Report on the Activities of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "Combating Antisemitism"

(IFM) 1. During the course of the last three years the Jewish people and the State of Israel have been the target of a wave of antisemitism such as has not been seen since the end of World War II. The challenge before us is to mobilize the political leadership of Europe to actively oppose antisemitism. With proper encouragement, utilization of political capital and persuasion we believe that it is possible to find allies in this struggle. For example, at the last European Summit a specific condemnation of antisemitism was included in the final communique. We believe that in principle the European political leadership abhors antisemitism, but this opposition cannot be taken for granted and must be continuously nurtured. Therefore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with Minister Natan Sharansky, has expended much effort in combating antisemitism, especially but not exclusively, within the sphere of government to government contacts and in coordination with Jewish organizations.

On the basis of evidence gathered over these past years, we reached the conclusion that antisemitic agitation in Europe is to be found among three main socio-political groupings.

Classic antisemitism – This phenomenon is found mainly on the extreme right, and in reactionary Church circles. As a rule these groups are more vocal and problematic in Central and Eastern Europe.

Extreme Leftwing Antisemitism – This denies Israel’s right to exist as a state for the Jewish People (and therefore singles out the Jews as not "meriting" the natural right of self determination). Moreover, this type of propaganda holds Israel to standards which are applied to no other country (singling out). These phenomena tend to emanate also from anti-globalization and anarchist groups in Western Europe.

Islamic Antisemitism – This is found among the Moslem and Arab populace in Western Europe. Most Moslems in Western Europe tend to be immigrants who are alienated from the general society which hosts them. Satellite broadcasts from the Arab World have a tendency to inflame already frustrated and alienated youth who vent their anger violently on Jews. Moreover, we have witnessed, over the course of the past year, the deadly partnership which has evolved between Islamic genocidal terrorism and murderous antisemitism (Istanbul, Casablanca and Jerba).

While the above groups each pursue their own broad agendas, sometimes in conflict with one and other, we have also witnessed strange, or unnatural, alliances. For example, it is not unheard of for extreme rightwing groups, who have heretofore evinced no sympathy for Arabs, as immigrants or neighbors, to glorify Palestinian terror attacks.

2. Thus, during the past 7 months we have dealt with the following issues/incidents, among others:

* Building coalitions with enlightened governments, in Europe and elsewhere, to actively combat antisemitism.
* Countering Romanian denial of Holocaust atrocities occurring on its territory.
* Encouraging Hungary to adopt legislation aimed at curbing hate speech and thereby outlawing antisemitic propaganda and those antisemitic rightwing groups which disseminate it.
* Reacting to the antisemitic statement of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahatir Mohammed.
* Reacting to the antisemitic statement of the Greek composer Theodorakis.
* Placing the question of antisemitism on the agenda of the United Nations.
* Bringing about the endorsement of the OSCE for a Conference on Antisemitism to be held in Berlin at the end of April 2004.
* Combating the inflammatory and antisemitic broadcasts of the Hizballah TV station, Al-Mannar.

There is an acute need, especially in Europe, to promote the remembrance of the Holocaust. This is necessary so that the vast majority of Europeans will not fall prey, out of ignorance, to the specious claims of Holocaust deniers.

The following is, therefore a sample of some of the main activities of the Ministry in the field of combating antisemitism, during the past seven months.

3. In June 2003 the Government of Romania stated in an official communique that "Holocaust atrocities did not occur on the territory of Romania during the years 1940-45." In July 2003 the President of Romania stated in an interview in the Israeli newspaper "Haaretz" that the fate of Jews during the Holocaust was not unique.

In contacts with the Romanian government, at the highest level, it was made clear that these statements were inconsistent historical truth, that they would adversely impact the good bilateral relations between our two countries, and that steps were needed to be taken to rectify the situation.

The Romanian Government decided, in consultation with Israel and Jewish organizations, and the U.S. Holocaust Museum to establish an international historical commission to study the events of the Holocaust in Romania. This commission, which is headed by Prof. Elie Weisel, is made up of experts from Israel, the U.S. and Romania. Experts from Yad Vashem will play an active role in the deliberations of the commission.

4. The Ministry has, for some time, drawn the attention of the Government of Hungary to the need for enacting legislation to outlaw hate speech, which includes antisemitic rhetoric. Unfortunately, until now various Hungarian political groups (the MIEP Party and the "Blood and Honor" organization) have felt free to engage in ‘Jew baiting’ at public demonstrations and through the media. The Embassy of Israel in Budapest has raised this issue continuously with the relevant governmental authorities.

In August 2003 the Hungarian Minister of Justice, Peter Barandy, conducted an official visit to Israel. Discussions were held which emphasized Israel’s expectation that the proposed legislation restricting hate speech would be presented to the Hungarian Parliament in an expeditious manner. Our Embassy in Budapest engaged in lobbying key political figures on this manner. Our concerns were also made known at the EU, as Hungary is a candidate for membership in 2004.

In December 2003 the proposed legislation was passed by the Parliament. Unfortunately, before signing the law, the President of Hungary exercised his prerogative to request an opinion from the Constitutional Court as to whether the law in question conflicted with Hungary’s constitutional commitment to freedom of speech. We are continuing to monitor this situation.

5. The vicious antisemitic statements of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammed at the meeting of the OIC in October 2003 shocked and dismayed right thinking people and leaders throughout the World. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, working in concert with various Jewish organizations and through our Embassies, began intensely lobbying friendly governments to condemn these obnoxious remarks in no uncertain terms.

Many Western governments roundly condemned the remarks. Some Western European states chose not to release independent statements, but rather to rely on the Presidential statement of the EU, others spoke out independently. It should be noted that many countries in South Asia, most of which have extensive economic relations with Malaysia, chose not to react officially to the remarks.

Disappointing also, was the non-reaction of Russia, whose head of State, President Vladimir Putin, attended the conference and was in the hall when these remarks were made. Upon the request of the Ministry this matter was raised by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during his subsequent meeting with President Putin.

6. The antisemitic remarks of the celebrated Greek composer, Mikis Theodorakis, in November 2003 occasioned serious consultations between Israel and Greece. As a result of these consultations the Foreign Minister of Greece proposed the formation of an official Israel-Greece bilateral commission to advise the Government of Greece on the best ways to prevent antisemitism and to counter it. Consultations are continuing at present in order to define the modalities and parameters of the commission.

7. That the United Nations is not a hospitable environment for the voicing of concerns which are of importance to Israel and the Jewish People, is an understatement. Nevertheless, we have demanded that antisemitism be condemned in all the relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly which deal with discrimination, racism and bigotry. In the course of the struggle against antisemitism it is necessary, at times, to "force the issue" and create situations which will not allow for ambiguity or ambivalence. The UNGA provides a forum for doing just that, perhaps to the chagrin of those states which would rather not have to declare their position on this issue in this particular forum.

It is worth noting that among the resolutions which were passed by the UNGA this year was one which was sponsored by Brazil, on "The Incompatibility Between Democracy and Racism", which explicitly condemned antisemitism.

In keeping with our policy we requested that Ireland include an explicit condemnation of antisemitism in its "traditional" resolution condemning religious intolerance. The Irish in turn requested that instead of including antisemitism in the resolution they would propose a "stand alone" resolution condemning antisemitism. This resolution was supported by all EU member states as well as by those who are scheduled to join the EU this year. Unfortunately, the Irish found that they were incapable of standing up to the onslaught of Arab pressure, and subsequently withdrew the resolution. We feel that the Irish were more than somewhat embarrassed by their inability to bring the resolution to the floor, in the face of Arab opposition. Israel’s palpable disappointment was expressed when, for the first time, we failed to vote in favor of the "traditional" Irish resolution against religious intolerance; thereby breaking what had heretofore been a consensus (in fact Israel co-sponsored this resolution in the past, on a number of occasions).

8. Israel, together with major Jewish organizations, has placed an emphasis on continuing the struggle against antisemitism within the framework of the OSCE. The organization has a European orientation with a trans-Atlantic membership. The long standing commitment of the OSCE to upholding human rights and democracy makes it uniquely suitable to playing a role in the fight against antisemitism.

In June 2003 the OSCE held its first conference devoted exclusively to antisemitism in Vienna. While this conference was a success and had an impact beyond that which was expected, especially in the International media, it was not a forgone conclusion that a second "follow up" conference was going to be held. The Ministry, together with a coalition of Jewish organizations, worked assiduously to make sure that the invitation tendered by Germany to hold the second conference in Berlin would be accepted by the OSCE.

From our point of view the holding of the second conference devoted to fighting antisemitism, in Berlin, is only the first step towards the building of a sustained framework to monitor and combat antisemitism in Europe. If such a framework can function as a constituent organ of the OSCE, or its subsidiary the ODIHR, that will be a major accomplishment. However, we are also prepared to consider other options.

9. During the month of December 2003 (corresponding to the Moslem holy month of Ramadan) the Syrian produced television series "Al Shataat" (Diaspora) was broadcast throughout the Arab World and Europe via satellite on Hizballah’s TV channel, Al Mannar. This series was patently antisemitic; it portrayed the Jewish People as seeking World domination and in a vile episode it graphically depicted a "ritual murder" of a Christian child for the purposes of using his blood in the baking of Matzot. The Syrian television program follows the paradigm which we witnessed last year in the Egyptian series "Knight without a Horse."

The Ministry, in coordination with Minister Sharansky, who brought this abomination to the attention of the diplomatic community in Israel, is in contact with the governments of Germany and France so that legal sanctions will be invoked to end the broadcasting of such vile and venomous programs. It should be noted that both Germany and France have legislation against broadcasting racist programs on both radio and television.

10. Israel continues to play a leading role in the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Research and Remembrance. This forum is an important vehicle not only for educating the current generation of historians and teachers regarding what transpired during the Shoah but also for inculcating the message of tolerance and understanding which are at the heart of its educational programs.

11. In an effort to continue the Ministry’s long term goals of building an international coalition against antisemitism, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sylvan Shalom, proposed the formation of an Israel-Europe inter-ministerial committee to combat antisemitism at the meeting of the Association Council in December 2003. We are now engaged in the process of setting up this commission.