(February 28, 2018 / EJP/Exclusive to JNS) VIENNA—“This must be the beginning of the end of anti-Semitism. Because talking about anti-Semitism is not enough. We must be ambitious and pragmatic in order to find enduring solutions to this problem,” stated Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, as he addressed a five-day conference titled “An End to Anti-Semitism” at the University of Vienna.
He called for a full recognition to the severity of anti-Semitism and to finding practical solutions.
The conference held this week featured 150 speakers from North America, Israel, Latin America, Australia and various European countries. Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen opened the proceedings.
“We have brought together for this conference leading experts and professionals from across the world, with the collaboration of three prestigious universities, and we have taken on a very ambitious objective—to plant the seeds that will end anti-Semitism,” declared Kantor.
“People marching in the streets of European capitals shouting ‘Death to the Jews’ has led to the actual death of Jews,” he said, “and will continue if Europe does not react. That police and military protection for Jewish communities is, of course, necessary, is in itself a shameful indictment on European society. We have an obligation not to give anti-Semitism any space in the public sphere with radical forces on the left and right gaining strength.”
"Jewish Life in Europe cannot be poisoned by the pessimistic dilemma to stay and live with the challenges of antisemitism or find a safer place elsewhere" #AnEndToAntisemitism
Posted by European Jewish Congress on Thursday, 22 February 2018
Among the other speakers at the conference were renowned political, academic and religious decision-makers and opinion-shapers, including Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz; Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO; Katharina von Schnurbein, European Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism; Nathan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency in Israel; Irwin Cotler, former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada; Andrew Baker, of the American Jewish Committee, and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; and Professor Dina Porat, chief historian at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and head of the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry.
Kantor also spoke about the extreme-right Freedom Party being brought into the current Austrian government. “While some of the language from this party may have changed, it would need a stronger, concrete break from the past,” he said. “For the Freedom Party to be acceptable to those of us who look for a more open and tolerant Europe, they must get rid of all elements of its darker past and take practical steps. These must include the immediate rejection of anyone with an anti-Semitic past and who has made insulting comments publicly or virtually.
“We have taken note of the recent announcement of the setting up a panel of researchers to investigate its history,” he continued. “However, this cannot just be a tool of distraction or find evidence against a few already departed members. The panel must lead to practical recommendations that are enacted.”
French Philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy opined that anti-Semitism “will not be eradicated,” though added that “it can be opposed, it can be resisted, it can be fought.”
“We, the Jews, the friends of the Jews and the friends of freedom in general—we can be stronger than anti-Semitism,” said Lévy. “This is the real goal: To be strong enough in order to be stronger than the strongest anti-Semitism.”