indeed, now at the beginning of the 21st century, the situation is very serious. There is an increase in violence and an escalation of anti-Semitism against the Jews but there is a big difference. We are not living in the thirties. We have a Jewish, sovereign and independent state and this makes a big difference.

We know what happened in the Second World War and what racism brought upon the world and, because of this I am very pleased that there is more awareness.  Now leaders are more sensitive and they protect their citizens.  There is legislation and law enforcement in many countries.  The leaders speak out and there are many seminars and conferences against anti-Semitism. The strong position of the United States of America in this matter is remarkable.  I also very much appreciate the position of the Vatican on this difficult and tragic issue.

I am very sorry that the Irish proposal to the United Nations General Assembly in December 2003, was not adopted, because of the objection of some Muslim countries. It is very sad that a special resolution which condemns anti-Semitism and attacks against Jews cannot be passed now in the United Nations. The European Union should continue its efforts in this important initiative and in all multilateral organizations, in fighting against anti-Semitism.

We are very proud of our Jewish heritage and history. It is a source of pride for world Jewry. I hope that the Jewish people will also be a source of appreciation, understanding and respect and not a target for hatred. I hope and pray for cooperation for development, prosperity and tolerance instead of destruction, bloodshed and hatred.

I would like to thank, you, President Rau and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, for this important initiative.  Ibelieve that this meeting will be very constructive and that it will help us achieve our mutual goals. I hope that the Berlin Conference will serve as a basis for continued efforts against anti-Semitism. I wish to express my personal appreciation to President Rau for his wise and moral leadership, for his great friendship towards Israel and the Jewish people, and his personal dedication to the fight against anti-Semitism.
 
We have the strength and the will to create a better world, a just world for all humanity. Let us put all our efforts together to make it possible. Let us work together.
 
Thank you.