Israel’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, in his introductory remarks, said that anti-Semitism was the world’s most ancient form of prejudice. He also remarked that alongside radical Islam, nationalism was returning and negationism was on the rise.
Abraham Foxman, the national director of ADL, reckoned that 2009 had been the worst year for Jews since the Second World War. “No country has been spared. Things have never been so serious,” said the American leader for who the struggle against anti-Semitism cannot be reduced to mere statistics about the number of anti-Semitic acts.
“Speaking is not enough,” added Yehuda Bauer, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who called on participants to support the media that are working against anti-Semitism, like MEMRI. “Jews cannot be alone in fighting anti-Semitism. They need allies.” Yehuda Bauer called for a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate criticism levelled at Israel.
According to the General Director of the SPCJ, “even if there are a lot exchanges between community organisations and governments, the qualification of the anti-Semitic nature of an act remains a sensitive issue and requires a joint approach to the facts.”
The President of CRIF, Richard Prasquier, was the facilitator for a panel session on the situation of anti-Semitism in the world.
The President of CRIF described the situation in France, a country with the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe.
With 740 anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of 2009, compared to 430 for the whole of 2008, French Jews suffered from a fresh outbreak of anti-Semitism after Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against Hamas. It was also in 2009 that the assassins of Ilan Halimi, who was murdered in 2006 by the self-proclaimed “Gang of Barbarians”, were tried and sentenced. “Ilan Halimi’s murderers had kidnapped him to obtain a ransom because, so they said, Ilan was Jewish and therefore obviously rich. Despite this blatantly anti-Semitic motive, some people still claim that this crime was not anti-Semitic.”
The persistence of anti-Semitism in France accordingly seems to go hand in hand with ignorance. More recently, Jacques Attali, speaking in the Israeli daily Haaretz, said that there is no anti-Semitism in France. Fortunately, “the French government, for its part, is not minimising the phenomenon.” In fact, just last week, the government appointed a special prefect in charge of coordinating the fight against anti-Semitism. However, the government cannot take charge of everything and, as in any democratic society, leaves plenty of scope for civil society.