Speech by Minister Natan Sharansky,
Head of the Israeli Delegation to the OSCE Conference on Anti Semitism
Berlin, April 28-29
Mr. Chairman, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, esteemed delegation heads,
It is no small irony for the Delegation from Israel, the State of the Jewish people, to address a conference on anti Semitism here in Berlin, the city that was once the seat of the most destructive, diabolical and anti Semitic regime which the world has ever seen. It is also frankly distressing that there is indeed a need to hold this conference. Who would have thought that 59 years after the end of World War II and the tragedy of the Holocaust and 15 years after the Iron Curtain was brought down by the courageous citizens of this city, that we would have to meet in order to coordinate the fight in the free and democratic world against anti Semitism.
But perhaps the difference between now and then is the readiness of the civilized world to take up the struggle against this odious phenomena. That is why it is so important that the OSCE has taken upon itself to hold this conference. President Rau, FM Joschka Fisher and the government of Germany are to be commended for hosting this event.
Mr. Chairman, over the past three or so years, we have witnessed a resurgence of anti Semitic activity specifically on the continent of Europe. Synagogues have been burned, rabbis have been abused in the streets, children on their way to school have been physically attacked, cemeteries have been desecrated – all because these institutions or people are either Jewish or symbolize Jewish existence.
We are sometimes blamed for trying to stop the legitimate criticism of Israel by accusing our opponents of anti Semitism. I want to make it clear. Israel as the only genuine democracy in the Middle East enjoys a robust and public ongoing political debate. Israel welcomes criticism like every robust democracy both from in and without.
But where is the line between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti Semitism? We must have a clear standard for defining this line. So I would like to take the opportunity today to propose again a standard that will do just that. I call it the 3D test.
This test is not a new one. It merely takes the same criteria that for centuries identified the different dimensions of classical anti Semitism and applies them to the new anti Semitism.
The first D is the test of demonization.
That was the main instrument of anti Semitism against Jews. Jews were accused of drinking the blood of children, spoiling the wells, controlling the banks and governments.
Recent state sponsored Syrian film Al Shattat is a vivid example of such demonization. Blood Libel presented in its most primitive and crude form by pictures of Rabbis cutting the throat of Christian children thanks to the wonders of modern technology reaches the homes of tens of millions instantly as well as millions of homes in Europe.
The most vicious persistent and genocidal forms of anti Semitism now emanate from radical theological elements in the Moslem world. Here are the words of one of the foremost Saudi clerics. The Sheikh Abd-el Rahman al-Sued, imam of the central mosque of Mecca, spoken at the center of the Islamic world when he described the Jewish people thus: “They are infidels, worshippers of calves, murderers of prophets, who attempted to murder the prophet Mohammed.” He goes on to say that the Jews ”falsify prophecies, are the scum of mankind, are corrupt, mendacious and treacherous.” He ended his sermon beseeching Allah that “the Jews along with all of the other idol worshippers be utterly destroyed and that God use his sharp instruments upon them.”
This terminology of anti Semitism is very dangerous – but at least very easy to identify. Today, the most sophisticated form of demonization is demonization of the Jewish State. For example, the comparisons of Israelis to Nazis and of the Palestinian refugee camps to Auschwitz – comparisons which are heard practically everyday within the “enlightened” quarters of Europe – can only be considered anti Semitic. Refugee camps are truly not nice places. And indeed there is much room to question why the refugees were never accepted as citizens by their host countries and who should be blamed for the fact that now a fourth generation is confined to these refugee camps. But even those who seek to place the blame on Israel cannot legitimately compare these camps to Auschwitz and the other Nazi death camps. This is a clear cut case of demonization.
The second D is the test of double standard.
For thousands of years, a clear sign of anti Semitism was treating Jews differently than other peoples, from the discriminatory laws that many nations enacted against them to the tendency to judge their behavior by a different yardstick. Similarly, today we must ask whether criticism of Israel is being applied selectively. If Israel the only democracy in the Middle East is condemned by the Human Rights Commission for the violation of human rights more than all the many dictatorial regimes existing over the past 50 years together, it means that a different yardstick is used towards Israel than towards other countries. And a different yardstick means a double standard and a double standard means anti-Semitism.
Likewise, it is anti-Semitism when Israel’s Magen David Adom, alone among the world’s ambulance services, is denied admission to the International Red Cross. And there are many many more examples.
The third D is the test of delegitimization.
In the past, anti-Semites tried to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish religion, the Jewish people or both. Today, they are trying to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish State. While criticism of an Israeli policy may not be anti-Semitic, the denial of Israel’s right to exist is always anti-Semitic.
Like a pair of glasses in a 3D movie that allows us to see everything with perfect clarity, the 3D test I have proposed will allow us to see anti Semitism clearly and therefore enable us to fight it more effectively.
Anti Semitism is a challenge to us all and I am gratified that this challenge has been recognized by many of the states who are represented here. There have been positive developments in the fight against anti Semitism over the last year or so.
– Just last week the UN Commission on Human Rights condemned anti Semitism in three separate resolutions which were adopted by consensus.
– In December, the leaders of the EU issued an unequivocal condemnation of all forms of anti Semitism and “expressed strong concern” over its growth. This came after the EU collectively condemned the hateful remarks of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammed in October. Many European States have also condemned these remarks in independent statements.
– France has taken strong steps to safeguard the physical security of its Jewish citizens and their institutions as well as to ensure that their schools will continue to be a place of learning, where all may attend, unafraid.
Finally, I especially wish to thank Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher for the many proactive efforts which Germany has made to fight contemporary anti Semitism. It was indeed no accident that Germany proposed hosting this conference already at the close of the one which took place in Vienna last year. All of these are indeed positive developments and they must be recognized as such.
But what we need is more than positive steps and initiatives, but rather a comprehensive policy and this should be the main goal of this conference.
Mr. Chairman, I hope this conference will formulate a plan of action which will be adopted by the Council of Ministers. I believe such a plan should address the need to establish an organizational framework that can, among other things, do the following:
- Report anti-Semitic incidents
- Coordinate law enforcement bodies in the fight against anti Semitism
- Exchange ideas regarding legislation in this field and
- Enhance educational programs aimed at ending racial, ethnic or religious strife, specifically anti-Semitism.
But even these important measures will unfortunately not be enough to combat state sponsored anti Semitism. For real progress to be made there, the free world must be willing to pursue a policy of linkage against states that support anti Semitism.
The effectiveness of a policy based on linkage was powerfully demonstrated a generation ago after a group of dissidents inside the Soviet Union, including myself, decided to form the Helsinki Group in the wake of the Helsinki accords – the very agreement which led to the establishment of the OSCE.
With the help of courageous leaders in the West who were willing to link their relations with the Soviets to their treatment of their own people, the Helsinki Group helped ensure that the Soviets could not take one step in the international arena without their human rights policies becoming an issue. As a result, real progress was made. Today, linkage can be used to marginalize the extremists in the Moslem world and to encourage and support the moderate Moslems who can and should be our partners in bringing understanding and peace between people and religions.
It has been said that anti Semitism begins with the Jews, but does not end with them. Well, in looking out at everyone who has come today to stand with the Jewish people in combating an evil that endangers the entire civilized world, I am proud to say that the fight against anti Semitism begins with the Jews, but it does not end with them.
Armed with moral clarity, determination, and a common purpose, I know that this is a fight that we can, must and will win.